by Jacob Chapman,
"The newest ideas and approaches are not always the right ones," Akane warns Mika halfway through this episode. On the surface, Akane is talking about her decision to investigate a suspicious area in person rather than relying on drone surveillance. On a deeper level, she's clearly talking about the Sybil system. (Mika is slavishly devoted to it, but Akane has seen the full truth behind its friendly face.) Then on a meta-textual level, I can't help but feel like this episode has just commented on its host season. Psycho-Pass 2 still has a lot of new ideas, but they're not always good ones. Fortunately, it can pack them in pretty tightly when it wants to, and episode five is jam-packed with "stuff" start to finish.
Perfect hologram technology was one of the most neglected major aspects of the Psycho-Pass world in season 1, so season 2 is out to explore that element to its fullest. "Holo" is responsible not only for a copious amount of Spice and Wolf puns in any given episode, but also for villain Kamui's entire modus operandi. He's a ghost who works through a combination of mind-altering drugs, hologram tech and as of this episode, facial reconstruction surgery. It's all high-concept rigamarole built around a theme of "deceptive reality," seeing things differently from how they really are. (It's also reinforced by the "What Color?" question Kamui leaves behind for investigators.) It's a good thematic basis for a mystery, so season 2 continues to maintain its focus on unraveling that mystery at the expense of the character meditations season one prioritized. It's a give and take that works well sometimes (this week), and fails spectacularly in others (last week). We still don't know very much about our new cast and the old cast hasn't changed much, but they've all got a whopper of a crime on their hands!
The entire episode is a cat-and-mouse chase that bounces from character to character, discovery to discovery, culminating in a shocking sequence of rapid-fire shots that spells bad news for both Akane and Mika. That's not to say it's a "smart" cat-and-mouse chase. It's more like one of those youtube videos where a cat awkwardly hops around a mouse before running away from it, scared stupid. It's fine, because the entertainment value is present either way. Kamui's pet Inspector has now been fully brainwashed into his new mewling servant, and with her allegiance, he has control of the Dominator. Sybil is currently being piloted by a brain that knows Akane and has decided to make the Kamui case personal for both of them. (Please don't let it be Makishima somehow. Let him just rest in pieces.) Section 3 has been folded into Section 2 which makes things real awkward after what happened last week. Kamui has linked security drones to a popular mobile phone game, causing the populace to inadvertently start destroying their own city with every benign button press, and to cap it all off, Tougane appears to be literally after Akane's face, what is this Buffalo Bill stuff all over his room, dear god!
It's a lot of dumb histrionics, but they're dumb histrionics that fit the world of Psycho-Pass, unlike the severely uncomfortable "enforced incompetence" of last week's events. After all, this is a world where people are both trained and tricked out of empathy, turning the populace into emotionally stunted infants who tear at each other with deadly force in order to feel something. The system is insane and sometimes dumb stuff happens because of that. The shock value here comes from an exploitation of the system "as it's meant to function," not the system itself becoming dysfunctional because of contrivance and poor character writing. The episode's not much more than a series of clues and reveals, but at least they're fun to watch, both the intriguing choices and the ridiculous ones.
Character-wise, we do see glimpses of development for a few parties. Ginoza is trying hard not to be affected by Aoyanagi's death. The Section 3 Enforcer who shot her is both wracked with guilt and confronted with his past as a factory worker when the MWPSB investigates the drone warehouse. Saiga remarks on Akane's near-freakish trademark stability, calling her sanity and even humanity into question, while Tougane watches her with suspicious red eyes. Of course, the show continues to play Mika's foolhardiness to the bone as she once again tries and fails to get Akane demoted or fired. "That girl will be eaten alive," Sybil remarks after dismissing her. The only question remaining is whether the show will expect us to delight in Mika's destruction or have compassion for her. Time will tell, and it seems like Psycho-Pass 2 is going to continue to hold its cards close to its chest until the season's twilight hours.
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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