15 CommentsPsycho Pass / By Scamp /

Psycho Pass episode 8 – I am not a psychotic serial killer, but if I was

Some of the incidental dark humour in Psycho Pass is marvellous to someone like myself with a dark sense of irony. A serial killer, who is so sick of a politician speaking out of his ass and pretending he doesn’t remember past events, proceeds to rip of his brain and stick their memory function up their backside. That is so darkly brilliant. It’s like taking a politician with a reputation for sleeping around, like Silvio Berlusconi, carefully extracting his brain, replace it with his testicles, and then carefully put his head back together again.

…I wonder if merely thinking that makes my hue cloudier? Let me make clear that I am not a psychotic serial killer with a dark sense of humour. But if I was, that is totally the kind of thing I would do.

The facility storing the psychopaths was fascinating, particularly the fact that the people in each of the rooms were apparently experts in their various fields. OK, so the guy gleefully hugging the lifelike doll was creepy and sure the guy who tattooed his body to make him look like a skeleton with flesh dangling off his bones was pure nightmare fuel, but clearly these guys Know Stuff. There was one guy surrounded by books, making his cell appear a lot like Kanbaru’s room in the -monogatari series. That dude is probably a fountain of knowledge after all he’s read.

It’s interesting how they keep these guys around. While the Dominator might blow people up when they have clearly gone way off the deep end, it seems to be in the system’s interest to keep these people around. It’s basically the same case as the Enforcers. The only reason the Enforcers are not inside this facility is because they need to be out on the street for the abilities to be of any use. Like the Enforcers, this is Sibyl putting someone in the ideal position for society, whether that be behind bars making art or some boring old factory worker placed for the sole purpose to be bullied.

Quick aside: I rather love how the tattoo guy kept trying to freak Akane out like he was a cross between Hannibal Lector and Freddy Krueger, but Akane was too busy focusing on the case to pay him much attention. Akane really has been growing on me. She’s still naive, but she’s got a tougher head on her shoulders than people give her credit for.

I am starting to get sick of Psycho Pass throwing out all these literary references. I get that it’s supposed to be part of his character. He’s meant to appear well-read and idealistic yet cynical by the quotes he uses, but it’s listening to him babble on is fairly boring. Partly because I haven’t a clue what the hell he’s supposed to be saying sometimes, particularly in this episode. Something about brutality in the hunt of the innocent? It’s more complicated to follow than it really should be. It makes the show appear like it’s trying to show off how smart it is by quoting all these literary works. I’ve said this on twitter already, but it reminds me of how academia likes to throw in references to other academic works that are barely related to the subject they’re covering, but they want to demonstrate how much they’ve read on the subject, even when it gets in the way of the actual point they’re trying to make.

It’s also obtrusive. When Madoka drops references to Faust, it’s there in the background as is optional for those who understand the reference. For those who don’t, it’s easy to ignore and carry on enjoying the story. It’s similar to how I feel an anime with a metaphor-driven story should also have a surface level story that is fun and enjoyable too that supports the metaphor-driven story. FLCL can be enjoyed both by simply following the plot, but enjoyed more by those who can follow the metaphor. In Psycho Pass, the quotations fill up screentime with monologues and only monologues, and you lose characterisation by just doing that.

I still enjoyed the episode a lot. The fact that you have a guy dressed up in old-school hunter gear but with robotic dogs is kinda awesome in a dumb way, as was the fact that what he did to the schoolgirl was essentially the exact same thing the police were going to do to her. But there’s a few niggling things that are starting to bug me about the series, with those relentless quotations being one of my bigger complaints. You know there’s a reason why people didn’t like the second Ghost in the Shell movie, right? Having characters just quote philosophers makes them feel empty as characters.

Or maybe that’s the point? Maybe the villain in Psycho Pass isn’t actually a human. One you hack into his clothes and remove his outer exterior, all you see is one of those jelly portable libraries from Shinsekai Yori.

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15 Comments

  1. Anca
    Posted December 1, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    I’m the translator for a foreign fansub group for this series. Because there’s no translated version of Titus Andronicus (the play they kept quoting) online I had to actually hunt down the quotes, read the scenes and then figure out an appropriate translation to them. Whoop, the joy.
    The quotes though were fantastically well chosen though and they were really worth all the effort.

