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Psycho-Pass 2 – 04

November 3, 2014

PSYCHO-PASS 2 - 04-04Well that escalated into a bloodbath remarkably quickly.  Can’t say I’m a huge fan of how heavy-handed this episode was, but I sort of get why it went down like this.  This second season doesn’t have many episodes so there is no time to mess about – unfortunately this means the show ends up bludgeoning the viewer over the head repeatedly with its messages. Sort of like crazy old guy in this episode – not really ideal.

So yes, the main thing that jumps out at you when watching this episode is the relentless level of gory violence.  From a man’s head being stomped into goo, to all the people involved exploding into bite-sized chunks; the excessive violence ended up going beyond being uncomfortable to watch into comical territory.  Of course the indiscriminate slaughter at the end of the episode perfectly demonstrates just how twisted this society entirely reliant on Sybil is, but the point could have been made in a much more subtle manner.

PSYCHO-PASS 2 - 04-02Anyway, lets move on.  I was pretty interested in the concept of “eustress deficiency” which is what had violent old man so riled up.  Apparently this is a state induced by Sybil endorsed medication and therapy where the recipient ends up unable to respond to any external stimuli – they’re stress free but have no real quality of life.  Interestingly Mika scoffs at the idea and calls eustress deficiency an urban legend, so clearly this is a side-effect of therapy that Sybil doesn’t want widely known.  Our violent old dude in this episode proclaims that everyone should embrace stress as it is proof that they are alive – he states that he has had experience of the numbing effect of state issued medications and never wants to feel that dead again.  Still his violent rampage to encourage others to feel the proof they are alive is somewhat misguided.

In this society ruled by Sybil ordinary citizens have lost their ability to cope with stress.  In such a tightly controlled environment people just coast along through life doing exactly what the system tells them will result in the best situation.  People no longer have internal coping mechanisms for dealing with sudden violence or unexpected situations – they have handed off their decision-making skills to Sybil and without Sybil’s direction they are unable to move.  Every single person in that closed building ended up with a hue clouded enough to trigger the lethal mode on a Dominator, simply from being exposed to high levels of stress for a relatively short period of time.  This isn’t a rare thing in Psycho-Pass either – the very fact that Sybil monitors area stress levels is a direct reaction to the fact people can no longer deal with even a small amount of stress in their otherwise mundane, colourless lives.

PSYCHO-PASS 2 - 04-01

Those that can deal with stress seem to end up becoming Sybil’s arms & legs – the police force meting out Sybil’s justice.  But just because these individuals can deal with stressors doesn’t necessarily mean they are good at making snappy decisions.  In this episode Mika (who is approaching the event horizon of bitchiness) is rendered unable to act in an unfamiliar situation – she is completely unwilling to make a decision that may backfire on her and this indecision ends up getting her taken off the case entirely as Sybil sends in Division 3 (oh look, male Inspectors do still exist!) to take charge.  Division 3 have clear orders from Sybil to eliminate anyone with a clouded hue – they don’t even verify identities before opening fire and end up killing one of their own.  Looking on Mika is visibly disturbed by the indiscriminate bloodshed, but so long as it is sanctioned by Sybil neither she or any of the other Inspectors will question it.  If the orders come from above there is no personal engagement to the act, and that ability to distance yourself from the horrific violence happening in front of you is what keeps Inspector’s psycho-passes clear.  The utter indifference most of the Inspectors display at the carnage they’re responsible for is actually frightening.

What happens to Aoyanagi in this episode is a direct result of an Inspector taking it upon herself to judge a criminal when her link to Sybil, her Dominator, was unable to do so.  Because Aoyanagi made that call independently and attacked with a shard of glass her psycho-pass became clouded and Sybil judged her expendable.  I’m sure the stress of the general situation and the disappearance of her partner contributed, but what pushed her over the critical level was probably taking the law into her own hands.  In general independent action seems to be frowned upon by Sybil, which is probably why Gino keeps getting his knickers in a twist whenever Akane seems to be getting overly obsessed with this Kamui case.

PSYCHO-PASS 2 - 04-03

In some ways what Kamui’s clearing of people’s psycho-pass does is give them back the ability to think independently of the system.  Being able to do and think what you want without constantly having to monitor your psycho-pass or consult with Sybil, is freeing to those who Kamui has provided treatment.  However that freedom seems to be almost too much for his clients to handle after spending a lifetime under Sybil’s restrictions, and they all break down in some way.  And while Kamui does seem to look after his clients and tries to rescue them, ultimately he is using the situations they create to test Sybil and the restrictions placed on the Dominators.

In this scenario he wanted to know if an Inspector could be judged by a Dominator if their hue was clouded, but I’m not really sure what he plans to do with that knowledge since I’m fairly sure it will be difficult to isolate an Inspector in this manner again.  The introduction of a new type of Assault Dominator capable of shooting through walls also ups the intrigue.  It seems this kind of Dominator doesn’t identify the target before advising elimination – it can read crime coefficient and hue through walls, but not identities, which is why Aoyanagi ended up dead despite being an Inspector.  Normally if an Inspector is locked onto, the display will inform the user / Sybil and they can take action accordingly.  I can’t imagine it is normal for an experienced Inspector to be eliminated straight away, Sybil usually wants to retain their skills and have them work as Enforcers instead.  Hell just look at Togane  – he has the highest recorded crime coefficient and wasn’t flat out killed by Sybil because they seem to have some use for him.

So yes this may have been a very heavy handed episode, but it does get its point across very clearly.  Psycho-Pass 2 has to be a touch more economical with its episodes since it has half the runtime of season 1, and while I am aware of this, some of the writing really does bother me in its lack of delicacy.  Mika is really the main culprit – the way she’s been written makes her utterly repellent most of the time and makes her role as Akane’s mirror tough to swallow.  Most of the time Mika just comes off as being bitchy for the sake of being bitchy, so when she does get her proper wake-up call and starts listening to Akane’s viewpoint, I still don’t think I’ll like her.

Looking forward to the next episode, but do hope they are a bit more subtle with the tone in future.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. November 3, 2014 12:55 am

    I’ve been loving S2 but yeah, subtly has never been the shows strongest feature. Shimotsuki is really getting thrown under the bus too and that’s disappointing cause like you said, at this rate I won’t like her even if and when she does turn her attitude around.

    • November 3, 2014 3:29 pm

      Yeah Psycho-Pass has never really perfected subtlety. It is a real shame about Mika’s character though, they’ve really ruined any chance she had to be likeable at this point, and she looks x10 worse when contrasted with Akane.

  2. November 3, 2014 7:36 am

    I agree that this episode, while quite effective, doesn’t exactly take pains to be subtle with its messages. I wish this season had more episodes – even season one, heavy-handed as it sometimes was, showed itself capable of solid build-up – but season two just can’t afford to waste any time, and I think that’s probably a detriment to the writing. Still, I can’t deny I’m drawn in regardless. Overstated or not, the story itself continues to be compelling.

    • November 3, 2014 3:31 pm

      The change in writer and studio hasn’t really done the show a lot of favours – the strength of the concept saves the series. I am still really enjoying this sequel, but also wish it had more time to expand on its ideas.

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