So instead of doing anything else constructive I rewrote Psycho-Pass 2 and I actually produced it. Absolute madness. Also apparently today is my one year anniversary on wordpress, I had no idea. Anyway, please give this a watch if you’re interested, a lot of hard work was put into it.
Madoka is about nihilism. Nah, it’s not. It’s Nietzchen. And no those two things are not the same. If you have even a passing knowledge of Nietzche you are probably familiar with this quote: “God is Dead and we have killed him” but I’m not sure how many of you will be familiar with this one: Without music, life would be a mistake.
A bit optimistic from a man who has a reputation for believing life is pointless. Madoka is similar, it has gained a similar reputation for being rather nihilistic which doesn’t do it justice.
So in this video I’m going to talk about Madoka’s Nietzchen influences, spoiler warning for The Main series and Rebellion.
Merriam Webster definies nihilism as “a viewpoint that traditional values and beliefs are unfounded and that existence is senseless and useless”
To be a bit more concise it’s the belief that existence and thus everything is pointless. And I think it’s easy to see why people see this in Madoka especially when it’s so often conflated with Nietzche’s true beliefs.
At the end of the series Madoka wishes for witches to be erased from existence and things are left on a somewhat hopeful note. Sure Madoka and Sayaka are still gone but at least they’re not witches now and Mami and Kyoko get to live. But it’s Rebellion that flips this on it’s head. By wishing for the impossibly good Madoka creates an evil of equal measure in Homura. This idea of every act having an equal reaction on the other side, every wish creates a soul gem which in time will create a witch. So at the end of Rebellion when Homura rewrites the universe and alters the memories of the main cast it can seem incredibly nihilistic, it seems futile to struggle against a being that can control your memories.
But one must not overlook the key element within Madoka and the one that makes it so Nietzchen in nature. The characters will always struggle against things even when it is pointless. Homura continuously tries over and over again to save Madoka’s life, Kyoko tries to save Sayaka and even at the end of Rebellion Madoka fights back against Homura’s control briefly. The girls only become witches once they give up the fight, Sayaka is the best example of this but also remember that Homura is very close to becoming a witch before Madoka swoops in to save her. In fact the very nature of their survival is dependent on fighting because of how soul gems and grief seeds work. Witches themselves are quite Nietzchen in nature. To quote him again: He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster.
One can see this in the series too as the girls fight against nihilism in the moral sense. Kyubey is a being without emotions and thus any true moral code. It constantly finds decisions made on the part of humans illogical. But that’s sort of the point the illogical nature of emotions is human, it makes us. All of the girls make their wish for the sake of another and embrace this emotion. In fact the only one who doesn’t embrace is Kyoko and her character arc revolves around realizing that she should.
After her original wish makes her father kill himself and the rest of her family she spends years just doing her job and not connecting with others. Until she meets Sayaka who she will then give up her life for in vain whilst trying to save her. I think this can be summed up by yet another Nietzche quote: To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering. Kyoko was living, not surviving. Madoka’s entire arc revolves around her finding something worth wishing for, finding that meaning. Sayaka gives up once that meaning is taken away from her, her perception of the soul gem stripping her of some of her humanity leads to a case where she believes she can never truly be close to him. Finding your own meaning is oh so important, for He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.
Throughout it all Madoka’s message is clear: Whilst things may be pointless one must struggle against it anyway.
And if you don’t agree with me remember: There are no facts, only interpretations.
Thanks for reading,
(a script for my next video please ignore the abundance of typos)
Why are little sister anime so popular? Are we not burnt out on them yet? I mean there’s been an influx of these since 2010 and most of them have over 100,000 viewers out west according to MAL alone. Let’s do some quick maths.
Here’s a list of 9 little sister shows I found:
Yosuga no Sora 210,758 6.64
Koi Kaze 49,094 7.29
NAKAIMO – My Little Sister Is Among Them! 109,633 6.81
OniAi 138,738 6.74
ImoCho 88,390 6.43
I have never been that high on Re:Zero. When it first came out I watched the first episode on the basis of it’s psychological tagging on MyAnimeList. I got bored about 10 minuets in and dropped the show. Then I saw it gain considerable praise throughout it’s run, gaining a rather high rating on the aforementioned MAL. So I picked it up again and this time I actually finished the thing. As I got further into it I felt like the show picked up steam before it dropped it all again right at the end. In the end I gave it a 6/10. Even though the start and end were shaky I had felt that the middle of the show had been enjoyable enough that it merited at least a 6. T
hat was about a year ago and given the amount of time that had passed I was interested in giving the series another watch after hearing an acquaintance of mine gush over it. And I did rewatch it. or rather I tried to rewatch it. I only made it 10 episodes in (9 if you count 1a and 1b as one episode). The show is incredibly poorly written to me, I don’t know if this is an adaptation issue or if the problem lies in the source material but regardless Re:Zero starting life in another world, is a bit of a clusterfuck.
This is evident from the first episode by which I mean episodes 1a and 1b. We open with our Main Character Subaru in a convenience store reading some mangos. After some way too on the nose humour and a remark about how it’d be cool to have one of them girl thingys he steps outside and is transported into another world. This has all been inter-spliced with scenes of his death later on in the episode.
Now in a vacuum there’s nothing particularly wrong with this scene. It shows us our main character, sets him up a bit and then thrusts us into what should be our hook, the alternate world. Except the alternate world is not our hook, by episode 9 we have been to roughly 4 locations in this world, the center of the city, the slums, Roswaal’s mansion and the village nearby. If Re:Zero’s main goal was to create and explore an alternate world then it does a very poor job of it. We will learn bits and pieces about the world throughout these first 9 episodes but it never seems to be the main focus.
