Psycho-Pass 05 – Illusions and Reality
November 13, 2012 Leave a comment
Over the past couple of episodes Psycho-Pass has introduced numerous new concepts dealing with the overlap between the virtual and real worlds. For many the virtual world is an extension of who they are, with highly crafted virtual personalities evident across the Internet. For some these avatars are merely a way of communicating to a wider audience, while for others they can become an escape, a new start, carrying with them an element of anonymity and the promise of creating a new self, different from the real world. In this respect the boundaries between the virtual and real worlds become blurred, with many seeing the virtual world as more real than others. What Psycho-Pass has been dealing with though is the issues surrounding the theft of virtual identities and the idea that given the right information anyone can take your space. The idea that someone can freely impersonate you and often do a better job is chilling and helps to demonstrate the curious place that the virtual world has within out lives. It can be freely used and then left, but the more you use it, the more you will leave an element of your personality behind. What is so curious about the crimes in Psycho-Pass is how thorough they are along with the criminal freely using the stolen avatars as if nothing is wrong. The problem once again with this case is the inadequacy of the system that is supposedly set up to stop or control criminals. That the murderer was freely able to kill and then impersonate the original users of these avatars suggests a loophole in the system that is freely and easily exploited. He was able to get around the scanner drones and willingly killed these people, even leaving their bank accounts and apartments as if they are still alive. This is the sort of illogical series of murders that goes against the rightly controlled, logical way in which the system runs.
The disagreement between Kougami and Ginoza also suggests a difference of opinion in how to catch criminals. For Ginoza, the Sibyl system and by extension every other element connected to the Psycho-Pass provides the best way of tracking down and apprehending the criminal. There is therefore no room for other deductive reasoning’s and he instead trusts everything to a system that has already allowed two people to die. He underestimates criminals and by extension the Enforcers, suggesting that the only true justice and way of living is through the Sibyl system. His absolute trust in the system inevitably leads Ginoza into a trap because he cannot bring himself to trust the deductive reasoning’s of people whom he views as mere criminals, as dogs. In this respect we once again see the flawed nature of Sibyl system, along with the ease in which it can be bypassed and used. On the other hand Kougami points out that he is underestimating the criminals and that he puts too much faith on the system.
The idea that an avatar can by hijacked and continue to be used with no one spotting any difference may seem alien to Ginoza, but it also makes a lot of sense. Part of your virtual personality is based around those who you interact with, so such a personality is not singular, but a culmination of all those you know and interact with on a daily basis. In the case of the three hijacked avatars in this episode, they are all Internet idols and are therefore a culmination of everything that they have said and everyone who has gathered around them. By understanding the basic patterns of the avatar along with knowing the thought processes of their fans it is therefore perfectly possible to impersonate these creations. Furthermore, because of how such idols are created those who impersonate them may do a far better job than their original owners ever could.
The attitude of the murderer suggests that to him, and arguably to many others it is the avatar that is important, not who is behind the mask. The avatar has become the public face of a series of ideas, ideals and thought process, and in many respects it was no longer the property of the person who created it. He carries out these murders in order to liberate the avatars of their earthly chains – it is not for personal gain, but for the creation of something special that can cross the boundary between the real and virtual worlds. He is clearly a disturbed individual and willingly uses the help that our main antagonist offers him, but he remains an alienated individual, one with no real connection to the real world. In this respect he is an anomaly within this tightly controlled world, someone who has managed to avoid suspicion until this point, partly through the help of others, but his own knowledge of the system. His connection to the true criminals allows him to hack into the system and remain anonymous, at least until this episode, although by leaving the victims apartments and bank accounts open he demonstrates a startlingly arrogant attitude towards the Public Safety Bureau, which inevitably leads to his downfall.
This case does however point to a startling flaw in the systems used to maintain law and order within the city. The way the Public Safety Bureau, and by extension the Sibyl system as a whole deals with criminals is far too neat and doesn’t allow for any real investigations. The murderer, while clearly capable of creating brilliant illusions and therefore knowledgeable about the computer and virtual systems could not have carried out such murders without help. However, because of the way that the Dominators work when confronted with a criminal such as this, it is impossible to bring them in alive and to look for any potential connections between murders and other crimes. The lethal mode is an all-to-neat way of dealing with criminals, and in many respects solves absolutely nothing other than the destruction of the suspect. If every suspect involved in a murder case is simply shot and terminated, it seems impossible for the Public Safety Bureau to ever get to grips with crime and the connections between individual criminals and crimes. By killing this murderer, regardless of how twisted and warped he may be, any connection between him and the true criminals who gave him the tools to carry out his crimes has been lost.
