Friday, December 21, 2012

Psycho-Pass - 11

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If you’re a fan of NoitaminA – and I’m one of the biggest – this goes down as one of the best and worst days of the year.


It seems odd to be depressed about the NoitaminA block on a day when both halves of Production I.G.’s entry delivered standout, brilliant episodes.  Yet with the day also came the news that the entire Spring schedule will be turned over to reruns of Katanagatari.  This is terrible news on many levels – a debate over that show’s place on NoitaminA would be an interesting one for another time (I don’t personally think it belongs there) but it’s moot.  We’re looking at reruns of a non-NoitaminA series, and now at the very least it will have been a full half-year with no new NoitaminA shows.  The NoitaminA project always seemed a bit Quixotic – an attempt at delivering quality anime for its own sake and most of the time succeeding – and the pessimist in me wants to believe that this is effectively the end, and that Fuji and Yamamoto Kouji have finally thrown in the towel.  But I refuse to accept that until it’s official, as it would be a minor tragedy for those that love good anime. 

If indeed this is it for the block, it seems as if it has a good chance to go out in style with Robotics;Notes and Psycho-Pass.  This week’s conclusion of the Senguji arc was every bit the equal of last week’s gem.  It was incredibly tense, a breathless experience to behold – exciting and nerve-wracking without a moment’s respite, concluding with a classic Urobuchi Gen scene that combined his usual flair for conversation (or in this case, mostly monologue) with a mind-screw as only he can deliver it.  The world inside his head must be a very dark place indeed, judging by what he allows to escape and put down on paper.

I’ve been saying for a while that Akane was going to live out Nietzsche's observation about the void, and this week she definitely had the experience – she stared into it, and it damn well stared back.  It’s been clear all along that Makashima was the far more dangerous opponent than Senguji, but that was never more apparent than in watching their respective actions in this episode.  Senguji is basically a dead man desperate to feel alive, and willing to do whatever is necessary to try and recapture that feeling.  For him killing is a short-term high, but ultimately unsatisfying – what he’s really been craving is the enemy who will not be prey, but a duelist.  Makashima ultimately gave him what he wanted in Kougami, a fox with real teeth.  You can make what you will of Makashima’s attempt to warn Senguji that the jig was up and police help on the way – perhaps there was an element of fondness there, or perhaps a desire to avoid the inconvenience of having his bankroll cut off.  But I think Makashima knew what Senguji would say, and simply wanted to hear it for himself.  Both men are enablers for the other, and each sees something in the other they admire.

Senguji’s duel with Kougami might have been the mere preamble this week, but it was no less gripping for it.  A modern sentient weapon against an old-school double-barreled hunting rifle seems like a mismatch, but as Kougami found out old-world technology can bite pretty hard (might a cop in another time have been wearing a kevlar vest?).  Ironically it’s Kougami’s old-school police skills that allow him to stay alive long enough to outwit Senguji (hunting foxes is no preparation for hunting men like Kougami) with Yuki’s help, and put an end to the most dangerous game after taking several bullet wounds.  It’s Masaoka and Akane who arrive on the scene first, shortly after Makashima takes Yuki and makes his escape as Kougami teeters on the verge of unconsciousness.  As she runs off after her friend, Masaoka first treats Kougami’s wounds and then memorably disables him to keep him from doing the same.

I predicted Yuki’s demise last week (green bananas indeed) but it was certainly artful the way Gen managed to turn her into a memorable plot driver in the process.  In Akane and Makashima we have a fascinating funhouse mirror effect – they’re quite similar in critical ways, but self-evidently very different people.  They both confound Sibyl, and both have the remarkable trait of a constantly white Psycho-Pass.  There are many memorable things about Akane’s confrontation with Makashima (it gives far too much credit to her performance to call it a confrontation) but I think the most jarring was listening to Sibyl give a litany of Makashima’s falling crime coefficient as he approached the moment he would kill Yuki in cold blood.  Senguji’s crime coefficient was over 300 but Makashima’s was 48, and drops all the way to zero by the time Yuki’s race is run. 

