Psycho-Pass 2
Episodes 1-2

by Jacob Chapman,

The MWBSP is after a ghost. At least, he might as well be a ghost. There's a new drug on the market called LACOUSE that can supposedly alter a person's hue and this "living ghost," an unknown man who's never been caught on the citywide cymatic scans and works exclusively through elaborate holograms, has been using it to protect criminals for unknown reasons. This is especially weird because the drug is implied to be in legal circulation, and at very least tacitly allowed by Sybil if not outright endorsed. So, the details on LACOUSE are a little muddy, but oddly enough, the "ghost" himself is much more clear. The city hasn't quite recovered from the terror of Shogo Makishima, and the Sybil system's righteousness is being questioned more and more by the public.

It's an outcome the self-sacrificial captive of Sybil, Akane Tsunemori, can only wish for in constrained secrecy. On the outside she is Sybil's greatest cheerleader, steeling her nerves as an Inspector for the system's watchful eyes, while a dream lingers in her heart that someday, the people will be ready to walk into Sybil's "heart," turn out all the lights, and close the door behind them forever. Psycho-Pass 2's new villain, this "ghost," watches from the sidelines and sees right through Akane, pleading with her to rebel through the avenues he thinks he's giving her: pardoning criminals freed from the tyranny of a rigged numbers-game. He doesn't realize that this is in truth the complete opposite of what Akane wants, bringing him to tears when she cannot live up to his impossible expectations...and darkening his already sinister expression.

Sound familiar? It should! This is not so different from the Kogami-Makishima relationship that drove the drama of Psycho-Pass' first season. In another life, those two spiritual doppelgangers could have been allies, but their vastly different personal circumstances forced them into a bizarre like-minded enmity under the Sybil system, and eventually led to their mutual downfalls. Now with Kogami gone and Akane having long surpassed him as the true mediator between the people and the system, it's time she too got a villain "after her own heart." It's hard to replace a baddie as striking as Shogo Makishima, so season two has done the next best thing by only replacing what he represented, with a bizarre like-minded enemy to Akane in place of Kogami. Episode 1 concludes with foreboding narration from Akane over her new foe's first appearance: "It was the start of my own personal battle to determine who I am."

It's by miles the strongest aspect of what is frankly a step down from season one of Psycho-Pass thus far, both in a slightly less eye-popping production and more importantly, in writing quality. There's a ton of promise in all the new elements thrown into these episodes, but there's way too much anxiety in the execution. Mika's addition to the force is already beginning to feel like a mistake. Her dogmatic defense of The System is not only inconsistent with her characterization in season one, but becomes downright cartoonish by this season's episode 2, when she disavows the humanity of all the Enforcers she works with right in front of them, even adding that the demoted Ginoza deserves no respect just because he used to be an Inspector like her. What about the kindness and sympathy she and Yayoi shared after the Lavinia murders last season? Oh, that's been turned into an awkward crush, so Mika can be conflicted with her feelings for an inferior being and give Yayoi something to do, I guess.

The problem with this character is that we've seen Sybil's true face already, and you can't just put those evils back in Pandora's box. Ginoza was Mika's character last season, but with far more subtlety and complexity to his dismissal of Enforcers, tied up in an immediately compelling relationship with his father. More importantly, he was not purely a foil for Akane like Mika is so far, but an avatar for the Sybil system's relationship with everyone. His arc worked because there was ambiguity to how good or evil Sybil was, and therefore how good or evil Ginoza could be. If Mika is supposed to be Akane's new foil, she's not a compelling one at all, and as a defensive voice for the system, well...there is no defense for the system. Sybil is The Real Enemy now. We know what "Psycho-Pass" literally means at this point and it's indefensible, so we're stuck watching a little girl who doesn't know anything about it be mean and stupid for little to no narrative reason and with no pre-established characterization to excuse it.

There are other tiny weeds of problems too. Our new villain has had less than five lines, and I could still tell you more about him than almost any of the new Enforcers. Mostly, they spout exposition or even some literal "as you know" dialogue. Some attempts to develop their characters are downright cringe-worthy, like when the totally-not-a-bad-guy Tougane coos to Akane that she is "quite perceptive about people" while working out on the same machines that Kogami used to train on and smoking the same cigarettes. Yes sir, you in no way seem like an untrustworthy fellow that is tempting Akane away from Kogami's memory! This season is definitely expecting the audience to pine for Kogami's return, as it lingers on scenes of Akane lighting her room with a cigarette at night and wishing the secondhand smoke would stick to her so she could always be reminded of her beloved's scent. (We can only hope Kogami comes back before that apartment becomes permanent Reeksville.)

It's too early to say which of season two's many new ideas will stick and which won't, (my bet's still on Mika being a big sore spot,) but there's a lot to chew on here, and at least the worrisome elements feel fresh. If you haven't gotten to Psycho-Pass yet, the recent "extended cut" re-airing is definitely the way to see it, and from there it should be an easy breeze straight into this intriguing continuation.

Rating: B

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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