Psycho-Pass II – 06/07 Review

[HorribleSubs] PSYCHO-PASS 2 - 07 [480p].mkv - 00001What, after all the times Sibyl had been incapable of stopping shit from hitting the fan? Well, I feel like Sybil has indeed earned itself some sarcastic remarks.

Psycho-Pass is one of those sequels that I think I would like it more if it weren’t a sequel. This season has ideas, knows how to handle characters in a straightforward fashion and knows how to instil a police-investigation-story with action and some plot-twists. But here’s the thing: It isn’t as good as Psycho-Pass’ first season. The difference in quality also just heightens the flaws of this second season as its new characters are mostly one-note and not very interesting. Especially Mika who isn’t just one-note but also incredibly unlikeable. After seven episodes “getting better” definitely comes too late; who knows, whether such a thing will even happen. Right now, it certainly seems like the producers of the show had made a mistake by not having let Gen Urobuchi write this second season.

Synopsis:

Games… They destroy lives. Innocent people’s hunger for entertainment turned into fuel for some sick simulation of violence and heinous murder. But what if… what if it isn’t a simulation, what if all those terrible gamers were to be able to kill people… IN REAL FUCKING LIFE!

Doesn’t that make you think? Who are the bad guys and who are the good guys? All profound questions indirectly asked by Kamui as he hands thousands of innocent people to tools to obliviously become instruments of a murder-spree. Makishima would’ve probably quoted Nietzsche or something about how for something new to be created something old needs to be burned down. But Kamui isn’t a thinker, of course, he just wants to see every idiot squirm so that he can be their savior and so that those worms can revere him for being their savior.

So, he isn’t actually THAT smart and so Akane should be able to catch him within seconds with her super-detective-mind but there are other problems she has to deal with… The first one is of course Miss Always-Ready-To-Fuck-Up Mika. Of course she didn’t notice shy Hacker-dude sending her important information about the case! Why would she?! It’s not like she’s more interested in pursuing personal, foolish quests that don’t really have any goal besides her not liking that particular person. The other obstacle for Akane is the Sybil-System which is unnecessarily obtuse in aiding Akane in her investigation. And then Akane also has to deal with that serial killer Sasayama on her team who has made it a hobby to corrupt his superiors in order to shoot them with a Dominator.

But luckily the team has found a new lead in the form of some doctor who knows Kamui. Naturally he’s as brainwashed as all the other weirdos who support Kamui but at least he’s ready to spread the “gospel”. So, I guess, we will all find out what the deal is with Kamui.

[HorribleSubs] PSYCHO-PASS 2 - 06 [480p].mkv - 00005I don’t even think that Mika is trying to follow the manual at this point… She’s just incompetent, that’s all.

Review:

Once again with the sixth episode we get an episode that focuses more on plot than story but this time around, the series manages to instill the episode with more action than in the last episode. This series really works at its best when it can proceed at a fast pace without lingering too long on any moment. Increasingly it becomes clear that this season lacks the depth and complexity to really have any sort of meaningful quiet scenes. Psycho-Pass has become an action-series above all with this season…

At least, you would like to think that but then you have this 7th episode which is the complete opposite of the last episode and it’s all about story with not a lot of plot. And where you had this great tension in the 6th episode thanks to its fast-paced action, the 7th episode basically just serves the audience one infodump or revelation after another. There isn’t some sort of elaborate rhythm at the heart of this series, it’s really just this fanatical dedication to how a scene is either a story-scene or a plot-scene – while it never can be both at the same time, it seems. The pacing of this series seems so stop-and-go because characters either stand around figuring things out or they rush into action without ever having a plan or a deeper understanding of what’s going on around them.

The need for this dense pacing becomes obvious after each episode has ended and you’re left to wonder why things have happened in a certain way and whether that stuff even makes sense. And it’s a bit painful to realize that this series isn’t as thorough in its internal plot-logic as you might like. Especially since the first season was so intelligent and actually tried to create layers of meaning within its story, it’s a demanding change of pace to get this sort of plot which demands a lot of suspense of disbelief. With the sixth episode, it’s easier to accept that because it’s all about action but in the 7th episode you really have just those characters talking about shit A LOT. Neither feels like an organic development, though, as it feels like the series is trying too hard in shoving something down your throat piece by piece.