The show isn’t trying to be that though, at least I don’t think it is. It’s an examination of Subaru’s character or more accurately what if a gamer was transported to a world with game like situations and real consequences. The Return by Death power is central to this as it is reminiscent of checkpoints in video games. At any rate this Return by death mechanic is not revealed until the end of episode 1 b. In a Movie your 2nd act would be well underway at this stage, this is 40 minuets into your story and only now are you telling us why we should be interested in the first place. This is why I dropped it the first time, nothing grabbed me early on. I’m convinced if it weren’t for the anime community’s 3 episode rule far less people would have Re:Zero under completed instead of dropped.
And the Return by Death mechanic is a pretty strong hook, I don’t know why they didn’t start with that or get to it quicker. From a story telling standpoint it would’ve made sense to focus more on establishing Subaru’s character though. Maybe we could of had a scene with him at home before he heads to the Konbini. But if you wanted to have a really grabbing opening at the expense of that then why wouldn’t you put your actual hook front and center. It boggles me.
Anyway if you were able to get past this initial part then you’d be in for a pretty mediocre ride. Whenever it’s not trying to push boundaries it does adequately. Conversely it almost always fails when it tries to do something interesting. Throughout the first part of the series we will see Subaru trying to get back Emilia’s emblem and the disembowling lady from murdering everyone. The characterization provided throughout these episodes is fine so I won’t touch on it too much. Emilia telling Subaru her name was Satella makes little sense in my mind but it’s not a big deal.
The biggest issue with this arc is the villain. She’s just not intimidating. Re:Zero’s villains tend to turn the ham up to 11 without providing enough juxtaposing sinisterness. Elsa here just doesn’t scare me in the slightest. She doesn’t seem like an insurmountable challenge. I guess it’s the equivalent of overacting except it’s written right into the script. Those wide Norman Bates eyes don’t scare me they make me laugh. I remember thinking a similar thing when I saw Beetleguese on my first watch, I wished that he was more restrained but not having gotten that far my second time around I may have thought differently on a rewatch.
Apart from that the opening episodes are OK. They drag on a bit because, of course they do. That’s the problem with the Return by Death thing, Subaru rarely changes his plan up signifigantly enough to make things interesting. I wish he’d either changed things more drastically or we’d spent less time on this opening loop. ANd in the end the only reason Elsa is defeated is circumstantial and not due to anything he conciously did. Because he happened to run into Reinhart in this timeline they win, that’s not a particularly satisfying conclusion to me.
Then we get to the arc in Roswaal’s mansion. I dropped my rewatch in the middle of this arc because it was just too annoying to me. Basically we have Subaru trying over and over again to survive in the mansion and get closer to Emilia and the mansion staff. The idea is fine I guess but in execution it falls very flat. This arc is where we should be getting most of our character and relationship building done so that we can care about our cast going forward. Subaru doesn’t know any of these people so he’s starting from scratch. The problem here is that in a time loop you cannot establish character relationships. You can give characters like Rem and Ram some characterization and background because these are things that are only pertinent to the audience in most cases. But every time Subaru dies his relationship with them SHOULD go back to square one but it never seems to.
Emilia seems awfully pally with someone whom she has literally had one conversation with up to this point. Remember all those conversations in the first episode never happened for her. All she knows of Subaru is that he was in the place her insignia was stolen and fought with her against Elsa. This is enough for her to take him to Roswaal’s sure but not justifying the closeness she displays (something she herself calls out at one point). It’s the same with Rem and Ram it always felt like they were warming up to him ever so slightly throughout each loop although it was nowhere near as prominent as with Emilia. The problem is that because we have spent so long with these characters the relationships feel earned even though they haven’t been. It’s basically cheating your audience in this regard. You want to torment Subaru with these time loops but you also don’t want to reset everything else like you should.
It also leads to some blatant plot holes. At one point after one of his many deaths Subaru asks Beatrice to protect him, threatening to tell Puck if she doesn’t help. In a conversation in another timeline he sees her talking to Puck and showing fondness for him. It is then that Subaru realises this fact (obviously). So when he says this to Beatrice she should be wondering how he knows that would get to her since for her that conversation never happened. Then there’s the case of Rem’s death in this same timeline. She dies because she receives the curse Subaru got last time. But how would she have? We see Subaru only gets the curse when he goes up to pet the puppy at the behest of the children. Rem has been shown to, up to this point, not have been at all close to the villagers something that Subaru will try to remedy in later episode/timeline. So how did she get bitten? She wouldn’t have gone near that dog if she went down to the village. It makes little sense and could’ve easily been fixed by having a scene showing the dog attacking her. It’s not strictly speaking a plot hole but it really stretches thing. There are plenty of things like this in just the first 9 episodes, again in the final battle with Elsa Subaru calls out to Puck to shield Emilia. In their minds Subaru should not know of Puck’s existence, it should’ve at least been questioned by them.
I could go on for quite a while complaining about these sort of things but you get the point. I could talk about how Subaru’s effective immortality diminishes the shows stakes and how it could’ve been altered to fix this but that’s an entire video unto itself. Instead to close this out I’ll talk about the plot point that made me drop my rewatch.
In episode 9 Subaru and Rem go down to the village and find out the kids have dissappeared. Then they go to the forest to find that the magic barrier keeping Mabeasts out has been breached. This. Is. Retarded.
We know the dog has been in the village for at the very lest 2 days, probably more considering how close the children are to it. That means that this barrier was left unchecked for multiple days! These people don’t fucking patrol this barrier to check if it’s breached? If it’s compromised EVERYONE IN THE VILLAGE COULD DIE. Why isn’t there someone who’s job it is to patrol this thing. Or even a rota of people checking at least twice a day. WHY ISN’T THERE A 50 FOOT WALL KEEPING OUT THOSE MEXBEASTS?
