How did I end up watching this series? Well, the process was: see article about the second season—>read that it was made to succeed Mamoru Ooshi’s works—>watch Psycho Pass. I’m a big fan of Patlabor, even if I still have to watch Ghost in the Shell, so I was sold at least in trying to watch the first episode. Did I like what I found? Well, only one way to find out.
Episode 01: The Advent of the Hokuto no Gun
The series starts very well, because it hits me in the face with its production values. The lighting, animation and design of this thing are gorgeous. And the best part it, it’s scenery and background! I haven’t seen so much attention given to backgrounds in an Anime since… Well, long ago. And I’m rocking the opening tune too.
After making me gush over the backgrounds and the music a little more, we’re introduced to our main character. He’s fighting a goon in armour wielding a big-ass blade with a seemingly empty gun. I say seemingly because while at first pulling the trigger does nothing, he then kicks the goon out of a window of the skyscraper they’re fighting into and this time pulling the trigger disintegrates the target in a shower of gore.
… Oh, right. Only mature audiences. Whoops. Better late than ever.
We then get a female voice narrating that the main character and what I think is the main antagonist, conveniently toned the former in black and the latter in white, were destined to whatever the hell’s going on from even before they met. They then call each other’s name, introducing the two to the audience as well. Whitey is Makishima Shougo, Blackie is Kougami Shinya.
We then flash-back, I suppose, to an entire apartment block under lockdown by the police. And when I say police, I say bucket robots projecting holograms of humanoid robots with big ass heads WITH ENORMOUS BABY FACES. BECAUSE OF COURSE, WHO WOULDN’T FIND THAT NOT CREEPY AT ALL! YOU CAN TRUST THE POLICE, GUYS! Now give me candy or our eyes will SUCK OUT YOUR BRAIN.
Fortunately for our running white rabbit -I’MLATEI’MLATEI’MLATE – heroine, inspector Akane, her badge allows her to pass without losing her immortal soul and she introduces herself to her new chief, Inspector Ginoza. The guy is all business immediately. She just got transferred to the unit, but she will have to be baptised in fire. And he then moves on to the target.
Said Okura Nobuo went rogue when ‘a street scanner flagged him during a hue check and a Security Drone ordered him to receive therapy’. This caused him to run, take a female hostage and run into a supposedly empty apartment block crowded by homeless people. Also, that his recorded Psycho Pass was forest green. Hence, they expect him to be highly aggressive.
Here we see the Minority Report influence of this series. The Psycho Pass is a numeric value elaborated by the Sybil system that decrees how likely that person is to commit violent crimes and whether there’s any chance of rehabilitation or the targets can be dispatched for the good of society… A system that has so many bad implications I’ll let you discover them with me.
We’re then introduced to the rest of the team. And when I say rest of the team, I mean four people with high Psycho-Pass that collaborate with the police as ‘Enforcers’. The police’s hounds, basically. Latent Criminals to catch Latent Criminals. And of course, Shinya is among them. The other three are for now named Lecher, Old Man, and Pretty Woman.
And then… Oh, boy. Did I already say that the soundtrack is awesome? Because it is. And they take out the best piece I’ve heard the whole episode -string guitars are so rare in OSTs, nowadays!- to introduce us to… The Dominator. I get it, writer -holy crap, Gen Urobuchi AGAIN?! Can I ever escape you?!- and director. You want me to like this gun. The whole setup for its introduction is perfectly paced, with a perfect song, perfect animation… Ah, right. The gun itself.
It links itself with an authorised person’s brain, showing a HUD over their eyes on request, displaying information on the target. It has two settings, Stun and Lethal, depending on the target’s Psycho Pass. It’s sleek, shiny, the design is great and oh god, did I already say how much I love this track? Anyway, Ginoza splits the teams in: Akane, Shougo and Old Man; Ginoza, Lecher, Pretty Woman.
And then we get a glimpse into Shougo’s character by this sentence as everyone grabs a Dominator: ‘We have our own way of doing things but you’re responsible for us. The Dominators work on us too. If you don’t like what I do, just shoot me.’ Which of course means that before this episode is over, that will definitely happen. Old Man introduces himself and his artificial arm as Masaoka Tomomi. Now, let’s get to know our criminal.
He’s beat up the woman he’s kidnapped pretty badly. He’s playing with a knife and lighter. He laments having his whole life ruined by a street scan even when he always acted all nice and proper. Which says much about the social stigma a high Psycho Pass can bring. And then it’s RAPE TIME! Or mutilation time. Or both. He’s mounting her while still holding the knife, so…
Back to our guys, Shougo has already split from Akane and Masaoka. Akane is REALLY nervous, both because of the situation -she almost shoots a passed out drunk for the crime of being a passed out drunk- and because of the company. Masaoka’s Psycho Pass is 127.4. Pretty high. But he’s been nothing but polite and helpful to her, so far.
