Psycho-Pass – 09

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What sets Psycho-Pass apart from just about everything else I’m watching at the moment is the uncanny deftness and elegance with which it expresses its ideas and themes. It also helps that while the bad guys are, by most conventional appraisals, evil sadistic bastards, and yet they’re anything but boring. This is a show that possesses the very charisma the show defines: It has the nature of a hero or prophet; an ability to make you feel good when you’re watching it, and the intelligence to talk about all sorts of things.

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That three-part definition is offered by Ex-Professor Saiga, who once lectured both Kogami and Gino, and whose lectures were shut down when the hues of many of his students—all inspectors-in-training—started to get cloudy, turning them into latent criminals by Cybil’s standards. Kogami brings Akane (or rather, Akane allows Kogami to take her) to Saiga to meet him and learn from him, if only a little bit in a short time. After all, Kogami is the detective he is because he learned a lot from Saiga, so if you want to be a good detective, any exposure to him is a good thing.

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That seems to be what Akane wants. Her household AI jests that she’s preparing as if she were going on a date, and it is a date, in a police-nerdy kinda way. At the same time, Saiga is someone she would never have known about were it not for Kogami. But the main point is, she is steadfast in her commitment to treating Kogami as an equal, despite his lower official status in society. So much so, that she has to suspend her senpai-kohai relationship to Gino when he goes to far in admonishing her for seeing Saiga.

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Going back to Adam and Eve, knowledge is power, but comes at the cost of paradise. Cybil is mankind’s attempt to rebuild a Garden of Eden, which has its own cost; a life without stress is a life pointless and short, perhaps shorter than a Hobbesian world. To maintain Eden, those deemed unworthy are constantly cast out to live below the rest. “Unworthy”, in this case, are those who ask too many questions; amass too much knowledge; seek too much individuality.

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The exquisite analogy Kogami presents to Akane on their autonomous car ride home: knowledge is a swamp you can’t see the bottom of, but cannot check unless you dive in. Even Kogami wasn’t allowed out of the swamp once he dove too deep. Worse, one person’s descent means their entire family is marked for death, as the powers that be are just waiting for science to prove criminality is hereditary. Gino, who lost a father and colleague, doesn’t want to lose Akane too, which is why he’s so harsh on her.

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While events may ultimately determine Gino was being overprotective—Akane is constantly being described as having an uncommonly clear and resilient psyche—there’s also a very real possibility that she could end up going down the very same path as Kogami. What’s so awesome about Akane is that she may already be okay with that. Between protecting one’s own hue or solving crimes/protecting the people, she considers the latter far more important. But as she says, she is new, and has no idea what lurks in that swamp.

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Take Senguji Toyohisa, a cyborg who is, aside from his brain and nervous system, entirely machine in composition. He’s a particularly arrogant cyborg as well, pitying all of humanity that are content living out their lives in their sacks of meat. Running parallel to the discussions Saiga, Akane and Kogami are Senguji’s own ideas. Where he isn’t wrong is that science is about bettering mankind, which is done through the development of technology. Once we learned how to live long lives, we set about ways to make those lives more efficient and pleasant.

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He believes his “transition” to a timeless artificial body is just the next natural step in the human struggle to become immortal; to become the very god who expelled us from paradise. Like Akane’s decision to continue diving into the swamp, his choice had a cost—that of his body—but he subscribed to Plato’s thinking that the body was but a prison. With his new mechanical body he’s free to pursue his mind’s full potential, which seems to consist of hunting people down with a rifle. To each their own, huh?

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Makishima is right there beside him, all charisma and validation; literally playing with the edge of a razor; composing his latest symphony; providing Senguji with his next prey: Kogami. For the first time, the good guys are the direct target of the bad guy, though I’m confident this is nothing but a test by Makishima. If Kogami can’t pass it, he wasn’t worth fussing over. As for how Akane fits into all this when Makishima becomes aware of her, well…We’ll see just how tough and resilient her psyche really is!

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Psycho-Pass – 08

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The perpetrator of the previous four “human sculptures” had a sick poetic irony about them, like the case of a corrupt politician who had his hippocampus literally shoved up his ass. The newest two pieces both showed up in a park. They’d be sure garner attention there, but the setting is boring and the message is weak. That tells the super-sleuth Kogami (who’s not supposed to be on this case but is anyway) the present perp is someone young, impressionable, and not particularly ravaged by life. He’s not bad, this guy.

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With the killer’s profile in mind, Kogami pays a visit to an art conneusser in a correctional facility where latent criminals wallow in cells but are at least allowed to live, and it doesn’t take long for the name Ouryou to be dropped. Ouryou the father, whose daughter attends the same school as the past two victims. Game Over, Rikako! Makishima all but called it when, in the art room, he questioned her decision to choose victims from her own school, and her response was…impractical, to say the least.

