No Guns Life – 15 – Remote Arms Race

Looking back at her brief but happy time with her brother, Mary remembers a kind and gentle boy who took care of her despite being young himself. He always held her hand, and even braided her hair. When he left, she was proud of him for finding the Place Where He Belongs, but in doing so he was taking what she deemed to be her place (by his side) away.

Mary doesn’t see any of that old Victor in the monster before her, so she does what any sister would do when pinned to the wall by her brother’s mecha-ribbons: launch her boob rockets. I’ll admit to having slightly missed the point of Juuzou’s bashfulness at the sight of Mary’s larger chest last week.

As cool as this tactic was, I still don’t know how Mary’s face and body weren’t horribly burned in the process. Regardless, she’s able to stop Victor from dissecting Juuzou until his uncontrollable final form comes out, and Juuzou is able to rip his arms off, which is key because Victor’s hands can dismantle any technology they touch (including one of the rockets).

Unable to discern whether the “real” Victor was the brother she loved or the monster before her now, the only way to keep him from hurting those she cares about is to put him down. She does so by firing Juuzou’s trigger, which blows off Victor’s head and most of his shoulders, ending the immediate threat.

After that, “Lefty” suddenly reappears, damaged but still intact. He even hooks himself up to the voice box of one of the police Extendeds so he can talk to them properly. Turns out the “real” Victor was never the demented puppet they tangled with.

Victor’s own body has been taken over by the dual parallel sub-brain he’d developed, which has a personality and will all their own. Destroying the puppet this “Shadow” Victor was controlling caused enough of a shock to allow “real” Victor to surface and open a dialogue.

Victor tells Juuzou and Mary how as an engineer he was committed to ending the loss of life and limb on the battlefield through the development of ever more advanced Extendeds, working towards fully remote models that would eliminate the need for flesh-and-blood boots on the ground entirely. Of course, it wasn’t until he tested out one such model on the front lines that he realized that what he was doing wasn’t saving anyone, simply upping the volume and efficiency of the  carnage.

The shock of seeing this created an opening for the sub-brain to take over his real body. The thought he had at the moment of transfer—that all Extended should be destroyed—became Shadow Victor’s primary driving force, which led him to join Spitzbergen. Before Shadow Victor regains control, Victor begs Juuzou and Mary to find his real body and remove the sub-brain. Only then will the shadow’s reign of terror end.

While I’m glad the circumstances surrounding Mary’s brother aren’t as simple as “boy turned evil”, this episode got fairly bogged down in Victor’s exposition, which killed the momentum of present events. As a practical matter, having to sit and listen to him also meant Juuzou and Mary couldn’t escape to some safer location.

They really should have tried to do this, as Mr. Law Upholder Avi Cobo walks right up to them, shoots Juuzou down, and holds his gun to Mary’s head, telling her she’s not doing anything with Victor’s real body. He’s going to take it into custody “in accordance with the law.” Mary in mortal danger to end two straight episodes? C’mon, NGL.

No Guns Life – 14 – The Cyberpunk Prometheus

In light of her brother’s apparent return, Mary tells Juuzou more about her and Victor’s past as orphans. They were taken in by an engineer named Emmet, but when Victor got interested in Extended tech Emmet objected. Since Emmet had become a violent drunk, Victor killed him before he could hurt Mary and fled.

Mary only ever got one letter back from Victor saying he’d joined the military, but what she doesn’t know is that he became Juuzou’s primary engineer during the war. Juuzou assumed Victor had died, but considers the man’s dying wish to be his first request as a resolver: Protect Mary.

What Juuzou doesn’t understand is why Victor joined Spitzbergen, and why he’s getting Mary involved in dangerous shit when he told him to protect her. Their talk is interrupted by the pair of Spitzbergen enforcers, but despite the larger of the two describing his anti-Extended armor in great detail, Juuzou still manages to blast it to pieces anyway, safe in the knowledge he didn’t have to hold back.

Juuzou is actually find giving Spitzbergen the data, as long as the hostages are returned safe and sound, but that willingness doesn’t imply he won’t punch somebody for daring to kidnap members of his “family”. He and Mary head for the Kyusei Pit.

Meanwhile, Tetsuro isn’t really treated like a hostage, but allowed to walk free without restraint. He’s brough before a high-ranking member of Spitzbergen named Wachowski, a clear homage to the creators of The Matrix.

Wachowski reveals something to Tetsuro he had forgotten as part of his amnesia: he betrayed his father, left Berühren, and funded Spitzbergen. Tetsuro can’t believe any of it, but he can’t necessarily dismiss it out of hand, either.

