Psycho-Pass – Masterpiece Territory: Symbolism Of Bletilla Striata

The alternate titles of these episodes are rather interesting. “The Language Of The Chinese Orchid” is the alternate title for this one and of course Bletilla Striata is a Chinese flower. I think this is probably in reference to Rikako , in a sense, “coming into full bloom” as an artist. Her art, as we will see during this episode, is heavily influenced by her father’s. When he dies at the start of this episode it is as if Rikako has surpassed him, she herself says that she is ashamed at him for quitting his job halfway through in reference to the fact that he stopped painting when the Psycho-Pass system came in. He believed that when SIBYL can keep people in check externally that he did not have to teach people to restrain themselves through his art.

Let’s talk about the Oryo’s art, and what it means in the context of Psycho-Pass. Both of them use the bodies of young girls as motifs, portraying them in grotesque and violent manners. Their art style is very surreal as well, with the girls often being dismembered or beheaded and the colors can range from very bright and striking to dull and subdued, depending on the piece. Roichi, the father, and Rikako make very similar art. But Roichi was never a murderer. The reason we get this father-daughter pairing is to kill two (really three) birds with one stone, we get to see what artists are like under SIBYL (we will get more of this in episode 12), we get to see a bit of how the transition to rule under SIBYL went, especially the psychology behind how people like this would have handled it AND commenting on today’s society as well.

I’ll talk more in depth about artists when we get to episode 12, because it shows them in a more general sense, so I’ll focus on the other two points here. Firstly, the transition. It’s important to understand a bit about Roichi’s thought process here. He clearly paints as a release for his desires, channeling his aggression or sadism or whatever it is into something productive. You can see this in many current day artists, modern music in particular is filled with people that would conventionally be considered to have philosophies that are, to put it frankly, fucked. Eminem channels murderous intent into his music, The Weeknd is openly nihilistic, I’m sure you can find yourself another example off the top of your head. Episode 12 deals more specifically with how artists accept this change (they don’t) but this arc deals with a very specific case. When SIBYL actually sorts the problem that Roichi has been trying to fix through his art, he loses his reason to paint. Like Makishima later says art was his way of controlling his innate cruelty, so when the SIBYL system came along he was a torn man not knowing what to do with his inner demons. To this end he turned to excessive helpings of stress care medication to cope, replacing an outlet with an addiction. It’s like the soldier returning home from war, adjusting to a peaceful world can be damn near impossible. When we come around to Rikako we will see a lot of the same things from her excpet I believe most people would claasify her as evil. So here’s the question. Is Roichi (and by extension are people like Eminem) evil? Drawing the parallel between Roichi and his daughter one it’s hard to say that either is anything other than a product of their circumstance, with an innately cruel nature circumstance simply favored Roichi more than it did Rikako. So do you say that Rikako is not evil because of that? Or that Roichi was evil in spite of him doing nothing like his offspring? Or will you be a hypocritical bastard and say that Roichi isn’t bad and Rikako is? The best part about Psycho-Pass is that all three of these can be considered correct answers. Like Kogami one could see the evil in the situation, like Akane one could see the hopeful, redeeming side or like Makishima one could acknowledge the hypocritical nature of the human thought process and just go with it. If in any case you aren’t convinced that Roichi and Rikako are very similar, the piece by Roichi we are shown by Kogami’s art “friend” in episode 8 is titled “My daughter”. Rikako was spawned from Roichi’s cruelty.

Extrapolating from this we can take a look at the SIBYL system and what it does to society. In this case we can see how it makes a sharp cut between good and bad, not leaving any grey are in between (for general society at least). Either you’re a good enough person for society or you must be kept away from those that are good enough. This obviously leads to the thought experiment of whether or not a life like this is worth living. I say no, you probably say no. But does that mean we’re just detriments to society? Makishima will go on in this episode to say that the average lifespan is actually decreasing despite the higher standard of living. He will posit that without stress or strife that there is no reason to live, “unless you know despair you cannot know hope”, it’s a bit like survival instinct I guess. Without anything to fight, not even each other we cease to be what humans originally were, we become something else. This arc is able to give us very specific and or nuanced questions and takes on the SIBYL society that is only possible on the fantastic world building that happend in only 5 episodes. Have I ever mentioned how I may have an unhealty degree of obsession with this series? Moving on

We see Division 1 find Rikako’s first art piece and Ginoza immidiately throws Kogami off the case saying Kogami has preconcieved notions about the case (which he does). Kogami however seems rather cool about it just confirming with Ginoza that he’s on standby. He probably expected this to happen given Ginoza’s nature and also doesn’t care, confessing to Akane later that he intends to continue working on it regardless. Kagari will later ask Ginoza if this was a good idea, given that Kogami has been working on the specimen case for the better part of three years. Notice here how the show uses it’s soundtrack to get it’s point across, with the acompayning score ending just before Ginoza finishes his response to Kagari, leaving his final sentiments (that Kogami’s report on the specimen case was fantastical) with an added sense of emphasis.

Then we get another scene of Kogami training, this time against a human like fighting robot. He is at this early stage aware that taking down Makishima will not be a task aided by a dominator, he must do it himself. I like how in this scene Akane is clearly checking out the shirtless Kogami but when he asks her if there’s something on his face (probably knowing full well what she’s doing) she gives a subtle version of the typical anime denial. You know the one, the really over the top, red cheeked, shouted denial that is incredibly obviously false. Akane here doesn’t act like it’s such a big deal, she’s clearly a little embarrassed to be seen checking out her subordinate but she doesn’t make her denial incredibly obvious in a way you could read into it too much.

