Wednesday, April 1, 2015

PSYCHO-PASS: WHAT'S YOUR CRIME COEFFICIENT?


I'm a little late to the party, but the anime show Psycho-Pass (2012-) has taken my Netflix viewing history by storm. This is great material for anyone who likes to indulge in the dark side of things, as it features plenty of gore, violence, and remarkably thrilling suspense, all while contemplating the role of technology as a means of law enforcement in an already alienated and fragile society of Japan. The hologram world has its appeal, perhaps as a newfound toy would, but after while even its superficial surface begins to crack. This is the kind of show that should attract fans of Rand and Orwell, or the audiences of thematically similar Ghost in the Shell, from which it borrows a handful of tropes, though I'd venture to argue Psycho-Pass is better than that, and works as a perfect "in" for those who remain skeptical of anime's role in entertainment as well as an avenue for cultural dialogue and social commentary.

Set in the 22nd century, Psycho-Pass presents Japan as an authoritarian state run by the Sibyl System, in which public sensors constantly scan the population's mental states, dubbed their psycho-passes, to determine the probability of criminal activity. The actual police force consists of drones and small units of human detectives, divided into Inspectors and their Enforcers, both of whom are authorized to use the Dominators, guns that will either stun you for rehabilitation or turn you into a puddle of bloody goo. Enforcers' crime coefficients are above average, as they did petty crimes in the past, but were given a chance to use their "skills" to do the dirty work of catching the bad guys for their Inspectors. Some Enforcers used to be Inspectors, but were demoted after incidents in which their crime coefficients were irreversibly damaged. Psycho-Pass takes a look at one such police unit and the dynamics within it.



The show needs a few episodes to get the ball rolling and for us to get a glimpse of the story's nemesis, Makishima, a young man whose crime coefficient is nonexistent even when he is committing murder. This singular villainy is too simple, however. The beauty and horror of Makishima's ideas involve grooming others to not only engage in, but also enjoy carnage. This is where the plot and the visual effects get progressively darker, and the gore rears its gruesome head, though neither becomes contrived in the process. New themes of dystopia emerge. A philosophical approach is taken by both sides to present arguments for and against the Sibyl System, which fashions itself as a flawless alternative to justice structures of yore because of its supposed AI impartiality. The key word here is 'supposed.' The twists and turns keep coming with each episode. Psycho-Pass is so well written, that live action shows could learn a thing or two about structuring a proper thriller. If this is up your thematic alley, give it a go. It's unlikely you'll come out disappointed. Spooky Boogie, anyone?

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