The game-plot of the sixth episode is utterly ridiculous. Beginning with the simple notion that Kamui is such a great hacker to have created such an elaborate trap for the MWPSB, the list of preposterous things Kamui is able to do just goes on and on. Before this little arc Kamui hasn’t shown any such hacking-abilities and considering how much of a Big-Brother-state the Sybil-System is, wouldn’t the MWPSB be able to attain some sort of suspect-list considering how few people would be capable of what Kamui had done?

Also the explanations for why it’s impossible to stop everyone from playing the game was a tad too convoluted, I feel like. It reeked of the script-writers’ desperate attempt to somehow create some logic within the episode because without it certain other scenes they had in mind wouldn’t make sense. It just doesn’t feel very organic how omnipotent Kamui’s hacking-skills are and how things just get more and more ridiculous as every action of the MWPSB is turning into another elaborate trap.

And the bad script-writing continues in the 7th episode as one of the major story-breakthroughs of the episode is based on some story-convenient fuckup for which the hacker-Enforcer and (naturally) Mika are responsible. It’s just this weird too-convenient moment of “Hey, here’s this important piece of information the audience didn’t know I had and that I hadn’t mentioned before for some reason…”. It’s supposed to be some sort of plottwist that is supposed to make sense in hindsight but here’s the thing… It’s bullshit. A good director may have actually known how to set up such a plottwist but the fact is that when back then the Hacker-enforcer was searching for the hologram, Mika interrupted him and the series made us believe that he had stopped looking for the Hologram. That scene was straightforward, there was no ambiguity there! It’s not a plottwist when it adds ambiguity to scenes in a flashback! It has to already be there for that stuff to work!

[HorribleSubs] PSYCHO-PASS 2 - 07 [480p].mkv - 00002Isn’t it weird how the dialogue doesn’t really acknowledge how Akane is all for “Let’s change the rules so that I can catch Kamui!” while the chief is saying “How about you do something illegal instead with my own unofficial agreement?”. Apparently Sybil is all about “The exception proves the rule” when it comes to its own laws.

Ideologically Akane spells out the purpose of the sixth episode’s little hacking-adventure: What color are people who kill without knowing that they’re killing people? That’s a preposterous justification for an experiment. After all, the people are naturally innocent because they’ve been lied to. The only one who’s guilty is the one who sold those people the lie that kept them from realizing that they’re killing people. And maybe this is what the episode was actually driving at: That all the people at the MWPSB could keep their Psycho-Pass clear while killing people because they believed the lie the Sybil-System told them about what the Psycho-Pass means. This feels like a more fitting interpretation of Kamui’s efforts to me in that it was less about the people who played the Hungry Chicken game and more about how those people are similar to the MWPSB-people. But I feel like that’s just my take on it. The episode itself really concentrated more on the people who played Hungry Chicken and how innocent they seemed while they unknowingly murdered people.

And the 7th episode picks up at the beginning by showing Mika work her ass off trying to contain the sudden rise in the area-stress-level and to eliminate/paralyze those whose Psycho-Pass has gotten too high due to their exposure to the game. What this scene implicates is that Hungry Chicken is still active as a game and yet after the Opening it is dropped as a subject. The fate of the general populace feels even more perfunctory than in the first season (where the general populace already only mattered when it was convenient for the story and the plot). This is a series about the MWPSB doing police-stuff.

As for the action-scenes in the sixth episode… They were nice in that they were fast-paced and somewhat tense. If you try to make sense of what the Hungry Chicken game is doing, there really should’ve been more mechas running around considering how everyone and his dog in the city was able to play that game. Then again, sometimes there ARE a lot of mechas running around… but other times there are only a couple running around. It was never really clear just how much mechas were active and where they were running around. They just appeared in big numbers for one action-setpiece where supposedly all of them were destroyed. With what the MWPSB doing at the Headquarters, how Kamui and Shisui ran around using their Dominators, how innocent people played Hungry Chicken and how Akane and the rest tried to survive things understandably became a little frantic and it was kinda hard to really figure out what the situation was except in the barest terms.

Mika is still the one-woman-show where everything that can go wrong, goes wrong. What’s even the point of her having some realization that she’s a horrible person? And the writing for this realization is comically self-aware as if she was slightly schizophrenic. First she earnestly wishes something bad would happen to Akane and then she’s like “Wait, what the hell am I saying?”, after which she just moves on confused. What’s the point of such a characterization? Nobody trusts her to do her job and meanwhile she’s just busy trying to ruin everybody else’s attempts to do their jobs. And her fuck-up in the 7th episode is just ridiculous as it just underlines her appearance of being the most incompetent member of the main-cast.