I think an interesting take away here is the reasoning Kogami gives for training himself physically. He says that he has to feel physical pain to be reminded that he is the one who kills people not the dominator. We’ve obviously heard the argument before in the real world, guns don’t kill people, people kill people. But in the Psycho-Pass universe there is a strong argument that it is in fact the guns that kill people given that they decide whether or not any given person can be shot. Enforcers and inspectors have the discretion to not pull the trigger however so the line between who’s responsible can become quite murky. I think this is part of Kogami’s thought process, that to find Makishima and kill him he has to be fully aware of what that will entail, not trying to pawn off responsibility on someone else but it also of course is no absolute right answer here like many facets of PSycho-Pass. Let me know what you think about this in a comment if you want.

We get a scene with Makishima and Senguji. Makishima is shrouded in shadow but illuminated by the fire he is beside giving off this feeling that we are getting a glimpse into something one normally wouldn’t. I’m also fairly certain this is Senguji’s first appearance, we see from early on that he has much higher standing with Makishima than even Rikako does. They talk about Rikako’s father which I have already mentioned so I won’t repeat myself. What I will talk about is the state of humanity in reference to what they talk about. We get informed that the average lifespan is decreasing of course which brings me to a question, is humanity evolving or devolving? I love the idea that humans don’t evolve physically anymore because we’ve reached the stage where we can artificially fix problems requiring physical change faster than evolution can provide it. For instance we don’t need to develop a filtration system for smoggy areas because we have face masks, we can live in harsher environments without change because of central heating etc. The thing here is you can consider this both evolution or devolution. Because of medicine people that otherwise would not make it (those with severe ailments or birth defects) are able to lead proper lives in comparison to what they would have been able to before, as they should be given every chance to. But if you wanted to be a complete asshole you could argue this weakens the human race as a whole, the same way you can say that not providing over 60’s with healthcare benefits the majority of humanity. As issues in today’s world it’s fairly easy to say that those arguments are incorrect because global evolution (what I call it) solves those problems without it significantly impacting the masses but in the Psycho-Pass universe, global evolution is actually decreasing average lifespan. Technology has become so good at replacing human function that humans….. no longer need to function. So have we evolved in this case? Devolved? Have we become something else entirely? Another question to which the viewer can answer for themselves and themselves only.

When Senguji and Makishima get onto Rikako, Makishima says he hopes she finds some meaning for her art beyond revenge. Let’s quickly look at it from two perspectives to illustrate how the show presents more than one point of view. So from any bystanders perspective one might want Rikako to find another meaning to stop having to be so violent (perhaps this would be Akane’s view) or so that she could do even greater things with her talents. For Makishima it’s obvious. Revenge is such a boring motive. Think of every time you’ve seen a villain or hero with revenge as their primary motivation. You can probably think of a lot of them. When it’s not handled with more nuance beyond just revenge it can be quite stale and cliche. Makishima being the person he is, I’m sure he’s had many subordinates with revenge as a motive, in fact Yellow-Green from episode 3 was exactly that, a revenge driven villain. Makishima hopes Rikako will become more interesting to him, perhaps like Touma (the orginal speciman killer) was. We will see a lot of this parralel in episode 8. It shows that the writers do not have their characters as just shallow traits, they are aware a good villain needs to be more than just a motive like revenge. As much as Makishima doesn’t want to see that, we as an audience don’t want to either.

I tend to now think of Makishima as an artist, in the same way many of his lackys are. Rikako is a painter, Mido is an actor (think about it). Artists in this world are repressed and like we’ve discussed before with little to no creative outlet, they can turn to crime if given the opportunity. Makishima is like a director, organising a script placed in front of him (the world he lives in) into his own vision. Watch the show with this in mind, you’ll definately see it.

The final scene of note is when we see Rikako getting given the plastination chemicals by Choe. First of all we hear from Choe that these are leftover chemicals from something Makishima had done previously. If you’re paying attention this will confirm Kogami’s theory about Makishima’s involvemnt three years prior before he himself is able to verify it, though it’s easy enough to miss if you’re not paying attention. Then we get a chat between Choe and Rikako where Choe is asked why he doesn’t get involved with the “fun” (murdering for shits and giggles). His response is that for the “toymakers” watching the “children” cause havock with their creations is enough. We’ll come back to that of course, it is an important clue to Makishima’s psychology but keep in mind it is Choe that says it. One might think of Makishima as the eldest child to Choe as the toymaker, being afforded the best toys (eg the helmets or even people themselves) while passing on his old ones to younger children like Rikako. Choe mentions how he doesn’t like the sight of blood. This backs up the (man-)child-toymaker dynamic, Choe wants to see society suffer but doesn’t posses the means to do so mentally and Makishima might not posses Choe’s skillset. They are a fantastic pairing for nefarious purposes.

That brings to a close this episode breakdown of Psycho-Pass, the next one will bring us to the end of the Rikako arc and of course it will be fantastic. These breakdowns seem to be getting longer every time I do one (~2400 words this time) every new thing brings new implications based on what we’ve already seen or have yet to see. I wonder if they will just keep growing, I do expect episode 11’s breakdown to be long as fuck though.

I hope you enjoyed reading this one, if you did please like and let me know what you think about anything I brought up below.

Thanks for reading,

Psychime.

 

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