PSYCHO-PASS: The Movie

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I am a professed fan of PSYCHO-PASS, but was among those who thought the 2014 sequel couldn’t quite match the greatness of the 2012 original (You can read my reviews of PSYCHO-PASS and PSYCHO-PASS 2 by following the preceding links). I’ve also always had a soft spot for Tsunemori Akane, the ever-conflicted super badass detective and one of seiyu Hanazawa Kana’s most compelling roles.

This 2015 movie (which will have a limited theatrical release in the U.S. later this month) is Akane’s biggest stage to date. Rather than focus on another Japan-based mastermind, the franchise turns its gaze outward to the mainland: the Southeast Union or SEAUn, where the Sybil System has been transplanted on an island utopia called Shamballa Float.

Akane heads there because after armed terrorists from the union launch a failed assault on Tokyo (the film’s action-packed beginning), she learns that they may have been sent by none other than her former enforcer, friend, and romantic interest, Kogami Shinya. Their reunion in a foreign land forms the character crux of the film.

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When Akane arrives at SEAUn and gets a tour of the place outside Shamballa, it’s both her and our first look at the world outside Japan where Sybil doesn’t yet hold full sway. It’s seething with unrest and violence, much of it being meted out by a military police force that rules with an iron fist.

We are forced along with Akane to weigh the pros and cons of Japan and SEAUn as they relate to the implementation of Sybil technology, which is still in its harsh “teething stage” in the latter nation. There’s even more overt segregation, with latent criminals wearing neckbands that will sedate or poison them if their hues cloud too much.

The movie does a good job quickly rendering a very oppresive and unpleasant place where I definitely would never want to live.

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Fueled by her intention to find Kogami and get to the truth of matters ASAP, Akane rides along on a military operation led by Colonel Nicolas Wong, who is also her escort and the first official she met in SEAUn. While initially friendly and accommodating, he has a big problem with Akane running off on her own, to the point he suspects she’s joining the terrorists.

Kogami is pretty surprised to see Akane, considering a war zone is no place for a metropolitan detective and they haven’t seen each other in years, but they don’t have time to reminisce and escape the combat area to Kogami’s base camp.

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Kogami, who calls Akane “Inspector” for old time’s sake, explains himself simply by saying he’s part of SEAUn’s democratization movement. SEAUn’s military dictator Chairman Han may have a bunch of Sybil toys, but he can’t believe the fight is hopeless.

Kogami brings Akane to his movement’s headquarters, where he’s revered almost like Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now, only without the insanity and disease (though the exotic Angkor Wat-esque buildings definitely look the part). Akane can respect what he’s trying to do, and certainly understands Kogami’s power to draw people into his orbit with his natural charisma (a part of her still likes the guy), she still asks him to turn himself in, a request he declines.

To Akane’s releif, Kogami didn’t send terrorists to Japan. Rather, they were extremist comrades of his who broke off from his movement to do their own thing. But the fact that group got to Japan and were able to get as far as they did in their assault tells both Akane and Kogami that they must’ve had official support on the downlow.

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In the meantime, Kogami impresses upon Akane the importance of getting back to Shamballa Float before she ends up tangled up in more unpleasantness. Her reluctance to leave is overridden when a band of ultra-elite mercenaries with cybernetic prostheses hired by Wong attacks the headquarters. It’s all Kogami can do to get Akane out of there safely, and while he puts up a rather implausible fight, he’s eventually taken prisoner, and later beaten for information.

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Akane is arrested upon her return to Shamballa, and Wong lobbies for her immediate, but Han steps in and allows her to stay, albeit under closer observation. That gives Akane a chance to use some pillbugs Shion gave her to infiltrate Shamballa’s Sybil System, gather data, and even release her attendant Yeo from her latent criminal collar.

However, by the time Shion discovers that military officers like Wong were illegally bypassing cymatic scans that would cloud their hues to a tremendous extent, Wong has Yeo drug Akane’s drink in exchange for the promise of having her little brother’s collar removed. Wong welshes on the deal and shoots Yeo in the head, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt he’s an evil opportunistic bastard.

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When the mercs deliver Kogami to Wong, he arranges for him and Akane to be shot and cover up their deaths in an abortive helicopter escape attempt. I must say, I really didn’t see how Akane and Kogami were going to get out of this one, even if I knew they were.

Ultimately, the choice of killing them out in the open on rooftop rather than a location Wong could fully control proved his undoing, as Akane and Kogami are saved by the cavalry in the form of the Bureau of Public Safety, who kill Wong and either lethally eliminate or take into custody his men.

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All of the mercs save their leader are killed in the attack, and Kogami goes after him, while after having metaphorical cold water splashed on her head by Mika, Akane confronts “Chairman Han”, who is really a cybernetic body double inhabited by the collective brains of Sybil System itself.

Akane has another one of her patented Big Picture Verbal Spars over law and the will of the people with Sybil, ultimately convincing it/them to make Han step down and open both leadership of SEAUn and the choice to implement Sybil up to the people, via democracy.

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Oh yeah, meanwhile, Kogami has an intense but ultimately pointless final battle with the merc leader, who is only still alive so Kogami has someone strong to fight and Gino has to rescue him. After taking care of the merc, Gino lets Kogami go, making him promise not to burden Akane anymore, and also gets a good punch in.

Akane’s mainland adventure thus wrapped up (shame she didn’t get to say a long and decent goodbye to Kogami), she and the other bureau members leave Shamballa and SEAUn in the hands of the new, more populist regime. And there you have it: Inspector Tsunemori Akane was singularly instrumental in changing the course of an entire nation, hopefully for the better.

