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 2 – 06

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Kamui is committed to discovering and exploiting every weakness in the Sybil System, and he continues to prove he’s exceedingly good at it, luring a large force of MWPSBers into an elaborate trap, perverting the same holo software used to “sanitize” military drone footage so operators’ Psycho-passes don’t get clouded.

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The facility is also a chance to test out his new convert, Former Inspector Shisui. One major weakness of Sybil is obviously the use of eyes. Granted, few people are able to perform successful eye transplant, if one does, one can control any Dominator as if he was an inspector. And while we saw what torturous ordeals Shisui went through in Kamui’s custody, here she’s actually grateful he took her eye. Among this guy’s many gifts and disciplines, add in psychological manipulation and infectious charisma.

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It’s a another particularly shitty day for MWPSB, who are, after all, nothing but complacent, obedient pawns to Sybil. Even if the drones weren’t hacked and trying to kill them all, MWPSB doesn’t even have enough ammo to destroy them all. Rushing in there was a costly mistake; Division 3 is eviscerated. And we hardly knew thee…

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Back at HQ, the gang isn’t sitting still. Well, they are, but they’re tapping away at computers. Well, Saiga isn’t, but…hey, he’s the over-brains of the counter-hacking operation, planting the idea in Shion’s head that the key to stopping the drones is their own MPS operational servers. Saiga basically helps prevent a crisis from turning into an calamity, and if it wasn’t for Akane, he wouldn’t even be in that building.

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Naturally, Mika is utterly dismayed and appalled by Akane’s actions, most of all putting the safety of lowly enforcers before her own and going after Kamui herself; ushing to the forefront instead of staying back and delegating. It doesn’t help that recent events have had a somewhat clouding effect on Mika’s soul, to the point she mutters that she hopes Akane gets clouded.

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That’s after coming back from Togane’s quarters, where she found that he was taking constant measurements of Akane’s color. Togane can’t help himself when Akane has her back turned to him in the field. He’s astonished by how clear she is, even there, which, as he thinks to himself, makes him want to turn her black that much more. Clearly, Akane needs to watch this guy, but she’s given no indication of being anything other than totally in the dark regarding him. Mika knows something now, but I expect her to keep that knowledge to herself. Why help Akane out, and reward her for breaking the rules constantly?

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Oh, and if you like turn-off-your-brain action, you liked this episode. The running and jumping and shooting and exploding is virtually non-stop, with Akane right in the thick of it; she’s everywhere, kicking ass and taking names. The clever tactics used to bunch the drones together so their guns lock (a measure to avoid hitting one another) is a particularly neat little setpiece, though how Akane and the others survive an ammunition warehouse explosion is uncertain! Really, how are they not dead?

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As it turns out, Mika missed out on all the action, which was probably for the best, as she’d probably only issue orders that would have made the situation worse and cause the deaths of more enforcers and civilians. It’s also nice that Shion, Yayoi, Hinakawa and Saiga pay her no mind while switching off the holo overlays. Yes, it clouds a great many minds, but it also saves their lives. The righteous Mika has the usual arguments about how This Is Not How Things Are Done (clearly unfazed by the Chief’s shutdown last week), and Saiga tells her what we all want tell her: “Quit yer damn whining!” Some problems, he says, simply can’t be solved (or even understood, I’ll add) by doing things by the book.

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Kamui is one of those things. He’s a ghost to Sybil’s technology, and he’s also a cunning creature who’s been able to turn it around on itself almost every time. Now he has at least five Dominators, and the ability to use them all at any time. For her confrontation, Akane brings a real gun, but suddenly remembering Kogami, she can’t fire it, nor does she allow Togane to. Kamui gets away very slowly on his boat (named What Color, LOL), but the standoff ends with Akane still a Dominator in the clear, which she needs to continue to be if she’s going to stop Kamui.

8_brav

PSYCHO-PASS 2 – 05

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Man oh man, when Psycho-Pass is on, it is frikkin’ ON. This was one of those times. It had it all: turned inspectors, sketchy enforcers, brain-picking, inspector head-patting, attempted inter-office political wrangling, failed freaking tattling, and one more big MWPSB operation…which is exactly what Kamui wanted bearing down on his ostensible location on an isolated island used for military drone development and training. What could possibly go wrong?

