Psycho-Pass Halfway Recap

I’m halfway through Psycho-Pass! Which means it’s time to take stock of some of my theories now. No screen-caps in this post—and no spoiler warnings either. If you’re looking to start watching and want to read my snarky thoughts, you can start from the beginning.

(Note: This show is definitely disturbing—violent and occasionally gruesome. Keep that in mind when deciding to watch it.)

Let’s start with Episode 1, where I came up with these three Probable Recurring Themes.

  1. Ginoza warns Tsunemori that she shouldn’t think of the Enforcers as real people; they are “beasts used to hunt beasts.”
  2. “Psycho-Hazard”, a.k.a. “Crime is Contagious”, a.k.a. “Being in Stressful Situations is Stressful”

Ginoza is Not Happy with Tsunemori, and she’s left to brood during the closing credits, (presumably) wondering how to reconcile her violation of procedure with the fact that she actually saved a woman’s life today.

“Beasts Used to Hunt Beasts”

I was pretty on the nose with this one, although it was an easy guess. But this has actually shown up a lot less than I thought. Episode 1 made it sound like the Enforcers were barely-contained bundles of criminal impulses that got shipped around in a glowing box-van when they weren’t on duty, but nearly every single episode since just has them as hardened detectives, like on normal cop shows…with the slight exception of Kogami’s reckless plan in Episode 3. (Tsunemori goes out of her way to compare him to a “carnivore” in the aftermath.)

This was actually a little disappointing, though in keeping with the Minority Report inspiration I’d heard about even before I started. These aren’t rehabilitated criminals (also a common trope); they’re just normal people with circumscribed lives, and—if Sibyl is to be believed—the capacity to become criminals. A sort of willingness to think outside the law that makes them dangerous. Thinking they were monsters made me less surprised in Episode 1 when Tsunemori had to shoot Kogami than I might have been otherwise; at that point for all I knew this happened all the time.

(But it did set a particular tone for the start of their relationship, and so while it might have been a stronger action if we had already known more, it would have been very different if they had already known each other. Imagine Tsunemori doing it at this point in the show.)

(Hm. That could definitely come up again.)

There are good parts in this area, the main one being finally starting to understand that Ginoza’s strictness and his anger come from insecurity and specific traumas rather than just disdain for the “latent criminals”. Besides that, it’s useful structurally to have Kogami know that there’s nothing waiting for him but a jail cell (and the same, to a lesser extent, for all the others). But it makes me wonder about the system. Maybe it’s just as simple as they say it is—

If the Enforcers are better at solving crimes, and solving crimes is dangerous to one’s mental health, then it makes sense for the Inspectors to act as “handlers” and liaisons but not actually attempt to do any criminalizing themselves.

—like seniors volunteering to clean up the nuclear waste around Fukushima I

—but something still feels off.

I would have loved to see another Inspector/Enforcer team, and I would have loved to hear about past Enforcers who did decide to escape. But despite having a chief above them, Ginoza and Tsunemori seem to be the only such team, at least in their precinct. (Evidence: Tsunemori is immediately on call in Episode 2, despite having been on a hard case the day before.) I don’t expect to see any others, but then again, I didn’t expect these three either.

“Psycho-Hazard”

Has not come up at all. (I’m not counting the robot killer from Episode 3.) There was a chance with Yuki but…well.

Violation of Procedure

Surprisingly, this also hasn’t come up too much. Sure, Tsunemori and Ginoza have butted heads quite a bit by now, and Tsunemori’s definitely making bold and potentially rash decisions, but there hasn’t been the same following-the-rules vs. saving-a-life conflict. …unless you count Episode 11.

Hm, maybe I should count Episode 11.

Anyway, it’s there, it shows up every now and then, but I haven’t been feeling it as a Big Issue or a Main Theme. I’m still willing to bet on it for the second half, though, because of…

Sibyl

So far the interaction with Sibyl and the Psycho-Pass system and everything has been oblique. We see how the system is supposed to work, we see how it affects people like Kagari, we see how it affects people like Oryo Rikako’s dad (“serenity”). We see how Ginoza’s work is based around it and what Makishima and Senguji (Tunnel Boss) think of it. But until Episode 11, we haven’t seen any big gaping holes or problems.