I watched this because I’m not sure I’d be able to make the theatrical release, and feared it would be dubbed in English. Turns out, more than a quarter of the dialogue is in horrible English anyway (as attempted by the Japanese seiyus) which was extremely irritating. But aside from that, this was a sufficiently fun, exciting flick that moved briskly and gave us some welcome quality time with Akane-san.

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PSYCHO-PASS 2 – 11 (Fin)

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I appreciated that the last episode of Psycho-Pass, possibly ever, featured more Akane kicking ass and taking names – in a metaphorical sense, and less over-the-top than some previous episodes where she was a bit too Bruce Willis-y. Here, she uses her clear coefficient as an effective shield in the face-off with both Togane Sakuya and Kamui, arresting the former and accompanying the latter to Sybil’s core.

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Still, a number of troubling adjectives surfaced while watching this episode; adjectives like ‘neat’, ‘tidy’, ‘convenient’…even ‘hasty’. Nothing you particularly want in an episode of Psycho-Pass…especially a finale. And yet it was probably inevitable, with a ton of material set up and just eleven episodes to resolve it.

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Of course, one could spin those adjectives to something more positive: this was a breathless, efficient finale; not a minute was spared, and no one can say it didn’t Get Things Done. Not too far into the episode, Chief Kasei is lethally eliminated by a Dominator, something that would be utterly unthinkable in the show’s first season.

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Yes, there’s a rather convenient subterranean shortcut from the subway lines where Akane and Kamui were to the bowels of the MWPSB HQ where Sybil lives. But who cares? This is where they were going to end up one way or another. And when Kamui points his Dominator at Sybil itself, Sybil basically surrenders, eliminating a good deal of the brains that make it up in order to clear its coefficient. This is odd, considering I thought they were criminally asymptomatic, but I guess conditions changed that.

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This is very much an Akane/Kamui episode. There’s a fair amount of Togane in it, but after he’s unable to turn Akane black, he kinda just makes ridiculous faces, which makes me wonder why he was such a big deal in the first place. Clearly he didn’t know who he was messing with. And then there’s Mika, who listened to him and obeyed him…she’s not feeling to great about that now, even if she has no love for Akane.

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After Sybil made immediate changes to its composition, Akane has designs to arrest Kamui, but Togane crashes the party to make one last attempt to ‘darken’ Akane, rubbing in the fact that he killed Akane’s frail grandmother. For a second there I thought Akane’s coefficient was going to rise to enforcable levels, but Kamui is there to calm her, and even if he wasn’t, Akane has a firm enough grasp of the law, justice, and society to overcome any personal demons. She’s just awesome that way.

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Togane shoots Kamui (though we don’t see him explode) and vice-versa, with Akane in the middle. A wounded Togane creeps away and eventually bleeds out, with Mika standing over him. All of a sudden, we’re fresh out of bad guys. All the threats kinda just flew by without that much of a struggle.

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When Akane meets up with Ginoza and her other colleagues there’s another moment when we’re not sure if she’s in trouble or not, but her coefficient remains as clear as ever, and Sybil saw fit to reinstate her just a short time after Sakuya’s mom rescinded her inspector status. Another Kasei cyborg replaces the old one, and warns Akane that they’re on a dangerous new road. Akane assures her – them – that even if that road leads to hell, she’ll walk it with them regardless.

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So it’s Akane’s victory: she neutralized Kamui, but also used him to make Sybil evolve. A ‘collective’ psycho-pass is something the system will now consider for implementation henceforth. Existential threats to society have been averted. And Inspector Tsunemori Akane will continue to not-smoke cigarettes and live a happy and virtuous live as one of the people who protect society, rather than the other way ’round.

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PSYCHO-PASS 2 – 10

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On this exciting episode of Rail Wars! Psycho-Pass 2, Kamui ‘gets to work’ on his largest operation yet: diverting several subway trains into an isolated area, giving him hundred of trapped, scared hostages whose psycho-passes he knows will rise due to the stress of the situation. He’s counting on it.

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He has no particular plan to ‘save’ this particular group of five hundred-odd passengers: they are merely a collective tool for him to get closer to Sybil, by overloading the system with a huge amount of Dominator discharges, and thus PP data, exposing a lower-security backup network which his team will hack to locate Sybil’s physical location.

Pretty intricate plan, but let’s not forget, he himself is a collective being, which explains why he’s okay with all the sacrifices. Well, that, and the fact that until the world is freed from Sybil, all of the people under her control are legitimate targets.

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Aoi and Naoto aren’t in this show to help out with the train, so it’s up to Akane to Do Something. Only Chief Kasei has placed her on standby in the wake of her grandma’s kidnapping. Togane, just barely keeping up his charade (or at least thinking he is), gets in her way, but doesn’t block her entirely.

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Togane lets her visit Kasei, who is really his mom. The Chief suggests Akane slake her restlessness by being a good little inspector and kill Kamui. Doing so would get rid of Sybil’s increasingly serious problem, and also would turn Akane into a criminal, at which point Sybil can finally judge her too.

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Interesting how Sybil doesn’t particularly care how Kamui is killed, but very much wants to go by the book where Akane is concerned. Kasei tries to ‘motivate’ Akane by reporting the sad news that her grandma was found beaten to death.

Learning of this certainly shakes Akane to the core, who starts screaming in the thankfully empty office. But after a quick chat with the Kogami in her head (?) she takes a deep breath and springs back into action. She’ll deal with the Kamui threat…her way.

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Akane and Kasei get into a meaty little philosophical debate that was once the norm of this show, during which Akane applies the Omnipotence Paradox to both Kamui and Sybil. Both entities are collective in nature and thus neither can judge the other without being judged itself. But Akane tells Sybil (not just Togane’s mom) that this is a perfect opportunity for it to ‘evolve’ beyond its flawed operation and false facade of perfection.

