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In the last video of this series, I broke down the ways in which the lackluster presentation of Psycho-Pass 2 failed to live up to that of its predecessor; and then analyzed the many logical problems which arise in the show’s first six episodes. Here, I will continue to break down the rest of the show’s logical problems, before finally coming to my conclusions about the entire comparison between these shows.
In episode seven, after a massive wall of expository dialog and the incredibly shoehorned appearance of Akane’s grandma which I’ve talked about previously, Akane has an argument with Chief Kasei about how to handle Kamui. Kasei argues that she can’t do anything about Shisui’s dominator, because to do so would suggest that the system is flawed. However, back in season one, we saw that Kasei was more than willing to override the rules regarding crime coefficient in order to kill people when the sybil system deemed it appropriate. The point of protecting the nature of the Sybil system is to give the outward appearance that it is infallible; but there’s no reason that Kasei couldn’t disable Shisui’s movements and blame it on something else without anyone finding out about it.
Episode eight is when Kamui’s true nature is explained at length. I’ve already talked about how illogical it is that having the organs of other people placed into his body would give him multiple personalities; but this episode also leaves me wondering what the purpose of the experiment was to begin with, and why the Sybil system wouldn’t have been aware of it. If the system was keeping any tabs on Kamui at all, then it should have made the decision to eliminate him a long time ago. It’s also never explained how Kamui got ahold of all of the forbidden medical data which he uses in his plans. Again, we’re left to assume that he’s just some kind of super hacker who can get away with anything.
We also find out that Kamui and his doctor friend have been murdering important social figures and grafting their organs and appearances onto illegal aliens who stand in their place. Once again, it doesn’t make any sense that simply replacing someone’s organs would cause the system to recognize them as a different person, considering that the system works by scanning someone’s entire biorhythm and mental state. Remember that back in season one, Senguuji had replaced every part of his body with android parts except for his brain, and the system still recognized him for who he was. It was also established in the first season that Japan has almost entirely closed its borders, making it nearly impossible to get in or out–raising the question of how these illegal aliens even made it into the country.
At the start of episode nine, we begin to learn about Tougane’s backstory. He was apparently the first successful experiment in creating a criminally asymptomatic person artificially, and is for some reason aware of the true nature of the sybil system. We’ll talk more about him later, but for now I want to mention that this scene was the point in which Psycho-Pass 2 finally tipped into so-bad-it’s-good territory. Between Mika’s clapping after finding out the truth behind the Sybil system, a young Tougane gruesomely murdering several adorable puppies as a way of showing how crazy he is, and the cartoonish level of evil scheming between Tougane and Kasei, a lot of this scene had me laughing out loud when I watched it for the first time. Likewise, at the end of the episode, when Akane is shown her grandmother’s severed ear to the backdrop of epic opera music in front of a burning building filled with somehow-alive tortured illegal aliens, it felt like the series was almost placing a lampshade over just how insane the whole thing had gotten.
Episodes nine and ten make a big deal out of explaining the “god paradox,” which is the idea that for a being to be all-powerful, it must be able to create a stone which it cannot lift–yet for it to be unable to lift this stone, would prove that it is not all-powerful. The point of this hypothetical paradox is to prove that an all-powerful being cannot logically exist without contradicting itself. However, the series tries to apply this idea to the Sybil system, by stating that in order for the system to be able to judge Kamui, then it must accept the idea of judging a collective under one psycho-pass. To do this would then make the system itself a target for judgement; which, according to the script, would mean that the system ceases to be criminally asymptomatic.
But… why? Why can’t the system attempt to judge itself and, being as it is made entirely of criminally asymptomatic brains, find itself to be, in fact, criminally asymptomatic? If one’s crime coefficient is the product of their tendency to go against the rules of the Sybil system, then it wouldn’t make any sense for the system itself to have a high crime coefficient, when said system is the one making the rules. I cannot understand the logic by which the Sybil system passing judgement upon itself would automatically mean that it now has a crime coefficient.
Episode eleven fills us in on the rest of Tougane’s backstory. Apparently, when he found out that his mother was going to join the Sybil system and leave him behind, he killed her and lost his mind, causing his psycho-pass to blacken, even though he was supposedly criminally asymptomatic. For whatever reason, he was not killed, and later was chosen to work as an enforcer. As an enforcer, he blackened the psycho-pass of every inspector that he worked with, under the twisted logic that doing so would somehow keep the system pure. And, for whatever reason, the system continues to let him work as an enforcer.