So helpful that he drops THE line every rookie cop graduated at the top of his/her class gets the first day on the job: ‘Forget everything they taught you’. You’d think they would change the freaking curriculum, already! He specifies that basing anything on thought and logic in their line of work is pointless. And while he enlightens her on that, Lecher finds the criminal.
And he takes his sweet time telling his boss that HE’S ASSAULTING THE HOSTAGE RIGHT IN FRONT OF HIM! THE HELL?! In fact, Ginoza first tells him to just lay in wait but when he hears that MINOR DETAIL he tells him to just apprehend him. Lecher takes aim, shoots… But the paralysing shot doesn’t work! DUN DUN DUUUN!
Or maybe not, since apparently you just need to be on stimulants of some kind to be immune to the stun setting. Pretty big design flaw there, Dominator! I’m disappointed in you! And while Okura holds his hostage at knife-point his Psycho-Pass goes up, and the Sybil System updates his threat level: the guy is now beyond rehabilitation, and can be dispatched with extreme prejudice.
On one hand, this activates the Dominator’s lethal mode with a pretty wicked transformation. On the other, the gun’s speaker broadcasts the information that lethal force is now authorised LOUDLY. Which causes Okura to throw himself out of a window with the hostage. And speaking of the hostage, we find that her Psycho-Pass is rising too.
While Masaoka explains that ‘young people these days can’t handle the stress’ as an explanation -while psychology calls it CONSEQUENCES OF A TRAUMATIC EXPERIENCE- , we see that upon being shown that her Psycho Pass is now past 110, the hostage girl is more scared of that than HER OWN KIDNAPPER/RAPIST.
Which again, says a lot about the perception people have of the police and the Sybil system. Akane and Masaoka corner him but still holding the hostage at knife point, he commands the two to surrender their weapons… Which he finds can only be shot by authorised people, Dredd style. This moment of distraction allows Shinya to shoot him in the arms and then… It happens.
From the point of impact, his arms starts ballooning as they had been put in a microwave. This quickly extends to the whole body until what was once Okura Nobuo disintegrates from the waist up in a cloud of BLOOD WHICH SPLATTERS INDISCRIMINATELY ON HIS SURROUNDINGS! HOLY. FUCKING. SHIT. KENSHIRO WOULD CRY TEARS OF PRIDE!
But of course, the victim doesn’t share my excitement since, you know, she was at ground zero when Okura exploded on us. She’s nervous and scared. Akane tries to reassure her but Masaoka pretty much ruins it by POINTING ONE OF THE WEAPONS THAT JUST EXPLODED A MAN IN FRONT OF HER EYES RIGHT AT HER FOREHEAD!
Akane seems to be the only person realising that it’s easier to bring people in when they don’t think you’re going to blow your everything off. The girl runs and Akane stops Masaoka from shooting her but Shinya is quick on her tail. And as he does, the girl ends up in the middle of a bunch of spilled benzene cans, still holding her kidnapper’s lighter. The Sybil’s system decrees her to be beyond saving, now.
Akane reaches the two in time, Shinya pointing the now lethal gun at the girl and the girl holding a flaming lighter. Shinya notices. So he turns to Akane, tells her something that the audience is not privy to and he’s about to kill the girl… When Akane activates the Chekov Initiative, and shoots Shinya with the stun setting. Those are some mighty +10 cojones, and I approve!
After the guy falls face first into the fuel she manages to calm the girl down, convincing her to turn off the flame and drop the lighter. And -gasp- her Psycho Pass falls back to a safe zone! YOU MEAN THAT PEOPLE DO NOT REACT IN A VIOLENT WAY WHEN THEY DON’T FEEL THREATENED?! LIES! LIES, I SAY!
The other members of the group arrive then, with Ginoza stunning the girl and ending the whole debacle. And the next words out of his mind are: I expect you to explain your conduct during this whole debacle. Masaoka states: this new girl is a piece of work. The episode ends with Akane staring at the sea, hugging her knees, clearly demoralised.
So, let me get this straight. Akane is the only person among the group who acted like a rational person, realising that if you act hostile towards someone clearly traumatised by BEING KIDNAPPED AND MAYBE RAPED that’s going to elicit a violent reaction, saved a life by not obeying that bullshit system and she’s going to get chewed out for it.
… Boy. Masaoka wasn’t kidding when he told her that they all stopped using logic and reason on the team, huh?