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Akane makes arguments Sybil can only refute by basically saying stuff on the level of “shut up, you don’t know us!”, but that’s not too surprising since A., it’s Togane’s mom and not all of Sybil addressing her in this instance, and B., Akane is one smart cookie. She drives really slow, though. 70 kph? C’mon, this is the FUTURE, not to mention an emergency operation…put your penny loafer down.

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Akane is so bright, that she basically does all the same work and thinking off-camera that we watched Mika do on-camera, only Akane does it properly and doesn’t settle on the conclusion that Kamui seeks revenge against the Togane Foundation. That’s right: Freckles’ research not only doomed her to spend the rest of her existence looking over her shoulder…it wasn’t even such great police work after all, at least not compared to what we’re used to from A-chan.

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Division 3 fails to carry out the Chief’s orders to blow up the trains Kamui and his people are on (killing the hostages in the process) because they acquired the bombs outside the law, giving them criminal coefficients and allowing Shisui to pick them off from above. Then Kamui releases the hostages, and Akane goes after him, but is blocked by Togane, whom she’s suspected all along. You can’t get one over on ol’ Akane, Son. Well, young Akane…

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And because this is such a popular underground junction, Kamui ends up crossing paths with the two. Here’s one guy trying to expose and destroy Sybil, another whose mom is part of Sybil trying to paint Akane black. Akane always finds herself caught between two very strange men, isn’t she? Well, that may be just one, if Kamui is successful in killing Togane. We only hear the trigger being pulled, so that’s hardly a certainty. In any case, it would certainly be meh ending for Togane.

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PSYCHO-PASS 2 – 09

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So, while it looks like Mika was S.O.L. last week, it turns out the world’s worst mother-son pair isn’t done with her. Kasei (actually Mrs. Togane) tells her the whole truth about Sybil being composed of the criminally asymptomatic, and Mika responds with applause, whether out of genuine admiration and approval or straight up primal fear. 

To drive point home that the Toganes aren’t the most savory sort, we’re treated to a flashback in which Sakuya’s mother provides him with puppies to slaughter.

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I’m sure many of you were waiting patiently for the proof that Akane isn’t actually a boy, and this week the show gives us a rare glimpse at her bod. Not sure why, as the closest she’s ever come to being portrayed as anything resembling a sexual being was when Shion hugged her once, but I often find it easier to think things through after a nice shower, and Akane definitely has things to think through.

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As she does, Dr. Masuzaki is killed, by a Dominator, while in custody. Mika suspects Sakuya had something to do with it, but is being forced to bear many a secret, including the fact that she’s now in league with people who are working to turn Akane’s hue black. Not that there’s anything she can do about it; she was never one to put her life before others, and she fell into their clutches fair and square. Every day she’s not dead is a victory for her.

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This week was also a return to the Psycho-Pass tradition of digging up the most effed-up scum of the earth who have way too much time and money on their hands, and are involved in some kind of bizarre ring involving humans, holos, and zoo animals.

Kamui is at this dinner, along with his host Kuwashima Koichi, a former classmate who transferred just before the plane crash who was later saved from latent criminality by Kamui. The whole night is really just an elaborate way of taking out trash that is no longer needed for their plans.

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Once that’s done, and an entire hall in Chiyoda goes up in flames, the MWPSB arrives right on queue, led by Akane. Kuwashima meets her there, as willingly as Masuzaki did, but he has a gift for her: the ear of her grandmother, the one person I suspected could raise her coefficient. Again, Mika knows Sakuya has something to do with it.

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Just as Mika dug up too much on Sybil to be left alone, so too has Akane with regards to Kamui. Kamui personally doesn’t seem to care one way or another, and actually wants her to “witness the judgment” that’s about to come. But the grandma thing sure makes it look like Kuwashima and Sakuya are in cahoots to mess with Akane, and I daresay they succeeded. Then again, I may be underestimating Akane’s grit.

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PSYCHO-PASS 2 – 08

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We get a double-helping of investigations this week, as Mika conducts her own from the MoE archives while Professor Saiga gets the straight story abotu Kamui Kirito from Dr. Mazusaki. Mika and Saiga learn the same thing by different methods: Kamui wasn’t just the only survivor, but the subject of an unprecedented medical procedure that implanted parts of all 184 of the children who died in the plane crash — including seven of their brains — into Kamui, resulting in a Sybil-proof “compound person.” The Togane Foundation holds all the patents for that procedure.

This collection of body and brain parts is a fascinating concept, and very much akin to Sybil’s own collection of brains. Kamui isn’t just one person anymore, you see; and he’s far more than the sum of those parts.

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Mazusaki takes full opportunity of his wise audience of Saiga (and Akane) and doesn’t hesitate to spill the beans, including his personal reason for believing in and supporting Kamui, who is essentially a Frankenstein’s monster. The reason is, Kamui showed him the way to clear his psycho-pass and saved him from ruin. That, and Kamui isn’t just after revenge, but the total upheaval of society, starting with Sybil’s downfall.

In an interesting scene with Saiga, Togane remarks that Saiga is the opposite of Kamui, in that he darkens rather than clears psycho-passes, which he deems more than a skill, but a talent. Because that talent deprives Saiga of his freedom in a Sybil-controlled society, Togane imagines it must be less than ideal for Saiga to have to depend on someone with an unusually clear psycho-pass — Akane. Saiga turns it around on Togane, who registered the highest crime coefficient of all time, now an enforcer beholden to the MWPSB.

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Mika continues to tap away in her archive alcove, and the more dirt she finds, the more she worries about her own psycho-pass getting clouded (a highly prescient concern). Akane and Togane then get a scene together after a false alarm at her apartment, where Togane tells her she’s a born detective, with all the pros and cons that comes with. It’s a pretty tense scene even though we know Togane won’ do anything (yet), just because we know how obsessed he is.