Makashima’s very existence is an indictment of Sibyl and all it stands for.  As he says himself, Sibyl can’t account for the human will – “I wonder what sort of criteria you use to divide people into good and evil.”  He frames the moment for Akane in utterly ruthless fashion: as she stands helpless, her Dominator refusing to target Makashima, he puts Senguji’s rifle in her hands and gives her a choice – “Kill me, or I kill Yuki.”  For the first time she can feel the immediacy of death in her hands, and it can’t be passed off as the will of a machine intelligence – it’s flesh and steel and lead, and no one else’s finger is on the trigger.  Makashima says he wants to “bear witness to the splendor of man’s soul, and find out once and for all if it’s something worth admiring.”  Whatever his ultimate aims, what’s clear is that Makashima is a subversive in every sense of the word – a living anathema to everything the modern society represents, his existence a threat and his will to unmake it at its very core.  In a career of memorable antagonists, he might just end up being The Butcher’s best.

As for Akane, I think it’s very much an open question just what impact this existential battery will have on her (and her supposedly unassailable Psycho Pass).  She was revealed in the moment of crisis and the aftermath as the child she is – not ready to step out of Sibyl’s protective embrace and face the void without staring away.  As to Descartes’ view that those unable to make a decision are crippled by too much desire or too little intellect, I think it’s clear that it was the former in Akane’s case – a desire not to take responsibility for someone’s death, a desire to save her friend, a desire to believe the system she was raised in isn’t a complete fraud.  By not pulling the trigger and letting Yuki die she did make a decision, in a sense – she chose to accept the premise her life was built on over the life of her friend.  I think this is what Makashima wanted to force on her all along, and it represents a terrible and visceral violation of her psyche – and how she responds to that is going to go a long way towards determining what the second half of Psycho-Pass looks like.  If he can finish the job as well as he’s finished the first half, Urobuchi Gen has a chance to craft his finest work in anime, and to give NoitaminA a memorable sendoff – whether temporarily or for good we can’t yet know.

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42 comments:

  1. "...she chose to accept the premise her life was built on over the life of her friend"

    Interesting way to phrase it, which tells me that you may be in the camp of "free will is real". I don't need to bring out the whole "free will (mostly religion faction)" vs "no such thing as free will, it's a illusion (mostly scientist faction)" debate here in depth -if any one including Enzo is interested, youtube debates are your friends. It can get easily lost in thought-acrobatic exercise and besides it's not really what this is about anyway.

    However my view is this: it doesn't matter whether there is a free will or not. We have no choice, but to assume that there is. By that I mean, even if everything, every decision, is already predetermined for you, one must act as if he or she is making that decision himself/herself. I guess that sort of put me into the latter faction (they do point out that the difference between a society with no free will who pretend there is one and the society will free will are virtually the same that it doesn't matter either way which is the truth). So this notion of supposedly accepting the premise of life built up for her and just giving up blaming that it's all decided seems to be utterly nonsense to me.

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    1. My congrats on the outstanding straw man. You've clearly had training in the art.

      Delete
    2. Hey, Enzo. Has the world ended yet?

      Dec 21 is almost over in japan, right? Tell me, what's the end of the world looks like??? Me think it may be the worst possible senario: it's the same old, stinking world! For some reasons, I highly doubt that you're communicating from, say, Aman as you haven't lost the sarcasm one bit here!

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    3. What, Japan is already ended?? Could it be that someone in USA, especially in the west coast, even Hawaii, has taken over now deceased Enzo (along with billions in Europe and Asia) and writing in his fashion?? This sounds like something I've seen somewhere...now where was that from again??

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  2. Maybe the thing I loved the most about this episode was the fx: I really dug the sound effects when the dominator shoots. It really transmits the feeling that the cops are holding a weapon of massive power.

    "By not pulling the trigger and letting Yuki die she did make a decision, in a sense..."

    Umm, but she did shoot, right? She just missed her two shots, that's all.

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    1. She missed those shots on purpose, at least as I saw it.

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    2. I couldn't disagree more,If you're gonna miss on purpose you don't aim the gun towards the target,she just had no clue on how to use a rifle properly and was also in a state of panic and couldn't think straight,due to many factors including the shock of being betrayed by the system.

      The girl already ignored sybil's judgment in the first episode,I have no trouble believing she'd be willing to ignore it here.


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    3. I don't see it as a question of ignoring Sibyl's judgement so much as an unwillingness to be the one to take a life herself.

