Psycho-Pass II – 03-04 Review
Even more so than Psycho-Pass’ first season, this one lingers on the horror of the monstrous crimes at the centre of the story.
It’s curious how often for me my favorite series of the season isn’t the one I would call the best one. Psycho-Pass is my favorite series of this season. I really look forward to seeing a new episode of this each week. I mean, it’s not on the same level as Person Of Interest’s fourth season, Elementary’s third season or Arrow’s third season but if nothing else, this new season of Psycho-Pass is exciting to watch. Well, as long as you like crime-procedurals, I guess. The second season still hasn’t come even close to reproducing what makes season 01 great and what it’s doing on its own doesn’t deliver as much as what the first season was doing. But hey, it can always get better, right?
Mika’s life is hardly easy, neither is it enjoyable, even less satisfying. She’s a part of the MWPSB. You’d figure seeing two of your best friends die in front of your because some nutcase said “Why not?” would teach you a thing or two about crime that only counts for normal criminals, of course, as Mika had to find out. And if Akane’s record, Mika’s boss, is anything to go by, she doesn’t do ordinary as far as criminals are concerned.
Years of studying and preparing herself to join the MWPSB simply go down the drain because whatever shitty rules she had studied are continuously broken by whatever is happening around her boss. Her boss finds some secret message cut into her walls with NO evidence to even hint at someone other than her having done it and what is the theory everyone agrees on… That it was the bogeyman. Sure, let’s just discount the evidence and immediately go along with whatever harebrained conspiracy Akane has cooked up next!
Naturally she’s right! Mika can’t even imagine how anyone could be SO good at speculating. And the news naturally come together with another embarrassing incident. Aoyanagi gets trapped in some medicine-store and now she’s asked to solve the problem. What problem, she wondered. Clearly it’s just a case of bad luck and everyone will sort itself out without her having to lift a finger.
But then things get weird and that’s when the bogeyman makes his appearance. Some old guy talks about Kamui and he can’t shut up about it – is what Mika gathers from his little speech. He says some other stuff but she has better things to do than to listen to some stupid complaints from a geezer.
But then another Division turns up and just tramples all over her jurisdiction. Turns out, it’s an order from someone way above her paygrade. So her hands are officially tied and she doesn’t even know why those Enforcers with her (except Yayoi, of course) bother her about whether she should do something.
But then everyone comes running out and it’s a real mess, a real bloody mess to be precise. Yep, just another day of Mika’s life.
Naturally Mika immediately adapts an egocentric point of view whenever she’s ordered to do something while the rest of the team does something else.
The first season of this show never showed any real interest in showing the audience why actually anyone would even wanna live in the Sybil-System. Instead of actual benefits, it seemed more like a weird idea everyone was okay with. On the surface, one of the big benefits was supposed to be the lack of crime but with the shit that had happened in the second half of the first season and even more so with what happens currently in this second season, that benefit doesn’t seem that realistic. And I’ve already talked about how this second season is actually kinda doing its own thing and yet I just keep thinking back to the first season. It’s a bit of a contradiction how much of a departure this second season is in style and tone but this second season itself keeps reminding the audience of the first season and so rather than settling in its own routine, the series would rather win points with the audience by referencing the first season.
When Makishima tried to topple the Sybil-System, the MWPSB were obviously the good guys by trying to stop him but the Sybil-System they defended wasn’t exactly virtuous either. That’s why Akane’s decision at the end of the series was such a powerful one. She was simply being an optimist about it. People are happy, that’s all that counts. The interesting thing about the escalation caused by Kamui’s plans is that he’s less attacking the Sybil-System like Makishima, he’s turning the Sybil-System on itself – and the Sybil-System doesn’t even flinch.
There’s a certain sense of horror present in these two episodes that are either by not being able to attack what is evil and you yourself being turned “evil” as fear pushes you to less virtuous actions. Scenes like the one from the third episode where this Inspector is strapped to a chair while she’s forced to stare down the barrel of a dominator as she also can witness how her Psycho-Pass is increasingly getting worse. Or the whole scene with the old man and the Inspector Aoyanagi in that closed off room. That scene is brutal and gets a lot of screentime that depicts the abuse the people receive from that old man and how Aoyanagi is unable to attack him with her Dominator – until she finally decides to try to kill him with a more mundane weapon. Ultimately, though, everyone in that room gets killed by a MWPSB-division as all their Psycho-Passes, Aoyanagi’s included, were way too high.
Those scenes are gripping and very tense but there’s a certain tradeoff happening. And that’s the moment after the episode when you start to think about what exactly had happened and why certain characters hadn’t considered smarter options. More than that, I come back to the first season again and I’m still not really sure why everyone except Akane seems to be completely nonplussed by how someone can do something evil while they can keep their Psycho-Pass low. Also, they aren’t just non-plussed, those people from MWPSB are practically helpless. The shock of finding out that the Sybil-System doesn’t work as intended seems to override any common sense these characters have. Stuff like Aoyanagi not even suspecting a trap and leaving her Enforcers outside. Those Enforcers not immediately thinking it has been a setup once the location shuts down all of a sudden and the area-stress-level is rising. And I don’t understand why Aoyanagi didn’t even consider simply subduing the old man without a Dominator and without hurting him too much, either. I doubt that something like that would’ve affected her Psycho-Pass much, especially considering that there was empirical proof in front of her eyes that he was hurting innocents. This series goes way too far with portraying the Sybil-System as being completely foolproof. The small scope of the first season really helped a great deal there as it was more about how individual characters perceived the Sybil-System and less a general statement as it has been this season. Now it’s not just Akane being shocked how Makishima can have such a low Psycho-Pass-number, now it’s some random side-character being unable to even comprehend the notion of a criminal not having a high Psycho-Pass-number.
