Psycho-Pass 02 – Decisions and Consequences
October 23, 2012 7 Comments
A world where your thoughts, attitudes and abilities can be measured and quantified, thus determining your entire life style will create a highly stratified and structured society. In doing so it is also arguably creating distinct and potentially destructive social divisions, and with no ability to move up and change your current way of life, what might be dissatisfaction can become destructive and dangerous. These similar ideas are present in numerous cyber-punk anime, not least Akira, where the highly stratified society leads to protests and social disorder on a large scale. Such are further present in real life, with protests against government plans and attitudes towards where ones place in society are. Akira, and now Psycho-Pass mirrors this with the use of their various systems and bodies in order to police the spaces between these distinct areas of society, looking out for those who have finally snapped.
Although in the case of Akira it is a mirroring of the student protests in 1960/1968-1970 that were sparked largely by students dissatisfaction with the governments attitudes towards American military bases. Such attitudes and ideas continue to resonate with us today as society continues to become ever more stratified although we have yet to gain a similar system to Sibyl. In Psycho-Pass, your aptitude for certain jobs, along with your overall scores has absolute authority over your career path – there is longer any question about choosing what you want to do, instead it is laid out before you. In this sort of society, Akane is an anomaly, someone who could, and arguably is a member of the elite, with the best scores necessary to work in all of the top jobs.
And yet, she chooses to work in the Public Safety Bureau, somewhere that doesn’t have the prestige as other companies or public bodies. What is important however is that she made a distinct and conscious choice, but at the same time, it was one that she could only make because of her overwhelming score and ability at the jobs, at least according to Sibyl. When talking to her friends it becomes clear that despite going to school together, they have had very few choices in life, being forced to work in lower paid jobs because of their overall scores and aptitude tests. Her attitude towards her job, along with questioning whether she should even be working there causes a certain amount of anger, or possibly annoyance in her friends. That she can even question her current career path, while also musing about what she wants to do with her life is alien to them, and arguably to many others in society.
This demonstrates how stratified and in some cases segregated the society in Psycho-Pass is, with those who have the ability freely moving from one career to another, safe in the knowledge that they have the ability to change at a moments notice. Akane’s worries, while seemingly normal to many are therefore entirely abnormal and perhaps unheard of for the vast majority of the population. If we look at the cyber-punk setting, along with the dystopian elements and the martial-law style law code we can see that Akane is naïve and also rather innocent. Akane’s naivety about the world that she lives helps to provide a particularly interesting view of the Psycho-Pass system that is in opposition to the vast majority of the cast. Whereas others are stuck in their jobs and in many respects may become bitter, resenting the world and the system that has stuck them there, Akane offers us a different perspective. She is coming in, not only as an idealist, but also as someone who partly rejects the system.
She has yet to be ground down, or possibly corrupted by the people that work within the Public Safety Bureau, while also demonstrating that with a little thought the system that governs life and death can be questioned. On the other hand, her innocence, along with her choice of career annoy certain characters, especially when she begins to question her current choice, along with musing about what her place in life really is. In a society where you essentially do what you are told, Akane makes a conscious choice to join the Public Safety Bureau, suggesting that it is because the other jobs had others like her, whereas there was no one interested in her current job. She wants to think that because no one else got an A rank for the Public Safety Bureau that there is something only she can do by working there. At the same time, she wants to find a purpose for life in a society that simply delegates what you should do rather than allowing conscious and informed decisions to be made.
Such a simple statement does however come with a lot of problems, not least when talking to someone who has no free will and in order to stay alive must continue to obey orders regardless of what they truly think. Shuusei points out that he has no idea what she is talking about and could never really understand someone who can happily choose her life style, while also agonising over her current choices. As an Enforcer and a confirmed Latent Criminal he has no freewill, and in order to continue to exist must obey the draconian rules of the Public Safety Bureau. To him, assassinations and works as an Enforcer because the only other option would be staying in an isolation facility to live his life in confinement. Even Tomomi tells Akane that in reality her job is to simply make sure that the Enforcers don’t go overboard and let them to the dirty work.
This just shows us how entrenched the system has become, with people merely going along with what they are told they should do. In such a highly stratified system where there is no real freedom for choice it is hardly surprising that stress becomes contagious, effectively damaging our chances for a peaceful life. At the same time, the system becomes self-fulfilling, with those who are flagged as Latent Criminals turning into them simply because their conditions and way of living changes. The Enforcers for example are all Latent Criminals and cannot go out without a CID Inspector, but, by enforcing the law and carrying out assassinations according to Sibyl’s readings, their psycho-pass becomes ever more clouded. On the other hand, the presence of characters like Shuusei, Tomomi, Yayoi and Kugami demonstrates that when necessary those who are considered to be criminally minded will be used rather than sent to rehabilitation. Not only does it underline the curious and arguably flawed logic that the psycho-pass works under, but it also helps to highlight how psycho-pass levels are largely ignored when convenient.
Akane’s decision to shoot Kougami in order to save the rape victim was clearly the right choice, and while others may disagree with her, she was thinking in a far clearer way than any of the other Inspectors or Enforcers. We are shown and told how the rape victim was responding well to treatment, along with being told that her psycho-pass levels were artificially elevate due to the stress of the situation. This helps to demonstrate how flawed the Sibyl system is, along with how dangerous the unthinking attitude of those who enforce it can be. If she hadn’t have stopped Kougami, he would have pulled the trigger and killed the victim, even though she was clearly innocent and could be helped. He confesses to Akane that the behaviour of a ‘hunting dog’ has been ingrained within his hand and his mind to the point where he will mindlessly follow the instructions of the Dominator.
The fact that those who are supposed to enforce the law simply follow the will of a computer demonstrates that they are more like robots than human beings. They lack a will or thought process of their own; although this is partly because the system does not allow for individual thought unless you are like Akane and considered an elite. Everyone adheres to the will of the system, because in their mind to do so allows them to continue living – by going against the system they believe will bring only pain and destruction. However, because of this attitude they no longer think about the possibility of innocence (assuming they even thought about that to begin with), and it is quite possible that many victims of the psycho-pass system were completely innocent and could have got on with their lives. Akane’s presence in the Public Security Bureau appears to have made some sort of impact however, with Kougami beginning to think about whom he is and why he continues to fight. He clearly has unfinished business, but he has now begun to think about his actions and how he has effectively become an unthinking robot that merely caries out the will of Sibyl and the Dominator.
Also, by saving the rape victim, Akane has demonstrated quite clearly that readings can change and that the context within which the psycho-pass reading increases is incredibly important. It may be a small change, but it is incredibly important within that specific department, with Akane’s actions and attitude affecting those around her (although how much is yet to be decided). At the same time, Akane’s ability to think about her future, along with partly questioning the current system and way things are done demonstrates the problematic nature of the society itself. That asking such fundamental and arguably simple questions can be so alien, and dangerous to many further demonstrates the flawed nature of the psycho-pass system. This would never have happened were it not for her naïve and innocent nature – while a character like Kougami might give us a warped and darker view on society, Akane’s innocence gives us the closet thing to an outsiders perspective on this society and culture.