      That scene is intentionally left to interpretation, I think, but I'm quite comfortable with my own - she wasn't aiming anywhere near the target from what it looked like to me.

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    4. I didn't see it like that, I don't think she was aiming very carefully but also, correct me if I'm wrong, shotguns have a pretty big recoil and you can't shoot them very well one handed. So I very much doubt it was a conscious decision to have those shots missed, I think she was hoping for the best in a very dark situation and got the worst.

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    5. hmmm...I think that's a conscious decision -- she's half-hearted when shooting. She's unwilling -- or perhaps shocked -- to believe that Sibyl could make the wrong judgement and, therefore, didn't let go of her Dominator. She was suggested to by Makashima to drop the Dominator and hold the short gun with both hands, but she didn't do it as suggested and randomly pulled the trigger of the short gun.

      I don't know why I felt no empathy for Akane and was disappointed by her...if not feeling mad.

      About NoitaminA, I really won't want to see that happen and will crave for more shows like PP and Robotics;Notes coming...or maybe good shows will get slotted outside of NoitaminA in the future, such as SSY...

      ~Ronbb

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    6. On a side note, I wish that Masaoka would have rushed there in time and shot Makishima's head with a real weapon, but the journey with any story from Urobuchi Gen is emotionally rocky...

      ~Ronbb

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    7. Then we wouldn't have had a second cour, Ronbb...

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    8. That's the Hollywood way Ronbb.

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    9. That's true Enzo and Lotor IV...lol. I am already very involved in the story and wanted Yuki to survive and the bad guy to go away, but then Urobuchi Gen never gives us easy answer, and yes, I want to see the second cour even when it's painful to see characters die now. BTW, killing characters off is very common with with Master Urobuchi. I wonder how I would feel if Masaoka or Kougami is going to die... :S

      ~Ronbb

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  3. i would hardly call those shots. was she even trying when she fired that gun.. hardly. when it came down to it she just didn't want to go against the system. A part of me felt so frustrated by her in that moment but the stubborn part of me was a bit glad that things didn't go that bastards way. up until now he's dug into peoples deepest desires and made them brutal killers. this would have just been another situation where in the in end he would have won and got his way. i want her to make the right choice, just not in that sickos terms. but yeah, it's quite something that even though we hardly saw much of her friend, i was still really gutted when she died. I would have liked for her to have stayed alive and been more in the story.

    it seemed like had she, there might have been some strong feelings for kougami from her side. she certainly saw him in a way many others wouldn't . for sure one of the most intense moments to date when he was holding the knife to her. amazing episode. i need the next one right now!

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  4. So begins Akane's psychological transformation. I wonder which route is she going to take?

    Is she going to turn into the Sayaka-type character who slowly breaks down and loses herself due to despair? Or will she go the Kotomine route and go to the dark side?

    Either is possible. I personally would prefer for her to go the Kotomine route. Like Kotomine, she says that she's trying to find her meaning in life. She's an exceptional human being who is super smart and talented, and yet she can't find answers. It would be interesting if she slowly turns evil and somehow becomes the final antagonist like Kirei was in Fate/Zero.

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    1. Well, there's also the possibility she might go the "Kiritsugu Route" realizing her mistake and starting to act more cold blooded, suppressing her emotions to the limit. i think she might end up going against the Sybil system, but not in the same way as Makishima. why, she might even be the one to finish him off.

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  5. Sometimes a show is just plain cool, and when they manage to leave you in tears by the end...just WOW.

    I still think that Akane will ultimately stay on this side of 'good' with Kougami and the rest's help but this episode made me think that she'll finally rise up as a true heroine and take down Makashima personally. It just has that typical turning point setting where the heroine is supposed to overcome the great obstacle and deafeat evil. Is it terribly sad that I'm holding out hope for her to do so and reform the system? And you know...not die a horrible death. Opps I got emotionally attached to the characters. Also while the fact Makashima's Psycho-pass like Akane's stays snowy white wasn't the most shocking twist it was indeed very tragic to listen to Sibyl declare that to Akane as her friends life was about to end.

    Enzo I hadn't heard about what's happening to noitiminA but it's kind of terrifying, thanks for the heads up. Here's hoping it can pull through.