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What’s truly enlightening about this episode, though, is Mika proving her salt as an investigator, after so many weeks of incompetence. She connects Togane’s mother to Kamui and comes up with the conclusion that Kamui is seeking revenge against the Togane Foundation.

Knowing Togane Sakuya’s history with turning inspectors into enforcers, she also concludes that Akane is his next “experiment” (perhaps his toughest nut to crack yet). His goal is to turn her black, meaning Togane is just like Saiga in being the opposite of Kamui…only Togane turns people black for sport; Saiga does it unintentionally.

She wraps up her report with a recommendation to dismiss or suspend Tsunemori Akane, on the grounds that Togane’s fixation on her, as well as her reckless actions (which have, by the way, cost lives) represent an existential threat to the MWPSB that must be dealt with.

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Little did Mika know hitting “send” wouldn’t be sealing Akane’s fate, but her own.

Kasei summons her and congratulates her on her report, but also regrets to report that Mika stepped in the wrong shit and was led right into a trap designed to stamp out anyone who digs too deep into Sybil’s secrets. Togane sidles up behind her with a gun and restrains her, and addresses the chief as “Mom”. That’s right: Kasei is Togane’s mom, whose body died, but whose brain became a part of Sybil.

The mother lets the son do what he wants with Mika, which for Sakuya means using her as a guinea pig for the future eventuality of revealing the truth about Sybil to the public. Obviously, this is the absolute last thing a perfect citizen like Mika wants, and while I’ve never sympathized with her more than this week, part of me also thought “Well, that’s what you get for trying to get Akane fired behind her back!”

Had Mika gone to Akane instead of Kasei, she wouldn’t be in this predicament. But instead Mika stayed true to her character and fell victim to resentment and vanity. I haven’t said this before, and I still think she’s a tool, but still: Poor Mika!

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PSYCHO-PASS 2 – 07

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Psycho-Pass 2 follows an uncharacteristically indulgent episode with one that sets aside the guns, drones, explosives, and boats and gets down to the less shouty and visceral but arguably more interesting police work that’s necessary to learn about, find, and catch Kamui Kirito.

After showing us Mika grudgingly cleaning up area stress mess her superior made for her, we delve briefly into Akane’s own mind, where she shoots the breeze with an echo of her mentor Kogami, who reminds her of the basics of detection: being confronted with something impossible either means wrong assumptions…or insanity.

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Both he and Togane bring up the same possibility: the answers are probably closer than they think. I see Akane continues to light cigarettes, but we have yet to see her puff, unlike Shion, who wonders if Saiga is being so calm because he’s found out a way to stop Kamui. But Matsuda said nothing, so he’s got nothing; as long as Sybil continues to deem Inspector Shisui’s psycho-pass as clear, she — and by extension Kamui — can do as they please.

Speaking of psycho-passes…we finally meet a family member of Akanes, her grandma Aoi, whose hospital Akane rushes to when there’s a report of a medical drone malfunction. Aoi is fine, but encourages her as Kogami did in her head earlier, though in a different way. Her granny tells it like it is, and the way it is is that Akane always puts others before herself and understands the value of life; every life — to the point of neglecting or jeopardizing her own.

It makes Akane a tremendous cop, but it wouldn’t normally be the formula for a happy life, or even a clear psycho-pass. But Akane doesn’t  mind living in a crime scene or not having a boyfriend or putting in the work that’s needed.

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Her main frustration in life is probably having to serve under a system as fundamentally corrupt and flawed as Sybil, simply because the alternative is probably worse; the cure is worse than the disease. In this, she’s diametrically opposed to Kamui, who’s willing to do whatever it takes and sacrifice as much life as is needed to bring Sybil down.

Which begs the question: What does Sybil make of all this? Akane confers with “Chief Kasei” to try to divine that. At this point in the case Akane is not in the mood for playing around; she flat out voices her suspicion Sybil is afraid to take action outside of normal operations, lest it reveal their weakness. Sybil is aware Kamui is unique, but because he’s not the kind of ‘unique’ that made, say, Mikishima an excellent candidate to join the Brain Trust.

When Akane tells her there’s no way to bring Kamui in By The Book, Kasei agrees, but she doesn’t want him brought in period. Sybil would prefer if Kamui quietly disappeared, and points out that Akane and Togane had the means to ‘deal with’ Kamui but refrained from doing so. But Akane isn’t killing anyone if she doesn’t have to. She promises Kasei she’ll arrest him lawfully and bring him to proper justice, not the shadowy, loose end-tying justice Kasei intimates.

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Speaking of Togane: As expected, Mika hasn’t shared her knowledge of his intense clandestine surveillance of Akane with anyone, and particularly not Akane, who remains a thorn in her bushy tail. Not that there’s no value in withholding knowledge and until she finds out more, but as she learns Togane was once an enforcer eighteen years ago, and every inspector he touched was declared a latent criminal and executed with Dominators, she may want to say something to someone soon.

Also,  Togane is totally on to her; both her unsettling of his quarters and the spilling of her drink suggests she may be a bit of a klutz.

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I mentioned the presence of nitty-gritty police work in this episode, and there’s plenty to be done. A lot of progress is made in the case, but that progress was unwittingly delayed by, yup, Mika, who simply sat on Hinakawa’s digital report on the pharmacist holo at the scene of Aoyanagi’s death. That holo was another aged-up version of a child who died on a plane crash fifteen years ago.

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Realizing how Hinakawa’s skills can aid in the case, Akane sets him to work aging up the 184 children (of the 201 passengers) who died on that flight. They also learn that the sole survivor of that plane crash was one Kamui Kirito. Boom.