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Essentially, I was right that Rikako was never really thinking about what would happen if she got caught; she just wasn’t wired that way. Instead, for her subjects she drew from a school that she deemed nothing but a vapid Stepford Wife factory, and each girl she “liberated” from that hamster wheel of a life was a favor done to that girl, as far as she was concerned. She realized the world she lived in was fucked, but didn’t realize how easily her plans could fall apart.

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Actually, neither did Makishima, or me, for that matter. Kogami connects the dots and corners Rikako so quickly, it kinda takes her down a couple of notches. Even though I never pegged her for an evil mastermind, I underestimated how vulnerable her absolute devotion to her art made her, as she did. It all ends so quickly. Hearing her work being pilloried by Kogami also lessens her grandeur somewhat. I guess like all her peers at school, I was bewitched by her initially composed veneer.

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Rikako’s sudden but probably inevitable fall means the obviously very fickle Makishima becomes bored with her and shifts his enthusiasm over to Kogami, which is probably super-bad for Kogami, and Akane too. But I guess they’re really only in danger—and risk having him recite Shakespeare as he sics his horrifying robotic dogs on them—if they bore him.

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Psycho-Pass – 07

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Note: This is a review of the first half of the fourth “Extended Edition” episode; for all intents and purposes, the seventh episode of the original run.

Whoa…this show likes to talk! But when the stuff it chooses to talk about is so fascinating, who am I to complain? For most of the episode, we’re spending time either with Rikako or Makishima, chattering away like the awesome evil bastards they are. Their monologues are important keys into what makes them tick, as well as the stifling nature of society under the Cybil system. The likes of Makishima and the criminals whose crimes he facilitates is a direct product of Cybil.

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Why not, let’s toss some necrophilia in here.

Rikako would argue that the serenity Cybil provides is a pox upon the world; a false resolution to the fundamental human question. One must look no further than her own father’s plight: a “double death” of talent and soul by science, technology, and the society that embraced both. Cybil gradually eliminated most of the “bad stress” that led to pain, suffering, and despair, but also eliminated the “good stress” (eustress) that stimulates the immune system and serves as our “will to live”; without it, we become walking corpses and our organs eventually shut down.

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Makishima is enabling these, ahem, unique individuals in part because he believes humanity is fast regressing into a mass of walking corpses. As the other member of Makishima’s conversation remarks, mankind has gotten so good at taking care of itself, all the beneficial effects have come all the way around to become harmful and destructive; decreased life expectancy (not known to the public) is direct proof of it. Makishima’s chat reveals that Cybil has caused much more than segregation and subjugation among those of differing psychological make-ups – it is quite literally killing us all.

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As a member of a free society, I hate Cybil system. A certain arrogance can spawn from the belief of “knowing better” than most of humanity in Psycho-Pass, and it’s very unnerving that a lot of the problems with the world they live in, spewed by depraved villains such as Rikako and Makishima…actually makes a little sense. Still, there is a happy medium between total psychological sterilization and hedonistic chaos…or at least I hope there is. Wait…that’s the world we live in, isn’t it? Alright, enough talk…here’s Beethoven’s Ninth, brilliantly employed during these discussions.

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Poor girl was doomed the moment she decided to talk to Rikako…

Now let’s talk plot: Makishima is providing RIkako with the plasticizing liquid necessary for her sculpture. The cops have discovered two of her works, which combined with the four committed three years ago in the Specimen case, makes six total. The fact that the victims are from the same school give Gino, Akane & Co. a place to snoop around. It’s worth noting that Rikako, as “talented” as she is in her particular gruesome field, isn’t exactly a criminal genius, or she’d pick more random victims.

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She’s either confident of completing her father’s work before she’s caught, or getting caught isn’t even on her mind. Hey, she is staring into another dimension, after all! Finally, Gino takes Kogami off the case altogether, dismissing his cold case reports as “delusional”, and orders Akane to keep an eye on him. Of course, Akane obliges, but takes the opportunity to avail herself of Kogami’s insights, as well as apologize for prying into his past. That’s so Akane: the person closest to ourselves, here in the real world: keen to bridge the light and the dark.

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Psycho-Pass – 05 & 06

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Some of the characters in Psycho-Pass are so clever and perceptive it makes you wonder how a society with such minds allowed itself to come under the heel of something as stifling as Cybil system. After assuring Akane she doesn’t have to check the net for Rousseau’s teachings because they’re in his head, Masaoka gives her the basic rundown of human communication as a positive asset to human development: two hunters are better off working together to bring down bigger prey than going after smaller prey alone.