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We start off where we left it last week: the site of a major MWPSB fuck-up and defeat. The gory scene — not to mention the way it went down, by MWPSB hands — is understandably a bit much for Mika, who retches and vomits into a sink, clearly scarred by the experience. Even so, her location near the bathroom turns out to be fortuitous, as she spots Togane pointing his Dominator at Akane. The reading? A puny, blindingly-clear 26. As Professor Saiga remarks quite hilariously while Akane is visiting to convince him to interrogate Masuda, Is Akane really human? I hope she turns out to be, because that’s what makes her so damn awesome.

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Okay, I feel a little bad for Mika, and the scene where Kunizuka tenderly pats her head (and said patting is covered by Multiple Camera Angles!) is pretty damned cutebut Mika is still The Worst until she inevitably proves herself otherwise at a later date.

As Professor Saiga remarks quite hilariously while Akane is visiting to convince him to interrogate Masuda, Is Akane really human? I hope she turns out to be, because that’s what makes her so damn awesome.

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Speaking of non-humans, Mika runs to mommy to tattle on Akane being so darned unorthodox. Standing at attention, Mika lays out a carefully-considered, comprehensive argument for why she believes Akane may require “treatment” or at least closer observation and a tighter leash…only to be totally shot down by Chief Kasei, who is very unimpressed and all like “Uh…And?”

What I hoped she’d say was, “Girl, you best GTFO and stop wasting my time before I throw a shoe at your scrawny ass.” Mika scurries away, and Kasei determines she’ll get “eaten alive.” It was just a flawless shutdown, in every way. I’m so glad Kasei is still around, and simultaneously on and most definitely not on Akane’s side.

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While poring over Masuda’s speeches with Shion, it doesn’t take a genius (not being sarcastic) like Saiga long to realize Masuda ain’t Masuda no more. He knows because the latest speeches don’t match the accomplished politician’s earlier balance and finesse with words, volume, and modulation. It’s as if he’s been replaced by a very good but still clear impostor.

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This Impostor gave the MWPSB the location of Kamui without anyone, even Akane, realizing he was a messenger to get them to come to the very place and time Kamui wanted them to be: the experimental drone testing facility. Here, Kamui unleashes his most brutally insidious weapon yet: hooking the deathbots up to everyone’s favorite new cell phone game. They play the crude 3D game with 8-bit sound effects with relish and glee, totally unaware they’re murdering real people.

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In last month’s Rundown I said Kamui may not be as brilliant as Makishima, but I think I need to revise that statement right now: Makishima’s crimes (or rather, his criminal facilitating) had a fairly linear structure, but Kamui’s got his tentacles in so many things at once, MWPSB doesn’t just look stupid or ineffectual, they look extremely vulnerable. Kasei is keeping Akane on the job and giving her a long leash because she and her brilliant, bizarre mind may be the MWPSB’s only hope of surviving. Sybil isn’t quite that vulnerable yet…but Kamui is just warming up.

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We close with certified non-genius Mika, who has, by way of rejecting her by-the-book upright citizen and intruding of Enforcer Togane’s private quarters, actually stumbled on something quite disturbing: Togane seems to be interested in Akane…very interested. While Saiga joked about her not being human, Togane my suspect she isn’t. Heck, he could think any number of things. He could even be…a Kamui mole. All I know is, the wall are closing in on Akane, Mika, everyone who wants to be on the right side of morality, as Kamui aims to bring the system they’re protecting to justice by the most deliciously dastardly means possible!

10_brav

PSYCHO-PASS 2 – 04

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“Look, we can do this the east way, or the adorable way.”

This episode didn’t just disrobe a mental health facility’s patrons of their clothes. It laid bare just how appalingly ill-informed, ill-equipped and ill-prepared the MWPSB is to do battle with this season’s Big Bad, Kamui.

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“Empirical data suggests the accuracy of my earlier contention that your weapons against me are without merit!”

Makishima Shougo facilitated latent criminals with the materials they needed to “thrive” so they could show him something; treating it almost like art. Kamui, on the other hand, is all cold, calculating science. He’s not necessarily interested in making a big loud fuss; rather, he’s content to stay on the sidelines as he uses citizens, enforcers, and inspectors as guinea pigs, with a particular focus on the possibilities of Dominators.

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Most. Worthless. Inspector. EVER.

“Ghost” is such a fitting term for him, because that’s what he remains in the minds of most MWPSB personnel, even after this week’s shocking events. He’s still treated like an apparition cooked up by a bunch of crazy people. Mika is so sure Kamui is just nonsense, and Eustress Deficiency is just an urban legend, that she simply stands outside the site of a hostage situation that escalates in horrific massacre. She literally does absolutely nothing in this episode, except jaw at Akane, stand around looking stupid, and worry about getting in trouble.

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Wonderful stuff, Metamucil!