Never once is it explained whether or not the Sybil system agrees with Tougane’s methods, nor if there is any logic to them in the first place. Never is it explained why Tougane was allowed onto Akane’s team, nor why the system would want or allow for Tougane to try and blacken her psycho-pass. I can’t think of any reason for the system to want Akane gone, considering that they’ve repeatedly stated a desire to work with her; and if the system really did want her gone, then it could simply eliminate her in the same way that it did with Kagari, and tried to do with Kougami, back in season one. There is no logical reason for Tougane to exist in this story, nor for the system to approve of any of his actions.
In the end, the Sybil system kills a bunch of its brains (which I’ve already talked about), and Kamui explains his motives in such a way that I honestly couldn’t tell what he was ultimately trying to accomplish, nor whether he did in fact accomplish what he’d set out to do. It doesn’t matter because he and Tougane blow one-another up, and then everything resolves itself. With that, this wild and bumpy ride finally comes to an end.
What I’m about to say may sound overly harsh, but I honestly think that Psycho-Pass 2 is one of the worst animated series which I’ve ever watched to completion. Mind you, I don’t make a point to finish very many of the shows that I hate; but given that the first season is one of my alltime favorite series, I felt compelled to watch its sequel through to the end, and was left horribly disappointed. A lot of reviewers and fans have considered this series to simply be mediocre, but the more that I think about it, I can’t escape the impression the this show is really terrible.
Ask yourself, what are the redeeming qualities of Psycho-Pass 2? It’s not very pretty to look at, with its boring colors and character designs, and nonsensical shot composition; and it’s not very fun to watch with its headache-inducingly cacophonous sound design and overly cramped pacing. The script is riddled with plot holes, contrivances, and boring, pointless, or outright obnoxious characters, which makes it impossible to get invested in the story. Its action set pieces are confusing, tensionless, and so freely violent that they quickly lose impact. It lacks any levity or breathing room, and takes so long to give any clues as to its ultimate purpose that the viewer is left mostly with questions–the answers to which turn out to be nonsense. Its themes are confusing and poorly thought-out; its important characters don’t experience any meaningful change; and it manages to mess up the canon of another, far more interesting series which came before it. It fails as a sequel every bit as harshly as it fails as a TV show.
The best compliment I can pay to Psycho-Pass 2 is that certain things were not terrible. Shou Hinakawa wasn’t particularly memorable or interesting, but I wouldn’t mind seeing more of him in the future. Akane’s scenes were mostly okay, although I didn’t feel that she had any worth revisiting. Ginoza and Yayoi weren’t ruined, although they didn’t really do anything.
Director Naoyoshi Shiotani clearly tried to bring some artistic flair to certain scenes, such as when the doctor guy is telling Kamui’s story, and then it slowly changes into Kamui telling the story himself; or when Kamui is switching between the different bodies to represent him in the last episode; but it’s hard to create a good scene in the middle of an episode with such messy pacing. Once the viewer has been disengaged from what’s going on in the episode, it’s really difficult to win them back; and I personally found every episode of Psycho-Pass 2 to be difficult to finish, especially on my first go. The only thing I was consistently excited for was the kickass opening theme by Ling Toshite Sigure, who became one of my favorite Japanese bands after I discovered them via their opening song for the first season.
Not long after finishing Psycho-Pass 2, I picked up my rewatch of the first season with episode nine, and it felt like waking up from a long nightmare. It was a low-tension episode, taking place after the Rikako arc and before the Senguuji arc, largely serving as a period of decompression and conversation among the characters. We were introduced to Senguuji in a relaxing context via TV interview, in which he discusses the idea that everyone is already cyborgized on some level, and shares his hopes for the future in his desire to live long enough to gain immortality.
Kougami introduces Akane to Jouji for the first time, and he gives her a lesson in criminal profiling; which is not only a great scene, but one which serves no immediately evident purpose in service of the narrative. Akane gets a fantastic scene in which she stands up to Ginoza for the first time, and then Masaoka explains Ginoza’s backstory to her. Every scene in this episode feels completely natural; and even though none of it appears to be immediately relevant to the central narrative, all of it subtly teaches us things which we will need to know about the setting and characters going forward.
I could easily have spent a lot more time across this video series going into detail about all of the things which make Psycho-Pass great; but I decided to stop after the first two episodes because otherwise I would end up breaking down every single scene in the entire show. Instead, what I hope to have done is to have given you the tools to watch the series, and to appreciate all of what makes it great for yourselves. Think about the thematic purpose of each scene, and how it ties into the greater narrative message. Think about what each of the characters stands for, and what the story has to say about the society which we already live in. Think about what the pacing and composition of each episode and scene is trying to make you feel; and if you find a particular scene engaging, then try and figure out what it was about that scene which grabbed your attention.
