Psycho-Pass Newbie Recap: Episode 4, “Nobody Knows Your Mask”
"It's impossible to participate in the social networks if you're afraid of anonymity."
When we were first introduced to the world of Psycho-Pass, it was evident that the interplay between technology and conventional humanity would be one of the, if not the, most interesting things of the series. But in episode four, we get a glimpse at how deep this connection and conflict runs—and perhaps our first real interaction with the show’s true antagonist.
We open on Akane’s URL adventures, or rather, the dazzling visual manifestation of the online clusters we see from the outside as virtual domains. Being both young and plugged in, she—like many IRL teens and young adults—seeks advice for her problems from online sources. In this case, the source is a literally shadowy figure named Talisman, whose digital “saloon” operates as a sort of demented circus-meets-Dear Abby spectacle.
This has got me wondering what some of my favorite websites would look like in their “virtual wonderland” formats. Google would definitely look like Bruce Almighty’s God room.
Using the classic “asking for a friend” maneuver, Akane asks Talisman what to do with Kogami, upon whom she’s (understandably) fixated. He tells her one thing; he does another, and it’s leaving her confused as to both what she can expect from him and how much she can trust him at his word. Talisman, for his part, sees right through her query: “It sounds like she might want him to be something he’s not,” before advising Akane’s “friend” to tap into Kogami’s “true character.” But that’s just the problem: Kogami let his guard down once and she saw what he could/wants to be; but when he’s actually in the field, another set of instincts—one totally alien to Akane—kicks in.
Aside: That virtual reality gear seems really cool, but it looks like Hello Kitty met Samus.
Talisman’s advice in her mind, Akane decides to plumb someone else for Kogami information: The ever-patient Masaoka, who gamely goes along with what is essentially his boss’s request for more information on an underling.
For his part, he lays down both the reality and the ramifications of wanting to get to know and understand Kogami: the process will turn Akane into a latent criminal as well, since that’s the real core of Kogami’s nature (and his obtuse nature is the reason for his Psycho Pass’s cloudiness). Between dropping a lil’ Nietzsche and making his colleague sound like a true nihilist nightmare (“I get the impression that he’s convinced the only place justice actually exists is within the depths of that darkness.” DAMN), he tells Akane just enough to have her wondering about the Enforcers’ secret natures… when her query is again cut off by a call from Ginoza.
The case of the week: a missing man named Kimihiko Hayama, whose broken toilet roused enough suspicion from his housing management enough for the police (sorry, Public Safety Bureau) to be brought in. The missing man’s been out for two months, but just as baffling as the notion that somebody could disappear from the show’s hypersecure world is the fact that the man was unemployed. (Akane literally gasps when she hears that bit of information.)
So, how did this man maintain a living at all? Turns out, he’s financially sponsored by an “affiliate service provider” by virtue of his influence in the virtual world. But without any new influxes of income, the Enforcers are right to immediately suspect foul play—a suspicion confirmed when they discover evidence that the room’s been shifted around.
The scene also confirms how IRL/virtual hologram projections work, something that bugged me during earlier scenes with Akane’s apartment.
Kogami, playing detective (more like a shark on the scent of blood), gleefully gets into how Hayama’s murderers killed him and then disposed of the body. The toilet that set off management’s trail? The likely resting place for Hayama’s dissembled parts.
Us too, Akane.
What would make Hayama a likely target for murder? You’re never gonna guess this (you’ll definitely guess this): He was the man behind Talisman! Except, you already know that Akane just spoke to Talisman. This case goes from traditional murder case and takes on a whiff of commentary re: the nature of Internet fame and personalities—something that is all too appropriate, given the rising profiles of our modern day social media stars.
This screencap makes it look like Kogami is/was Talisman, which would’ve been a REAL twist, considering what happens next.
Back at headquarters, Shion (to refresh: lusty lady tech genius) reveals that while someone is definitely still using the Talisman avatar, it’s difficult to track him down. However, one way that the PSB team could establish contact is if somebody made moves on Talisman in the virtual world, and got him to spill some information about his real-life identity. Considering Akane’s already spoken to new!Talisman, she gets to speak to him again, this time accompanied by a silver dollar hologram Ginoza.
This is just sloppy—in a virtual world populated with giant, kawaii animals, he went for a coin.
Also, it took me until then to realize that Akane’s virtual avatar was a jellyfish version of herself. The girl needs hobbies.
But before Akane and Ginoza can make contact with Talisman in his topsy turvy world, he disappears into yet another Commufield (the show’s term for the virtual forums brought to life in digital reality). This one, with a set straight out of Nightmare Before Christmas, is ruled over by Spooky Boogie—an anarchist hanging cat with a following straight out of a social media nightmare. Akane warns the team to tread carefully in this world, given Spooky’s chaotic and anti-government persona, but before Ginoza can make a real plan of action, she disappears.
This is simply a lovely shot.
Where did jelly!Akane pop off to? None other than a private chat with Spooky herself, in a water lily-filled, water-resplendent, self-contained virtual tea room. In it, Spooky interrogates Akane’s Lemonade Candy avatar before revealing that she knows IRL Akane from school—and thus, IRL Akane’s profession. Before Akane totally freaks out, Spooky reveals that she’s down to work with the PSB team to take on the fake Talisman, and shares that 1) about two months ago, Talisman began getting more money and power hungry, turning off a lot of his supporters and fueling his haters, and 2) that his image has since bounced back.
This is simply a lovely shot, part two.
In an online popularity power play, Spooky sets a trap: A real-world meet-up for her fans, which also doubles as a duel with Talisman for something called the “White Crown.” Which has the Inspectors and Enforcers asking, “How exactly is this going to work?” (And made me uncertain as to the longevity of her character.)
Always trust someone who looks like this. Whatever a case, she is an excellent cosplay choice.
The key: Holo-cosplay, which allows people to bring their online personalities onto real world dance floors. Though the Enforcers spend a conversation mocking those people (D:), Akane understands them and the desire to escape from your could-be mundane daily life. With that, she activates her Dominator and slips on her holo-cosplay to seek out Talisman’s true identity.
She needs to reconsider her hologram option though.
However, turns out Talisman’s imposter isn’t stupid; in fact, he has a creepy wingman watching over the procedures. After the latter realizes there’s a Dominator in the club, he sets off an ear-splitting signal…
…which hacks the holograms of everybody at the party. This, understandably, is unsettling—and becomes a full-blown raid when the Enforcers blow their cover in an attempt to suss out the real, fake Talisman.
This is actual nightmare fuel.
Understandably, Talisman then goes to confront Spooky Boogie in her Halloween world; though there’s no proof behind his assertion that she set him up, given the precarious nature of online fame, Spooky logs out (thus revealing her real-life appearance) and swears to block Talisman from her Commufield. Except, she never has a chance to do so: the real, fake Talisman (this is confusing) is there with her, and after strangling her, prepares to take her apart as he had the real Talisman.
But wait—closing out the episode is a shot of none other than Shogo Makishima, the white-haired man/Kogami’s nemesis who opened up the show! What does he have to do with these online personalities disappearing? Why does he want to collect virtual world influence? And can the show be any more thematically transparent than when it reveals his reading choice?
Perhaps it would’ve been too obvious to go with Hacking for Dummies.
Well, it seems as though the season’s real story is finally starting. How deep is Kogami’s pain? Will Akane ever learn anything substantial about her co-workers? Where’s Kunizaka? We’ll have to wait ’til next week.
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