Psycho-Pass Newbie Recap: Episode 2, “Those Capable”
Hey all, onto episode two of the techno-action-morality anime Psycho-Pass! The expected character development arcs take off (self-doubt! revenge! uncertainty!), though the plot itself doesn’t move that much, which isn’t to say that it’s static.
When we last touched base, rookie Inspector Akane Tsunemori shot and paralyzed her Enforcer partner/glorified hunting dog Shinya Kogami during the aftermath of hunting an errant, mentally unstable potential-turned-actual criminal. The experience showed Akane beginning to understand the magnitude of her actions during a messy first case, as well as opened up the Psycho-Pass world.
Episode 2 opens right on Kogami’s face. Though the man’s stable, he’s bedridden; the extent of the Paralyzer damage is unclear. This opening sequence is mirrored in our introduction to Akane’s private world:
So, what goes on behind Akane-chan’s quivering brown eyes? Still reeling over shooting Kogami the night before, she’s freaking out, but not enough to cloud her sparkling powder blue Psycho-Pass — a point helpfully made by her virtual jellyfish personal assistant. (Does everybody have these and if so, do the assistants’ animal appearances correlate to the user like His Dark Materials daemons and Harry Potter Patronuses?) As she realizes that all the trauma she just went through was just day one, she reacts about as well as anyone in her position would.
Then, we get into the opening “Abnormalize,” which is a typical “anime action rock anthem” by Ling Tosite Sigure. Though the song doesn’t have much character on its own (though the combination of falsetto parts and metal screaming is, uh, ambitious), its animation sequence provides a lot of clues as to what the series will touch on. There’s the requisite Orphan Black-like “biology” stock imagery, the requisite tech imagery, as well as the “girl’s body silhouette” probably made iconic by Neon Genesis Evangelion, which doesn’t seem like an accident. Here, it’s apparently that Kogami and Akane are the main characters, and they’re even seen facing off directly. It’s a nice touch that there’s nothing super ~*romantic*~, though the tension between the two does appear to be at the crux of the show.
After that treat, we get a better peek at the technology present in the Psycho-Pass world. Akane’s able to modify all aspects of herself and her environment through her jellyfish assistant, as well as through special equipment. As she continues to think through her actions and her place in the Public Defense Squad during the requisite introspective shower shot…
…we’re treated to the mirror/hologram reality of this universe, which seems to rest on real structures but also alter them, e.g. the amenities of her apartment are all there underneath the elaborate stylization, as well as the fact that you can hear the click of her heels when she changes between outfits. (Unclear: Whether these same digital/virtual amenities are available to the common public and/or Enforcers. My guess is no.)
As she runs through her diet regime and has breakfast while naked in her faux-fin de siècle residence, the jellyfish makes a comment about her needing to take supplements for “mental contamination,” playing into my suspicion that having a clear Psycho-Pass is something that’s heavily medicated into being, thus creating a drug market/problem in the world. That said, Akane’s able to go without it, and sets off for a meal with friends.
(A note: As unnecessary as lady nudity often is in all forms of media, in this scene, it’s suggested that clothing is almost a virtual projection blanket on people, albeit one that you can interact with, implying that when a person is naked, that’s the only time they’re actually totally “them” in appearance. With that idea, her nudity is suddenly much more symbolic, and the opening intro, which counterpoints nearly-nude her against a fully-clothed Kogami much more interesting versus, well, you know.)
At said meal with friends, Akane’s demeanor changes, a code switch of the most familiar kind — she’s much more self-deprecating with them, to the point where her self-doubt takes on a comical turn. Yeah, we knew she was at the top of her class already, but did you know she was literally the best and, worst/best of all, she doesn’t struggle with her mental health the way most other people in this world do.
Akane’s conversation doubly confirms the notion that a clear, regular Psycho-Pass is something not natural for most of the population, marking her intelligence and her mental stability as two things going for her. In the face of the Sibyl System’s mental aptitude tests (which remind me of stories I’ve heard about real life governments doing the same thing, namely Maoist China), to be both smart and unquestioning is not necessarily a paradox, but as Akane’s learning on the job and as was iterated by Masaoka last episode, there is indeed a disconnect between expectations and reality.