AT this point I audibly said “Fuck this” to myself and went off to do anything else.
Re:Zero has plenty going for it but it never finds a way to utilize any of them in a way that would keep my interested. I really like the character designs for instance but when best Girl Rem keeps getting reset to her first meeting with Subaru I just lose interest. Anyway, let me know what you thought of Re:Zero and about the issues I mentioned specifically below.
And thanks for reading,
Psycho-Pass is the single greatest Anime ever.
OK let’s rephrase that a bit actually.
The first season of Psycho-Pass is the single best Anime I have ever watched and I say that without a hint of hyperbole.
But explaining why I love it is very difficult. I’ve said before that it’s easy to explain why you hate something and hard to show why you love another. Well when it’s the thing you love the most the task can seem a near impossibility.
You feel the need to explain absolutely everything about it because if you don’t then you feel like you’re underselling it, not doing it justice.
I’ve struggled with this when trying to write this video in the past, trying to talk about everything seemed impossible.
So I’ve decided not to write about everything and instead focus on the parts I can talk about best. I will come at this mainly from the perspective of a writer, actor and director as I have experience in all of these fields. While I will comment on other aspects of the show (like it’s music for example) I feel they are not my area of expertise and thus merit less in depth analysis.
So if I still have you then please join me as I try to explain why Psycho-Pass is the best Anime ever.
Where do stories begin?
As this is my first video in this format I’ll have to elaborate a bit.
From a writing standpoint your story generally starts from one of three places.
Characters, setting or story. As a writer your story will usually stem from one of these three with the other two developing in service of or alongside your starting point.
Let’s look at a few examples in anime:
In One Punch Man I think it’s pretty obvious the idea of Saitama himself was the origin.
In Attack On Titan the setting of a Titan infested world seems to have been the driving idea.
And in almost all Harem Comedies shows the beginning idea is to make a harem comedy.
In each of these cases the other two components came after the initial one for instance in AoT Eren, the rest of the cast and what would happen to them would have come after the idea of the Titans or possibly alongside them.
So where does Psycho-Pass start from? What is it about? This is actually a complicated enough question.
The way you can usually tell what a TV series is about is by looking at the first scene. As a writer you want to let your audience know what to expect right from the off. Again think of Attack on Titan, we see unimportant characters fighting a Titan, we won’t see Eren and the gang until later because they are secondary to the idea of the titans, the audience needs to know about the Titans as early on as possible as they are the hook. Compare this to AMC’s The Walking Dead. Our first scene shows us Rick trying to find petrol. He calls out to a little girl only to find out she’s a walker. Then he reluctantly kills her. This is the hook of The Walking Dead. Not the zombies themselves but how they change the living. Rick will go on to say “We are the Walking Dead” in relation to his group of survivors, right from the start this is what it’s about. From a very casual viewing you could see many similarities between AoT and TWD but at heart they are very different and that is shown right from the first scene.
Let’s look at a few more examples. In Parasyte the first scene is of the parasite infecting (mainguy) and the show will explore the relationship between the two. Spirited Away’s first scene has Chihiro entering the spirit world. Death Note has light getting the Death Note. SAO shows us Kirito playing SAO. You get the point.
So then what is Psycho-Pass about?
“Well it’s obviously about Akane and the SIBYL system Mr.Psychime.”
You’d be forgiven for thinking that and in fact you’re not entirely wrong. It’s easy to forget that this scene with Akane meeting Ginoza for the first time is in fact not the first scene, this is.
A flash forward to episode 16, with Kogami meeting Makishima face to face for the first time (sort of). It should be noted that Akane narrates over this scene stressing the connection the two have. This is the only time narration will EVER be used in the show and is not present in the scene later on.
The take away for me is that the story of Psycho-Pass’ first season is about Makishima and Kogami and the story of Psycho-Pass as a franchise is about Sibyl and Akane.
There are a couple of things that lead me to this conclusion. First of all think about how things would be changed if that scene did not exist. Kogami appearing in the van would have no signifigance, he’d be just like the other enforcers and we also wouldn’t know that Makishima really exists, which of course fundamentally changes things. On top of this, the fact that Akane is not named in the first scene, she simply narrates. I’ve posited this before but I believe that Akane is a spectator to Kogami’s story for at the least the first half of the show. She is very much a perspective character for the audience to begin with.
Director Shiotani even said this in a Q&A in 2013:
“She [Akane] as the heroine comes in between the main character, Kougami Shinya, and his main rival, and enemy, Makishima Shogo.”
” Akane exists to be the audience’s perspective into this show……. [she grows] herself and eventually works herself into the standpoint of one of the main characters herself.”
Psycho-Pass is the story of Kogami to begin with. I think this is partially why the second season failed so hard and the movie didn’t reach similar heights even if it was good. There was simply no replacing the Kogami-Makishima story.
That’s my argument, that Psycho-Pass’ first season is primarily about Kogami vs Makishima and it’s the best anime I’ve seen thus far. SO what makes it so good?
What makes the world of Psycho-pass so great from a screenwriting standpoint? It does something that is very hard to do, make a world that is quite far removed from our own and also make it feel real.
The Kogami vs. Makishima story would be very hard to pull off in a world without Sibyl but if the world didn’t seem real then you would run the risk of breaking the audiences suspension of disbelief, something that Psycho-Pass 2 did.
Sibyl throughout acts very consistently. At first glance the system of government as presented to the public seems impossible. But as we will find out later Sibyl is willing to bend it’s own rules in order for it to work in practice as opposed to just in theory. This is not just limited to the times we see chief Kasei overide the dominator to kill people who threathen Sibyl . Think back to episode three, the robot building company are allowed to have their building outside of Sibyl’s range, only giving periodic updates on the mental states of their employees. This allows them to keep their employees ultra productive by keeping them off the internet. On top of that they allow their employees to bully YG to entertain themselves, moving him around so his Psycho-Pass can recover, taking advantage of the periodic check ups. Both of these things could not happen without Sibyl actively allowing them to. If Sibyl didn’t do this then the Japanese economy would be in ruin, when you restrict buisness too much they will up ship and leave so you have to give the biggest ones certain allowences.