    Ouryou Rikako was a pretentious girl, that much was obvious; she wanted to be an artist, but she didn’t have a message of her own to send. She saw herself as a victim, but wanted to be Tamora from the play, the woman who had her sons rape and cripple another character Lavinia. She wanted revenge against society for her father, she wanted more freedom for herself and to have her talent recognized. Except she didn’t have any talent either. Her paintings were all ugly and amateur-ish, and although she did have a good eye for sculptures, those were just imitations of what her father used to do – so she hid behind pseudo-intellectual rhetoric and superficially chosen quotes. This is only obvious once you start combing though everything she says word for word though.

    Makishima eventually saw this, and probably more that I didn’t catch, and grew disappointed. What’s interesting were the quotes he chose when he had her killed, which were really sarcastic and ironic – but you have to look them up to see why. The play itself was incredibly edgy, full of rape, mutilation, cannibalism; he picked a couple of verses that were appropriately creepy, and seemed to be making fun of her.

    Again this wasn’t obvious, but it makes sense, as Makishima was quoting them for himself and not the audience, and if you quote something to yourself you’ll generally pick more obscure things.

    On another blog the people were complaining that the show dumbs itself down by confirming and giving hints to the subtext. I guess I’m one of the dumb people though and appreciate that it does this – any more obfuscation and it’ll lose whatever message it wants to send entirely.

    • zleihsh
      Posted December 1, 2012 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

      Tamora, Queen of Goths, I love that piece! I only had the SparkNote version, but I really enjoy it. I guess I am twisted (?) LOL.
      Anyway thank you for your dedication on the translation. I’d like to know where did you find the quotes……..I’d really love to read that instead the water-down version of SparkNote. ^_^

      If I remember correctly, correct me if I am wrong, Makishima quoted from the part where that the Queen, Tamora, let her 2 sons raps Lavinia right before the hunt.

      I especially enjoy the part where Titus serve her the “meat pie”, and her realization after it. Ok, now I really think I have a twisted personality of a Psycho LOL.

  2. Teri
    Posted December 1, 2012 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    I do believe that the man dressing up and his robotic dogs are a reference to The Most Dangerous Game and Fahrenheit 451.

  3. Scamp
    Posted December 1, 2012 at 11:49 pm | Permalink

    Dear lord, you guys are making me appear like a huge uncultured pleb at the moment. I feel embarrassed

    • zleihsh
      Posted December 2, 2012 at 12:49 am | Permalink

      Awwww~ don’t be. =)

      Titus Andronicus (Tamora, Queen of Goths), according to Wiki, “is thought to be Shakespeare’s first tragedy, and is often seen as his attempt to emulate the violent and bloody revenge plays of his contemporaries………It is Shakespeare’s bloodiest and most violent work and traditionally was one of his least respected plays. Although it was extremely popular in its day, it fell out of favor during the Victorian era, primarily because of what was considered to be a distasteful use of graphic violence”.

      I guess that’s why schools did not want “children” to read about it even it show such wonderful portray of human dark side. I still remember in the day where teacher only allow us to read, “Romeo and Juliet”, “Macbeth”, “Hamlet”, and “Othello”, wait, I read the last 2 on my own, never mind then. LOL

      The teachers did not even want us to read “Othello” and “Hamlet”, saying that, “It is tooooooo violent!!!!” Gee~ education……

      • Scamp
        Posted December 2, 2012 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

        See, that’s part of the reason why the references here bug me. I know some Shakespeare, but not Titus Andronicus since it’s one of his more obscure plays. Here obsession with the play, and similarly the quotation from Tamora, loses meaning when you don’t know the source material. I wouldn’t have an issue if they were there and you could ignore them with no real issue, but they take up a huge amount of time quoting from them. It’s like reference humour in a way. Without the knowledge of the original, it’s not funny, and the joke should work without that knowledge.

        Call me an uncultured pleb, but I’d like to be able to watch cartoons without the barrier of having to understand all this classic literature. At least with the references to The Most Dangerous Game and Fahrenheit 451, the scene works without that knowledge.

      • zleihsh
        Posted December 2, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

        Well, this it is Urobuchi Gen we are talking about, so such gore-loving Shakespeare play is expected. I do feel sorry for those who, like you, did not read such wonderful piece, and it IS GOOD! Sigh~, just blame it on the education system.=)

      • Scamp
        Posted December 2, 2012 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

        Looking at a list of Shakespeares’ works, I’ve just realised how few I’ve ever actually seen. Comedy of Errors, Midsummer’s Night Dream, Hamlet and Macbeth, along with knowing the general gist of Romeo and Juliet simply through osmosis.