After locating and inviting the doctor who treated Kamui to answer some questions, Akane tells Mika to look into Kamui’s treatment records to corroborate whatever the doc ends up giving them. Naturally, she pawns this work off on Hinakawa, who’s already got an all-nighter ahead of him.

But when Hinakawa hits a confidentiality wall and suggests it could be due to sensitive drug or medical tech patents, Mika recalls the name of one of the leading organizations in that field: the Togane Foundation. Uh-oh.

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The one tasked with talking with Dr. Masuzaki is Professor Saiga, which is, again, a wise choice on Akane’s part, because it affords us an always welcome Epic Old Guy Staredown, but Masuzaki is actually fine with telling Saiga everything, or at least something about Kamui. Heck, the Doc seems almost paternally proud of the kid.

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But just as Akane depends on the talents of Saiga and Hinakawa, Shion and Yayoi, Ginoza and Togane, and yes, even Mika (who’d be relegated making Starbucks runs if were her boss) in order to achieve her goal of bringing Kamui to justice, so too does Kamui rely on others to achieve his goal to bring Sybil down.

That’s made abundantly and shockingly clear, as is the earlier notion that “the answer is closer than we think”, as the aging up of the remaining 185 children reveals that dozens of holo-impostors of people Akane and the others know are already walking among them.

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Psycho-Pass – 22 (Fin)

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Akane doesn’t believe the law protects the people so much as the people protect the law. The law in the culmination of mankind’s amassed hopes and dreams for a better world to live in; without that collective input, the law—and society—cannot exist. When the will of the people is usurped by a system like Sybil, the momentum of human progress towards that ideal goal is arrested.

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I said all Akane cared about was saving Kogami’s soul, but once it became clear after a heartbreaking sequence of events that she wasn’t going to be successful, I realized I was wrong about her becoming lost if she did fail, or that her desire to save Kogami was selfish. To her, no matter how vicious Makishima’s crimes were, on-the-spot execution is a crime, and she does everything in her power to prevent that crime. She just came up a bit short.

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She wasn’t being selfish; she was being patient. She doesn’t like Sybil anymore than Kogami or Makishima, but she knows society as it is can’t live without it; not yet. So she’ll continue being one of their ideal poster girls. She does exactly what she’s done every time something horrible has happened in her life, whether it was her first traumatic experience as an inspector, losing Yuki, or losing Kogami, twice: she moves forward.

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Sybil is disappointed that Akane couldn’t deliver Makishima to them, but that doesn’t mean they cut her loose. They “lower her ratings” a bit, but they’re sitll all outstandingly high. They want to someday reveal themselves to the world as they did to Akane, and when that happens, they want the people to accept them and be happy about it, and they think Akane and people like her will help pave the way to that. Faced with that grotesque hubris, sucking up her pride is actually quite selfless on Akane’s part.

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Two months pass, and we’ve got some changes, all of which do a decent job of setting up the second season that arrived a couple days ago. That’s right, because of the timing of my watching of Psycho-Pass, I will not have to endure a two-plus year wait, but will jump right back into it. Ginoza is now an enforcer, Shion and Yayoi still seem to be having pretty okay sex, and Akane is now in charge of the division.

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Perhaps most awesomely, the show ends on a note that may not bode well for Akane’s chances of exacting the change she wants, rather than the “evolution” Sybil seeks. That’s because the show ends just like it began: with a young and eager rookie inspector arriving on a tense crime scene, and the more seasoned inspector telling her they afford to go easy on them. Only this time Akane is the seasoned one and Shimotsuki Mika is the even younger rookie in question. That’s some fantastic symmetry there.

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It may intrest you to know that even though we only saw her for a brief moment, I found myself identifying more with Mika, as I did with Akane when she was new. Considering how long this show has been around, I kind of feel like the second line that Mika represents, who can only repeat the deeds or mistakes of her forbears. Similarly, most of what I’ve prattled on about in these twenty-odd reviews may have already been said before in different forms, but better to have stumbled on this great piece of quasi-Utopian fiction late than never. Thanks for bearing with me. On to Psycho-Pass 2.

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Psycho-Pass – 21

It's Tiltrotor Time!
It’s Tiltrotor Time!

—I didn’t expect you to get here so soon.
—Don’t underestimate the MWPSB. You’re not the only one who can drive Makishima into a corner.

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Akane may as well have said “Don’t underestimate me. Don’t think I’ll stand idly by and let you become a murderer. That is not going to happen on my watch.” All great things must end. This is the beginning of the end of Psycho-Pass, and it’s a good one.

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The gap has narrowed between Kogami Shinya and Tsunemori Akane. Both have chosen their weapons for the endgame: Sybil—for all intents and purposes God—has bestowed upon Akane a righteous weapon with which to do His work: a non-lethal Paralyzer with the safety de-activated. It did so because Akane convinced them to give it to her, lest the MWPSB use “more primitive” weapons that could harm or kill their beloved Makishima.

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But it also narrows because Sybil was right: telling her the truth motivated Akane like nothing else. Her colleagues notice it; Yayoi says she’s “the most constructive of all of them, but also the most depressed-looking.” Masaka sees that she’s bearing a great burden, even if he doesn’t know what it is. But Akane’s Crime Coefficient is a calm, breezy 24. She’s been chosen, and she’s putting aside everything to save Kogami.

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This show was never really about the intense rivalry between Kogami and Makishima. That was a sideshow. Rather, it was about Akane coming into her own; it was about the tragedy of someone as brilliant and moral as Kogami becoming a latent criminal and being reduced to glorified hunting dog duty by Sybil, who now seeks the same person who put him in that spot. And it’s about Akane drawing a line. Kogami may be a latent criminal, but he Will Not Be A Murderer. Her goal is as selfish as Kogami’s, if not moreso.