Of course, that’s the way Kamui wants it. It’s as if he’s observing a group of rare animals that don’t fear man or even acknowledge his presence or existence. Their actions and protocols are utterly predictable, and he can work within and around them as conditions warrent with little or no fear of detection or reprisal.

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DIV 3 in the hizzouse

Just to underline just how bad things are, of the only two “good guys” (we use that term in a relative sense) who entertain the fact that Kamui even exists, one is a latent criminal locked in an isolation facility no one will talk to for fear of hue contamination. The other is the only person who will talk to him. And even Akane neatly fits into a part of Kamui’s plan, in that her sprawling investigation of his actitivies takes up most of her time this week, sidelining her from the central crisis.

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And then there’s Inspector Aoyanagi. I was pretty sure her nice chat with Ginoza was either a sign she’d soon turn into a latent criminal like him, or simple a death flag. Turns out it was both. It’s a shame we had so little time with her before she went, but she at least tries to go upholding her duty to protect the innocent. The only problem is, she fails to protect anyone, as they’re all ruled as targets for lethal elimination as soon as they’re released from captivity.

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That crazy old man went and made a latent criminality bomb out of people who were “fine” earlier that day, then manipulated the MWPSB into executing their own inspector as well as all of the hostages. And he did it all gladly, grateful as he was for Kamui “saving him” from a catatonic existence caused by eustress deficiency.

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It’s just a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day for the MWPSB. What’s worse, just as Mika excuses her criminal inaction with “I wasn’t given instructions”, Division 3 are “just obeying orders.” They’re just cogs in the machine. But so were those random people buying drugs to regulate their mental state. Oh, but the MWPSB now has an “Assault Dominator” that can kill through walls! That just screams “bad idea.”

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Who knows, Akane…who knows?

Division 3, whom I don’t believe we hadn’t seen before, were sent to take over the case on Chief Kasei’s strict orders. When Akane arrives at the scene, it’s far too late to help anyone, and she’s just as sickened as I am by the spectacle before her. Worse still, she of all people knows this was another sweeping-under-the-rug job by Kasei. When faced with such situations, Sybil breaks its own rules with impunity, but the cache it’s amassed from perceived infallibility means nobody takes notice.

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Something like a dozen people died this week as a result of Kamui’s experiments, but this is far from over. Akane needs to find this creep soon, or a lot more are going to die in what he probably deems to be “the service of the greater good”, freeing humanity from the shackles of Sybil and its MWPSB minions. I’d also like to think this was a wake-up call for someone like Mika…but I’m not going to hold my breath!

9_brav

PSYCHO-PASS 2 – 03

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Not your ideal Friday.

I got into Psycho-Pass so recently, I ended up waiting negative-one week for the sequel a good chunk of its audience had been waiting over two years for. As a result, I didn’t have the same yearning or withdrawal, and so wasn’t as easy on the first two episodes, which while heady and intriguing, didn’t seem to quite match the power of the first season. If I’d had a longer break from the franchise, I can say with certainty those would have probably gotten 9s. That’s how arbitrary our rating system is!

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Well, I can say with great pleasure that Psycho-Pass is officially back, baby…as if it had ever left (it hadn’t).  It gives someone like me who just got done watching the first season a couple weeks ago the impression that it’s back by leaning on all the knowledge I’ve amassed thus far. Frankly, I feel that someone watching this show without having that knowledge is still watching a pretty damn good show, but only a fraction as good if you knew what’s come before.

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Shashiing.

Those first two shots above are from a cold open that quickly and efficiently sketches out a little more about what kind of feller this Kamui is. For one thing, like previous Psycho-Pass baddies, he’s possessed of a very specific and detailed depravity, which is indeed depraved, even by the standards of our “unSybilized” world. Removing Inspector Shiui’s eye, then using it to aim her own Dominator at herself…that’s some twisted shit right there. And yet…somehow, he manages to clear her hue just by talking to her (and letting her bite his finger really hard…yuck!).

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OMG, academics, like, totally REEK, ‘n stuff! Ew. Ew.

The body horror isn’t the only thing that this episode brought back from the good ol’ days…this week Akane pays a visit to Professor Saiga Motherfucking Jouji, one of the coolest SOBs of the previous season. Having turned himself in for helping Kogami, he’s traded the verdant tranquility of his Fallingwater knockoff for a comparatively stark isolation cell. Shimotsuki Mika, who comes along because she’s curious what Akane’s up to now, perfectly sums up her character by covering her mouth and scurrying off at the first sight of the professor. It’s as if she’s allergic to the knowledge and wisdom of yore!

