*Spoilers for Psycho pass season 1*
There are plenty of science-fiction animes around, plenty of philosophical ones too. And then there is Psycho-pass. A dystopian future that rivals George Orwell’s Oceania and an intellectual rivalry that would give Light Yagami and L a run for their money. Our hero and villain trash-talk each other by quoting philosophers! It is awesome!
To put it plainly Psycho-pass is a brilliant cyber-punk anime with amazing animation, a gripping plot and some of the most unique (and hot) characters. Needless to say, you should definitely watch it, the first season at least.
The year is 2112, science has advanced to a degree that society is run by a Siri-esque Operating system, Sibyl. The Sibyl system determines everything about a person through continuously scanning their brains and biometrics. This generates a numerical “psycho-pass” which quantifies everything from a person’s personality, aptitude and skill proficiency to their likelihood of turning to crime.
Thoughts that keep us up at 3 am like, what career path is the best for us, who’d be our ideal life partner, is it okay to wear striped pants on a checkered shirt, all of them are taken care of by the Sibyl System.
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The Key Players | Psycho pass characters
The first season of psycho-pass follows a new recruit to CID, Akane Tsunemori. As an inspector, Her job is to track down people with high crime coefficients and subdue them. She is assisted by Shinya Kogami, a former inspector whose psycho-pass declined and became cloudy. This demoted him to the position of an enforcer. Or as he prefers to call it, hunting dogs for the inspectors.
Enter Shogo Makishima, a nihilistic sociopath who wishes to see “the splendour of people’s souls”. To achieve this, Makishima goes to extreme, often violent ends. Thus begins the physical and philosophical game of chess between the three with escalating violence.
The Clashing Philosophies
All major psycho-pass characters are stand-ins for one or more philosophical schools of thought that ask the same questions. What does it mean to be a human and what does an ideal society look like?
The characters in psycho-pass go beyond being defined by their appearance, abilities and personality traits. Their evolving perspective and personal philosophies makes them fleshed out and realistic. Each of them embodies a unique ideal and perspective on justice, free will, and happiness.
Sibyl System | Plato’s Utopia | Utilitarian AI overlord
Plato, a part-time philosopher full-time beard enthusiast, was born in Ancient Greece. In Plato’s Republic, he describes an ideal society. Wherein he divides people into three categories, based on the colour of their souls.
- The bronze-souled people, driven by their basic needs are suited for manual labour and following orders.
- The silver-souled people driven by a sense of duty and courage, meant to protect people’s harmony.
- Finally, the gold-souled people driven by rationality, suited to rule over everyone else.
In the world of Psycho-pass, the Sibyl system deems itself to be the ultimate rational entity, fit to rule over all. It has a very utilitarian view of a just society. For Sibyl, the ends always justify the means. It is fixated on achieving the greatest amount of good for a maximum number of citizens, no matter the cost.
It achieves this by obsessively separating people with a declining psycho-pass. And sends them to either receive therapy, be institutionalised, or killed, depending on their ‘crime coefficients’.
Sibyl dictates people’s life, clothes, food, even furniture. They no longer have to agonise over anything. This doesn’t let people feel any negative emotion deep enough to cloud their psycho pass.
However, the psychological well being of people is maintained at the cost of their individuality and emotional range. There always seems to be an invisible distance between people. Ironically, with every single thing laid out for them, people somehow seem to be lost in this world.
Shogo Makishima | Nihilistic sociopath | Free will Stan
A Shakespeare enthusiast and member of white-haired anime characters club, Makishima is an extreme humanist. He puts the value of human agency above everything else. He detests the Sibyl system as he believes it robs people of their true free will. Afterall under the Sibyl system, there is little to nothing left for people to decide for themselves.
However, Makishima has an affinity with the darker aspects of humanity. He often facilitates the most gruesome and violent acts of other people. Additionally, he has no qualms about killing absolute strangers himself. Even so, we can’t discount Makishima as someone who just wants to see the world burn. Afterall, his Psycho-pass is always squeaky clean.
Sibyl can not judge him to be a criminal as Makishima does not view his own actions as wrong. There is a charismatic compulsion to his philosophical arguments. This often leave our heroes seeing things his way and agreeing with his thoughts if not actions.
Shinya Kogami | Aristotle’s anger | An eye for an eye
Kogami can be best described as Yin to Makashima’s Yang. They are often sides of the same coin. Like Makishima, Kogami is well-read and understands the flaws of the Sibyl system. However, Kogami has a strong sense of justice.
After his partner is brutally killed, Kogami’s sense of justice turns to vengeful anger. This clouds his psycho-pass and turns him into an enforcer. To Makishima, Kogami is his only intellectual rival. This is because Kogami is able to have free thought and take independent action, much like himself.
Akane Tsunemori | Kantian realist | The responsibility of free will
Tsunemori starts out as a naive, idealistic young blood. However she is not a cog in Sibyl’s machine. Akane trusts her own judgement from the very beginning.
For Akane, the ends do not justify the means. She makes decisions that wouldn’t just cause the most amount of good but also the least amount of harm. She represents somewhat of a middle ground between Makishima and Kogami’s extremes.
Much like the two men, she comes to see the flawed reality of Sibyl. However,she chooses not rebel against of destroy the system. Instead, she decides to work within the system to create a future where Sibyl will no longer be required. In that sense, Akane is the only character that is able to exercise free will, independent of everyone else.
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