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Don’t get me wrong: I love Akane to death. She’s one of the best anime characters I’ve ever come across, and her journey has been engrossing and epic. But let’s not forget a couple things: One, at the moment she’s still a servant of Sybil, which may purport to be beyond such concepts as good and evil, but by any measure, the society it maintains is by no means ideal.

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That means she’s willing to capture Makishima alive and give him to Sybil in exchange for Kogami’s life. But the more efficient way to deal with the Makishima situation is, indeed, taking him out. He would say himself, nothing is eternal. He lived life according to his own will; that is probably enough for him. He doesn’t want to join Sybil. And yet if he did, and became part of the brain trust, he could do far more harm for a far longer time.

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What I’m getting at is, it’s probably better for society for Makishima to die, not to be turned over to Sybil. That’s an assumption, of course, but let’s not pretend Akane is any purer than Kogami in this situation. They’re both driven by emotions. Whatever you want to call it: respect, admiration, longing, love—Akane feels it for Kogami. He’s all that matters right now. If she loses him, either by murdering or getting himself killed, I can’t imagine how she wouldn’t end up lost.

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But as much of a super-sleuthing dynamo as Akane has been these last couple episodes, she still makes a critical miscalculation, rushing to the control room to take control of the emergency power, assuming that’s where Makishima will go. But he’s not there. He’s where Masaoka Tomomi and Ginoza Nobuchika are. Akane is too late in warning them, and Masaoka ends up the first casualty in this final battle.

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It is, as befits Masaoka, an excellent death. When Ginoza is crushed by a booby trap, Makishima emerges, and Masaoka fights him to defend his maimed son. When he has him in a lock, Makishima, wily bastard that he is, lights a stick of dynamite and tosses it at Ginoza. Gino orders his dad not to let go of the culprit, but Masaoka can’t fight back his love any more than Akane can. He grabs the stick, which blows up before he can toss it away. We’ll miss you, Pops.

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Then Kogami arrives, bandys words with Makishima for a while. He can’t do much with the revolver in the dark labyrinth where fate has chosen their fight to take place, and it comes down to something even more primative than guns: blades. Akane still has her trump card, but can she make it in time?

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This shit’s heavy, man.

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Psycho-Pass – 20

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Note: I had planned to finish the first season of Psycho-Pass before the new one arrived, but I didn’t want to rush things…and procrastinated! -H.

Psycho-Pass has gotten noticeably talkier in the episodes leading up to what I can only imagine to be a mind-blowing finale, but when the talking being done (and the talkers themselves) are this compelling, I can hardly complain. This time, Akane’s own Dominator speaks to her. As I suspected, she’s firmly on Sybil’s radar, and they’ve decided to tell her the truth, in hopes it will motivated her to help them acquire Makishima.

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Action-wise, there’s not much to speak of here, at least early on: lots of standing around listening to the voice of Sybil, as Akane continually calls bullshit. We also have Akane having conversations in her head with Kagari, Makishima, and Yuki. By scanning her mind, Sybil believes Akane shares their desire to maintain social harmony, and the belief that society as it is would break down if Sybil were brought down.

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These conversations serve to reinforce the kernal of the idea that first took root in her mind the first day she joined the MWPSB: that the system is not absolute as she thought. It is not perfect, which means it cannot claim absolute authority over society. Sybil basically expels what little regard she still had for it by revealing their true nature as puppet-masters. But because they can still decide whether Kogami lives or dies, she makes a deal with them.

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Once that deal is made—with her pointing a Dominator at her chest and telling Sybil to make its damn move—it gave me every confidence that she’d hold up her end of the bargain, but it probably isn’t wise to take Sybil at its word. Her flashbacks also reminded us that unlike most of the population, her immense natural talent in many disciplines (or luck with tests as she calls it) gave her a choice they didn’t have.

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In effect, that choice from a variety of futures afforded her a measure of free will. Sybil indeed cleared up a great many things for Akane, and it’s like a fire was lit beneath her. At the home of the murdered agricultural official, she breaks out her super-sleuth skills, channeling Kogami to Ginoza as she talks. Kogami is already at the granary where Makishima intents to poison the crops.

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Akane showed us a lot this week, like just how much she’s grown and matured. I love how disappointed and disgusted she gets the more Sybil tells her. But it also confirmed to us that she’s far from the cold and emotionless automaton she feared she was, or that her clear hue would seem to indicate. Why else would she agree to giving Sybil exactly what they want, essentially serving as their pawn, for Kogami’s sake?

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Psycho-Pass – 19

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Getting back to basics, Kogami practices loading and unloading a revolver, reminding me a bit of Travis Bickle. But he still isn’t sure of Makishima’s next move, so he borrows Masaoka’s sportbike and tears off, Tetsuo-thru-Neo-Tokyo style, to the home of his mentor, Professor Saiga.

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This is an exceedingly quiet episode of Psycho-Pass, even quieter than the last, which was dominated by Kogami’s goodbyes, but it’s also an episode in which the full extent of what Sybil has done to the country comes to light for us he audience. And even though nobody knows what Makishima knows about Sybil, it’s almost as if they sense it—in their guts and in their hearts.

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It didn’t occur to me, for instance, that agriculture is completely automated, or that history is no longer studied, but that’s simply because the show hadn’t really turned its gaze on those aspects of its world until now. This is a truly FUBAR world, for all its aesthetic similarities to our own. Most of the population has accepted it, while intellectuals like Saiga retreat to the forest, unable to harm anyone with knowledge.