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Akane is not. I believe Mika’s scan of her in her messy flat read something like “38”, a ridiculously low Psychopass for someone who’s been through as much as Akane. She’s stuck between the possibility she’s gone insane and wrote “WC?” on her own wall (possibly while high on second-hand smoke) or the possibility a “ghost” invisible to technology did it without leaving a trace. Saiga can assure her of one thing: regardless of whether Kamui exists, the means to clear hues and write messages on walls without detection most certainly do, which means the answers are out there.

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Like Father…well, you know the rest of that.

Psycho-Pass Classic™ Move #3? Quality time Enforcer Ginoza, whom has fantastic chemistry with Div 2’s Inspector Aoyanagi. Just like his old man, now he has a bionic arm and drinks really old brown liquor in his U-neck and just generally seems to be in a better place. He was always so on-edge and anxious; covering his face like Mika did, too scared of clouding his hue to really live. Could it be he changed for the better? There’s certainly much less of a weight on his shoulders, that much is clear. Aoyanagi almost looks envious of his plight.

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The hits keep coming: Akane visits Chief Kasei to ask permission to investigate the Kamui Case. Now, you and I both know (or you better damn well i if you’re reading this) that Kasei is a freaking full-body cyborg and a direct liason to Sybil. Mika doesn’t have a fucking clue what’s going on between Kasei and Akane in this scene, but we do. That feeling of being in the know is quite…invigorating. While Ginoza was always cowed by Kasei (because like Mika, he just didn’t know the truth), Akane is almost not asking, but telling “her” that she’s taking this case. Kasei has no reason to stop her, because Kamui could be a grave threat to Sybil.

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Togame: Highest coefficient EVER. Gonna keep an eye on that (Sorry, Shisui!).

Mika dismisses the wide berth as favoritism. Mika is…kinda dumb so far. But she’s a perfect product of the system, as Akane once was. Also, we have the luxury of knowing Akane’s absolutely fuckin-A-right about Kamui really existing, even if he’s spoken of by Norma latent criminals as if he were some kind of prophet or savior. That Kamui managed to kill an enforcer, kidnap an Inspector, keep her Dominator active, and steal the impact absorber from a bomb-defusing drone…to what end God only knows.

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Meanwhile, Aoyanagi get’s a call from Shisui and agrees to meet her at some kind of combination pharmacy and internet cafe, where an old man is being crotchety and starts assaulting an employee. Yet the geezer’s clear Psychopass locks her Dominator, and starts to whale on her. Like Kamui, he wants to “save” everyone from Sybil, presumably starting with those who most directly carry out her will: the MWPSB.

9_brav

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.

10_brav

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.

10_brav

Psycho-Pass – 15

…What Ron said.

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Once the mass-produced helmets are distributed to larger numbers of would-be criminals, they begin roving the city in bands, brutalizing the rest of the populace, who are believed as vulnerable and ineffectual to resist as those who were born in a totally sterile environment are more susceptible to pathogens. Once area stress levels rise to a sufficient point, something happens: the people start fighting back. The violence spreads mercilessly like a virus.

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Professional and social media explodes with news, rumors, and increasing panic, as the first half of the episode simply lays it all out for us, with no particular narrator or emcee. The MWSPB is caught completely off-guard, and because it was thought the Sybil system would eliminate the possibility of mass riots, they have no resourcs to deal with the chaos tearing the city apart. It’s a pitiable scene in the briefing room, with a grand total of 17 CID inspectors and enforcers mustered and tasked with taking on the riots by themselves with what few effective weapons they have.

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I can’t recall a police department being in such dire straits, and it’s frankly exhilarating. Their response to the vast unrest in the city seems almost comically inadequate, but this is what happens to a society that puts all its eggs in one flawed basket. Makishima appears to have found the man who will give him the best show, a master hacker who determines the Ministry’s Nona Tower is the probable location of the Sybil system. What’s so diabolical is that the riots were only meant as a decoy to draw all human MWSPB assets away from HQ, leaving it ripe for attack by some particularly tough-looking helmet guys.

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When…heck, if this enormous mess gets resolved, the Ministry, the city, and possiblythe country will owe a great debt to Kogami Shinya and Tsunemori Akane. Among the paltry ranks of the CID, they were the only ones to identify the riots for what they were and had the initiative to race back to the Nona Tower. Even then, as I said, the team raiding Nona look like tough customers, so simply identifying the enemy’s true intent isn’t enough. They have to stop them somehow.

9_brav