Psycho-Pass is a great series because it allows the viewer to think about it. It presents an exciting and entertaining story full of deep and interesting characters–but it also showcases a unique setting and a set of themes which it wants the viewer to apply to their own reality. It gives the viewer with the tools to analyze it, and then does everything it can to protect the viewer’s engagement so that they won’t lose interest.
The difference between Gen Urobuchi’s script for Psycho-Pass and Tow Ubukata’s script for Psycho-Pass 2, is that one is inviting, whereas the other pushes you away. Psycho-Pass constantly presents the viewer with things to think about, whereas its sequel teases the viewer to keep watching in the hopes of learning something. Psycho-Pass is carefully constructed so that the viewer can explore and get immersed in its setting, whereas its sequel tries to grab the audience by the head and force it to look at all the big action set pieces that it came up with, while ignoring the tattered and broken setting surrounding them. Psycho-Pass presents relatable, grounded, and interesting characters for the viewer to see parts of themselves in, while its sequel presents gimmicky, illogical characters with no discernable purpose.
If there’s anything to be learned from this comparison, it’s how important each member of a show’s creative staff really is. Even if a handful of the same people worked on both shows, it’s more than obvious that the problems with the second season rose out of the new creative team’s failure to capture the feeling of the former team’s creation. It’s not that Production I.G. or Urobuchi Gen always turns out amazing products, nor is it that Tatsunoko Productions or Tow Ubukata always turn out terrible ones. It’s simply a matter of one creative team having a fully-realized and perfectly delivered vision, while the other failed to capitalize on that vision and turned out a broken, forced, and overall low-quality product.
It’s hard for me to imagine what the motivations were behind creating this series, beyond the obvious desire to cash in on a successful franchise. Leading up to the debut of Psycho-Pass 2, the original series was rebroadcast with all of its 22 episodes compiled into 11 45-minute episodes, with little bits of additional content sprinkled in throughout. Season 2 then completed its broadcast mere weeks before the film went to theaters; and so far, the film has been a huge success. It hasn’t been released online or in the US at the time of this writing; but from what I’ve heard, it largely disregards the events of the second season, and is much closer to the quality level of the first.
Considering that the film has the entire creative staff of the original series working on it, I’m not surprised that it’s a better product; and in spite of how much I hated season two, I’m actually excited to watch it. I just can’t help feeling betrayed by the second season’s existence.
If the reason that Production IG and Gen Urobuchi couldn’t work on the second season is because they were too busy working on the movie, and if the reason that a second season was produced anyways is because they wanted an excuse to get people hype about the franchise right before the film’s release, then it’s obvious that the second season was nothing more than a shameless cash-grab; and it worked. There were plenty of fans who enjoyed the second season–and even those who didn’t were given all the more reason to look forward to the film in the hopes that it would make up for season two’s failures.
Gen Urobuchi has made it pretty clear with his involvement in shows like Aldnoah.Zero and Kamen Rider Gaim that he doesn’t really care about the parts of his shows that he doesn’t work on personally, and isn’t willing to take the blame if things go wrong outside of his involvement. He probably told Ubukata that he could do whatever he wanted, just as long as certain characters were left unchanged by the end of the series. It’s possible that Urobuchi was more involved in the script than I know, but certain parts of Psycho-Pass 2, like the concept of people with tons of transplanted organs and the use of arc words like “what color” being scrawled onto the walls, are things which I’ve seen in other Tow Ubukata stories, which leads me to believe that this story was mostly created under his influence.
Should I be glad that Psycho-Pass 2 has potentially helped to keep interest in this franchise alive, meaning that we might get even more proper installments of it in the future? Or should I be pissed off that it wasted four hours of my life and tainted the overall quality of one of my favorite sci-fi anime franchises? I didn’t have to spend any money to watch it–and if anything, I had a lot of fun and even profited from tearing it to shreds–so I can’t pretend that nothing good came out of it for me. Nonetheless, from this point forward, I am likely going to try and forget that Psycho-Pass 2 ever existed, and to go on rewatching the original series with the same reverence that I already have for the past year. I look forward to seeing the film, and to whatever else the future might bring to this franchise, although I might not watch every installation of the series if the original creative staff is ever absent from production again.
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Edited by The Davoo: https://www.youtube.com/user/TheDavoo
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