PSYCHO-PASS – 02
OP: 「abnormalize」 by Ling Tosite Sigure
「成しうる者」 (Nashi Uru Mono)
While less exciting and thrilling than the first episode, PSYCHO-PASS’s sophomore outing still serves up plenty of food for thought as it begins building its detailed world. For some people, another episode dedicated to exposition might seem as a letdown when compared with the sci-fi and detective action that seemed to be in store in the series. Others are probably anxious to see more of the overarching plot, especially after watching the brief and tantalizing opening scene of the premiere. While these are definitely legitimate concerns, once the series revealed the extent of Sibyl’s influence in people’s lives, it’s quite understandable why the showrunners felt they needed another episode to explore this flawed yet fascinating dystopia.
That which needs to be done is carried out by those capable. Such is the grace bestowed upon mankind by Sibyl.
Although it’s never stated what the origins of this quote are, its unnerving similarity to a religious motto of sorts conveys a lot about the near omniscient and omnipresent role the Sibyl system plays in society. The long arm of the law is not, as was previously believed, merely concerned with predicting the latent capability to commit crimes. Instead Sibyl appears that it also attempts to predict people’s latent capabilities to do good as well, which it does by doling out aptitude rankings that matches people to possible careers. With a system that in Kagari’s words, “tells you the way of living that will bring you the most happiness,” freedom seems to be in short supply even when you’re not a latent criminal.
Who better to introduce the role that Sibyl plays in the lives of non-latent criminals than the rookie inspector again, fresh off her own crash course into Sibyl’s justice system? Tsunemori might be the near ideal individual in the world of PSYCHO-PASS. Her mental health remains calm and unperturbed even in the face of anxiety, and this is probably considered extremely attractive in a society that places the utmost value on mental stability (which actually could be something our society might strive towards). Tsunemori’s high aptitude scores as measured by Sibyl also allow her placement in many prestigious jobs. Yet for all that she has – an amazing holographic apartment, clothes to match, and a fairly prestigious job – it appears as if she is the only non-latent criminal in the show who does not blindly accept the workings of the world. Her reservations about the society Sibyl has built make Tsunemori the perfect platform from which to identify the cracks in its façade. It also makes the decision by the series to shadow a day in her life much more effective this time around as her misgivings and reservations about the path laid before her by Sibyl echoes our own qualms with the system.
Following Tsunemori throughout what is probably an average day for her might have felt more “slice of life” than the gritty sci-fi detective story that the premiere seemed to promise, but the sheer number of thought-provoking questions raised as she talked to various characters made the episode feel like a necessary prelude to the main plot. Her meeting with MWPSB’s sultry analyst, physician, and latent criminal Karanomori Shion (Sawashiro Miyuki) was notable for Karanomori’s subtly implied complaint that she was being worked harder than other physicians just because she was a latent criminal, raising questions of discrimination that occurs even when latent criminals are given the same occupations as non-latent criminals.
Tsunemori’s field operation where she used “moe” holographic police avatars (presumably used to keep Area Stress Levels down) in the mall along with Masaoka was enlightening on several levels as well. We know the grizzled Enforcer has a high crime-coefficient and is extremely talented at detecting potential criminal behavior, but what if his own status as a latent criminal comes solely from an ability to put himself in others’ shoes in order empathize with them, without actually desiring to commit crimes himself? Would Sibyl be able to tell the difference between an intense empathy and actual criminal intention?
Finally, Tsunemori’s dinner conversation with Kagari was anything but small talk. The anger he feels towards her is definitely understandable given how she took for granted all the opportunities that are open to her and closed to him as the result of being branded a latent criminal at the age of five. At the same time, it’s not hard to understand her sentiment either – there is a freedom that both of them do not have; for Kagari, it’s pretty clear cut, but for Tsunemori, it comes in the form of being unable to find your purpose in life outside of what Sibyl decrees it to be. Compounded with being told by Masaoka that her duties as an Inspector basically amounted to next to nothing, the solace she found in Kougami’s words came as no real surprise.
What was unexpected was Kougami’s apparent about-face in ideology. In the span of two episodes, he has changed from an Enforcer who blindly pulled the trigger at the Dominator’s beck and call without any hesitation or doubts into a detective who only wishes to protect people and places true justice before a duty to follow Sibyl’s prescriptions. Perhaps being shot and paralyzed was a near-death experience, which in conjunction with working alongside an Inspector who doesn’t work by the book, has changed him. The flashbacks Kougami had also suggests the possibility that the feelings which led to him being labeled a latent criminal stems from feelings of exacting a revenge or score that he needs to settle, which could be violent, or at the very least, disruptive to society. So if his feelings do have an honorable origin, such as finding and confronting his loved ones’ murderer, does it mean that any pursuit of revenge, however noble, causes a person to become flagged as a latent criminal?
Where the line is drawn is still too hazy at this point, but this new insight and others do serve to paint this world and the Sibyl system at its core as one that is far more complex and dystopian than the precognition system at the center of Minority Report. More importantly, it has the potential to shift the conflict of the plot from one that only focuses on the issues faced by latent criminals like Kougami and Kagari to one that also encompasses the issues of those who are not, people like Tsunemori. What once seemed like a series where the haves will fight for the rights of the have-nots becomes one where everyone is a have-not in a way. It’s one where everyone is fighting for an ideal that oftentimes can take for granted, especially in the Western world – the freedom to choose their own future, an inalienable right that has been denied by the “all-seeing” eye of Sibyl. It’ll be interesting to watch how PSYCHO-PASS’s plot will take shape from what is definitely a solid foundation built by these first two episodes.
ED: 「名前のない怪物」 (Namae no nai Kaibutsu) by EGOIST