Let’s just get right to it.
Plot summary: Shinya defeats Senguji in a duel, but his wounds are too severe to prevent Makishima from taking Yuki hostage. Akane chases after Makishima, who then decides to test our heroine by threatening to kill Yuki. Makishima’s readings are too low for the Dominator to take lethal action, so Akane will have to rely upon a traditional gun to save her friend. Unfortunately, Akane fails to act and Yuki dies.
• Before we start things off, just because I snark about something doesn’t mean I’m legitimately complaining about it. Sometimes I’m serious about my remarks, and sometimes my observations are fully tongue-in-cheek. Hey, PSYCHO-PASS is a good show — probably the best show of the season — but I’m not going to change my personality because people really, really like it. If you can’t take some snark in stride, then this just isn’t the right blog for you.
• Akane tossing her coat away at the start… so dramatic.
• Ginoza: “Strong interference, an underground area that our records say doesn’t exist….” This makes you wonder about the MWPSB’s blind spots. Is it because the villains are outsmarting them? This is certainly more than possible. We’ve seen Makishima do all sorts of things since his introduction into the anime, including complex hacking. He’s the evil genius who’s always one step ahead of everybody. I can’t help but find him to be similar to Nolan’s Joker in both execution and thematic impact, but a lot less charismatic.
But it’s also equally possible that the MWPSB and the larger society as a whole can become… I wouldn’t say complacent, but perhaps they turn a blind eye to unpleasant things. After all, the serenity thing can’t just affect only the civilians. Even government workers, either fearing the effects on their own stress levels or drinking their own kool-aid — so to speak — will ignore problem areas like an entire abandoned section of the city full of unknowns. Why deal with it, they might think, when you can sweep it under the rug and maintain a calm, pretty facade.
• Maybe it’s just me, but I find it odd to see Shusei saunter into a dark room all casually. I guess I’m well-conditioned from watching police procedurals where the cops are always in an alert and ready-to-fight stance. Seeing Shusei walk so upright makes me think he hasn’t been very well trained.
• The Dominator doesn’t exactly make the robot hounds explode, does it? I still wonder if the gun’s effects on living creatures have any sort of thematic relevance.
• Senguji tells a story about how he came to be so sadistic. The most important detail is how he only felt truly alive when guerrilla forces brutally murdered a friend, splattering the friend’s blood and guts all over him. Replaying Senguji’s story over and over in my mind, it makes me wonder why working in dangerous developing countries wouldn’t have been thrilling enough for our cyborg psychopath. Dodging insurgents isn’t thrilling enough? It has to be the death of a friend? Senguji also remarks that this happened about 70 or 80 years ago. Was the serenity problem as bad back then as it is now? Did the serenity problem even exist back then? Why do I ask? Because it seems to me that Makishima is looking for someone to sow chaos within the Sibyl system. Senguji, however, might not even be the product of the system. His murderous need to hunt people as game seems almost tangential to Makishima’s larger cause.
• The setting just seems to consist of random cubes with barrels strewn about:
Of course, it’s tempting to say that the anime’s creators were just lazy, but I’m not so sure. There’s an almost video game-like quality to how the place is designed. Hell, not just the place; the entire scenario even. After all, the villains keep referring to this as a game. More importantly, however, what I mean is that our setting doesn’t look like a feasible underground area within a metropolis. Instead, it looks like an FPS map designed for deathmatching. Between the cyborg and the robot hounds, I don’t think this is much of a stretch. After all, we’ve got two guys running around literally deathmatching it up. Plus, the show has been about simulation and simulacra, so is it implausible that we now have the real world mimicking video games that are meant to mimic the real world?
It also makes you rethink Senguji’s words when he says he currently feels fully alive. At first, it seemed like a contradiction that hunting human prey would make Senguji feel alive when he’s voluntarily replaced most of his body with cyborg parts. If cyborg parts can replace the human body, why can’t Senguji just hunt robot humans instead of real humans? As such, I labeled our villain a hypocrite. But now, I think the problem is much more complex. The problem with simulacrum is that it resembles the real thing, but there’s something altogether lacking about it. For instance, a realistic video game shows all the blood and guts of murdering the enemy opponent, but you know you didn’t really kill anyone; there’s no visceral impact. So when Senguji hunts human prey in order to feel more alive, he isn’t combating his own loss of humanity. Rather, he wants to make legitimate himself-as-a-simulacrum.
