Let’s split this episode up into two essays. I think this is a better way to organize my thoughts.
The Limits of Transhumanism All Over Again
As they are investigating Akane’s apartment for any signs of foul play, Ginoza says, “The scans for this area didn’t detect anyone suspicious, which means no one entered your apartment.” You’d think that after the whole Kitazawa fiasco, where both the Sybil System and its scanners have repeatedly let them down, they’d stop trusting technology so much. It has also been established that this Kamui guy can come and go as he pleases. He kidnapped an Inspector, he somehow got to Kitazawa even though the bomber was in the custody of the Public Safety Bureau, and he unlocked the entrance to the sewers, which helped Kitazawa escape and plant more bombs. What more do you need to see with your very own eyes? And how many more times must technology fail these characters before they become wary of it? Well, to the Inspectors and the Enforcers in this universe, they must feel as though they are blind without the Sybil System. As such, this is merely the continuation of a theme left over from the first season: the extent and limits of transhumanism.
If you’ll recall, there was a character by the name of Senguji, and he had replaced most of his body with cyborg parts. All that he had left were his brain and nervous system. For him, the human body was limiting; he even quotes Plato in arguing that our souls were essentially imprisoned in fleshy cages. Well, the situation is no different now. Our Inspectors and Enforcers might not have literally replaced their eyes and ears with the Sybil System and its scanners, but they’ve done so on a symbolic level. Why trust our own eyes when technology can do a better job? As a result, a third party have become our eyes now. We’d be blind without them! The irony here, however, is that our souls haven’t been freed by technology like Senguji had hoped. Rather, we’ve merely handed our souls over to technology. As the saying goes, “I can’t believe my own eyes.” We love to think that technology will eventually solve all of our problems. We love to think that the human body has its limits, whereas technology will take us to heights unseen. But it’s quite a leap to go from that to believing that technology is infallible.
I don’t doubt that both the Sybil System and its scanners have helped the good guys immensely. I’m sure that there are plenty of cases that would’ve remained unsolved without the Sybil System’s involvement. But at the end of the day, you must admit that the scanners are, well, not yours. That’s the fundamental difference that no amount of technology will likely ever be able to reconcile. I may not always be able to believe my own eyes, but I at least know that my eyes are mine. Likewise, my eyes are no one else’s. Can I say the same about the Sybil System? No, of course not. The Sybil System and its scanners are not truly my eyes and they never will be. They’re a third party completely distinct to me. As such, can I really put my soul in the hands of a third party? In a sense, technology is more like a torch to help illuminate my path in the darkness. My eyes are weak; they can’t see without any light. Technology can help light the way. But again, considering all that we’ve seen in the Kitazawa fiasco, it’s clear that this torch is no longer as useful as it has been or could be.
In fact, our characters have found themselves in a rather ironic situation. Kamui isn’t exactly doing his damn best to hide himself. He’s scratched the phrase “WC?” in at least two places now. He’s somehow managed to reach Kitazawa despite the latter sitting smack dab in the belly of the beast. Most of all, Kamui’s carrying a Dominator around with him and using it constantly. What am I getting at? Well, Kamui isn’t exactly hiding himself in the darkness. If anything, he’s right out there in broad daylight, screaming for the good guys’ attention. Look at me! I’m the shepherd who will lead you poor sheep away from the false idol that is the Sybil System! Nevertheless, the good guys can’t see him. Why? It’s the same reason why a torch isn’t very useful during the day. If anything, using a torch during the day would only blind you, wouldn’t it? You’d have to put the torch out to see clearly, wouldn’t you? But again, the characters in this universe have gotten so dependent upon technology that putting the torch out is akin to taking your own eyes out.
It’s not a coincidence that Kamui has physically pulled out one of Shisui’s eyes. He needs it for other reasons, I’m sure, but it’s like that Oedipus situation from Terror in Resonance all over again; you have to blind yourself to see the truth. But Kamui wants to go even further. He also wants you to decide your own truth. At one point, Akane goes to see Jouji Saiga to discuss the case. When the “WC?” comes up, she can’t help but ask, “If the ‘color’ suggests Hue, I don’t see the point in asking that question to humans. You can easily check it using a checker.” But it makes perfect sense why you would ask that questions to humans if you know what Kamui is trying to accomplish. Again, he wants to free people from the Sybil System. By asking you what your color is, he’s implying that you can decide for yourself what your color is. Recall Kamui’s words to Shisui at the start of the episode: “What holds you back is you, yourself.” In other words, you don’t have to check a checker. You don’t have to rely upon the Sybil System. You are in control of your own fate. You decide your own truth. What color am I? I am clear.
A World Full of Obedient Automatons
Everyone’s so afraid of Psycho-Pass readings clouding that they don’t allow themselves to even feel. Risa confides in Ginoza about her feelings or lack thereof: “I sometimes wonder… if I put a lid on my feelings the moment I killed [an Enforcer].” It’s a natural thing to mourn the loss of a life, friend or otherwise. It’s human to want closure, especially after a traumatic event. Unfortunately, she has had to bottle her feelings up because our emotions, as important they are, can be utterly unpredictable. You can never be too sure where your feelings will lead you. She never allowed herself to get over a colleague’s death, because she’s afraid that she might’ve lost control of herself if she did. If this had really happened, then she might have lost her career, her place in society, so on and so forth. After all, it’s quite certain that Risa is concerned about her future: “If you work as an Inspector for ten years, a position at the Ministry of Welfare lies waiting for you. My life from then on would have been secure.” Essentially, she’s choosing to secure her biological existence over her own emotional welfare.