This is not the only instance of this sort of thing happening but you get the point. Sibyl acts very consistantly and it feels real because it is such a flawed system.
Sibyl itself also serves to bring up a number of philospihical and moral issues. In most other situations the obstacle preventing Kogami and Division one from catching Makishima would just be another to overcome but when that obstacle is Sibyl it becomes a question of whether it’s OK to have someone like Makishima inducted into Sibyl if it means a better functioning version of it. This goes along with the shows emphasis on differing perspectives but we’ll touch on that when we talk about themes.
The setting also gives us many of our subplots that keep things moving throughout. Sibyl itself, Akane’s search for her place in a world like this, Ginoza’s struggles with his mental state, all of them come from the setting in Sibyl. These subplots (or in the case of Sibyl part of the series plot) keep things interesting when we aren’t directly focusing on Kogami vs. Makishima especially at the beginning.
The setting of Psycho-Pass is like a container for it’s story. It needs to be airtight to hold it all together and in season 1 it is. On top of that it provides plenty of additional intrigue on it’s own.
Since most of my commentary will be about the written aspects I feel it would be a good idea to divide each section going forward by talking about a technical aspect in between. After all, good execution is crucial to a shows quality on top of everything else.
Let’s start with the music. The soundtrack does a fantastic job of not only capturing the feel of Psycho-Pass’ universe but also the individual characters inhabiting it. The music I’ve been playing in the background so far is the track typically used in scenes where the characters are relaxing, just hanging around division 1 headquarters for example. I feel it does a good job of making the scenes feel like downtime whilst also retaining a sense that the things occurring on screen are important.
Another thing that the show does well is knowing exactly when and how to use certain pieces from the soundtrack. Take a look at this conversation between Ginoza and Kagari. The music stops just before Ginoza’s assertion that Kogami’s report on the specimen case is delusional, emphasizing the importance of his words.
Let’s also take a look at how the music reflects the characters. You might notice that the characters that reject SIBYL are usually accompanied by orchestral music lacking any sounds that might sound futuristic for example Makishima’s theme. Dark and overbearing this theme’s extremely organic instrumentation represent Makishima’s rejection of a reliance on technology and SIBYL. The drums also give off a raw, instinctual feeling befitting of Makishima’s character. Contrast this to the pieces like the one that plays when our protagonists are in focus. It has organic instrumentation but also some artificial sounds befitting of Akane’s semi acceptance of SIBYL. Willing to move forward without losing sight of her ideals. Of course the theme for the SIBYL system is heavily synth driven and almost completely devoid of the aforementioned organic instrumentation.
One slightly more subtle instance of this sonic representation of character divisions lies with Senguji. The music playing in the background during this scene is like Makishima’s in the sense that it lacks artificial sounds but it also reflects Senguji’s old mindset and style. It’s Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, straight from 1824. Not only does it reflect older values but was also fittingly the last symphony Beethoven composed before his death.
Psycho-Pass’ soundtrack is not only great in a vacuum but is used to great effect in the show itself.
With a solid setting like that you need good characters to inhabit your world, and this is where Psycho-Pass shines. Characters are the most important thing in a show to me and Urobuchi Gen gives us multiple rounded and intriguing characters. Even outside of our main trio we have at least two rounded characters in Ginoza and Masaoka.
I keep talking about rounded characters, well what do I mean by this? Well you can basically split all characters into two camps, rounded characters and flat characters. Flat characters have a pretty singular purpose in the show, they exist to inform a certain part of the story. For instance Kagari exists to show how unfair Sibyl can be when he tells Akane about how he was labeled a latent criminal as a child. Throughout the show this holds true, he isn’t given much more development because he doesn’t need to.
A rounded character on the other hand is much more in depth, they should have all the facets of a real person. The main characters of any given show are typically rounded so in this case Akane, Kogami and Makishima. More on them in a bit.
Often characters that begin as flat will become round. In the case of Psycho-Pass this is what happens to Ginoza. He starts out as just the senior detective who’s a bit too stubborn but we will go on to see why this is the case, diving into his psyche in regards to his relationships with Masaoka and Kogami. Rounding a flat character can in itself be a very interesting subplot, in fact you could argue that Akane begins as a flat character and her rounding out is a big focus of the show.
Typically you need at least one rounded character in your show, it’s very hard to get an audience to relate to a bunch of cardboard cutouts. Extrapolating from that I think it’s also true that the more rounded characters a show has the better it can be. Provided you can manage creating a whole bunch of rounded characters that is. For example JK Rowling created detailed character histories for a lot of the cast of Harry Potter, stuff that the audience never sees but informs the writer and any others who would come to work on an adaptation.
What amazes me about Psycho-Pass is not only the number of rounded characters that exist but just how many of the flat characters seem rounded themselves. Plenty of supporting characters are given ample characterization that they really didn’t have to be given. Take this one scene with Kagari and Akane. Akane is trying to get some info about Kogami out of Kagari. That’s this scenes purpose. We learn about Sasayama and what happened to him. Now as a writer you didn’t have to have the scene go this way. Akane needs to know more about Kogami in order to progress the plot forward but this could’ve been done in a number of different ways. None of them would’ve felt as true to Akane as this though.
