Review: Psycho-Pass

“This is the disease called serenity, a form of death that people have wished for.”
– Oryou Rikako, Psycho-Pass.

Psycho-Pass. Funimation, 2013. Streaming via Netflix.

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Wow. Being both a fan of Philip K. Dick and (generally) darker sci-fi, I was expecting a fun little romp with this anime. What I got was so, so much more. Not only did I get an anime that basically combined some of my favorite parts of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and sci-fi film Equilibrium, I got a fun, literary-laced anime filled with a dystopian society as well as interesting gender commentary.

Society at large, as I had mentioned in my Conversation (starter, I hope!) post, seems to be fairly gender-neutral. There are on-screen demonstrations of same-sex couplings (Episode 22) as well as male and female Enforcers and Investigators, demonstrating that their intellectual abilities are at the forefront of their eligibility, not their gender (2). In society at large, each citizen is treated equally based on their intentions and supposed guilt associated with the Sybil system, rather than the nature of their physical or sexual preference. However, underneath the very solid gender-neutral images that the society proclaims, there is a subversive message, both obviously carried in the female form of the Chief (17) and the fact that our protagonist Akane is a woman herself (1).

Everything within the society that Sybil has built ultimately questions, and denounces, the masculine. Almost every latent criminal/Enforcer within the series (excepting Yayoi) is male; their Crime Coefficients suggest that they are too erratic to behave rationally/safely in society. Nearly every criminal apprehended by Akane and her team is also a male; during the outbreak with the Sybil-blocking helmets, I believe I only recall seeing one female utilizing them in an entire metropolis of people using the technology (14).

Ginoza, the head of the PSB division Akane works for, is the son of a latent criminal (2). His father is Masaoka, the eldest of the Enforcers, whose judgement of the Sybil system caused his Crime Coefficient to deteriorate quickly. Ginoza is consistently reminded of this fact by the Chief: “A causal relationship between genes and Crime Coefficients still hasn’t been scientifically proven. However, that also means that it hasn’t been scientifically disproven… I hope you won’t make the same mistake as your father” (Episode 6). Though there isn’t a relationship genetically between generations insofar as their Crime Coefficient rating, the Chief consistently places Ginoza in a state of anxiety, raising his Coefficient sufficiently to make him into a latent Criminal (22). It’s very easy to see how the relationship between Ginoza and the Chief is similar to a matriarchal leader putting a male into his place; without the constant reminders of his father’s failure, it’s hard to see how Ginoza would have fallen from grace.

Besides the Chief, it seems a consistent idea Inspectors patronize their Enforcers – whom, again, if we’re looking at the statistical data, would be mostly male. If we’re looking for stability, then, in Sybil, it stands to reason that women would more often than not be Inspectors. Shots within the PSB demonstrate the amount of female Inspector ratios on other teams – there are far fewer male Inspectors in other departments than in Akane’s (Episode 18). Again, we’re seeing the submission of the masculine to the feminine. However, all of this is quietly swept underneath the surface in response to demonstrating a stable, “free and open” society that Sybil maintains.

It is instead, the deviants of this order who celebrate the gender divisions and roles on the surface, rather than in private.The first to come to mind specifically is the antagonist Rikako Oryo (Episode 6), Cultured and educated to be a debutante female in society, she applies her lessons of femininity to her classmates and the unsettling pieces of art she makes with their body pieces (Episode 6). She even safeguards her classmates’ feminine purity in how she arranges them in her human-flesh artpieces; Rikako’s classmate Yoshika, who had been worried about her step-father’s attentions (which of late seem to be more than fatherly) is shaped into a monument reminiscent of innocence. Her head is removed and instead placed on the entryway to her vagina, where no one can touch it (6).

Rikako continues to celebrate her feminine differences, first by emotionally manipulating, then capturing and torturing her victims. Each of them are placed in positions of feminine idealization; specifically, they are placed in different bearings that mirror the masculine gaze of current society (Episode 7). Innocence and feminine purity, as well as subservience to the male gaze – these are the items that she idealizes in both how she handles the girls both on and off her canvases. Rikako is also obsessed with the idea of Lavina from Titus Andronicus, idealizing her after her ruination through rape and mutilation. Ironically, she dies in a similar manner, having not fulfilled Makishima’s desire to evolve society at large. It is interesting to note that Makishima’s right hand man, the hacker Choe Gu-sung, takes a certain level of glee in disposing of Rikako when ordered – in a way dominating the woman/Sybil system in power personally through this act (7).

Gen Urobuchi, the writer of Psycho-Pass, also wrote Madoka, which also dealt with issues of feminine power. One has to wonder at times if he writes these relationships out of personal gender anxiety or as explorations. Nevertheless, I found this show to be fascinating, especially with how private/public ideals of matriarchal vs. patriarchal social orders are constructed.

This also makes me very excited for season 2, which is supposed to start airing this October. Now that the team has gone from a male-dominated (but socially subservient) team to a mostly female-dominated, but rebellious creation, it will be interesting to see how Akane handles and shapes the future of her city – making it an actual gender utopia – or continuing as a silent dystopia.

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