Mika is clearly an unlikeable character but there’s “unlikeable” and there’s unlikeable. Villains for example don’t have to be likeable to still seem like good characters. Comical characters could be unlikeable but that unlikeable behavior is part of a joke. And then there are dramatic characters that also can be unlikeable – because that’s just how they seem. By exploring a character and giving him depth, unlikeable behavior just becomes one layer of his personality. But right now Mika isn’t a very deep character, her unlikeable behavior is all she has to offer in terms of characterization. Mika NEEDS more depth because her current portrayal just makes her look stupid and unsympathetic. And that isn’t only important because her characterization is bad. Let’s face it: Mika would be the perfect candidate for a noble sacrifice at the end of the third act of this season. If Mika’s characterization doesn’t improve, though, such a moment won’t have much of an impact considering that nobody will give a shit about Mika’s sacrifice.

Well, actually Mika managed to do something: She uncovered Sasayama’s obsession with Akane. And in the sixth episode it’s also revealed that Sasayama wants to corrupt Akane. Either he’s playing the long game or this series is doing a bad job of showing Sasayama actually trying to do that. You have to remember: This is the sixth episode. And we’ve already found out that Sasayama is a real baddie. And last episode we’ve found out that he’s fixated on Akane. All were treated as some sort of revelations and the series is clearly trying to establish a character-arc here as well as a sub-plot. But in the end you gotta wonder: What for? What’s the point of all this? It’s such a blunt, straightforward characterization and plot-line. The obsession-aspect of Sasayama is a rather derivative psychopath-plot-device that has been used countless times to the point where it lacks any sort of impact. And the episode didn’t deliver on the visual side either to communicate the obsession. He just had all those creepy photos in one drawer. Also, Shintarou Asanuma’s voice-performance isn’t very suitable here. I mean, he’s a good voice-actor overall but for this particular role he makes Sasayama seem way too disciplined and professional. There’s nothing sinister about his character that would make you believe he has a real chance of corrupting Akane. And then the 7th episode adds that tacked-on “revelation” how Sasayama had made a habit of corrupting his superiors, so that he could shoot them with his Dominator. I mean, okay… so what? Let’s assume he’s a bit of a serial killer in this way but that should be more than just this little shtick.

Another trend continues in this episode as Akane remains the one true hero of the series – except it’s done in a way that’s kinda cheesy. This series really should stop coinciding discoveries made by one character in one place and in a totally different place Akane is somehow able to deduce that discovery at the same time. The way these last three episodes cut between Saiga and Akane figuring out Kamui’s plan wasn’t very elegant and seemed cooler than it made sense. If Akane can solve every mystery by just thinking aloud long enough, I don’t know why there even needs to be a team. Really, Akane is the one who pulls ALL the strings in the MWPSB, it seems. But that is only, of course, because every other string that isn’t pulled by her is pulled by fucking idiots, it seems. Akane has become a stereotypical super-cop and there are few individual character-moments that identify her as the Akane from the first season (who didn’t have much depth in that season but at least had a good character-arc).

And the point of every other string-puller in this series being an idiot or overpowered is totally proven by the dialogue between Akane and the chief. In a way, it’s a very self-aware dialogue as it addresses a lot of the continuity-problems in this season so far. Saiga is a nice touch but blunt references like this aren’t enough. The series needs to establish a sense of moving forward. Instead, though, there’s this sense of “Here we go again…” without some progress that clearly shows the difference between what has happened in the first season and the second season. Sure, the writers have changed between seasons and it has been some time since the first season originally aired but come on! That’s why they aired Psycho-Pass: Extended after all! You know what would’ve been great? If Kamui would’ve been caught in the second or third episode because the MWPSB no longer is paralyzed by facing a criminal whose Psycho-Pass doesn’t register him as a criminal although he is one obviously. Like some sort of technological advancement where not only the personal judgment influences the Psycho-Pass of a person but also what other persons think of him. And now see where that leads to story-wise!