Whether Tetsuro became aware of the plight of the downtrodden and oppressed as a result of Berühren’s greed and wished to balance the scales by helping its enemy, who can say. All we do know is that Victor Steinberg is not a good guy anymore.

When Juuzou confronts him and asks why he’s sabotaging his request to protect Mary, Victor reveals that his main goal is to dissect and research Juuzou himself, down to his last bolt. He also knows Juuzou will never fight for himself, only to protect others.

That means in order to unleash Juuzou’s “true form”, he must put a member of Juuzou’s family—in this case Mary—in mortal danger. Victor’s claims to be “reaping what he’s sown” by joining Spitzbergen seems to be in conflict with his more scientific desires.

One thing’s for sure: Juuzou isn’t going to let Victor hurt Mary. It’s fitting that’s their names, since Victor is acting very much like a twisted Dr. Frankenstein, while Mary is likely named after Frankenstein’s author Mary Shelley. Famous name-borrowing aside, looks like a big bruising Juuzou-Victor fight is primed to commence.

No Guns Life – 13 (S2 01) – Enter the Dismantler

Following a brief re-intro by Juuzou, No Guns Life picks up right where it left off. Turns out that chip in Rosa McMahon’s locket, which Juuzou accepted as payment, is exactly as much trouble as he thought it would be. While he’s at a vintage electronics shop playing the recording on the old medium, his office is raided by Spitzbergen, the anti-Extended terrorist group.

Mary and Tetsuro escape (with the former being protected from a flash-bang by the robotic hand-pet), but Tetsuro doesn’t feel right leaving Chris behind. When Mary refuses to let him use Harmony on a badly-wounded EMS officer, he runs right into his captors’ hands. He and Chris are held as hostages until Juuzou coughs up the data.

Meanwhile, Mary follows the hand pet to a foggy staircase, atop which stands her big brother Victor, who is riddled with Extensions and was the same person who attacked the EMS officers guarding Juuzou’s office.

Victor isn’t there to ask how his sis has been, but to offer a simple warning: quit helping the Extended. Considering Mary doing so as her calling—even refusing payment in deference to what her patients have already lost—it seems unlikely she’ll comply.

Mary later meets up with Juuzou at a diner, where they meet Avi Cobo, a detective with Public Safety who is investigating Spitzbergen. Unfortunately, they can’t guarantee they’ll ever see Tetsuro or Chris again, considering how extreme some members of the group are. But what Cobo really wants is the data Juuzou has, and has his partner follow Mary, who he’s convinced is Victor’s sister.

I wouldn’t call this a standout episode of NGL, more of a gentle easing back into its grimy cyberpunk world, a re-establishing of stakes, and the formal intro of Victor, who villain-wise looks to give Berühren a run for its money. This week set up key future confrontations which will no doubt result in more of NGL’s trademark pulse-pounding, rock-em-sock-em action.

ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka – 06

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If it were one of many other slow-burn shows, I might be itching for something to happen already near the show’s midpoint (assuming this only gets 13 eps – I may be wrong), even to the point of starting to hand out 7’s for lack of forward momentum.

And yet, ACCA continues to avoid such scrutiny with its unassuming, calm, quiet competence, all but unique this Winter as a show all about stopping to smell the roses…or freshly-baked bread.

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One of the most eventful things to happen happens right at the start, where Jean not only goes up to Grossular, but tells him he knows he’s being followed, denies any involvement in a coup, and expresses his certainty Gross isn’t involved either. Grossular, after all, was the ACCA officer in Rokkusu who made things right when a horrific train accident claimed, among many others, Jean and Lotta’s parents.

Jean meets Mauve at the bakery, but claims to have “nothing of note” to report to her. If he’s trying to stay in the director-general’s good graces, he could have at least told her about the attempted coup in Suitsu. I’d say that was pretty “of note.” Mauve immediately starts to doubt Jean’s usefulness…and loyalty.

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Things largely quiet down from there, as both the show, the nation of Dowa, and most of its inhabitants kick back and enjoy a New Year’s shindig in Jean and Lotta’s apartment building.

We learn about the businessmen Jean seems to help out during his auditing duties, and Lotta receives a cake from Rail, only for Owl to give her another cake minutes later.

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People seem drawn to Lotta, but there’s still no indication she’s anyone super-special…yet (the flashbacks also seem to eliminate some possibilities in that arena).

Officers note that the start of ACCA’s hundredth year in operation isn’t all that different from the start of previous years. Mauve has a pretty standard speech at an all-hands, and that’s pretty much it.