On top of that the scene isn’t wasted, on top of moving things forward the scene informs us about both Kagari and Akane’s characters. The storybording is great throughout the show, whenever we see an enforcers room it brims with character and it’s no exception here. Kagari’s room is filled with games, fitting for a man robbed of his childhood. But of course we’re here to talk about writing and the dialougue here is also informative. When asked about his drink Kagari is very adament about it’s authenticity. “This is real alcohol” he doesn’t like the restrictions Sibyl places on him and will subvert them at any availible oppurtunity, this is also why he cooks his own food. Akane too gets some characterization as she is shown to be willing to bend the rules in front of her subordinates by drinking (possibly underage), taking a much more personable approach to her handling of the enforcers. The best part is that none of this HAD to happen, especscially in Kagari’s case. The story would’ve moved forward without any of that if we had just gotten the info some other way but the show goes out of it’s way to give us more than is needed. This is why Kagari’s death will be impactful later on despite him not being all that rounded.
On top of this though even the supporting cast of antagonists are fantastic. Both Rikako and Senguji could be major villains in their own right in other shows but are supporting ones here. I won’t go into it in the same detail but the scene beginning episode 8 where Makishima asks Rikako about her artistic motivation does similar things to the one in Kagari’s room.
Though with such an interesting supporting cast it’s imperitive that our mains are even more intriguing. Have you ever watched a show and wished that one of the supporting characters was the lead because they were far more interesting than than the actual main character? Fortunately Psycho-Pass does this incredibly well.
Our three main characters are Akane, Kogami and Makishima. Let’s talk about Akane first. Like I said before she is not THE main character, that being Kogami. She is the perspective character for the audience, her values aligning closer to the current days than anyone else. And that’s exactly why she wasn’t the main character.
Audiences tend to find characters like Akane boring when they are main characters. “I’m fighting for justice” is a motivation we’ve seen far to many times before. It’s why a lot of villains are remembered more fondly than main characters, as a writer you have much more creative freedom because you don’t have to worry about your audience not relating to them.
Nowadays we are getting more and more shows that understand this and give us far more complex leads. Think Walter White, Don Draper or the GOAT Tony Soprano. None of them could really be considered good people but they are the protagonists.
Psycho-Pass circumvents this in a different way however, by making Akane a perspective character, at least to begin with. We get to see her participate in Kogami’s story being the one most of the audience will relate to whilst also getting to see a more interesting lead in action. This works incredibly well because Psycho-Pass puts serious emphasis on differing points of view and trying to understand them. Kogami (and later Akane) always get places quicker than others because they try to understand others. Makishima too, he is acutely aware of how other people think, think of when he takes advantage of the fact that he knows Masaoka will save his son Ginoza in the finale. When Akane developes into the resolute seeker of justice that she will become it is far more interesting than it otherwise would’ve been because it is merely presented as one point of view.
There’s one scene in episode 18 that exemplifies this very well. Just after being told he’s off the Makishima case again he and Akane argue about what is and isn’t justice in this case. Kogami says that Makishima needs to be killed but Akane says that instead of enforcing the law that course of action will just create another killer. In my personal experience this sort of issue is incredibly divisive, I would side with Kogami but I know many people who would side with Akane.
Akane’s mantra is justice in the name of soceity, she manages to get past Makishima killing Yuki and instead of revenge being her motive she wants to catch Makishima because it’s in societies best interests. This is why she begrudgingly works with Sibyl even after finding out about it’s true nature. Akane’s character is interesting because even though she’s pretty “normal” to us she’s the odd one out in her own world. Usually good things are meant to happen to people like Akane in TV shows but here her eaernest nature just keeps fucking her shit right up.
Then there is Kogami, the man who has already had his shit thoroughly, thoroughly fucked up. Kogami was at one stage just like Akane but his encounter with Makishima warped his worldview, something he is all too aware of. I’ve talked about it when analyzing the first opening but the scene in episode 8 where Akane and Kogami discuss what diving into the criminal mind is like show this. Kogami describes it as a swamp that is so murky that you have dive down into it to see what’s at the bottom. Akane tells Kogami that he seems like the sort of person who could dive deep into the swamp and return no problem to which Kogami replies that Sibyl would disagree. As much as he strives for justice he also revels in doling out retribution on those deserving of it.
Kogami is a thoroughly interesting main character because he’s not conventional, in fact he’s mostly a detriment to society. Kogami does what he has to to get shit done, he’s the sort of person many would admire but not want to be. And he’s cool. Something cool tends to be something out of the ordinary, when something becomes ordinary it is no longer cool. He is not an ultra relatable character but that’s what makes him so intruging.
It’s hard to place what Kogami is. Is he a hero or an anti-hero? It again really depends on your own worldview, Psycho-Pass be viewed differently by different people. It’s very easy to understand a lot of what Kogami does but whether or not you agree with it is another question.
He also has a very singular purpose, to rid the world of Makishima. This kind of obsession was very personally relatable to me and it always makes for good writing, when you’re not sure of your characters motivations you’ll either be inconsistant in their portrayal or just plain boring.
And then there is Makishima. I want to give him a bit more attention a little later so let’s skim over him briefly. He is a true psychopath, not the scary kind but the captivating. He’s so great because so much of what he says makes a lot of sense when he says it. He talks about the individuality of man and how he prizes that above all and you can begin to see where he’s coming from, even when he’s organizing mass slaughters. He seems to be doing it all for some greater purpose.
It should be no surprise that he draws influence from Christopher Nolan’s version of the Joker, they have that same sort of captivating presence. There’s nothing more boring than a villain who’s bad just because they’re bad….except when it’s done right. The audience always wants to know why. Why is Akane doing X, why did Kogami do Y. What is Makishima all about?
Makishima gives us an incredibly narcissistic viewpoint, a person who cares only about himself. This contrasts with Akane and shows us the effect he’s had on Kogami who struggles with his conflicting desires for revenge and doing what is best for society.