This is a recurring theme in both the first and second season. Akane even acknowledges that the Sybil System isn’t perfect, but at the moment, society is secure enough with it. People seem happy enough with it. Unfortunately, this security comes at a cost: the freedom to even feel anything but this vague sense of contentedness that everything in the world is functioning as it should. It’s quite apparent that human beings aren’t supposed to bury their feelings; it can’t be healthy to deny yourself an outlet for your negative emotions. Over time, those feelings will only build up until they boil over. At that point, even a good person can commit a crime. They’ve lost control of themselves. The only other option is that we may as well deaden ourselves so that nothing can boil over. Case in point, Risa’s lid metaphor. At that point, however, we may as well have become automatons. People who don’t even allow themselves to feel anything are not even robots. They’re just machines. Nevertheless, this is perhaps the ideal future in the eyes of the Sybil System.
At the moment, the Inspectors and Enforcers are nothing more than the various limbs of the Sybil System. After all, what is the Sybil System if not a collection of brains that can’t actually move and physically effect change in the world by themselves? These brains are wholly dependent upon its “limbs” to get anything done. On that same token, however, it won’t do you any good if you can’t even control your own limbs, huh? The point is, an efficient, functioning society without any blemishes hardly needs a human soul. It simply needs the various parts in the machine to fulfill their assigned function. This is exactly what the Sybil System has done. The moment you are born, various cymatic scans determine your place in life. You have this talent, so let’s put you in that profession! Personal aspirations be damned, everyone’s where they’re supposed to be. Everyone’s doing what they’re supposed to do. How can society fail? In fact, how can you even be unhappy when society is functioning so well? If anything, your unhappiness is wrong. This is essentially what the Psycho-Pass universe has come to.
Risa disturbingly confesses, however, that her lid comes off when she’s holding a Dominator. The Sybil System ultimately decides who gets to live and who gets to die, but Risa still has to physically pull the trigger. In essence, she feels as though she comes alive when she is in control of someone else’s fate. But this control is just an illusion. She has so little control over her own life and her own emotions that her only outlet is the one where she gets to execute people… per the Sybil System’s orders. That’s the harsh truth staring at us right in the face; she’s really just one of the many obedient limbs the system. Nevertheless, Risa’s fooled herself into thinking otherwise: “That time… when I shot Kitazawa, too, I almost enjoyed it. That’s a bit dangerous, isn’t it?” See, I’m not so sure about that. If you start killing people left and right, that’s dangerous. On the other hand, deriving enjoyment from following orders is exactly what the Sybil System would want from its “limbs.” In any case, the ending to this week’s episode will force Risa to face the harsh truth that she has no control at all.
Stray notes & observations:
— Considering how the Dominator is still sending and receiving information to and from the Sybil System, don’t you think someone would be able to pinpoint its exact location? Apparently not, according to Psycho-Pass 2.
— Mika picks up where she last left off by implying that Akane is crazy enough to vandalize her own apartment. It’s early, but I just think her portrayal is too one-dimensional when it hardly needs to be that way. Yes, she has her suspicions about Akane, but it would’ve been far more believable if she had voiced those same concerns to a confidante first. For her to be this rude to Akane’s face, her character ends up feeling forced. The writer’s screaming at the top of his lungs, “Hate her! Hate her guts!”
— Sakuya has the unique distinction of having the highest crime coefficient ever recorded. I wonder what he’s done to deserve it. More importantly, he hasn’t come into his own as a character. At the moment, he feels like a poor substitute for Shinya. He’s the one person who will have Akane’s back, but what is his personality really like? At the moment, it’s cloudy.
— I’m also not really understanding Ginoza’s treatment of Akane. He keeps saying that her involvement in the investigation is getting too personal. He keeps insisting that the path she’s on is dangerous. But he’s seen her go through hell and back in the first season. Akane literally watched Makishima slit one of her best friends’ throat. Plus, she tried everything to prevent Shinya from committing a crime (in her eyes), and she still failed. But despite all of this, Akane’s Hue never clouded once. All of a sudden, she’s chasing after a potential lead, and it’s like, “Whoa, check yourself before you wreck yourself, Inspector!” I mean, you can sort of expect this behavior from Mika, ’cause she’s currently pigeon-holed as the character we’re supposed to hate. But you too, Ginoza? C’mon, bro.
— Don’t get me even started on Yayoi. She’s practically invisible this season. Her one distinction is that Mika like her. That’s it. I like how the overall story is shaping up, but it seems like Tow Ubukata just wanted to create his own cast to surround Akane. There’s nothing wrong with that, per se. It’s just a bit jarring when an old cast member is still around, but she’s basically window dressing. It would have been better if they had simply written her out of the story somehow, like maybe she retired. I don’t suppose Enforcers have that luxury, but if push comes to shove, you can always say she got injured in the line of duty.