But back to the actual dialogue in the seventh episode, you get this feeling like the story is just trying to explain away why the Sybil-System wouldn’t do more to help Akane. It just seems so foolishly self-confident of the Sybil-System to be just like “Yeah, yeah, just shoot him with a gun or something…”. The Sybil-System is saying that while doing NOTHING to help Akane do exactly that. And what’s the point of even being mysterious with Akane at this point? At this point the Sybil-System is more or less just the cranky, secretive, powerful boss who wants his best dude to do his dirty work without uncovering some embarrassing secret.

This season is far too devoted to the first season and is incapable of continuing it at the same time! Actually these two episodes were really good on their own terms. The action was entertaining and the story-developments were equally interesting. But the story, the characters and the suspense of disbelief involved with the plot – that’s all stuff that generally wouldn’t be a problem if you want to be an action-heavy cop-show with a sci-fi-twist. The first season was so much more, though, and this second season has neither done enough to distinguish itself nor has it been able to successfully copy the efforts of the first season. Overall, the best way to describe the second season so far is simply to call it “inferior”.

Episodes-Rating: 7.0/10

Random Thoughts:

  • Akane has a fragile but VERY compassionate grandmother who’s her motivation for having an optimistic outlook on life… because of course she has one of those… God forbids she would be a strong character without some lame stereotype tied to her, in order to explain her personality and to serve as a plot-hook for some drama later on.
  • Sasayama really should do a little more than to be just helpful if he wants to corrupt someone like Akane. She’s hardcore as far as idealistic optimism goes. Although I would love to see Sasayama do his best in corrupting Akane but ultimately she just forgives him for whatever crime he has done in order to corrupt her. Akane is a character that at this point needs to look cool as often as possible since the the series isn’t really going for depth with her character.
  • I like the notion of Akane compartmentalizing her understanding of crime and criminals by using Kogami’s persona within her mind to separate herself from that knowledge.

About M0rg0th

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

Posted on November 20, 2014, in Anime, Psycho Pass II, Reviews and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I too think Kamui is has too many talents. He has a mastery of: surgery, hacking, hologram creation, human psychology, brainwashing and drug production. He may even be able to see the future considering he always predicts exactly what the MWPSB will do. Makishima, while being highly intelligent, charismatic and a talented fighter himself, wasn’t unbelievable as an antagonist (although the ease of some of his plots makes me think the rest of society is incompetent).

    Just as Makishima was a better antagonist, Kogami was a better protagonist than Akane by herself (and for all intents and purposes, she is). Kogami saw the flaws of the Sybil system and acted outside of it to defeat the season’s villain. Even though Akane knows the system doesn’t work, she refuses to work outside of it and even stops her team from doing the dirty work for her. This kind of indecision cost her the life of her friend in season 1. It would be nice to see her evolve as a character rather than her letting people get killed until circumstances allow her to finish the case her way. Akane’s pacifism has hurt far more than it has saved.

    Speaking of incompetents, what is Sybil’s problem? They obviously are aware of Kamui (they wouldn’t be so obtuse with Akane’s questions otherwise) but will do nothing to stop the man aiming to destroy Sybil. If they really wanted Kamui dead, they could just comply with Akane’s wishes and change the way the dominators work (or at least deactivate the one’s Kamui owns). Has it even been established why Sybil doesn’t just tell the MWPSB where the missing dominators are? I’m almost inclined to think Sybil WANTS the MWPSB to fail, seeing as its handling of various incidents this season has lead to the majority of the police getting killed. Considering they sent Togane to Akane’s team, that may very well be the case.

    Some random thoughts from me,

    I guess it isn’t out of character but why hasn’t Mika informed Akane that one of her enforcers is likely planning on murdering her? I mean, she’s shown to be jealous, petty, haughty and unable to handle even her basic duties but this is breaking new ground!

    Why was the blonde scientist lady going over the personal file of the hacker Enforcer right after having sex? Is it normal to do background checks on co-workers after making love? That information has no bearing on the plot doesn’t explain anything about his character besides some behavior that only showed up in this episode.

    If many of the people encountered in season 1 were in fact just holograms created by Kamui with no real identity, how did they manage to infiltrate various positions in society? They have no record of their existence and tools to check their Psychopass would come up with nothing as well.

    Like

  2. “Makishima, while being highly intelligent, charismatic and a talented fighter himself, wasn’t unbelievable as an antagonist (although the ease of some of his plots makes me think the rest of society is incompetent).”