Let’s put Makishima aside for now to talk about themes. Psycho-Pass deals with so many different themes and issues it would be nearly impossible to talk all about them in one video, so I’ll stick with the most prevalent ones here. Understanding, individuality and justice.
So I’ve talked about understanding before, the people who can get inside others minds always get places faster as opposed to those that don’t. We are presented with multiple differing viewpoints with which to view the events of the series to further this message.
It makes things kind of odd when the message of a show is to look at things from multiple viewpoints. When everything in your show can be looked at so differently depending on who views it, it makes for an incredibly unique viewing experience. It’s for this reason I can understand why some people wouldn’t like the show. If you have a closed mindset I couldn’t see you getting behind the show like I did but even past that I’m sure there are many people who just can’t see things from such drasticly different viewpoints to there’s.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t some great things you could enjoy regardless but just that it won’t impact you the way it did me and many others.
Then there is the individuality theme. Makishima brings it up himself many times. Individuality is a prized trait in the show. Think about how Kogami finds out that Rikako was a different killer to Touma, because her work lacked originality. She was not enough of an individual, taking from Makishima, Touma and her father instead of finding her own path and it costs her.
In fact the “villain” of the series, if you want to call, is the Sibyl system, the collective. It is always presented in the most villainous light. Just like in the Madoka series it is not the antagonist that’s truly at fault but the system that created them. In Psycho-Pass Makishima is only able to thrive because of Sibyl, in Madoka Walpurgisnicht is only a thing because of Kyubey’s race. Gen writes against the collective and in favour of the individual however he is smart enough to know that doing only that would undercut his message and as such Sibyl is shown to work, even if it is flawed. Even though he may disagree with the ideology he acknowledges that it is a valid belief system to have. If this were a lessar show it would’ve ended with Sibyl destroyed but it didn’t. Instead it tries to have Akane change Sibyl, bringing it to a midway point, a sesne of understanding.
Then there is the theme of justice. This one is pretty obvious but again doesn’t have a clear cut answer. The importance of justice is stressed but just exactly what justice is is up to you.
Individuality is important but what that means is different to everyone, just as justice and understanding are.
So we have a strong setting and incredibly strong characters but do they come together to create a great and cohesive story? Too often I see characters doing things disengenouis to themselves because the writer tries to force the story in a certain direction and it always feels wrong. A good story should feel like everything came about as a result of our characters actions and Psycho-Pass does a very good job of this.
I’ve heard it said that characters shouldn’t be reactive in nature but I think this misses the mark a bit. Characters should be both active and reactive, pushing and pulling a story towards resolution. Here for instance Kogami is playing catch up most of the time but when he nearly gets Makishima in episode 16 the tables turn, Makishima becomes the reactor and Kogami goes on the offensive.
Stories are what we are showing, plot is how we show it, how we reach our resolution. There are an infinite amount of ways one could show the story of Makishima vs. Kogami, it’s about choosing one that will tell it best. You could have shown us the story from Kogami or Makishima’s respective perspectives but instead it was shown through Akane’s eyes for the most part. I’ve expalined why that is the case before so I won’t repeat myself.
We can split the plot up into a basic three act structure with a hook, midpoint and a resolution. I’ll tell you what they are but try and think of what they would be before we get there.
The first act runs from episode 1 to episode 8. This is where most of the character development and world building happens and is an important foundation for the show. On first viewing I didn’t really get hooked until the introduction of Rikako in episode 6 but looking back it’s clear how important these episodes were and I find a whole lot more in them on repeat viewings. One great choice by Gen was to have Makishima’s buildup be so long, his true reveal doesn’t even really happen until episode 11. This fits Makishima very well as, like Kogami says to Saiga, Makishima is like a conductor, a repressed artist. If he had gotten directly involved from the start it would’ve ruined him, or at the least drastically changed him. Our hook is of course Makishima, we as the audience know him to really exist due to the first scene and his ghost like nature in the system is intriging because of that. Everyone other than Kogami is convinced he’s not real, but we know he is and we want to know how he gets away with what he does.
Act 2 begins when Kogami is finally able to prove Makishima’s existence. Once he does the chase is well and truly on. Now the rate of time slows down considerably and things start happening faster and faster. We get a tense lead in to a great mid season finale, where Kogami is injured and Makishima kills Yuki in front of Akane. This is our midpoint, or rather the aftermath is. When Akane decides to undergo a memory scoop to get an image of Makishima she has become more determined than ever, more resolute and this is what marks the turning point. In between the two events however is a flashback episode which gives a needed break in the tension and informs us a bit more about the world and characters. Then we go through the riot arc and Makishima is seemingly caught.
This brings us to act 3, when Makishima escapes Sibyl’s clutches. This causes Kogami to say “fuck this shit” and pursue Makishima alone. This leads us to our conclusion, with Kogami chasing Makishima and Akane chasing them both. And the resolution is obviously that Kogami kills Makishima.
There we are, 3 acts. Beginning, Middle and End. Hook, midpoint, resolution. I’ve glossed over many events because I could spend hours talking about every single episode explaining why I love them all and in the end it’d be fruitless because whether or not people like it would depend on them, because that’s how it is written.
If i was to give one criticism about the story telling it’s that sometimes dialogue was too expository. Don’t get me wrong, I think most of the dialougue is fantastic, especially when Makishima is speaking but there were a couple times that lines felt a bit off, like they were just there to move things along. Like in this scene.
But overall Psycho-Pass is a very well told story. It’s very tightly paced, there’s not much fat. Every scene has a purpose as it should. If you want a more in depth look at the story I have recorded individual breakdowns for the first 8 episodes already and will probably do more in the future, I’ll link those in the description.