The very idea that Shuusei, Ginoza and Yayoi would rush in, kill the criminal, and then wonder whom he was talking to only helps to reinforce the systems inability to really deal with crime. Such actions also helps to illustrate why Makishima Shougo (the criminal mastermind) and his entire network has remained hidden and can continue to give the tools of crime to those who want them. Furthermore, any attempt to go after criminals and get to the bottom of crimes through proper detective work can have an adverse effect on your Psycho-Pass reading. The revelation that Kougami used to be an investigator, but because of his obsession with a particular crime, or set of crimes he was eventually demoted to Enforcer because his Psycho-Pass had become overly clouded. The idea that by pursuing a criminal and looking for connections between crimes can destroy your career and affect how society perceives you reinforces the potentially destructive nature of the system. Akane in particular wants to be useful, and clearly feels useless at times, but the information about Kougami once again demonstrates that to be ‘useful’ as she views it would also endanger her entire livelihood.
As we look at these obvious flaws in the system, it almost seems as if the entire Sibyl system was never meant to solve crimes or stop the real criminals in society. Those that the Public Safety Bureau apprehend or destroy are obvious, often suffering from stress or lacking the skills and knowledge the cover their tracks. The first victim for example was essentially turned into a danger (at least according to the system) by the presence of the Enforcers, whereas the second murderer was a victim of the system itself. All of these characters were picked up by a system because they didn’t hide or didn’t know how to hide themselves from it. But, those who work from within the system and have the knowledge, skills and ability to play around with the flaws and loopholes that are becoming ever more evident are not caught. The Enforcers reliance on their Dominators to help them differentiate criminals from innocent people once again demonstrates the intrinsic flaws in the Public Safety Bureau. Such a reliance on a system works in the antagonists favour, especially when they are capable of playing the system and maybe don’t even exist on any database.
By becoming wholly reliant on such a system the Enforcers and Investigators who are supposedly the to keep the peace are shown to be inadequate and foolish. By using the system to their own advantage, the criminals demonstrate the ease with which the Sibyl system can be made obsolete and ineffectual. The complete reliance on the Dominator, along with their inability to do any real detective work lest it has an adverse effect on their Psycho-Pass reading restricts the Public Safety Bureaus ability to work. In particular, the ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ attitude that they exhibit demonstrates that despite their (supposedly) superior technology, the Bureau is in essence a bunch of thugs who lack finesse or thought in their actions. By instinctually following the orders of Sibyl and terminating their suspect, the Enforcers destroy what little evidence that had connected the murders to the real antagonist.
The system is set up in such a way as to almost invalidate any relevant knowledge and experience of the Enforcers, with Ginoza leading Shuusei and Yayoi into a trap. Anyone with knowledge of the system can use it to their own advantage such as making the sort of traps that Ginoza so easily walked in to. These people are able to get around the restrictions that the Psycho-Pass and Sibyl system place upon the rest of society. In many ways we can view the Dominator system as akin to a computer game where you shoot when your virtual crosshair turns red. Furthermore, as we explore this system in more detail it is becoming ever clearer that the Sibyl system isn’t really about catching criminals, rather it is about enforcing the rules and regulations of society. There are simply too many flaws and holes in the system for it to function as a true deterrent to criminals, and in many respects the (almost) totalitarian nature of such a system arguably creates the perfect conditions within which crime can thrive.
But, while these ideas were once again fascinating, the episode itself was easily the most boring of the season so far. The static exposition with all the character gathered around on several occasions for big long talks and explanations as to why the virtual idols have been stolen destroyed any hope of an engaging and interesting episode. We were also treated to the immense problem solving abilities of Kougami, a man who seems to be truly multitalented. His sudden abilities at taking the smallest of clues and coming up with a workable theory is not only odd, but out of place. This shift in his character has happened too quickly, and while it is partly explained by the knowledge that he used to an investigator, it just seems too sudden. While watching this episode in particular you get the impression that Urobuchi and Naoyoshi were influenced by elements of Ghost in the Shell, with the investigation elements having the distinctive feel of Section 9. Unfortunately there is no finesse in such scenes, with a series of essentially static talking heads. While the ideas used by the series remain fascinating, it is the way they are used that often spoils any atmosphere, with scenes coming across as forced and off-kilter.