PSYCHO-PASS – 13
「深淵からの招待」 (Shinen kara no Shoutai)
“Invitation from the Abyss”
For all its flaws and foibles, the Sibyl System has at least one thing right – there is a latent criminal lurking in every person, despite what their current crime coefficient may be. It doesn’t matter if people are living in the wild jungle of 19th century Africa or the dense skyline of 22nd century Tokyo because whatever shape and form society takes, human nature never changes. In every human heart exists in a propensity for evil – even when people actively strive to resist it. Consequently, in every society and civilization lurks a dark side and oftentimes even relies on its existence to achieve prosperity. Both of the works referenced in this episode, Friedrich Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil and Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness, are notable for exploring these themes and PSYCHO-PASS is merely the latest work to delve into these motifs.
He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.
- Friedrich Nietzsche, “Beyond Good and Evil”, Aphorism 146 (1886)
The first half of the series mainly concentrated on those who are undeniably evil, psychopathic individuals like Midou Masatake and Ouryou Rikako, but with this episode, it appears as if the series turns its attention onto those who try and bring them to justice, the men and women of the MWPSB. Aside from the usual physical dangers they face in the line of duty, there is no greater threat than the possibility that their mental health, their Crime Coefficient, will deteriorate to the point where they are branded a latent criminal. After all, they are the ones who must fight the ‘monsters’ and constantly gaze into metaphorical ‘abyss’.
Inspectors are continually striving to resist becoming the evil they dedicate their career to fighting – they have their Psycho-Pass hue and Crime Coefficient regularly monitored so that steps can be taken to try and mitigate any potential increases, but are these precautions enough? From Masaoka’s conversation with Ginoza, it seems as if the Sibyl System, or at least the Dominators aspect of it, has been around for more than 30 or 40 years, but Inspectors like him and Kougami still end up becoming latent criminals despite all the precautions. Is it inevitable that when one fights ‘monsters’, they risk becoming a ‘monster’ as well?
Currently, the most pressing question is whether Tsunemori will prove to be an exception. Her fateful encounter with Makishima was a horrific experience on par with what Kougami underwent, and since he eventually was branded a latent criminal after Sasayama’s death, Tsunemori’s failure to shoot Makishima and save Yuki could be easily seen as the breaking point for her psyche as well. It would not be a surprise if her Crime Coefficient never recovered and she is forced to join the ranks of the Enforcers. However, the rookie Inspector appeared completely fine in this episode, even though she didn’t use sketch artists for some reason (thanks to BakaMochi for this observation) and instead had to relive her traumatic experience once again. Is Tsunemori merely postponing the inevitable fall into darkness? Or does her uncanny ability to quickly recover from mental stress (which might be a mild version of the “criminally asymptomatic” syndrome that the Bureau Chief (Sakakibara Yoshiko) describes) preclude her from this fate altogether? Nietzsche’s quote may have already played out for Kougami, but it remains to be seen if it will hold true for Tsunemori as well.
He cried in a whisper at some image, at some vision—he cried out twice, a cry that was no more than a breath—”The horror! The horror!”
— Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness
Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness is a powerful and striking work that echoes Nietzsche’s quote by exploring a theme of the inherent potential for evil in the hearts of humans and by extension, in society and civilization itself. PSYCHO-PASS shares this motif, most obviously in the parallels between Kurtz and Kougami. Kurtz from Heart of Darkness ventured into the depths of the African jungle and witnessed atrocities that changed him in a most negative way, causing him to go as far as committing horrifying acts of evil himself. Similarly, Kougami’s journey into the underbelly of society also led to him witnessing a disturbing act which changed him forever, and caused him to become labeled as a criminal with the latent capability to commit evil deeds.
Aside from the parallels between Kougami and Kurtz, this series also offers an interesting and thought-provoking take on Heart of Darkness’ idea that the potential for evil can be found in every society and civilization. In Conrad’s novella, Victorian-era London owes its prosperity to the slave labor that provides it with valuable natural resources, a darkness that is hidden away in the jungles of far-away Africa. Similarly, the futuristic society of this series is also an example of this same theme, except instead of slave labor it is the suffering of latent criminals, a price that has been hidden away through segregation.
Heart of Darkness only implies that a connection exists between savagery and the colonialism which has made England so prosperous. It never directly identifies this theme or associates it with a political system or body of any sort, but PSYCHO-PASS develops this further by tying this theme directly into the system at the center of the society itself. The key assumption of the Sibyl System, and therefore of their society, is the idea that everyone is a latent criminal, capable of committing savage acts. This is the foundation, the basis of the system. It allows Sibyl to then quantify this latent capability for criminality by scanning people, and it is also given the powers to then segregate people as latent criminals if they are on the wrong side of a seemingly arbitrary line.
An entire society has once again handed over the reins of morality to a singular power, a singular voice. Up until now, Ginoza has always been portrayed as having an unwavering faith in morality of the Sibyl System, similar to that of a religious devotee. This analogy becomes even more apt with the Bureau Chief’s zealous proselytizing about Sibyl’s role in their society and presumably civilization. The tone with which she describes its role in people’s lives along with the lexicon she uses, words like ‘judgment’ and ‘blessings’, strongly suggests that she, and likely many others, view the Sibyl System as something akin to a religion or deity of some sort. They have simply traded one religion for another, one god for another.
In our current world there already exist nations which force their citizens to abide by strict religious morals. Unlike the deities of these religions, Sibyl is a tangible entity, but it is still no less mysterious to the common person and has a jurisdiction that is left unchecked for all we know. Can it really be considered progress for a society entrust all morality and tough decisions we make in life to another higher power, one that is for all intents and purposes no less different than the gods of yesteryear? So far, PSYCHO-PASS’s answer is a resounding and unequivocal no.
- As the Bureau Chief firmly stated, a system like this needs absolute trust and faith that it is flawless and perfect for it to work, so it’s not too farfetched of an idea that there is a built-in safeguard that increases the Crime Coefficient of whoever begins to question it. It happened to Masaoka when he was first given his Dominator, and now his son is beginning to show signs of an elevated crime coefficient now that he is questioning Sibyl as well. A preview of things to come?
- Thanks again to BakaMochi for the screencaps!
- Full-length images: 8, 18, 27.
ED2: 「All Alone With You」 by EGOIST