Any gamer out there ever had that feeling where people just don’t take video games as seriously as you do? “Oh, it’s just a game,” they’ll say. Well, it’s safe to say Senguji’s probably spent a lot of money on replacing his body parts with cyborg parts. But at the same time, there is a large amount of skepticism from the world at large: “Why would he do that to himself? How can I take a person seriously if he’s mostly machine? How do I know I’m not talking to a robot?” Two episodes ago, Senguji told us he wanted to transcend the limits of the human body, but what’s the point of doing such a thing if no one takes your new existence seriously? I think his “game,” therefore, isn’t just about making him feel more human. It might still be partly that, but there’s something else to it. Senguji’s game of hunting prey is more about adding weight to the idea that he’s completely remade himself. From what he’s told us, he was probably just some white-collar worker guy who’s never done anything exciting. Maybe he went to a developing country to feel some excitement. Now, Senguji’s turned himself into a legitimate killing machine, but who’s going to take you seriously if you just hunt robots over and over?
This relates to Sword Art Online somewhat. Before you balk that I would even mention PSYCHO-PASS and SAO in the same sentence, both shows are about simulation (among other things). Instead of living the life he’s been given, Senguji wants to legitimize his existence as a cyborg. As such, he turns his hunting hobby into something with serious consequences. His game isn’t just hunting inconsequential prey; it’s all about hunting humans. No, I’m not saying he’s literally a video gamer, but there are parallels. Instead of facing his real world problems head on, Kirito comes to life in a fantasy world where death becomes real. When people ask, “Why do you throw your life away to an MMO?” Kirito can respond with the fact that not only did he get married in said MMO, he’s watched his friends die in said MMO. The game becomes real. The game doesn’t merely want to mimic reality; it wants to become its own world.
Other parallels: as Kirito becomes immersed in SAO, his real world body falls into a coma. Likewise, Senguji cyberizes or, in other words, digitizes his body most likely to play his game. After all, do you think Senguji would be a very dangerous hunter with his aging human body? In order to hunt his human prey, he has to become a video game-like character that never tires and can shrug off serious wounds with just a medkit. I mean, look at the way Senguji loses an entire arm in this episode and he doesn’t even blink. Of course, I’m not saying that Senguji and Kirito are one and the same. The difference here is that Senguji forces people to play his game whereas Kirito does not. This makes the former a villain, and the latter a reluctant hero.
• Shinya’s not such a bad guy. Look at the way he advises Akane’s friend to get therapy. But since I know in the back of my mind that the show might want to pair Shinya up with Akane, I now have to wonder if he’s only doing so for Akane’s sake.
• Masaoka: “Don’t let your guard down. To call this suspicious would be an understatement.” But… why would Akane let her guard down now? What are you even talking about, old man?
• The old man and Akane hear Yuki screaming out for help. Our pair then find Shinya lying unconscious on the ground. So instead of one person staying behind to look after Shinya while the other goes to look for Yuki, they both decide to forget that they ever heard her scream out. Good cops, these guys.
• Masaoka asks Akane if she can administer first aid, so she says, “I’ve had a few training sessions, but I’ve never actually done it.” Ah, the story of Akane’s life. She’s learned everything, but she doesn’t actually get to do anything. Meanwhile, Yuki…
• Shinya has to remind Akane that her friend was taken away, but she just heard Yuki’s voice!
• Goddammit, Shusei:
Now nobody’s going to think I came to the conclusion above without the anime spelling it out to me. Why you gotta play me like this, bro? WHY?! But seriously, the anime didn’t have to spell it out. I also want to say that all my observations are done as I am watching the show, so it’s all in chronological order. And yes, I analyze the show without watching it all first. But you don’t have to believe me if you don’t want to.
• Shinya: “My body feels heavy. It doesn’t feel like it belongs to me.” Maybe Shinya’s feeling some guilt in being unable to protect Akane’s friend.
