Time to bring out the big guns
|Whew! Sorry this is so late, guys. By now you can probably just assume the cause is “school”…which it was. I feel bad that I didn’t get a chance to blog about Psycho-Pass earlier considering that it was my top pick for the season. I had the most hype for Psycho-Pass because of its unique premise, solid production values, and my particular interest in anything including the brain.|
What is Psycho-Pass?
Psycho-Pass feels like a dark, gritty cops show with some futuristic, sci-fi elements thrown in. They go through the process of showing this newbie (the adorably boyish Tsunemori) the ropes, as per most cop shows, but “the ropes” involves a talking gun that can instantaneously scan your brain. They can figure out exactly how likely someone is of committing a crime, and the guns will switch from paralytic rounds to a lethal round that causes the target to explode from the inside out. Charming. It’s a very macabre subject with all sorts of ethical implications being thrown out there right from episode one. Is it right to invade the privacy of civilians and look at their mental state? Is it ethical to judge someone based on a high probability of future criminality that might not actually happen? Is the judgement system potentially so stressful that it is – in itself – a stressor that could set people off in the wrong way?
Right from the start, Psycho-Pass is trying to get you to think more than “ooooh what a neat gun!”. They want you to think of the implications. It’s very promising that the first episode is framed in this way, because I take that to mean we’ll be introduced to more moral dilemmas and touchy cases. Tsunemori is the only one who wants to try and protect everyone, which is a good contrast to the mix of vicious and stoic killers among the ranks. It’s good to see a female lead who panics a bit (because she’s new), but ultimately knows how to get shit done. That’s more than I can say for some female protagonists, my goodness. I’ll be curious to see whether Tsunemori either shifts more towards capturing criminals regardless of whether they’ve committed a crime or not, or if the felons-turned-policedogs will be the ones becoming more compassionate. With a great mix of violence, suspense, hot guys and complex concepts to puzzle over, Psycho-Pass is looking damn fine.
Does this style look familiar? It should to fellow Reborn! fans.
Production Notes: What did I mean by “solid production values” earlier? Well, you’ve got the likes on Urobuchi Gen working on the script, for one. He’s a rather big name, known for being the creator of Fate/Zero and doing the script and series composition for Madoka. He handles dark subjects and the concept of pondering over what is right or wrong exceptionally well, so I expect him to be right at home with Psycho-Pass. In terms of looks, you can’t really go wrong with Production I.G.. They’ve animated so many goddamned things I don’t even know where to start (hence the link!), but they’re a solid studio who are usually good at providing scenery porn. So far it’s too dark to see much other than blood and suffering, but we’ll see how things pan out. Everything else looks good though. They put a lot of life into Amano Akira’s (of Katekyo Hitman Reborn!’s fame) original character designs. Last but not least, props to the seiyuu for also breathing life into everything. You can’t go wrong with the likes of HanaKana (every moe character ever), Miyuki Sawashiro (Celty in DRRR!!), Tomokazu Seki (Gilgamesh in Fate/Zero), Ishida Akira (every villain ever), and Takahiro Sakurai (Suzaku in Code Geass). Nothing like sexy voices as the cherry on top, no?
Psycho-Pass from the Eyes of a Neuroscience Nerd
I think “nerd” is the highest level I can claim since I’m still working on getting my degree, and it gives me something to point to in case I say something horribly wrong. Now that my disclaimer is out of the way…HOW ABOUT DEM DOMINATORS, EH? They can scan a target and immediately calculate someone’s propensity for crime. While we don’t have a Dominator to instantly assess people in real life, we do possess the means to slowly accumulate the same set of information the gun would need to come to its conclusion.
The Dominator gives anyone being targeted an instant scan to calculate a criminal coefficient number based off of their psychological state. For example, it notices that Nobuo Okura needs therapy because his risk factor for committing a crime is high. We don’t have all the details of the gun, but so far it seems like it’s coming to this conclusion based on their mental stability. The Psycho-Pass system looks for telltale signs of mental instability, such as the neurotransmitter levels, brain physiology, and any genetic markers that show risk factors or hereditary disorders. Mental instability is used as a measure to predict future criminal behaviour, which is marked with a certain probability as a criminal coefficient number. The colour may be a marker of what kind of instability they show (depression, anxiety, violence etc.). I don’t think it reads minds or anything, but it bases all predictions off of how well people function in society. It’s rather similar to our DSM classification system of assigning a GAF number (general assessment of functioning) to people in order to judge their level of functioning in everyday life. This is also used to determine how to handle the patient, who may harm themselves or others based on what their score is. Those with high scores (the highest is 100) are very stable while those with low scores are very volatile and have severe impairments.