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Of course, being intellectual means you can find ways around the system of control that essentially imprisons everyone else. Take the chat rooms Saiga participates in, hosted by offshore servers. Kogami’s visit proves more fruitful than picking the professor’s brain and saying another goodbye: when presented with the thread “How To Bring Down Sybil In Five Days”, the chat room participants have at it, providing a wealth of diverse ideas.

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At first Kogami just sees them as a bunch of nerdy jokes, but as Ginoza says to his worried therapist about maintaining his hue, it’s about how you look at things. So Kogami picks the “joke” he thinks is “funniest” – meaning the plot most likely to fit Makishima’s cynical style.

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That is to cause a food shortage that will force the government to interact with the outside world. Once the gates are cracked, people and knowledge will spread like antibodies, nullifying the entire crime coefficient system, and dealing a critical blow to the superiority the powers that be value so highly.

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Meanwhile, Akane deals with the fact that Kogami is gone, and that if they ever meet again her orders are to kill him. She deals with it initially with a stiff upper lip, refusing to be depressed. When Shion gets her to open up, Akane voices her worry that because of her freakishly pure Hue means she’s cold and unfeeling.

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For a moment there, I thought something was going to happen with those two, which would have been an interesting development considerin how relatively asexual Akane has been portrayed thus far. Her talk with Yayoi in the cafeteria is far less charged, but just as devastating in that they continue to detail everything wrong with the world they live in, that Akane is only just starting to realize.

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Psycho-Pass – 18

Another nice father-son moment
Another nice father-son moment

Kogami Shinya is a sharp felow. Since the day he met Makishima Shougo, and resolved to judge him, he’d probably suspected he wouldn’t be able to get the job done if he remained a detective under the law. The bizarre actions and motivations of Chief Kasei this week serve as the final nail in the coffin for his career as a detective, a career he ends on his own terms. It’s a heartbreaking end, in particular for his colleague and friend Akane, but it was inevitable.

"Yes, prove your usefulness by killing your ex-partner. LET THE HATE FLOOOW."
“Yes, prove your usefulness by killing your ex-partner. LET THE HATE FLOOOW.”

But first, Kasei, or rather, the Sybil “brain trust”. Faced with the prospect of further challenges to their perfect little system at the hands of Makishima makes them bolder and less concerned with decorum. I mean, trying to pass off the plane crash as an opportunity for Ginoza to sweep his failures under the rug is one thing, but doing it after he and others just saw a body being carted away from a plane that only had Makishima and drones aboard – pretty brazen!

In case there was any doubt, yes: Tsunemori Akane is the shit.
In case there was any doubt, yes: Tsunemori Akane is the shit.

Things get worse when Ginoza, fully aware Kogami is his best detective—better than he’ll ever be—tries to bend the rules a little and get Kogami on Division 2, searching for Kagari. It backfires, and this time Kasei puts her hand on Ginoza’s Dominator as it’s being aimed at Kogami, transforming it into a Lethal Eliminator. Ginoza hesitates pulling the trigger long enough for a particularly gutsy Akane to shoot Kogami instead with the Paralyzer (for the second time sinc they’ve met; both times to save him).

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Because she was technically performing her duties, and said she believed Ginoza’s Dom was “malfunctioning”, she gets off without punishment, but there can be no doubt that Sybil will be looking very carefully at Akane from this point on, illustrated by naught but Kasei’s cold cyborg stare. There can be no overstating how masterfully this show stages incredibly tense situations.

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That tension is followed up by some of the best character work yet in a show that’s brimming with it to begin with, as Kogami prepares to go off the reservation. Karanomori lets him take the last remaining helmet, telling him he has six days before Sybil countermeasures render it useless. She knows he may not come back, too, so wonders aloud if she should ever have slept with him. Then Masaoka pours him some of the good stuff and gives him the key to a safe house he used back in the day.

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As this is all going on, Akane is still asleep by his hospital bed. Akane, who made him promise to keep being a detective; not to think of himself as merely a hunting dog to do her dirty work. What Akane didn’t realize is that, if they could talk, a dog would promise anything to you out of loyalty, regardless of whether they could keep it.

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Unlike that hypothetical talking, promising dog, Kogami has the benefit of knowing he’s making a mistake out of a largely selfish determination to pursue Makishima and stop the killing. But he’ll do it anyway, because he won’t be able to live with himself anyway if he lets Makishima get away. Tears well up in Akane’s eyes as she reads his farewell letter, but as Masaoka said, far better to have written that then left without a word.

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What’s her next move?

Kogami has six days, and then he’s a big blinking light on Sybil’s Big Board. I recall Akane saying stopping Makishima is more important than her remaining an inspector. Would she become a latent criminal to save her beloved colleague from himself, or will she let him do what he feels he needs to do, and hope they won’t cross paths. She won’t be able to just use the Paralyzer a third time.

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Psycho-Pass – 17

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The Cybil System: “It’s not something worth putting your life on the line to protect,” Makishima warns Kogami by phone. As a member of society not under such an invasive system, I knew this intrinsically, and that was before I knew what Sybil actually was. Now that I know the horrifying truth, my revulsion has been galvanized. Now it’s just a question of whether the “good guys” (Tsunemori, Akane & Co.) will catch on.

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Wait…there’s a Division TWO?

After killing Guseong and Kagari, a repaired Chief Kasei propagates the fiction that the latter ran away, and pins the blame on Ginoza. But even if Ginoza himself followed Kagari down to the Sybil Core and saw what he saw, he’d have been eliminated too, and the circumstances covered up as neatly as Kagari’s. For their part, the rest of Division One doesn’t think Kagari ran, but that something happened to him. They just have nothing to go on.