• Masaoka headbutts Shinya… even though the latter still has bullets inside of him.
• Oddly enough, Makishima is “not a target for enforcement action.” But we all know Makishima’s dangerous. Sure, you can say that the System makes its decisions based on data, so why would you rely upon an agent’s judgment over science? But if Makishima can escape the System’s clutches, there has to be something seriously flawed with the System’s methodology. So far, we’ve seen the System recommend death when it shouldn’t have (our first victim), and not recommend death when it should have. I mean, even if Makishima has trained himself not to give off dangerous brain waves or something like that, this would still show that the Sibyl system is, by itself, far from perfect.
• Makishima: “I think the only time people really have value is when they act according to their own will.” Sounds like someone’s been reading too much Sartre. In asking, “…when humans base their lives around Sybil’s Oracle, without ever considering what they really want, do they really hold any value?” Makishima is really invoking the idea of authenticity. I’ve previously discussed existentialism and the problems it entails in an unrelated post, so I’ll just repeat myself:
“The challenge of existentialism implies that an individual’s values and meaning rise from his or her own autonomous will to embody those values; values have no grounding beyond that will. The norm of authenticity suggests that we can confront those values in two ways: inauthentically, as values “one ought to have,” or authentically, as “the values that I choose.” Although one might be perfectly happy and successful in living an inauthentic life, doing so seems to devalue the nature of the autonomous will, at the sake of integrity and (ultimately) of autonomy itself.”
Makishima then tests Akane’s will: can she save her friend without the help of the Sibyl? Wouldn’t that make saving her friend all the more meaningful? But data! Science! It’s actually kind of tragic that Akane seems to be frozen in place. She — like so many others — have been so indoctrinated by the idea that the Sibyl is always correct that she can’t even act of her own accord. She is trembling at the sight of her friend’s suffering, but she’s lost her ability to act according to her own will… or perhaps she’s lost her will. Either way, this is precisely our villain’s point. How can you fight for justice when you live an inauthentic life?
So anyway, we can see how others have failed Makishima. Oryo wasn’t really embodying her own values; she merely co-opted her father’s message in a twisted way. Likewise, Mido relied upon avatars to guide him through life. That’s not exactly a person with an autonomous will worth respecting.
• Our villain goes on to argue that the Sibyl doesn’t factor in a person’s will when making its judgments. It’s almost as though we have for ourselves a classic free will vs. determinism debate. The Dominator can only discern the probability whether a person will become a danger to society. It doesn’t actually know whether or not you’ll commit a crime. So then, is Makishima less inclined to evil but nevertheless willfully commits crime? But what does that even mean? And are there bad guys who are targeted by the Sibyl, but would never actually commit a crime?
• Also, Akane’s met her foil. Both she and Makishima have always had pure white Psycho-Pass readings. Imagine how great such a thing would be? There’s some truth to the saying, “You either die the hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” But according to the scanners, that won’t ever happen to Akane. Unlike some people who enter law enforcement, Akane is never in danger of becoming a corrupt cop. She’s the pure beacon of justice that such an organizational body like the MWPSB needs. Recall why Akane chose to enter the Public Safety Bureau in the first place: she was the only person in her class to get an A-ranking for the MWPSB. As a result, she felt “there must have been something that only I could do at the Bureau.” It’s as though there’s a plan for her life — a specific purpose, if you will — and Akane is in search of it.
On the other hand, Makishima rejects that same gift that he and Akane both share. He seems to see it as a burden against his own autonomy. We’ve previously discussed the idea of the Sibyl’s Oracle being a self-fulfilling prophecy. When some civilians get a bad reading, they decide to just go nuts and commit all sorts of heinous crimes (see: the first episode). According to his reading, therefore, Makishima should be always be the saint, the do-gooder, etc. But why should he? Why should he take up the burden of always being the good guy? And from there, he questions why other people should live according to the Sibyl’s Oracle, or in other words, “God’s plan” for everyone.
• I’m sorta impressed that the show had the balls to kill Yuki. Normally, you expect these shows to play softball…