PSYCHO-PASS – 04
「誰も知らないあなたの仮面」 (Daremo Shiranai Anata no Kamen)
“No One Knows Your Mask”
What do you get when you cross PSYCHO-PASS with elements from Sword Art Online and Halloween? The prelude to a very intriguing arc, one which will possibly stretch for the entirety of the series and holds the potential to turn the world upside-down.
The first several episodes effectively established that the dystopian setting of this series is a fertile ground for exploring a wide variety of thought-provoking issues centered on Sybil, crime coefficients, and latent criminals. Yet with the cases featured in this episode and last, PSYCHO-PASS has shown it can also introduce issues that are able to stand independently of the narrative and more importantly, offer social commentary and critique that are immediately relevant in our world.
This episode probably could function just effectively in a series that has nothing to do with Sibyl, which it does by raising questions and issues that we are all too familiar with. A person who is presumed to be dead but continues to have an active avatar in the CommuField virtual reality system doesn’t sound all that far-fetched and implausible in today’s world, where erasing our real identities oftentimes seems much easier than erasing our identities online. In addition, we have YouTube personalities commanding views into the millions, so aside from their cartoonish appearance (that is probably found in some online graphical forum anyway), the personalities found in this episode like Talisman (Koyasu Takehito) and Spooky Boogie/Sugawara Shouko (Taketasu Ayana) already mirror reality.
Adding to the list of real world issues that had parallels in this episode is the anonymity enjoyed by the users of CommuField. Interestingly, Masaoka and Kougami are troubled by the idea of anonymity in the real world, of not knowing who the person standing next to you is – which these days seems more and more a quaint artifact of the pre-Facebook era where the details of a person’s life weren’t just a click or two away. It definitely raises questions about the changing perceptions and expectations of anonymity in our own world. One example is the ability to remain anonymous while commenting in social media, something that is taken for granted but from time to time tests the limits of free speech and comes in danger of being curtailed. Anonymity has also come into the spotlight in no small part to the famous 4chan hacktivist group Anonymous, who in public don Guy Fawkes masks to hide their identities en masse, a tactic Talisman used when he hacked all the partygoer’s holos to display his own, aiding in his getaway (a scene found in another dystopian work, V for Vendetta).
As for the case itself, at this point in the series it’s still too early to tell what Makishima Shougo and his associates are trying to accomplish by gruesomely murdering these online personalities. Talisman and Spooky Boogie appear to be prominent anarchist personalities with a small but devoted following, so perhaps Makishima is trying to leverage their influence in order to incite a rebellion against Sibyl by placing his own agents to impersonate the two? Whatever the reasons are, Tsunemori and her fellow officers have a burgeoning conspiracy on their hands, and it will be interesting to see Kougami’s actions once he inevitably finds out the object of his obsession is behind the whole scheme.
Outside from the cases, it was a welcome surprise that little morsels further detailing the world of PSYCHO-PASS continue to be woven into the series. Tsunemori, who has been portrayed as an outsider of sorts when compared with most of the other members of the PSB, remains the perfect vehicle for the exposition into various aspects of the show’s setting. From the significant, such as her views on and inexperience with Sibyl and the justice system, to the more insignificant, like her familiarity with advanced technology like the holograms used in her home and with her clothes, seeing the world through her perspective has been a crucial element for connecting us to an oftentimes unnerving and unfamiliar world.
Forget brief hints of the main plot or an episodic style featuring wholly unrelated crimes and cases each week – this show definitely shifts the proceedings into high gear as the missing person case featured in this latest episode is directly connected with the likely ultimate and final antagonist, for reasons still unknown. Viewers who might have dropped this show after the ‘three episode rule’ might want to tune back in because as a two-cour series, we’ve only begun to peel back the many layers of this futuristic world.
- Masaoka’s advice to Tsunemori echoes a theory I made in episode 2:
“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?”
Masaoka says that for her to understand Kougami, she must see things as he does, do things as he does, and think the way he does; if Tsunemori can do all that, then her crime-coefficient will be the same as Kougami’s as well. Perhaps Masaoka is speaking from his own experience in empathizing with latent criminals? Is this also why relationships between non-latent criminals and latent criminals are discouraged?
- Maybe this guy has special contact lenses that prevent scanning?
- Urobuchi Gen adds to the list of dystopian sci-fi stories he references with a British first edition copy of Nineteen Eighty-Four.
- He also really loves his grotesque choking scenes…
- On the lighter note, Tsunemori really loves her jellyfish!
- Full-length images: 01.5, 09.5, 10.5, 11, 13.5, 15, 24, 27, 31.5.