A few notes before we get to the part of the episode everyone wants to talk about. Firstly, for a man whose body has been optimised through cybernetics, the hunting CEO sure does seem to have crappy aim. It wasn’t even like Kougami was much further than 10 metres away from him whenever he took a shot, and yet all he could do was severely injure a couple of walls. Secondly, I like how the first time Kougami is shot is when he was too busy posing dramatically after shooting the robo-dog. He probably couldn’t move as fast after pulling that pose. I had a go, and I’m pretty flexible, and I can see how leaping into that position would more than likely pull a muscle in his thigh. Finally, I enjoyed Kougami getting headbutted. It’s such a refreshingly no-nonsense way of getting him to stay put.
Been struggling to work out where on earth to start with this post, so I’m going to rewind back to the very centre of what Psycho Pass is about. Psycho Pass does the standard cyberpunk trick of introducing a new technology into society that changes the way we think about something very fundamental to our being. In Ghost in the Shell (ooh look at me, comparing Psycho Pass to GITS again), the introduction of cybernetics tackles the idea of identity. For Psycho Pass, the Sibyl system choosing how we should act tackles the idea of self-determination. Or ‘free-will’ as I should probably call it, but I feel self-determination covers the ideas of choosing your career and your own life, rather than being an emotionless robot that saying you lack ‘free-will’ implies.
I can see why the promo material focuses on the Dominator so much now. It removes the burden of responsibility from the person shooting it. It’s the first time in the show I’ve felt having the gun make people ESPLODE feel justified. The contrast between the cops being unfazed by ESPLOSHUNS and how utterly broken Akane is by the idea of actually shooting someone by her own design is quite stark. When you think about the way the policing system is laid out, it’s done precisely to remove all sense of responsibility towards the victims on the part of the police. They quite literally hire criminals to do their thinking for them so they don’t have to dirty their minds with the grimy parts.
This is what the villain, Maikishima, was trying to get out of this experiment. For Akane to apprehend a criminal by her own choice rather than leave it up to the gun to decide, therefore absolve her of the responsibility. When you take a step back and look at the differences between the two guns, one might injure him or possibly kill him, while the other would make him ESPLOOODE! But it’s the fact that she has to make the choice that is what frightens her so much. If she shoots him without approval from the Dominator, she is officially a criminal under the Sibyl system. The story has been beating us with the idea that getting into the heads of criminals and criminology disrupts your hue, but this is a tangible example of that at work. It’s interesting how Sibyl can tell the difference between you shooting a Dominator versus a normal gun. That may be built into its systems already, but I’d say there’s a feedback loop at play too. Because Sibyl approves of shooting the Dominator, the person doesn’t feel like they’re doing anything wrong.
Even taking a step back from the actual themes at play here, the way the entire scene was shot was utterly fantastic. Makishima’s hue’s number dropping in inverse proportion to Akane’s mental fortitude gave the whole sequence this bum-tightening spiral of tension. I’d said in an earlier post that I didn’t want the Sibyl system to have an anomaly and be proved wrong, but the way it was used in this episode means I’m more than happy to let them go in this direction since it seems like they know full well what they’re doing. Even simple things, like having Makishima occupy higher ground than Akane, really helped the composition of the scene. Plus it didn’t pull any punches. Right at the moment it mattered most, Psycho Pass knew it was the right time to really hit us. If he didn’t slit the throat of Akane’s friend at that time, it would have essentially ruined the entire point of the scene. It’s about Akane’s feeling of utter uselessness without the Dominator making the decision for her.
It was one of those perfect moments of ramping tension where I only realised once it had ended that I hadn’t breathed for the entire thing. The point where he slit her throat made my entire body wince and contract. In a year where most of my favourite anime have been the more comedic and ridiculous types, it’s refreshing, in that ice-cold shower way, to have someone capable of writing something this grimdark in such a compelling fashion. I’d already written all my 12 days posts by the time I saw this, so I couldn’t give it a rightful spot. So it will have to settle for the unofficial 13th day.
Butcher Gen wishes you a Merry Christmas.