by Jacob Chapman,
It sounds facetious, but I really want to give Psycho-Pass 2 a sincere round of applause for having the stones to construct an entire season's conflict around a very dumb pun. I didn't realize it until this very last episode, but after a not-remotely-subtle scene of Kamui using holo technology to become the many dead people who make up his physical body, changing personalities with each unique face, the full reason behind his Frankenstein-ian existence hit me in the face like a big dumb brick.
Sibyl, as in the Sibyl System, was a tragic figure from Greek mythology, cursed with immortality but not eternal youth, reduced to babbling and pleading for death as she became isolated from the world. She somehow became the namesake for legendary oracular women throughout Greece, not immortal themselves, but in tune with the immortal wisdom and judgment of the gods. The significance to Psycho Pass' system is pretty obvious, down to its elderly female face, but that apparently isn't the end of the story for sequel showrunner Ubukata.
Sybil, (note the different spelling,) was the nickname given to the world's most infamous (and completely falsified) case of dissociative identity disorder in Shirley Ardell Mason, who possessed 16 personalities. The novelization of her case became a massive hit in the 1970's and is often credited with the widespread cultural knowledge of multiple personalities and their portrayal in fiction. Enter Kamui and his motivations as a man of many minds.
Oh my god. This was the entire reason they came up with this season's premise. It's because of a pun caused by swapping two letters in one word. I honestly can't decide if this conceit is brilliant or moronic. (Full disclosure, I noticed the potential Sibyl/Sybil twist in season one, and given Urobuchi's notorious reputation as a bookworm and the fame of the novel, I thought it was already mixed into the Sibyl System's nature all by itself, in classic "words have two meanings" hokey sci fi fashion.) Either Tow Ubukata didn't notice or doesn't care, because he has his omnipotence paradox to address, and by god he's going to do it with a SIBYL VS SYBIL SHOWDOWN!
Sort of. Psycho-Pass 2's finale confirms suspicions that it was always meant to be a bottle season with no permanent effect on the franchise through a grossly anticlimactic face-off that requires several confused replays to fully process. In order to understand why anything happens the way it does, several rules from the first season have to be snapped over one knee and re-written, so let's lay those rules out first before diving into what actually happens between Sibyl and "Sybil."
1) In Psycho-Pass 2, the Sybil System is a logic-bound council of minds who seek perfection, to become flawless and God-like and 100% internally consistent with the goal of lording over a perfect world someday. In the first series, it was a matrix of individuals that wanted, in their own words, the appearance of perfection, regardless of the imperfect reality of their governance, so they could shape the world to live by their values when for so long it had forced them to live by theirs, punishing them for being psychopaths. To achieve this, they broke both their own laws and basic logical statues frequently, and with very human bias. That is no longer true, please forget you ever heard that. Now Sibyl is a big computer with a truly noble goal that it just hasn't achieved yet.
2a) In Psycho-Pass 2, people can switch between being normal and criminally asymptomatic with relative ease! Yes, the first season established that criminal asymptomacy or the lack thereof is established at a young age and cannot be either repaired or created with the medical technology available. Normal people's psycho-passes swing up and down with violent thoughts or activity, but a criminally asymptomatic person's remains low and clear regardless of violent thoughts or behavior. That's because it was an obvious metaphor for the real-world personality disorder known as psychopathy, or "sociopathy" for the more familiar but outdated pop psych term. The show avoided the use of that word directly because it would be offensive to the brains populating the system that created their more positive-sounding term, and also because "futuristic social allegory." In Psycho-Pass 2, it's unclear what the difference between CA and non-CA is because people are seen acting the exact same way before and after having lived as both, in this case Mom and Jr. Tougane. (Momma Tougane is blasted by Kamui with the Dominator while inside the Sibyl-bot after she comes up as 300+, even though she was known to be CA before. I haven't a clue whether this actually killed her or not, but it doesn't matter in light of what Sibyl does later. She's dead either way.) It is never established what causes these changes in either character. By the rules of season one, it would have to be magically injecting the character with the ability to feel empathy and inhibition somehow, and that's certainly not what happens. So it's basically an irrelevant designation used for plot convenience: when the Dominator can fire and when it cannot fire.