        Gosh, I really am a total pleb.

      • Anca
        Posted December 2, 2012 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

        They tried to integrate it. They mentioned that the character Lavinia was raped, that she had her arms and tongue cut off, in the narrative. Several times even. I hadn’t read Titus Andronicus (or even much else from Shakespeare) either; I’ve heard of it though (in the context of a humor article on a certain comedy site, of all things), so I guess I had an advantage.

        And the quote wurst at the end was supposed to frame the scene, make it more ‘dramatic’, so theoretically they could have chosen anything reasonably creepy sounding. But because the show’s philosophical grounding is so solid you kinda *want* to understand it, not just enjoy it, and Psycho Pass throws so much information your way that you need to watch each episode three times to catch everything. I’m fortunate in that I’m actually forced to research each reference, and that understanding the references for once is very rewarding.

        I hadn’t known what plastination or eustress were either. I’m glad the show at least makes an effort to explain itself, even if it often fails because of the sheer volume of exposition that would need.

  4. Posted December 3, 2012 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

    The thing about Ghost in the Shell: Innocence is that the quotations in the dialogue isn’t a lazy shortcut, it’s actually appropriate for that setting.

    The quotes as dialogue is due to the characters being connected to the future web where everyone’s minds are actually part of the entirety, access information instantly. Since the mind works much faster than the body it’s easier to quote famous sayings than it is to paraphrase difficult concepts in your own words. Moreover, your interlocutor can access that same quotation to decipher its meaning easier than your clumsy, clunky words.

    Therefore, quotation as dialogue is off-putting and alienating to those of us on the outside looking in, without that same instant connection.

    This organic idea should be far more disconcerting than just artificial cuz the idea of characters zipping from elaborate conceptions to the next by mining sources online should remind us of our current memes that serve as shortcuts or stand-ins for funny jokes.

    • Scamp
      Posted December 3, 2012 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

      I’ve heard that theory before, but I say to that the same thing I say about Endless Eight: Just because I understand its narrative purpose doesn’t mean it’s not boring

      • Posted December 3, 2012 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

        My initial reactions to the Innocence film in 2004 was that the quote-mining was quite off-putting. After a bit of reflection i realized the very alienating experience was due to the alien nature of the setting. Had the writers of that show shoehorned contemporary discourse into that world, with cheap & easy references, it would be clearly an inferior & shallow product that panders to our tastes.

        The Endless 8 of Haruhi Suzumiya is not quite the same thing – its narrative purpose was terribly transparent.

  5. Ryan R
    Posted December 4, 2012 at 5:02 am | Permalink

    I could see your point on Makishima’s lengthy quotations except they’re careful and well-placed call-backs to what Oryo said before about loving Titus Andronicus. In other words, Makishima is decidedly mocking Oryo here, by basically telling her he’s going to have her killed through referencing a telling quote from her favorite Shakespearean play. Philosophically speaking, Oryo is being hoisted on her own petard, and Makishima’s quotations is a big part of that.

  6. Hisoka
    Posted December 5, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    Scamp I had the exact same reaction as you re: the literary references in Psycho Pass – some feel forced on the audience like a student would who’s trying hard to prove he’s an intellectual. It’s a bit like if in the Hole in the Sky library scene in Penguindrum, Sanetoshi turned to Himari and said “Are you familiar with the conceptual design for the Stockholm Library?” He didn’t have to say it b/c some fans got the reference and shared it with other people who picked up on other references, adding to the value of following the penguindrum discussion online in the first place. Same with the Faust in Madoka. I like when the references are there to be consumed but aren’t spoon-fed. Psycho Pass has plenty of artistic value as a dystopian narrative and also it evokes a lot of literary comparisons outside of the ones that every character seems to always be quoting. To be fair I have been fangirling ever since ep. 4 when Sakurai Takahiro showed up so having Makishima go on and on with the Shakespeare is total ear candy for me. But it did go on and on and on, and probably could have been half as long – a few verses, then look it up yourself.

  7. Mikhail Ramendik
    Posted December 14, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    I think that all those half-meaningless quotes are an important part of the “characterization” of Shogo Makishima. He is not just a villain – he is “intelligentsia”. A very recognizeable type in my experience.

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