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  6. I don't really see Akane going over to the dark side either - certainly not in becoming someone like Makashima. If anything, she might turn on Sibyl and become an enemy within.

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    1. Well, to be clear, I only mentioned Kirei and Sayaka because Gen Urobuchi wrote both of those characters too (well, not exactly with Kirei since Kinoko Nasu of Type-Moon wrote him, but Kirei's character development in F/Z was Gen's).

      And another reason why I brought up the dark side possibility is because the opening credits video shows a seemingly very cold Akane, different from the innocent-looking Akane we all know. And for some reason, the Akane in the OP video is chasing Kogami and wants to shoot him.

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    2. Someone just pointed out to me the ED is a different part of the song and the lyrics are slightly changed to "pay karma's price and HAVE YOUR REVENGE" plus there's an extra verse. I was so excited by the episode I didn't realize how significant the lyrics and matching images were :P oh well even if revenge is slippery slope I think Akane will stay 'good'...or at least I hope so. It could potentially be interesting either way.

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  7. *spotting a certain screenshot*
    Brb, need to buy things at the market. In the mood I'm now I'm gonna need more than three green bananas to chomp in order to survive this episode (I'm not even joking).
    Gen, you boob killer T_T.

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    1. Grab some neuroleptics while you're at it.

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    2. Sarcastic aren't we? - are you the same anon asking me 'wtf I was on' under another post btw? Nice to meet you, as polite people would say - Anyway, I don't believe in those kind of meds outside of a few chemical imbalance cases. Have a banana instead. Or a good book, or a good chat with a friend, or a good anime... at the risk of sounding naive I want to believe you can get the picture. Best wishes!
      /OT

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  8. Any particular reason why you refer to Makishima as Makashima?

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    1. Yeah I believe it's Makishima too. You might want to check again. :)

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  9. Dropped. Not criticizing the show (which is good, imo). It's just that I've grown too old and soft to stomach stuff like this anymore.

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  10. Senguji was MGS BAUCE.

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  11. Ohhhhhh man I have not been this pissed off at a protagonist in a such long time!!! I don't even know if that's a positive or negative for the show. I never even felt this with Shinji in Evangelion.

    Akane was a nastily incongruent presence in the first episode and I grew to tolerate her as she stayed more or less in the background but this episode just shot her to the forefront of the plot again and urrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgggh

    She's so stupid and unrelatable I don't even care about her redemption.

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    1. Dude you need to learn to have some empathy man. Growing up in an environment where the Sibyl System solely determines if a criminal should be killed/restrained/free can make the Inspectors over-rely on them. It's not just Akane, Ginoza will definitely also face the same hesitation when in the same dilemma as well.

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  12. All I know is by the time this series is over I want to see her blow his fucking head up for what he did to her friend.

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    1. Yeah I want to see her do that too. Well, I have a couple scenarios in mind, but I don't know if she can provoke him and make his crime coefficient higher until he can be judged by the dominator. Idk about that. Akane won't be as resilient as she was...Who knows. As some had said, she might burst...unless she doesn't have the proper emotional support. Shinya, who experienced similar death in a different way, may be able to comfort her...but not heal. Never heal. She was ambivalent, and she just...gave up. And she'll regret it her whole life (well, her whole anime life).

      Because, really, if I was her, rather than trying to shoot with the shotgun, I would throw it and smack the enemy senseless! I would do anything if my best friend was at stake.

      But yeah, that is me, and she's not me...so...yeah. =.=

      Before this arc, I was expecting that she would cloud her crime coefficient because of that lecturer. Now it seems...Idk. Will she be able to take his lectures with Yuki's death?

      Idk if she's the revenge type, but...we'll see.

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  13. Wow, I've always suspected that Makishima was "different" and this episode proves it. Ever since they explained on how the Sybil system work, I've always wonder if there could be a genetic mutation that can have a person bypass the criteria the Psycho Pass is based upon because humans are evolving organisms. However, I think there is a more philosophic idea being presented here instead of a biological one but I'm fine with that. Still, I'm really curious if this event will propel Akane to abandon the Sybil system and become what detectives were before the system was put in place.