2b) In Psycho-Pass 2, the Sibyl System's brains are not all criminally asymptomatic and this has never been a requirement to be part of the collective. In this finale's climax, Kamui walks into Sibyl's core and points the Dominator at several brains with 300+ readings. In season one, these brains would not exist, because the Sybil System is not made up of only serial killers, it is specifically made up of criminally asymptomatic serial killers, i.e. "psychopaths." This is still confusing even in light of the Rule 2a revision, because it's hard to imagine these brains were "painted black" in the isolation of the mainframe. Therefore, they had to be accepted while like that, and this intent is made clearer by this episode's conclusion where the Chief considers inviting Akane to join Sibyl. (This was never offered to Akane in the first season because she was not CA, and see old Rule 2a.)
Anyway, all of these revisions lead up to this climax's new theme, in direct contrast with the old one: Sibyl is bad because it isn't perfect. It is not able to judge the possibility of groups that have a different "collective reading" from their "individual readings," and this is bad because that's the way the world is headed, supposedly. (Wouldn't want the dystopic nightmare system to be outdated, I guess!) This "bug that needs updating" is not illustrated by anything in the show apart from Kamui's existence, and Kamui is a freak of nature who has never even demonstrated multiple personality disorder, which might be something that would throw Sibyl as established off. Being made up of several dead bodies and brains should not throw off the System, and it doesn't have any relevant equivalent in society at large, as made clear by this season not bothering to ever try and come up with one. Still, Kamui's plan "works" and Sibyl gives him a "collective psycho-pass" and is then forced to give itself one because beep-boop-logic. Unfortunately for Kamui, it just chemically liquidates any brains in its system over 300, which he cannot do for his own many brains, and he "loses." (Again, by the rules of season one, there would not even be any of those brains in the system, and Kamui's entire plan would be pointless.) Kamui's new collective psycho-pass is way over 300, he and Tougane blow each other up, and Akane goes back to her day job. The only thing left to note is that Akane's Inspector rights are revoked for a while on Sibyl's not-remotely-logical whim, completely negating its decision not to do that for Shisui in the million prior moments it should have, and we've all lost by watching this whole thing, haven't we?
Honestly, this series hurt my heart to watch. It made me sad not because it was stupid and poorly-written, but because in the end, it fundamentally misunderstood the ideas behind the franchise it was continuing. Even worse, it replaced them with, shall we say, "criminally asymptomatic" opposing ideals. Psycho-Pass was clear in its condemnation of the Sibyl System for even existing, and it had deep and abounding empathy for those with psycho-passes that were too high (Enforcers,) ones that were "perfect," (Inspectors,) and even the criminally asymptomatic "monsters" at the top of the system who could not exist within it. Psycho-Pass 2 condemns the Sibyl System "because it isn't perfect," even directly stating that the Sibyl System could become a force for good someday and that both Kamui and Akane earnestly believe that. (Whatever happened to "someday people will walk into this room and turn out all the lights?") It also seems to view having a high psycho-pass as an inherently bad thing, (no Enforcers are humanized at all in this sequel, the show ends with Saiga "recovering" to a lower number, and the general tenor of the story is that everyone should want to be clear even if it's hard to do, while the first season emphasized that the number was irrelevant to true goodness or badness in the human heart.) At the same time, it equally mocks the "perfect" citizens for being babyish sheep, only concerned with keeping their hue clear, and blindly following any force that can grant them this, (Mika, along with Kamui's giant cult.)
The best thing about this whole disaster is that it did lead to nothing, on closer examination. Apart from the deaths of Aoyanagi, Akane's grandmother, and a dozen unnamed brains that make up Sybil, nothing has changed from the end of season one. (Even Mika's character could probably be wholly rewritten with new traits and motives using a "gas leak season" excuse, since she ends this season by mentally regressing to an unknown state.) Sibyl resolves to update itself so that it can become capable of judging groups along with individuals, but this is such a vague and meaningless assertion that I can't even figure out what the writers were trying to "say" with it, if anything. So, the entire season might as well not have happened, and despite all my rage, its anticlimax is already beginning to fade like a bad dream.
Now where's that movie with all the original production staff, writers, and a genuinely exciting premise? I hope it arrives in America soon, I need it to wash my brain out.
Psycho-Pass 2 is currently streaming on Funimation.
Hope has been an anime fan since childhood, and likes to chat about cartoons, pop culture, and visual novel dev on Twitter.
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