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Something notable does happen: Grossular joins the other four Top 5 officers in their common room, to ask Lilium why he leaked Crow to Jean. Lilium wanted Jean “to do something,” and while Gross may be right that such an action was reckless, Lilium does seem to win the argument by calling for a meeting of the five to discuss what Gross knows and how they’ll proceed together, no longer unilaterally. He gets that meeting; it should be a good one.

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Jean then heads to Hare, the tropical district where the ACCA uniforms are short-sleeved and informal and the district inhabitants live the longest lives in the nation, and live life with gusto accordingly.

After striking out with Mauve last time, Jean redoubles his efforts to get something, anything out of Hare’s chiefs. Yet, when he goes to meet Mauve at the bakery, she’s not there. Is it too late?

After Hare (one of Jean’s shorter audits), Jean heads to Dowa again, this time for an audit. Prince Schwan continues to try to force his grandfather’s hand in subtle ways like hanging his portrait in a place he spends lots of sittin’ time. Perhaps Jean will get more juicy info in Dowa.

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Psycho-Pass – 03 & 04

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The first two episodes focused on Akane’s guilt from incapacitating Kogami. In these next two episodes, Kogami remains on her mind, but they’re not thoughts of remorse, but inner turmoil about how exactly to deal with him. Ever since entering this job she’s been torn between what feels right and what Cybil decrees to be right.

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As an inspector, it’s her duty to realize Cybil’s vision for a harmonious society, but her interactions with the enforcers and Kogami in particular, have her thinking about and questioning things she never has before. Ginoza takes a narrow view of enforcers, dismissing them as the “trash of society” no better than any of the latent criminals they help capture—right in front of them, too.

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Ginoza may hide behind Cybil, but it”s clear there’s something else going on. In both cases featured in these episodes, the enforcers arrive at conclusions for the crimes long before he does. He protests their theories as circumstantial evidence right up to the point they’re proven correct. He can still look down on them because they’re latent criminals, but that doesn’t make him feel any better: if these “pieces of trash” are better investigators than he’ll ever be, what does it say about him?

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Perhaps that’s why he calls Akane a fool for wanting to learn through experience (as opposed to the wise, who learn from history). Perhaps he’s already been down the road of trying to treat the enforcers as colleagues or equals. Kogami may seem to have the calm cool head of a seasoned detective while solving the case of the offline drone factory murders, but when those drones come after him, he turns into a vicious hunting dog, driven by one thing only: the desire to bring his prey down.

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That factory case, by the way, is another example of how frightening and fucked up this world is; a more twisted version of the way corporations micromanage their “human resources”. The factory records its workers’ psychological states continuously and deny them access to the net and outside world. The chief is willing to let one worker be the target of bullying if it keeps the psycho-passes of the rest clear. But that leads to the creation of a monster, whose psycho-pass “clears” after each murder,is treated as an unimportant blip in an otherwise productive and profitable operation. No need to rock the boat, in other words.

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Of course, when the likes of Akane and her enforcer buddies show up, boat-rocking is inevitable. But Masaoka warns Akane later that the only way to truly understand Kogami is to become him, which means discarding her squeaky-clean psycho-pass and life. If she doesn’t leave well enough alone, and simply accept Kogami will always be opaque to her, she could lose everything she’d worked to achieve up to that point. But since she’s questioning the infallibility of Cybil, perhaps the truth is starting to carry more value to her than the status quo, which is, to any observer outside the show, totally wrong.

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The fourth episode aims to enter a world within this messed up world; a virtual online world full of “CommuFields” where personalities don avatars and vie for popularity among the masses. It’s a world full of somewhat trippy but not always entirely compelling or successful imagery, even if the ideas behind them are pretty good. The virtual dreamscapes and whimsical inhabitants of this episode probably wouldn’t impress a Space Dandy fan like Zane, and I for one found a lot of it a bit silly, especially considering the serious overtones.

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The case, in which its deduced by Kogami and Masaoka that the culprits stole a personality’s online identity, while disposing of the body by chopping it into flushable pieces (GROSS) again highlights those two’s investigative chops (and Gino’s lack thereof). It’s also another amplified reflection of real-life culture, as a “real-world meetup” is staged for online members to hang out, only they do it in holo-cosplay to maintain their anonymity. When everyone’s holo-suit is hacked so they all resemble Talisman, it’s a neat trick by the crims.

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The bad guys end up bagging another avatar, “Spooky Boogie” (a name that sounds hilarious coming out of everyone’s mouths) and proceed to disintegrate her body as they maintain her online presence. As the episode ends before the case can be resolved, it’s not clear what this strange group is after, but something tells me the closer Akane gets to them, the more messed up she’s going to get if she doesn’t tread carefully.