But that’s the thing: What exactly is a Psycho-Pass measuring? Everything and nothing is what the answer seems to be. The measuring isn’t complex enough to take into account why someone’s Psycho-Pass has risen and what dangerous emotion is at the heart of that change in numbers. And it isn’t just measuring your urge to do evil stuff. After all, panicked people who would try to murder their kidnapper in self-defense are as much targets for a Dominator-execution as their kidnappers are. The first season had done a lot of great storytelling in undermining the value of a Psycho-Pass. Clearly it was far from perfect and it was even worse than a little “the exception proves the rule”-flaw. Yet here we are again treading the very same ground with characters who have to come to terms with the revelation the first season already had thoroughly established.
I’ve also talked about how the philosophical undertones of the show have been pushed back and have been replaced by cop-show-shenanigans. Well, you can definitely see how much this show has decreased its intellectual ambitions with that laughable scene where the chief Kasei, that elderly woman, tells Akane that her new enforcer Mitsuru Sasayama has been registered having the highest Psycho-Pass-number ever measured. What the hell does that even mean?! And you can see that the series doesn’t really seem to know the answer to that, either, as Akane is mostly just shrugging because what else is she gonna do about that, right? I’ve always pictured people like Hannibal Lecter being the sort of guys with a really high Psycho-Pass-Number… then again, as a villain he naturally would have a VERY low Psycho-Pass-number instead, I guess.
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But all those are just little niggles that don’t really take away from my enjoyment I have watching this second season so far. There’s only ONE exception and that’s Mika. Seriously, just kill her off already! Give her a big speech or let her save someone or something! Anything just to get her away from this series! I don’t give a damn at this point! The nicest description of her character is that she’s actively being unhelpful. She has only two modes, it seems: Mode One is lusting after Yayoi and Mode Two is nagging. And then there are these contrasts like her ordering that red-haired Enforcer to stop doing what Akane told him to do because now SHE is in command. But as soon as another Division appeared and told her she has been relieved of her command, she’s just petrified and backed down immediately. That sort of thing makes her VERY unlikeable. And the series has given her absolutely NO redeeming qualities. What the hell are the writers thinking portraying a character in such a prominent role like that? I get it that she isn’t really on-board with Akane’s unorthodox genius-methods but it’s not like she has to behave like a complete asshole all the time. Just take the fact for example that Mika had been attending that all-girl-school from the first season and two of her friends got murdered. So where is that background come into play with her characterization? Her character is simply obnoxious right now.
Another character that had both a role to play in the third and the fourth episode was Saiga, the one who taught Kogami and educated Akane about deduction, crime-stuff and so on. I really liked his character in the first season as he was a detective without the zealous drive to actively hunt criminals. Rather he took a scholarly interest in crime and the people who commit crimes. That gave him an altogether different perspective and once again in both episodes Akane consults him as an expert. Although both times I felt like his advice wasn’t that insightful. Especially the lengthy dialogue in the third episode between him and Akane basically boiled down to “Akane has a hunch, no incriminating evidence but there’s indirect proof of the culprit existing.”. All that devil-proof-stuff was just a unnecessary metaphor for a fairly simple problem.
Although it could’ve been easy but instead the series had this “Has Akane gone crazy?”-topic up for discussion. Naturally the whole thing was only half-heartedly pursued and was mostly just a waste of time. Well, with the exception of Mika, of course. She is always ready to doubt Akane and insult her. The plot-thread of Aoyanagi felt kinda artificial as well in retrospect. I hadn’t thought much of it when she and Ginoza had this melancholic talk in Episode 03 and she leaves saying something like “Glad I can talk to you like that now. Hope we can do that again soon.”. And then she dies in the next episode. Yep, it’s certainly not the most elegant kind of storytelling.
This show is ultimately about chasing down a monstrous criminal now. And ultimately it’s about Akane and her team being the only ones capable of stopping him. All the undertones of more complex issues at work here and Kamui having something to say simply become background-noise if this pattern of “people do evil stuff and nobody knows what do about it – except Akane” continues. The third and fourth episodes have done a lot to make Kamui and his followers seem monstrous while the MWPSB is incapable of properly persecuting them. And the fourth episode further insulated Division 01 as the only heroes who can save the day when another Division has indiscriminately shot down a lot of innocents with very high Psycho-Passes. At this point, the one thing this series has going for itself is its tension, either the one in the face of Kamui’s monstrosity or the way Akane gets closer to catching Kamui through her deductions. All the more subtle undertones kinda take a backrow-seat in this very straightforward battle of a policeforce trying to catch a dangerous criminal.
Episode-Rating: 3rd Episode: 7.0/10 4th Episode: 7.5/10
- There are a lot of scenes of Akane doing smart deductions in the company of Sakuya and Ginoza. But really, it’s just her speculating a lot. Those theoretical deductions are all fine and dandy but she really should do a bit more actual policework, I feel like. Just looking at a crime-scene really long and finding out everything about the killer is a tad too plot-convenient. It isn’t even about her being too smart, it’s more about simply not a lot happening when she’s just standing in a room talking a lot of shit that somehow turns out to be true.
- I’ve joked that I would imagine a guy with a high Psycho-Pass-Number to be someone like Hannibal Lecter but Sakuya actually IS a therapist. I really hope his background doesn’t make him out to be some Hannibal-Lecter-clone. Also: watch Hannibal, that new TV-series, it’s great.
- Mika’s infatuation with Yayoi is doomed to end on a sad note, I feel like. After all, it’s already been established that Yayoi and Shion are lovers. Unless they want to be really cheesy and kill off Shion which then leads to Mika actually having a chance with Yayoi that way. Well, my favourite version would be of course every version where Mika dies at the end. Because, fuck Mika! She’s an awful character!