Yet the Sibyl System itself is ultimately just as dependent on the fallacy between the two; “those chosen” and those who are branded as latent criminals are both groups based on predetermined analysis, but while the former can become the latter, the lack of latter becoming former puts the pressure on to conform and be happy with your lot in life. However, Akane doesn’t feel that particular pressure, though her anxieties come from a clarity in knowing that she had options — which is probably the greatest luxury in this world.
When Akane shows up for her afternoon work shift, we’re introduced to a classic trope: The Sexy Doc, the sexually fluid, boozy and flirtatious Shion Kagaramori.
Her presentation and presumed ah, interaction with Kunizuka (the only female Enforcer in Akane’s squad) makes show-world sense when she reveals that she’s also a latent criminal, bound to work for the PDS in the same way the Enforcers are. Starting off dropping hints as to her and Kogami’s sexual relationship, Kagaramori softens up to Akane after seeing her real distress over causing him harm, and delivers the news that he’ll be okay soon. (That said, a Paralyzer shot into the spinal cord? Akane’s got more PDS merit than she lets on.)
Akane gets onto her day at work, attempting to fill out a report from the night before and self-evaluate her actions on record — basically, laying down her official consensus on the issue that’d been plaguing her all day. But the break in action doesn’t last long, and soon she and Masaoka are on their way to a mall to find someone who’s raising the area’s overall stress level.
As Masaoke and Akane trundle through the mall in ridiculous holo-suits, the two discuss the merits and pitfalls of flagging potentially destabilizing Psycho-Passes. While it makes base sense to try to preemptively stop crimes, the notion that simply thinking about crime and thinking about how criminals act is enough to be flagged is ridiculous, especially in the case of someone like Masaoka, who was formerly a peace officer. Even as he’s charged with taking down potential criminals, and he himself points out that he does think like a criminal, does that mean that he’d be, if released in society, inclined to take on crime? Sibyl thinks yes, but as Akane sees it, he’s basically doing the job that she’d been tasked to do, only she gets the credit while he does the unsung grunt work that makes it all happen.
Her idea of what the Enforcer role is gets further complicated with orange-haired flirt Kagari “joins” her for dinner.
Though he opens the conversation by chatting her up, once he realizes that her indecision and second-guessing comes from having a plethora of chances and opportunities, he turns on her. Akane’s desire to be special within the PDS—to be separated from all the other A-level students who eventually turned to prestigious employment under government and corporations—is noble at its core, but the feeling is lost on Kagari, who was deemed a risk when he was only 5. In revealing that information to Akane and thus the audience, it becomes clear that Sibyl doesn’t account for human emotional and mental intricacy unless it comes in its most distilled positive forms, aka Akane (whom Kagari describes as “like one of those people from back before Sibyl was created” which is !!! news).
Bummed out and thoroughly schooled by that encounter, Akane finally makes her way to visit Kogami, who flips her expectation of their reunion in her face as he thanks her for helping him snap out of his job ennui. As he fell deeper and deeper into the Enforcer role, he began to internalize its inherent violence and growing apathy to the point where he lost sight of it. Though yes, he’s working essentially as indentured prison labor, there’s still an element of good in him, which is why he’s not in therapy or at the receiving end of a lethal Dominator blast — because in the end, he does want to protect people, not hurt them. It took being knocked out by Akane to realize that, and it’ll be under Akane’s guidance that he can work as a detective, “not a dog.”
That said, his speech is peppered with violent flashbacks (in a style introduced at the beginning of the episode) and it’s evident that Kogami has some other business to attend to, presumably the other business that opened the series. The tone shift in this sequence, between his reserved and polite feelings of duty and traditional “goodness” and the revenge-lust that clearly actually drives him, sets up a much darker back half for the series; is Akane to be his tether, or will he take her with him, wherever he goes?
Though the episode ends on a positive note, with Akane finally fully asserting her status in the PDS and taking full responsibility for her actions, I’m intrigued to learn more about the Enforcers and Kagaramori. Of course, it’s easier to be drawn to the anti-heroes in and of themselves, but with golden girl Akane at the center of the story, the questions become where her goodness reaches, how it changes those around her, and what measure of “goodness” holds up in a world that has no patience and little understanding for those who fall out of it.
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