But is that really a good way to determine if someone will commit a crime? They’re persecuting people who haven’t even done anything yet, on the premise that they might commit a crime because of their unstable mental state. The two are strongly correlated, but humans can beat the odds sometimes. The early diagnosis has an opposite effect on Nobuo Okura, who is so freaked out by the fact he might become a criminal that he just goes all out to compensate for what seems inevitable. But it’s not inevitable. However, being branded with the label of “criminal” can actually make people more likely to live a self-fulfilling prophecy. Like Oedipus who marries his mother and kills his father in order to escape a prophecy that states the very same thing, it’s possible that warning someone can make things worse.
The issue of judging people’s future actions or states based on various biological markers such as brain physiology and DNA markers is actually a rather pertinent issue that comes up a lot in my classes. There are programs for catching people who are at risk of developing a mental illness by looking at how much they are at risk based on numerous factors (including their current affect and social situation). It becomes a problem of then finding a good cut-off point. Do you only treat people who have 70% chance of becoming depressed? 80%? 90%? If the cut-off is too low, then you’re just wasting time dealing with people who might not even need help. The fact that someone is labelled for having the potential to become x (be it a specific disorder or a criminal) can be enough to make them believe they really are that thing already.
Similar issues arise for DNA tests that can tell how likely someone is of getting a certain disease…right from birth. If you knew they were going to get Huntington’s (a hereditary disease that only shows symptoms later on in life) based on their DNA, then it seems almost cruel to tell them because it is impossible to stop it. Of course, not all cases are as clear cut, and some markers only show the probability of a certain disease or disorder coming about. Still, would you want to know your chances of catching every single ailment out there right from birth? Wouldn’t that fundamentally change how you behave, and live your life?
I think you can all tell that the Psycho-Pass system is cast as more of a curse than a blessing in episode 1. This is not a tool to make people get better – this is a tool to segregate all of society. Without being asked to, everyone has the mental state constantly monitored and treated as public knowledge. Any abnormalities are treated immediately. While this is a good thing, it’s phrased in a way that says “if you stay the way you are now, society won’t need you anymore.” The rape victim kidnapee is treated much in the same way – like a throwaway. She doesn’t matter anymore once she’s been traumatized. It’s a bit of a twisted system where people are expected to act in ways that reflect their Psycho-Pass number. If someone is labelled as being at risk for committing a crime, then they are treated as if it has already happened. The technology is so advanced that they see no margin for error.
On the bright side of things, this gun would be pretty sick if we actually had one and used it for the powers of good. There are benefits to this device if you continue to think outside the restraints of the show. They could prevent future crimes by stopping re-offenders from committing a second crime, and they might be useful for making people with undiagnosed illnesses realize what’s wrong and how to fix it. If it can tell that someone is about to commit a crime based on a quick scan, then I would go a step further and say it could be used to find early-onset depression, bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses. I think the only reason the crime coefficient of the kidnapped and raped women increases is because she is traumatized and incredibly stressed. Usually victims aren’t thinking about crimes as much as they are about escaping and then getting help – and yet she’s pegged as a potential felon. Imagine that…kidnapped and abused, then treated like she’s just as bad as the guy who used her. Having a mental breakdown and going on a crime spree are two different things.
But I digress. If used correctly, the Psycho-Pass system could be an invaluable tool that eradicates the messy, often inaccurate diagnosis system where we base the bulk of our judgments on the patient’s behaviours (i.e. symptoms). With the ability to scan someone instantly, you could make mental illness diagnosis a lot more accurate since they often are accompanied with changes in brain physiology (eg. schizophrenics have larger ventricles), neurotransmitter imbalances (eg. low serotonin levels in those with Depression), and other biological cues the Dominator can ostensibly detect. Combine the Psycho-Pass system with an assessment of their personality and behaviour, and you’ve got a new, holistic system that would revolutionize the world! A lot of people don’t even realize or admit they have something wrong, so putting mandatory scans in place could help catch a lot of people who would have gone unhelped otherwise. However, whether or not they want treatment should be up to them.
The system of Psycho-Pass is so wonderfully complex and full of little loopholes that I can’t wait to hear it described in detail. If you couldn’t tell already, I think the implications of releasing such a gun to society are endless in both good and evil capacities. It may seem silly to compare an imaginary gun to REAL LIFE SCIENCE but, hey, that’s what I find fun so deal with it!
I really like Psycho-Pass so far! It took a bunch of things I like and then rolled them all together into a katamari of attractiveness. The first case was purposefully a touchy one that that caused a big conflict in interests between Tsunemori and Shinya. I can’t wait to see how they deal with her after this little stunt she pulled. If you couldn’t tell by now, I’ll be blogging Psycho-Pass from now on, and will try to get the episode 2 post out for your reading pleasure as soon as possible. Until then, please don’t think I’m crazy for wishing that the Dominator was a real gun so fervently.
Preview: More females, wow! Tsunemori is introduced to the rest of the police force now that she isn’t in a rush after being assigned to a case so quickly. We’ll most likely get a debriefing of the mission that was just finished, and some insight about how this crazy world works.