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Psycho-Pass – 01 & 02

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Not much time spent on these two…but that’s sure to change.

In Fall 2012, RABUJOI was only reviewing ten shows, but they included the first cours of Zetsuen no Tempest and From the New World, Kamisama Hajimemashita, and Chu2Koi. We were also watching relative duds like K, Jorumungand: Perfect Order, Btooom!, and Girls und Panzer. In hindsight, we would have traded any one of that latter group for Psycho-Pass, without any more hesitation than Kogami Shinya when his Dominator tells him to shoot.

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The boyish Akane’s default hangdog look reminds me of Soul Eater’s Crona.

But it’s never too late to pick up a good show, so that’s what I’m doing. Specifically, I’m watching the “Extended Edition”, which pairs the 22 original episodes into 11 hourish-long short films and adds in some new content…though its all new to me! After a cryptic prologue, we’re thrust right into the midst of rookie CID Inspector Tsunemori Akane’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad First Day.

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The elaborate yet dingy cyberpunk setting and the very strange futuristic society of this world is all unveiled organically as Akane’s first mission progresses. Blade Runner, Akira, and Minority Report are obvious inspirations for the city of gleaming skyscrapers and dark alleys where the police deliver justice to “latent criminals” who may not have committed any crimes, but are deemed psychologically certain of doing so at some point.

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Akane eventually lets her intuition override the logic of killing the hostage

The entity looking into everyone’s souls and determining the color of their Psycho-Pass is the mysterious “Cybil”, which I presume is some kind of supercomputer designed to try to facilitate the ordering of civilization into the peaceful and law-abiding, and those who aren’t. Some of those who aren’t are Akane’s underlings, called “enforcers”, often likened to hunting dogs who sniff out their ilk to be dealt with either by restraint or termination.

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Is that Neo-Tokyo out there?

As neat as Akane’s futuristic amenities look, all the “progress” in the world has come at steep cost: Cybil has given birth to a new form of prejudice and segregation fully supported by cold logic and science. It even has the air of a system designed to influence the course of human evolution: enough generations of weeding out the psychologically unstable, and you’re sure to become a more stable, perfect society, no?

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That’s the paradox of Psycho-Pass: for all the futuristic glitz on the top, there’s still plenty of rot and suffering below. Despite all the drastic measures taken, that perfect world remains a mirage on the horizon. Enter Akane, our window into this world for most of the hour: experiencing so much for the first time, as we are, totally unprepared for its cruelty despite finishing tops in her class.

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Akane, in fact, is an Inspector purely by choice, something few people in the world have. Many who don’t would say she squandered that choice by enlisting in Public Safety, but as she was the only one to get an A-rank in that discipline, she felt her calling beckon. She may bethe “greenest” character we meet, but despite her initial doubts, it’s clear she’s an immensely talented, capable young woman.

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Karanomori Shion’s relationship with another enforcer, Kunizuka Yayoi, is portrayed wordlessly

The result of her first mission is deemed a fuck-up by many, but she’s eventually redeemed. Turning her Dominator on her own enforcer Kogami Shinya, to save the life of a woman his Dominator was telling him to kill, turns out to be the right move, as her “criminal coefficient” was only temporary. It shows the knack she has for the job in spite of her self-doubt, but also makes you wonder how many “suspects” have been killed who ultimately didn’t deserve it, even by Cybil’s extreme standards.

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GAAAAAH

Akane’s second “case” isn’t nearly as intense, as she and grizzled enforcer Masaoka Tomomi don utterly ridiculous holo-suits as he sniffs out a less homicidal suspect. But while it isn’t as traumatizing (though Akane is regarded as a “mental beauty”), it does highlight to Akane her apparent uselessness in such cases, at least at her level of experience. Masaoka tells her that shes not completely useless, as enforcers like him aren’t allowed outside without being accompanied by an Inspector.

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That makes Akane sound like an idle chaperone—and she may be just that on several calls—but where her true value will show is in the tougher, messier cases, like that first one with the hostage. While enforcers like Kogami Shinya seek and destroy criminals like prey, she’s their to stay their hands when she deems it appropriate. She also seems determined to treat her enforcers less like hunting dogs and more like colleagues.

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So yeah, great start. Superb, in fact. Such an immersive, fucked-up world, but very cool. I reiterate my frustration with having never so much as glanced at an episode, since if I had I’d have surely reviewed it two years ago. But oh, well. Better late than never.

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