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  14. Makishima, redefining what it means to be a complete monster. Poor Akane and fuck you Sibyl – you ain’t God!
    TQ

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  15. 'and put an end to the most dangerous game' I see what you did there XD.
    ---
    Goodbye Yuki. How fitting to have this episode ending with snow - pure 'Makishima' white snow - falling.
    Good visual clues this episode. In the beginning we had Akane shedding away her Inspector coat while running with Masaoka in the tunnels. I wonder what else and how much she will shed of her self by the end of the series. Metamorphosis ahoy? *may Ko and Masaoka be her Virgils*

    Just a detail: I seem to remember Akane's psycho-pass is powder blue (Clara uttering it some episodes ago)rather than pure white like Makishima's?
    About Shougo, good job raising points. And remaining perfectly despicable in the process.
    ---

    On the missed gunshots: I wonder if out of the whole squad only Masaoka and Kougami would be able to aim with gunpowder firearms, the former by his own pre-Sybil-system experience, the second because of his 'feel the pain' and traditional combat&detective work approach.
    Even in a sound state of mind our mental beauty would have had a hard time aiming straight with that monster rifle without previous training I think... but then I've never tried shooting and/or hunting so what do I know of aiming and recoil.


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    1. Errata corrige: Candy, not Clara (ah, princess jellyfish expy... gets me every time ). And the bit about her reading Akane's hue as powder blue is in episode #2.

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  16. I guess I'm the only one who assumes Makishima put blanks in the shotgun rifle.

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    1. I had the same thought; i was surprised we were a minority. I do not think Makishima wants to die, everything he does is about prevention, planning, and caution. He thought this through and gave her a gun with blanks.

      It appeared to be a 10 gauge with buckshot and 'missing' with that may have killed her friend.
      Blanks.

      Mike

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  17. I'm actually really disappointed in this. This story would have far more impact for me if it wasn't just handwaved away with "OMG Sibyl is totally broken, all we know is a LIE!" Basically, they spent a good amount of time building up a nice consistent world, and that was all thrown away so that Urobuchi could have time for the bad guy to give a cliched speech on his behalf.

    From what I see, he basically made Makishima into a pretty ordinary superhero / supervillian: Someone who doesn't have to follow the rules of the world. It doesn't matter whether that guy can fly, or stick to ceilings, or shoot laser beams out of his eyes, or be the only person who isn't caught with a system that catches everyone else. And I mean everyone else. If the Sibyl System was so broken that it didn't take a special power to fool it, then why aren't there many many more bad guys running around like Makishima? Why is he so rare that nobody knows how to deal with him (excepting, of course, the hero of the show, Kougami)?

    Not to mention the completely unrealistic setup and expectation. Let's give someone who has never *seen* a shotgun one that's loaded, put her 40 feet away from a target who's standing right next to a hostage. The best case in that situation? The world's luckiest bad shot, because she'd miss so far to the side of Yuki that she didn't kill her too but managed to clip Makishima.

    I'm just really disappointed. This didn't show me any particularly great writing, or masterful analysis of the human condition. It just showed me that the writer will do whatever it takes to make a speech.

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    1. i kind of agree that scene was badly placed, or shouldn't even exist. too convenient, too unrealistic (to have a proper antagonist you don't have to denounce a world, do you? it's not good or even near perfect, but it wasn't merely created by fools. there's some good to it)
      TBH, i was expecting akane to shoot and end up killing her friend instead of makishima, but well she was a bad shooter and the rifle was heavy (rifles are damn heavy so akane-chan please it's unrealistic to think holding 2 guns would work)

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  18. i agree in the sense that akane wasn't entirely serious about shooting. but i wouldn't say that she didn't want to kill (stain her hands and whatever) but she wanted to believe in the system she grew up in (as with your other argumment enzo-san). the fact that she held two guns for me was symbolic, she knew what she had to do, but she couldn't give up the society she believed in (note her overwhelming positivity on sibyl all this while). the fact that she tried to juggle both worlds (and both mindsets) led her to witness her friend's death.

    i was hoping yuki-chan wouldn't die though, but well... looking forward to next episode. is there a break like with most other shows?

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  19. Phew. Marathon after exams.
    All I can say was that i foresaw a death. Thought it would be the old guy, but things are never that easy with Urob around. Anyway we all knew Makishima's crime coefficient is incalculable right? Since this is basically minority report with Tom Cruise as the antagonist.

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