So what makes Psycho-Pass so special? Is it the dominators, Sibyl as a whole. Akane or Kogami? Some aesthethic factor?
No. It’s Makishima.
Shogo Makishima is the best villain I have ever seen. Because he’s more than a villain. He’s a captavating and memrable unlike nay other.
Makishima’s greatness stems from the fact that he manages to convince so many people that he has some greater vision, even the audience can be tricked into believing his seductive words. While his goal may be one you could agree with the man himself is anything but righteous.
Like I said before Makishima cares only for himself, everything he does is to entertain him and not in the benefits of others. He wants to get rid of Sibyl because that would bring about the free expression he so seeks and enjoys. But he does not care about anyone other than himself, he has no ideals.
Or rather, he has shifting ideals. His ideals are whatever suits him at the time. Many will disagree with me on that but I think it’s just sign of great character writing. When you can convince an audience that your characters lies are true you’ve done something right.
There’s a scene that I think proves my point on this. Let’s watch.
Like he says, what lies beyond his destruction is not of great concern to him, it’s the destruction itself he seeks.
Some men just want to watch the world burn. That’s why he’s so great. Like I said we’re always looking for the why. We don’t know what to do when there is no why. Not in characters but in life in general.
Whenever we find out anything about the universe it only leads to more questions and always ultimately back to why. Why are we here? Why do I do this? Why do people do that?
We can’t face unanswered whys, so we keep looking for the root. This is what makes Makishima so interesting to me, and so terrifying as a villain. The why is because he wants to. he doesn’t have trauma or grudges or any mental disorders, just a different way of thinking. The scariest killers are the ones we can’t understand. It’s why the public is so fascinated with people like Ted Bundy and Charles Manson.
I could go on and on about how great Makishima is but I’ve made my main point pretty clear.
It’s hard to come to conclusions about a show that means so much to me. It’s difficult to explain exactly why this show has impacted me the way it did, I myself struggle to fully understand why, that’s what keeps me coming back to it.
I feel that this will be the hardest script I’ll have to have written. I feel I’ll be able to talk better about shows that I don’t have such a personal attachment to.
At the very least I hope I was able to provide some useful insight into certain aspects of the show and hope that you’ll stick around for my next video. It’s only upwards from here and I hope to refine this format into something that conveys the info better.
Enough of that, Psycho-Pass is amazing and no amount of analyzing it will explain it’s greatness better than a simple rewatch will. And if you haven’t watched it, what the hell are you doing watching my video?!
ANyway, this has been Psychime and thanks for watching.
You know what I personally love about Anime as a medium? The variety. It seems to me that there are a wide spectrum of shows with massively different messages. I would posit that this is partially due to the heavy amount of adapting when it comes to ANime production. Only one or two people have to work on a Manga or Visual Novel or a Light Novel and as such it’s much easier to keep a singular or maybe dual vision intact in the core of your project. This is unlike cable television where getting a singular vision on any project is a rarity.
Like anything there are advantages and disadvantages to this. On the one hand artists have less people interfering with their vision and this can lead to great things like Steins;Gate. On the other artists shit ideas can be left unchecked, think the Star Wars prequels as a rarer western example of this.
Along with this wide range of shows comes a wide range of criticism and analysis. This is a natural thing for any artform, people know what they like but often want to know why they like what they like. Those who don’t possess or use analytical skills on what they watch or those who wish to hear another perspective will flock to critics. And usually critics have a big effect on how things are made. If a number of big critics pan a movie like Batman v Superman and praise the Marvel cinematic universe it leads to things like the Suicide Squad reshoots that added in more humorous scenes. Movies and TV are a collaboration between art and business in which almost always the business takes precedence.
So with this power these critics can dictate to a degree what entertainment is like, by proxy the audience dictates the sort of stuff that comes out. Sure not every movie is good but there’s a reason we get 3 marvel movies seemingly every month. It’s because people go to watch them.
But when it comes to Anime there’s a bit of an issue with this, specifically within the western fanbase.
Western Anime critics have almost no influence on Japanese entertainment trends. Studios have to cater to their main demographic which 99% of the time is Japan. So what do critics do in this situation?
At this point their role is not to shape the Anime that come out but to try and shape people’s opinions about anime only. Think SAO and it’s perception before and after DIgibro analysis. It really doesn’t matter what westerners think of the show for the most part, as long as it’s popular in Japan it will continue to be made and make it’s way to us for the foreseeable future.
Digi’s analysis showed what was wrong with the show. It gave people who didn’t like it but didn’t know why a reason and ability to vocalise negative opinions on it. Those that still liked the show now had to defend their stance on it. At a certain point there was nothing anyone could do to change the new split perception of the show, an analysis of the second season was for the most part pointless. It wasn’t going to change people’s opinions about the show all that much nor was it going to impact how the show was made. This isn’t about whether Digi was right or wrong in doing this, I honestly don’t care but it’s more about this mob mentality this can create.
When attacking a studio or show makes little difference the audience turns it’s attention to the critics. Because we can see real results in doing so. People seem to subconsciously try to align their tastes with their favorite anime critics even when their tastes may not fully align. I can attest that I myself have done so in the past. I latched on to Digi because of his ultra positive reception of Psycho-Pass but now I realise I don’t even fully agree with his analysis on the show itself let alone everything else he reviews.
But when you idolise the opinions of others like this any attack on them becomes an attack on you and as such you strike back. I’ve seen countless arguments in comment sections where it is clear neither side has even watched the show they’re arguing about.
Analysis should be about finding both the good and the bad in any given show. I have negative things to say about Psycho-Pass and positive things to say about Eromanga Sensei. It seems however that Anime discourse is at a stage where a show is either amazing, awful or just OK and not much inbetween. It’s less and less an actual discussion about what makes a show good or bad but more so a competition to see who has superior taste, something that’s itself pointless due to the subjectivity of it but I digress. Instead of trying to come to understand why our peers like or hate something that we don’t we just naturally assume they’re wrong.
