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October 11, 2012

When that dude exploded at the end of the first episode of Psycho-Pass, my heart went all a flutter.

That’s the very sort of ultraviolence for which I long. It’s absurd. It’s unnecessary. It’s beautiful. You laugh not because it’s silly, but because it’s awesome. That’s pure love right there.

So this is a riff on the “predict crimes so you can stop them before they happen” thing. Some computer or system or whatever unseen thing can “read” a person and determine their potential to commit a crime. Hit a certain point and you get “rehabilitated.” Hit a point further down the line and you’re deemed unworthy of life and can be shot on the spot. Alright, cool, that’s a decent set-up. Of course, where you run with that set-up is what matters, and that’s where Psycho-Pass is a little hazy.

I’m liking the implications of this system because it doesn’t seem to take into account intent. We have the main perpetrator of the episode. He hasn’t committed a crime. All we get is that he’s suppressed urges over the years. He’s well aware that his urges make him a potential target and he’s able to measure them using whatever this calculation may be. This isn’t like Minority Report, where psychics actually see the crime happening in premonitions. They see you murdering someone in the near future and cops go out to stop you before it happens. The intent will be there according to the rules of that story. With Psycho-Pass, it doesn’t matter whether you intend to harm someone, all that matters is that the potential is present.

The way I’m seeing it, this formula or whatever can measure one’s stress levels, past experiences, desires, and all of these other factors and calculate the potential risk of an individual. You may be well aware of these risk factors like this guy, and you may go out of your way to not act on that potential, but that’s irrelevant. The same happens to the woman the guy victimized. Before this happened to her, we’re assuming she wasn’t at risk. Once he assaults her and rapes her, her own stress levels have drastically increased. It’s totally natural for a human to want to strike out at someone who assaulted them. She may very well want to do to him what he did to her, or even worse. In a situation where another human is present to judge her intentions, she wouldn’t be deemed a risk. In fact, even if she carried out some form of vengeance, it’d likely be considered self-defense. Some people would even hail her as a hero for carrying out those urges to strike down a rapist and potential murderer.

The system in Psycho-Pass doesn’t take into consideration that human element. In one way it makes the system impartial. Whatever pseudo-scientific reason behind this system is considered fair in this world by the establishment since it only takes into consideration the elements that can be objectively measured. In its eyes, the potential for violence inherent in the assailant is no different from the potential for violence developing in the victim– violence is violence regardless of cause.

This world seems to have traded the capacity to take circumstances into consideration in favor of a system that, in theory, stops crime before it can happen. All of the characters present seem aware of why this woman’s readings are escalated, but they’re in favor of perpetuating a system they believe works over calling it into question.

And that makes using potential criminals all the more interesting in this scenario. They have an incentive to not break these rules because their commanding officer can turn around and take them down at any given moment. They don’t question the system through action because said system can turn on them at any time. That might lead to the system falsifying records in order to create potential recruits or something like that.

It’s a messed up system rife with potential to be even more corrupt. It’s a sort of nightmare scenario where your very thoughts and emotions are policed. And I wanna see this play itself out. It’s fucked up, but it’s awesome in that regard. I don’t want this to become a story where someone tries to buck the system and change it. It’s a lot like Judge Dredd in that regard. Yeah, the idea of Judge/Jury/Executioner isn’t something we wanna see in real life, but the fun of that character comes from seeing his world’s rules play out without outside morals influencing them. I don’t wanna see someone come along and question Dredd. I don’t wanna see the story end with him accepting a more tolerant way of life. That might be what we want in reality, but reality’s morals don’t have to interfere with an interesting story.

That’s why I’m kinda weary of the main girl in Psycho-Pass. Despite being a product of the world’s educational system that makes the very sort of cops who understand and uphold these laws, she comes off as unrealistically naive and questions the system in ways more like an outsider or dissident than a rookie cop fresh from the academy. If we had some hint of her being someone with such a rebel philosophy that wouldn’t be too bad, but her character comes off more like that “voice of reason” who’s meant to be the audience surrogate. She’s appalled by the idea of punishing the victim, but all of her training should have prepared her for this scenario. This should be a textbook case, especially considering the idea of these criminal thoughts being “contagious” is well-known. I’m not buying her attitude as anything but a blatant attempt to shoehorn our morality into the cast when it makes far more sense for these characters to not think like the audience.

Seeing her question and defeat the system won’t be an interesting path to take, so I’m hoping we don’t go down that path. We don’t need to see her broken or anything like that, but I’m not interested in seeing this become her story. I want this to be the story of this world and all the strange things that can come about when you can literally calculate one’s potential for evil.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 12, 2012 11:08 AM

    I can see how much you loved that explosion scene with all those screenshots, haha. But I do agree that it was BEAUTIFUL! (Though in a weird way, haha)

    Hopefully the story won’t focus much on the “heroine’s story”, I’ve got similar problems with her =_= How could that kind of rookie be a top student =_=

  2. October 13, 2012 2:21 PM

    >I’m not buying her attitude as anything but a blatant attempt to shoehorn our morality into the cast

    That is indeed the point of her character. Pretty much any sci-fi and/or fantasy story with any kind of world building has a character that doesn’t know how the world works, so that the other characters can explain it to him/her. These characters can be a bit grating because they come off as stupid or ignorant, especially when they’re the main character, but it is a lot less jarring than having two characters explaining things that they already know to each other and less confusing than having two characters talking to each other about things that never get explained at all.

    In any case, this whole first episode was to get some of the basic exposition and world building out of the way so her role as a narrative punching bag is over, so you can expect her to stop being stupid, naive, etc. and be a regular supporting character from this point on. Or who knows? Maybe she’ll be ignored altogether and only brought out when the story calls for an expository device, like Kyohei from Bakuretsu Tenshi. Also, the opening scene establishes Shinya as the main protagonist, so look forward to that, I guess.

  3. October 15, 2012 11:14 AM

    I disagree. If you don’t have someone questioning the system, it just stays there. Without a character like the girl to challenge it, you have no story that involves the world. It doesn’t necessarily have to be she’s right and they’re wrong. But it needs someone questioning it or else it never evolves. That’s what something like Kino’s Journey works. If Kino wasn’t there, there would be nobody to question the system, even if he never changed it

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