Yet even as an idea like this can be used to justify the massive networks of communication that have led to civilization growing and prospering as much as it has, that same devotion to increasing cooperation and efficiency has led to things like Cybil and criminal coefficients, and also assumes civilization is the only natural state of humanity, a point on which not all philosophers agree, for a certainty. With advances in communication come complications and unnecessary details Theoreau would have frowned upon.

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In the world of Psycho-Pass, happiness is no longer achieved through free will, but predetermined courses plotted through scientific evaluation. Yet Cybil, it its twisted way, upholds the ideals of enough of the citizenry to avoid rebellion. That “enough-ness” is sustained through the Psycho-Pass System, and thus the only people who seem truly happy or free are the frikkin’ murderers, whose puppet-master we haven’t even formally met. God, I love this show. You can prattle on about it for eons.

This third extended edition episode resolves the ghost avatar case with more solid detective work from Kogami, who determines from the differing vocab that Spooky Boogie’s original owner was also recently murdered, as was a third some time ago, by one Mido Masatake, the only fan of all three whose own avatar dropped off the map at the right time. He detonates a bomb at his last known whereabouts, then hacks the holo-environment of the hotel room where Akane, Kogami, and Masaoka come to nab him.

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That’s when the “luddite” Masaoka breaks out the booze and a lighter, setting off sprinklers to overcome the visual trickery. Kogami claims one of Mido’s arms with his Dominator, and from that point on it’s game over for him, as his “benefactor” turns his beloved avatars against him, and Ginoza, Kagari, and Kunizuka finish him off. While the avatar toilet murders are over in satisfying fashion, there’s still much more to this, something that’s picked up in the second half, the best episode of the show yet.

The two halves are bridged by Akane learning that Kogami was once an Inspector; Ginoza’s partner, no less, who was demoted when his criminal coefficient spiked following a case in which he got in too deep. Now Ginoza’s warnings about Akane sticking to “doing her duty as an inspector” sound a lot less like jealousy and more like wisdom. And yet, it’s thanks to “careful” agents like Ginoza that Cybil is able to endure. The night that doomed Kogami is retold, mostly from inside a car, and involves the gruesome murder of Sasayama—an enforcer under Kogami—by plastification.

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I like how after a couple cases of flat out not being able to “get” Kogami, Akane finally makes some progress, both thanks to a reluctant Ginoza and to Kagari, who the slim Akane is hilariously able to drink under the table. Akane’s friends posit that she and this “subordinate” she speaks of may be a lot more alike, and that seems to be the case when just as she’s learning more about him, Kogami digs into his past and the case that cost him both Sasayama and his freedom.

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Here’s where the show really takes off, in that the past cases, which had had an episodic air to them, are connected both to each other and the past, still-unsolved “Specimen” case, in that all are case of someone with intent to kill being connected to the means to kill by a shadowy middleman. That middleman, of course, is Makishima, whom we’ve seen glimpses of here and there but remains, well, in the shadows, but with a long reach.

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Both the factory case and the avatar case involved sophisticated technical skills beyond those of the culprits implicated. Similarly, the Specimen case involved someone who liked dismembering bodies, but was provided the scientific assistance to impregnate them with resin in order to “freeze in time” the body parts, which he’d exhibit in public places like works of art. An intriguing chicken-and-egg arguent thus comes into play: would these people have still committed their murders if they hadn’t been given the means to do so?

That brings us to the second half’s story, which goes on independently at an isolated girl’s high school as Akane is figuring everything out and Kogami is connecting the dots. There, in an environment engineered to minimize Hue cloudiness in girls at this “susceptible” age, the queen bee Ouryou Rikako (Sakamoto MaayaHells yeah!) creates disturbing drawings that turn out to be studies for her artwork, which consists of dismembering troubled classmates, plasticizing them, and displaying them around town.

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Not surprisingly, Rikako favors the darker Shakespeare works like Titus and Macbeth and seems to be inspired by their brutal but universal human themes. There’s almost no doubt in my mind Rikako believes she is about to free her latest “subject” Yoshika, from a cursed life, helping her to realize her “true beauty”, looking upon her like a sculptor upon a block of marble. That girl in the cafeteria called it; Rikako is totally staring into another dimension. Or, at least, she sees things most others don’t.

I’ll say this for Psycho-Pass’s bad guys; they’ve gotten progressively more chilling! It has also outlined just how dangerous it is to be an inspector who cares about her enforcers and her cases too much. Your criminal coefficient is not only in constant jeopardy, but higher ups like the chief, who wouldn’t mind at all if it’s finally determined criminality is hereditary (Ginoza’s father was a latent criminal). To people like her, that would be yet another step towards perfect social harmony…but where does the witchhunt end? Like the flight of Icarus, I imagine.

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