For ages I thought that those who didn’t like Psycho-Pass just weren’t thinking about it hard enough or were at least seeing something different in it than I. But people can see exactly what I see in something I love and hate it for those exact reasons. It’s hard to come to this conclusion and even now when someone hates on the show my instant reaction is “What is this idiot talking about?” and I have to try and catch myself.
I really don’t care that we criticize critics or that people engage in pointless bickering, you do you. But what I hate is that this sort of stuff comes in between the ACTUAL FUCKING ANALYSIS OF ANIME.
Why are there so few taking a scalpel to numerous Anime and trying to explain why they’re so great? Someone like SuperEyepatchWolf does this fantastically. His content is mostly about trying to get people to watch stuff that impacts him and potentially have it affect them in the same way. When it’s negative it’s usually from a place where he wants to like something but can’t, his videos on Berserk for instance. Of course negative criticism is important but I think that it only works when it’s used in conjunction with positive criticism.
You see critics blatantly ignoring positives in shows they don’t like or glossing over problems in their favorites because their favorites can’t be flawed. Instead of making things so black and white why not talk about why an issue that plagues a show you like and a show don’t destroy one and not bring down the other?
Again I don’t really care what anyone does but in my perfect world anime analysis is, you know, about anime analysis. For every time a critic has pointed me towards a great show I can only imagine how many times I missed out because they couldn’t make a video or blog post about a certain show because of the potential back lash they would get. Once one person says a show is bad it becomes so much harder for someone to say it’s good.
I don’t even really know where I’m going at this stage, this is all just stream of consciousness. I should wrap it up here.
This isn’t meant to be an indictment of anyone but more of a personal observation. I want the fanbase to be about analysing things but that doesn’t mean everyone does. Time will tell what people want from their anime critics.
Thanks for reading,
I don’t want to be Motoko Kusanagi. Or more accurately I don’t want to be a ghost in a shell. I recently watched a video by The Jorlosopher titled Everyone Should Be A Ghost In The Shell. He makes a compelling argument for why he wishes to become a cyborg like Motoko. His arguments are well founded, the extensive list of benefits he touts (including heightened durability and interchangeability) seem great. He also refutes several arguments against the idea of cyberization before they can even be brought up. He makes a great case for why humanity should embrace cyberization.
But here’s the thing. I am not humanity. I am me. What is in the best interests of humanity may run counter to my own ideals. Ultimately Jor’s reasoning for wanting to become a cyborg is this: he as an entity is made by his memories and not by his body. This is something I agree with, logically then by extending the lifespan of those memories you can continue to exist for a longer period of time.
I don’t think this is a good thing. You see while pseudo-immortality would indeed be soothing for humanity I think it takes away the most important thing a human is capable of conceiving. Meaning. A life without limits is inherently a life without meaning.
To quote Nietzsche: “Without Music Life Would Be A Mistake”
This is a sentiment I wholeheartedly agree with. Art is something that only humans are capable of creating, no other species we know of is capable of creating art. We can convey emotions and complex ideas through it, I personally believe that it is our defining capability.
I think immortality would kill great art. A prime motivator in creating art is our impending mortality. It extends our life artificially by making our ideas into something non-perishable like music or film. Without such a motivator much art would be wiped out.
I think their is a fantastic example in the history of Queen for this. By 1984 the band had nearly broken up and were in the midst of one of their least critically and commercially successful spells ever. Freddie Mercury was partying his life away and just having fun. Then he was diagnosed with AIDS. Instead of wasting away however this bombshell actually made him MORE productive. He got back in the studio with Queen and the band went on a run with multiple No.1 albums and their first solo number one single in the UK since Bohemian Rhapsody with Innuendo. The period between those two songs spanned a staggering 16 years, a second no.1 after that length of time is unprecedented.
Mercury is noted as having said to his bandmates regarding his illness “I want to make music till the day I fucking die” and he stuck to that promise, downing shots of vodka to record through the pain and recording up until he could no longer get out of bed to get to the studio.
Innuendo is my favorite Queen album and it would not exist without the inevitability of death. Am I willing to trade it and so many other great works for a shot at psuedo-immortality? The point is to keep yourself, your memories omnipresent but without those works I am not me. They have shaped me. Death is ultimately the at root of almost all art because it is our only constant.
Psycho-Pass deals with a very similar concept to GiTS in that Senguji is almost fully cyborg bar his brain. He shares a very similar sentiment to Jor in regards to cyberization. The SIBYL system as well preserves the memories of it’s inductees for what could potentially be an eternity.
So when Makishima, a man who champions his own individual characteristics, who prizes his ideas is offered a chance to join SIBYL what does he say?
He refuses. He acknowledges that it may be “fun in it’s own way” to become some from of omnipotent but he refutes the notion that he could simply become to world’s umpire. He says that he can’t enjoy “the game” unless he is participating.
“And I love this game people call ‘life” from the bottom of my heart”
“I want to keep playing forever and ever”
And there it is. What is the point in living without death? In fact what is the point of anything if it does not end? You wouldn’t start a race without a finish line. You wouldn’t watch a movie without an ending. You shouldn’t start a life without it one day ending.
Conclusions to things are important, they give us resolution, closure. Without them there is no point in having the points between the start and the finish. Who would want to watch Jojo if it was just the gang traveling to Egypt forever and never reaching Dio? Without an ending the middle has no meaning, by artifically stopping death you inherently rob yourself of ultimate satisfaction with life to me. It is not a matter of being human or not it is a matter of being alive, what it means to exist and how that is different to what it means to live.
Thanks for reading,