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Kasei tells Ginoza that Makishima is now out of the MWPSB’s authority, and tells him he will be disposed of as a “research specimen”, if he hasn’t already. This is some truly devious shit, because even at the time, when I had no clue Kasei was part of Sybil, this just felt like the higher-ups doing the dirty work that needed to be done to deal with those who fell through the system’s cracks: the criminally asymptomatic. You know, just good old-fashioned corruption at the top.

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I had no frelling idea what was really going on…not until Kasei shows up in Makishima’s hospital berth and talks to him like an old friend, because he’s actually Touma Kouzaburou, that teacher who made body part sculpture and disappeared. This is when shit starts being revealed even Makishima couldn’t have fathomed, for all his literary efficacy. Touma is one of 247 disembodied human brains working as one that form the network that is the Sybil System. Shudder.

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Even more incredible, those brains were all selected for those with “irregular personalities” that don’t fit mankind’s “conventional standards” for emotion. In other words, Japan is being ruled by 247 psychopaths. As Makishima says, that is one hell of a joke, and he breaks out a nifty Swift reference about the brains of those who disagreed being halfed to alleviate conflict. But the more Touma talks about it, the more he sounds like he’s just doing it to Play God.

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Cruelty, megalomania, lack of remorse: they’re thinks Makishima has in spades, and he’s immune to cymatic scans too, which is why Touma uses this opportunity to welcome him into the fold. But while both Touma and Makishima are criminally insane, their goals are completely different. In short: Makishima isn’t interested in becoming Umpire Number 248. He doesn’t want to officiate the game; he wants to keep playing it.

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That’s when he enters Awesome Makishima Mode. Taking advantage of the fact that is Touma is alone and vulnerable, ambushes the cyborg, breaking its limbs one at a time, and making sure Touma knows why Makishima’s not joining their little zombie buffet. When last we see Makishima, he’s looking out on the city from a crippled aircraft, but I’m going to wager he somehow survives the crash.

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Just in case, Makishima contacts Kogami, right after Kogami espies a vision of Makishima in his office. As Kogami says to Tsunemori, every battle a detective faces has been lost, in that victims have already been created by a crime. That’s true in that the entire country is presently being victimized by Sybil, but it’s false in that they don’t come upon all crimes after the fact. The crime is still in progress. They can stop it, prevent more victims from suffering, and save themselves while they’re at it.

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Psycho-Pass – 16

Those don't work, remember?
Those don’t work, remember?

As they approach the Nona Tower and a gauntlet of untold helmeted baddies, Kogami asks Kagari if he’s scared. This question interrupts Kagari’s monologue about becoming an enforcer not to protect the people who took everything away from him when he was five, but simply because being a hunting dog out in the world is preferable to hell as a lab rat in a facility. That is all. Well, that, and he has friends in the CID who he’s loyal to.

Very Akira-esque machinery
Very Akira-esque machinery

That loyalty is tested when he descends alone below Nona’s four official basements and into a cathedral-like anechoic chamber where Choe Guseong is attempting to break into Sybil’s core. Makishima ascends to the tower’s top floor as a decoy for Kogami and Tsunemori. They go after Makishima despite knowing he’s a decoy, because their primary directive is to capture him alive. Well, that, and they both have a score to settle with the bastard.

The cityscapes on this show are so sweet
The city vistas on this show are so sweet

All three detectives are slowed down by helmet guys armed with dangerous tools, but Kagari and Kogami show they’re not afraid of a little hand-to-hand combat and manage to charge through; Akane gets hit in the leg by a nailgun and has to hang back, and we finally come to the scene that starts the very first episode, when I had no idea what was going on. Well, now I know: we were getting a tantalizing glimpse of Makishima’s cornering and ultimate capture.

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We had no idea what had led up to that showdown high atop the Nona Tower, or the costs exacted to allow it to happen. Nor did we know how things would go down after literary pleasantries were exchanged (apparently one parries (Blaise) Pascal with (Jose) Ortega (y Gasset). I tellya, sometimes Psycho-Pass is like a Holiday Inn: just staying there makes you feel smarter, or that you should have paid more attention in that Civilization and Its Discontents elective.

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Putting aside academic discussion on the fundamental tensions between civilization and the individual, Kogami and Makishima have one heck of a physical fight, and as the helmet-men had softened him up—maybe even if they hadn’t—Makishima seems to have the slight upper hand, but in his desire to punish Kogami for forcing him to end things less entertainingly than he hoped, he neglects the possibility Kogami isn’t alone, and gets stoved in the head, ironically, by one of those damnable helmets.

POW!
POW!

Kogami tells Akane to kill him. Personal vendettas aside, Akane probably should kill him. But she lowers the helmet and pulls out the cuffs; returns to being an inspector of the MWPSB, and arrests Makishima in the name of the law. It’s another great victory marred by great emotional and practical cost. Meanwhile, far below them, Kagari finally finds Choe, who is finally in. Both of them look at something bright we don’t get to see, like the contents of the suitcase in Pulp Fiction.

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Then both Choe and Kagari are swiftly eliminated by Chief Kasei, who AAAAUGH SHE’S A CYBORG! Honestly that’s not that surprising, as there was a noticable coldness to all previous scenes with her. And if he wasn’t already, let there be no doubt any longer that Makishima is hardly the greatest adversary in the show. Hell, he isn’t even the greatest adversary in the building! Kogami was ready and willing to kill him; he just wasn’t able.

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That Akane was able to hold back murderous rage at her friend’s murderer just may have given both her and Kogami a fighting chance against the true enemy, if they ever find themselves on its bad side…if they aren’t already. Until then, this episode was a thrilling tour-de-force from start to brilliant finish, one of the best of the show yet. Still kicking myself for not watching this much sooner.

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