(Okay, I count Kagari as a problem, but the society doesn’t currently.)

Nevertheless, my experience with sci-fi stories says this has to ramp up considerably in the second half. It’s not wrong to set up an interesting world and then tell a story that’s just set there, rather than one that tears it down…but in the case of Psycho-Pass I just don’t see that as the likely outcome. I can point again to Minority Report, but really I’ll call back to Isaac Asimov’s “The Evitable Conflict” (part of the I, Robot anthology), which I first latched on to way back in Episode 3. If you don’t have that on hand, you can also check out the different-but-similar story of “Turry” by Tim Urban at Wait But Why (search for “Robotica”).

To summarize, there doesn’t have to be any malice in Sibyl to set up a system like this, or for it to go wrong, or even for Makishima’s…condition…to be intentional. I really don’t know how this part is going to play out, but I know it’s not just going to be a Makishima-hunt for the next eleven episodes.

Also, I said this already in Episode 11, but I totally called this back in Episode 4:

Ginoza points out again that “if his Crime Coefficient indicates him a target for enforcement, the game is ours”. The first time I heard this I figured it was a repeat of the theme I’ve been driving at, that they’re more about enforcing Psycho-Pass levels than actually catching criminals. Now I’m thinking that it’s really the other way around: if the person […] has a normal Psycho-Pass level, they don’t have many options, even though there’s clearly something wrong.

&c.

  • We haven’t heard anything else about Tsunemori shooting Kogami, and so I think I’ll have to retire my theory that he told her to do it.

  • I like all of Tsunemori’s side activities, but so far they’ve all found their way into the main plot as well (the internet-ing, the cafe friends). The only thing that hasn’t is the jellyfish, and I’m betting that will at some point as well (even if it’s just Makishima hacking it to send her a message). Can’t there just be a bit of life that doesn’t get dragged into the plot?

  • I’m really interested to see what Tsunemori’s Psycho-Pass will be reported as tomorrow. Something’s messed up if she’s still “powder blue”.

  • Senguji is dead. Where will Makishima get his resources from from now on? Ah, well, “charisma”.

  • Still no Kunizuka episode, though I’ve been told that’s actually Episode 12.

  • Hey, wait a minute, is the tower in the special Episode 1 opening the MWPSB office? What’s Makishima doing there?

“MWPSB-what-now?”

Of course, I’ve been putting a lot of snark and jokes into all these posts, but one in particular might have snuck by. The 公安局 is translated as “MWPSB” in English, an acronym whose expansion I’ve long since forgotten. In all of the episode posts, though, I’ve been writing whatever I feel like, as long as the acronym starts with “M”.

(For those wondering, it’s something like “Public Safety Bureau” in Japanese. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what the “PSB” is in English.)

However, these aren’t just random sequences of letters! Every single one has a particular reason, usually an existing unrelated acronym. Some of these are pretty obvious—the first one was “MNOPQ”—but others are more obscure references. The guidelines I’ve been following are that the whole thing has to be at least five letters and that ideally it should look like it’s intended to be read as its initials rather than trying to pronounce it as a word.1 The leading “M” may or may not be part of the reference.

I’ve mentioned the MWPSB by “name” sixteen times by now (plus one hidden in an image caption which I won’t count), and will probably have about that many show up in the next eleven episodes. So here’s the deal: if you can figure out all of my references after Epsiode 22, I will…

…write and record a rap about Psycho-Pass.

Yep.

(this is appropriate because the primary recommender for this show was LEX)


That’s about it. I blazed through the first half in about five weeks; expect the second half to take longer (especially since my reading partner for Umineko just finished their finals). I figure I’ll probably still get through about one a week, maybe two, meaning I’ll be done around the beginning of July.

Now watch as the next episode turns out to be a clip show.

  1. Technically this is the difference between an acronym and an initialism, but I’m going to pull the descriptivist card and use “acronym” as a general term. ↩︎

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