    I think, that’s my biggest problem with Kamui right now… He isn’t very intriguing as a character. I don’t really care about his actions and motivations. His abilities are too potent and vague to seem personal and his actual personality lacks a sense of individuality, either. Makishima was REALLY charismatic and thanks to some smart writing really made you believe that a psychopath would follow his orders. Naturally that’s also thanks to the great voice-acting of Makishima’s character.

    “Akane’s pacifism has hurt far more than it has saved.”

    The first season didn’t try to give its characters a lot of depth and with exceptions everyone’s motivations were entirely based on their ideals and philosophies. In that regard the first season was very narrow-minded and just focused on its plot and the story relating to that plot. At times the characters in the first seasons felt like slaves of the story who had nothing to offer outside the story’s limits.

    What this second season is doing with Akane now, though, is more conventional. She’s the super-cop and in terms of depth they either reference stuff from the first season or they invent some shallow backstory like the stuff with her grandmother. This season tries to fill in the details to make it easier for the audience to relate to her. Also, they add some uncertainties regarding Kogami for example or heighten her emotional response towards specific things in an effort to create some drama. It’s all very straightforward stuff without any fancy meaning. She’s just the hero who can save the day and knows the difference between right and wrong.

    Kogami in the first season is the better character because the audience was never asked to look at him as the main-character and with that the script itself felt never the need to turn him into some sort of hero.

    “Speaking of incompetents, what is Sybil’s problem?”

    I believe the logic behind Sybil’s catatonic MO is that changing the rules or acknowledging the existence of an exception to the rule would show the Public that the Psycho-Pass-system isn’t perfect. Sybil is basically acting like the police-chief who tells his best cop something like “Nope, my hands are tied, McCaine! The law says we gotta have to let this perp go! You wanna catch him, you gotta find another way! Have you tried killing him?” – No, I haven’t!” – “Good, because that’s a bad idea!”. It’s ridiculous… Maybe there’s some sort of plottwist coming but… hell, it better be worth it.

    “Has it even been established why Sybil doesn’t just tell the MWPSB where the missing dominators are?”

    Also, I’ve thought along those lines… Why don’t they simply revoke the MWPSB-status of the captured and brainwashed detective? The Sybil-System is a network after all. I mean, especially now that Kamui seems to be relying on the use of Dominators… Hasn’t the first season established that without a network-connection Dominators don’t even work? In that regard it should be easy to trap Kamui when he shows himself despite him having a Dominator.

    “I guess it isn’t out of character but why hasn’t Mika informed Akane that one of her enforcers is likely planning on murdering her?”

    Well, considering how they handled the revelation that the Hacker-guy had indeed found the hologram Kamui had been using… I guess, they’re just waiting for a more plot/story-convenient moment.

    “Why was the blonde scientist lady going over the personal file of the hacker Enforcer right after having sex?”

    Hmm, I figured there were two reasons: One, backstory (which I didn’t care about). Two, showing how the blonde one shows admiration for the hacker-guy’s skills. Also, it led to a scene where two scantily-clad women are shown with the implication that they had sex so as to remind you that those two are in a relationship. A thing that will become important once Mika’s affections for Yayoi get addressed.

    “If many of the people encountered in season 1 were in fact just holograms created by Kamui with no real identity, how did they manage to infiltrate various positions in society?”

    Yeah, the stuff with how many people Kamui had been impersonating… That borders on omnipresence to keep up all those cover-identities as well as his own. Just another ridiculous part of his portrayal in this series.

    Like

    • I think this season has a pacing problem. The plot is moving at full throttle as though Kamui was going to make his big move and yet… we’re not even a 3rd into the season. We get all of these big reveals and the only thing stopping these plots from concluding is… Sybil not cooperating.
      Akane: Can we get some weapons that can be used to stop Kamui?
      Sybil: Nope.
      Akane: Can you tell us where we can find the dominators to find Kamui?
      Sybil: Nuh-uh.
      Akane: Can you at least disable his weapons so we stop getting slaughtered like sheep?
      Sybil: I could but I won’t.

      Mika is guilty of this as well. She knows Togane is obsessed with Akane, that he pointed his gun at her and that all of his previous inspectors ended up dead, but out of pride or spite, she doesn’t want to share these details with anyone else.

      There seems to be an implied conspiracy going on with Kamui, Togane and Sybil but we’ll just have to wait see what it’s all about.

      Like

Please Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: