Most sincerely out of pudding
If you’re not crying yet, I might think you’re a terrible human being.
I’ve wanted to do a long talk about sexuality for a while now, but I have half a dozen half-finished posts sitting in my archive that, well, will probably never see the light of interweb day. But hey, I’m also long due for a New Year’s Resolution, so let’s get tangentially close to talking about sex. The issue I want to discuss a bit today, since I’ve been seeing a smattering of back-and-forth across multiple mediums, would be the friend-zone, or more broadly, gender relationships. And oh shit, it’s April and I still haven’t posted this yet. Oh well.
So, I think it’s been 5 years since I’ve publicly shared opinions about anything directly political in nature, but I’m really surprised (in the worst possible way) by the direction the Republican party (and its vocal constituents) have gone this last year in particular.
But that’s okay. After a long time spent out of country, battling the lack of access to technology (and piano) in 2013, and weathering the storm of reality, I present you with what may be the first piano arrangement of Mousou Express (we were all waiting for Kana Hanazawa to out-do Ren’ai Circulation, but it just isn’t happening).
Hopefully recording tomorrow. Still barely any time to practice.
You can find release(s) here: https://jifaru.wordpress.com/sheet-music/
The finals madness has finally ended, and I really don’t have anything vaguely intelligent to say right now. I’m terribly behind on P-P as well and probably will just do a quick retrospective in preparation for the next season. My brain hasn’t really been functioning as of late due to the workload and sheer self-induced stress, as rampant escapism should never be the default weapon of choice for one who claims to be too afflicted by reality.
But enough about that! Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo. This show is perfect. Both the energy and silence are electrifying and gripping.
I’m sitting outside of Au Bon Pain on the morning of Black Friday, doing something that resembles blogging. The whole scene felt somewhat surreal and out of character for me; that is, until I watched this week’s Psycho-Pass. I’m glad that I had already gotten that whole eating deal taken care of, because that was gruesome. Every time I watch this show, it seems to pre-empt my mental state and drag me back to reality – and that’s precisely what the first two parts of the Ouryuu arc provided.
If the first few set of crime cases were foundational in our understanding of the Sibyl system and its limitations, the producers really stepped on the plot pedal for the last two episodes. Shougo Makashima’s role as the primary antagonist and the mastermind behind many of the crimes we have seen has been cemented. Even though Mr. Makashima has enjoyed so little screen time thus far, he has the air of the one of the most compelling villains that I have seen to date. The theme of moral ambiguity, when characters perform drastic and “evil” acts in order to carry out their own ideal of good, has become a bit ubiquitous as of late but rarely performed well. An example of fairly well done moral ambiguity is the Spiral King and the Antispirals from Gurren Lagann, who brutally suppress human growth to protect them from unwittingly eradicating themselves.
On the other hand, Makashima does not seem to be a morally ambiguous character. His role is fairly unprecedented, as he serves as a catalyst that empowers those who have the willpower to rebel against society but lack the means to do so, rather than carrying out crimes first-hand. Makashima appears to have an extensive understanding of medicine and philosophy, an also seems be an aesthete who tries to bring out the darkest passions of the human mind in a society that actively suppresses them. As a result of these qualities, he is singlehandedly a foil for the Sibyl system and its products. During the first few episodes, we were asked as to why people still committed crimes even though they would be quickly brought to justice. Even though we were provided with relatively unconnected points of critique in regards to both the nature of human behavior and the flaws of Sibyl, perhaps better questions are to ask why such a flawed system was implemented in the first place, and why there seem to be so few detractors within that society.
I will try to devote time to providing my answers for these questions, as well as exploring the philosophical, artistic, and medical themes presented in these two episodes. Finally, this is a great time to step back and consider whether or not Psycho-Pass succeeds in offering a critique of modern society.
At the beginning of this show, Psycho-Pass appeared to have two major lines of conflict. I expressed some apprehension about Kogami as the main character because of his status as enforcer, out of fear this his impetuous actions would result in fairly innocent people like Tsunemori getting killed off. While this fear still could become reality, Kogami’s personality and history have been developed much since then. Kogami’s fall from grace due to his dedication to his sense of justice not only redeems himself as a believable character with whom it is possible to empathize, but also places the spotlight of moral decisionmaking upon the Enforcers. Despite being at a lower caste, these individuals bear the brunt of the faults of the Sibyl system. They bear the pain and sorrow of a system in which Inspectors can carry out their duties without once considering the morality of what they are performing, and as a result, have much more legitimacy in choosing their actions. Kogami contends with his guilt over the death of Sasayama, an Enforcer under his command who was murdered by his very target. Instead of dropping the case, he furiously continued to attempt to gain a lead on the man responsible for Sasayama’s death, and his rising Psycho-Pass rendered him unsuitable for Inspector work.
Normally, actions such as fighting for one’s friends are considered laudable acts, even if vengeance is considered as a poor motive. Especially because Kogami seemed to be motivated by compassion, we should be reasonably concerned about how the power structure in Psycho-Pass actually maps onto the morality of members in those groups. At this point, both Tsunemori and Ginoza are up in the air; Tsunemori simply doesn’t get any chances to act independently in making her impact. Ginoza seems to be excessively cautious and shackled by textbook “rationalism,” to the point that he comes across as incompetent. If anything, however, Ginoza cannot be said to be any more rational than the Enforcers that he governs. If Kogami’s moral character, Kagari’s efforts to enjoy as rich a life as possible, and Karanomori’s intelligence (and perhaps insert yuri-goggles here!) are generalizable characters of Enforcers and some “latent criminals,” it’s conceivable that these criminalized individuals are the most human of all. They have the most complete view of the world, including an emotional and sentimental aspect that gets selected out by Sibyl.
Enter Makashima, an individual who has been said to understand Kogami better than any man (and vice versa), and conducts in a manner that seems to champion those who are marginalized by Sibyl. In the Johnny Mnemonic case, Makashima’s involvement broke a decree of silence that preserved the overall mental health of an inhumane drone production facility by subjecting one individual to extreme bullying and violence. Of course, we don’t know what would have happened if there was no way of actually committing the murders (presumably, the role of scapegoat really would have been transferred to someone else), but there is reasonable evidence to believe that Makashima doesn’t just stir up chaos for the sake of doing so – he legitimately feels that Sibyl is creating an unsustainable and undesirable dystopia.
This idea is further corroborated by Makashima’s “favoritism” towards Midou Masatake, the murderer in the previous arc who sought to change the world with influential online representations of timeless platonic ideals, or paragons of virtues. Even though Makashima’s role as someone who connects motive and means is readily identified by Kogami, this relationship is perhaps a bit more cut-and-dry than what Makashima is aiming for. Instead, we see a kind of symbiotic relationship in which Makashima empowers others who feel oppressed and powerless against Sibyl. Actually, it might be more like parasitism since those people almost invariably end up dying at the hands of the police (but not before spreading their ideas). This role becomes much more concrete in this arc.
Ouryou Rikako is an adored ojou-sama at a prestigious girls’ school, and the daughter of a formerly famous painter who despite being a moral man in private, depicted extremely graphic scenes using dismembered bodies as a motif. According to Makashima, the disjoint between one’s public and private images among artists is common, because the artist is able to forward a social agenda or criticism through his work. In the case of Ouryou Rouichi, his use of the dismembered bodies of young women represented the cruelty inherent within the human mind, and bringing those horrors to the surface of one’s mind would allow open discourses about empathy. However, with the advent of Sibyl and Psycho-Pass, the need for that discourse was replaced with therapy to control one’s mental state. Instead of struggling through the cognitive dissonance created by images of cruelty, people could fall back onto the computer system. They no longer had to make moral decisions – Sibyl would make those decisions for them. They no longer had to question what the conditions for just action were – Sibyl would affirm their beliefs as long as they had a healthy mind. Rouichi accepted this conception of social peace, and as a result, lost his drive to continue his artwork. He embraced Sibyl and attempted to utilize medicine and technology to ease his own doubts and struggles, and eventually fell into a vegetative state as a result of his growing addiction and dependence upon therapy.
“This disease is serenity, a form of death that people wish for.”
The fleeting nature of beauty, and of life itself, was a theme that was pervasive in much of the 6th episode. Rikako was portrayed as sociopathic when she seemed like she enjoyed committing murders because it was beautiful and aesthetic. The impetus for her actions seemed to be a desire to capture and idealize beauty in a pure form that would be untarnished by time, and her approach in doing so was quite literal. Indeed, while she may still be a bit crazy, we now have significantly more background as to why she goes to such lengths to produce her art. At the core of this discourse is the interaction between the artist’s visions of the world and the society that encapsulates it. More broadly speaking, there is an extensive effort to define what it means to live – for the artist, one’s life might be broken down into the talent and work that makes up his identity. The other aspect would be the message that the artist dedicates his life to portraying, the impetus for his career.
In this sense, Makashima recognizes that Rouichi may have been killed twice by the advent of Sibyl and Psycho-Pass. First, the ability to quantify one’s psychological state and then provide treatment based upon that analysis was so successful in correcting morality on a broad level that it invalided his method. No longer did people have to face their own nature – that entire process could be mechanically bypassed. Rouichi’s first death was the shattering of the basis of his career: invalidation of his ideals, and of the artwork in which he forwarded his ideals.
At this point, Psycho-Pass revisits an old component of the disciplinary system that was not discussed in detail. If you recall, latent criminals are not punished for criminal tendencies, but rather for a refusal to obtain therapy in a controlled manner. In the case of the rape victim in the first episode, we were shown that more standard counseling type therapies were still applied with great success. In addition, however, we now know that the disciplinary therapy can involve heavy drug usage as well. The danger of relying on such a therapy is similar to the gradual loss of moral decision-making, in that they are extreme mental painkillers. Instead of feeling stress that would result in higher Psycho-Pass conefficients, people can induce relaxation through drug use. This dependency is called “eustress deficiency syndrome” and leads to a cascade of psycho-physiological changes that culminate in coma and death by heart attack.
First, addiction on stress therapy may be quite prevalent. In the same way alcoholism and drug addiction in modern society is often the unfortunate byproduct of social pressure or coping mechanisms, many addictions can be explained by when a behavior or substance gets causally linked to a desirable outcome or mental state. In other words, if somebody feels like they need something to be happy, that can lead to dependency. The importance of not feeling stress in Psycho-Pass is not only a quality of life issue, but ultimately affects one’s livelihood within society as well. Undoubtedly, however, never being stressed out feels amazing, but coming from someone who is very lax and stress-averse, truly abandoning one’s sense of stress actually comes hand in hand with a lack of responsibility and motivation.
In reality, such a loss of responsibility is accompanied by changes in behaviors that may be self-destructive. For example, overall sanitation and attentiveness to nutrition may be decreased significantly. Does this begin to sound like another attack on hikikomoris and otaku culture? Psycho-Pass takes this phenomenon a bit further, claiming that there are additional physiological changes that accompany the mental quality of not feeling stress. The body itself begins to function less responsibly, as if it is also unmotivated. By this process, people suffering from eustress deficiency undergo a complete mental and physical atrophy that render them into a vegetative state. Finally, the heart stops beating and death occurs. The decent into this process was Rouichi’s second death.
Is Sibyl a moral instrument? I don’t feel like it would be entirely adequate to tackle this weighty question in depth, but based upon what I’ve seen so far, I would say quite the opposite. Being able to take a reductionist approach to morality actually deflates the contemplation that goes into proper decision-making. People’s sense of right and wrong is entirely pre-determined, and they are exercising neither empathy nor rationality in making choices. What Sibyl provides is an extremely powerful self-binding constraint. That Makashima recognizes that is particularly salient, because he is certainly not portrayed as sociopathic. Returning to a previous point, he appears to have a keen sense of morality that is grounded in extensive philosophical, medical, and historic understanding. At this point in the game, I really can’t call him a villain with a clear conscience.
Kierkegaard: Suffering as the essence of life
Psycho-Pass has a tendency to incorporate philosophical tidbits into the dialogue (last time, in addition to Plato’s theory of ideals, it was Rousseau and game theory, but I glossed over the point because it lacked the thematic weight that I sought to discuss), and this time, the theme was prevalent and close to home: Søren Kierkegaard’s existentialism.
Kierkegaard, widely regarded as the father of existentialism, focused extensively on the role of negative emotions such as alienation, dread, anxiety, and despair in reaching “subjective truth.” For Kierkegaard, truth was not merely a concern with objective facts, but rather a more complicated process of mapping one’s subjective emotions and experiences onto matters of fact. The meaningful life for Kierkegaard was inextricably linked with a passionate engagement with facts such as death. For one to truly live, he wrote, she has to truly come to terms with death; it is not that she recognizes that death is a fact, but she must internalize the inevitability of her own death, that she too will die. Only a thorough understanding of this inevitability will create the stress required to reignite a true passion for life and the meaningful things within it.
The passion I discuss is not the colloquial usage of strong emotions, and Kierkegaard’s conception of Passion goes much further, requiring the passionate individual to purge all ideas of objective content out of a desire for the absolute. Indeed, this desire is an idealistic pursuit that was heavily influenced by Plato, and takes the specific form of a desire to transcend one’s mortality. While I’m busy being impressed by the haunting of Midou Masatake’s ghost, there’s still one more important foundation: Kierkegaard regarded passion as the motivator for life, rather than rationality. We do not get through life by thinking, but rather by doing. Where rationality is constrained by fear and by doubts, chooses inaction whenever the odds are stacked against us, it is passion that shatters those constraints and allows us to fall and suffer. When rationality is consumed by suffering and turns into despair, it is passion that allows one to pick him up again and endure through the pain.
The origins of “eustress,” which I’m pretty sure is fictional outside of the Psycho-Pass world (but I’m not Googling this though), should at least be fairly evident from what we now know about Kierkegaard. A moderate amount of stress is quite beneficial: that stress can prime the immune response is something that is actually true. Stress is associated with fight and injury, and therefore the body upregulates parts of the immune system associated with wound repair. However, extended periods of upregulation means that the body is sustaining higher levels of cell division in addition to potential changes in behavior caused by stress (such as unhealthy/excessive eating, substance abuse, irregular sleep cycles) that hamper the ability of the body to self-repair. Increased rounds of cell division increase the risk of cancer through two fundamental processes – one is the random mutations associated with errors in the DNA replication process, the other is telomere shortening leading to chromosomal breakage fusion bridges. In the latter case, repeatedly exposure to things that damage the body, such as chronic inflammation, necessitate many more rounds of cell division in order to continuously repair the damage. Every time a chromosome is duplicated, the ends of the chromosome, or telomeres, are shortened slightly. One important role of the telomere is to actually indicate that the chromosome is indeed at an end rather than being a broken end that is free for recombination. When the telomere region of the chromosome has been completely lost, chromatids may fuse to each other at their ends, resulting in aberrant “bridges.” During anaphase, when these chromatids are pulled apart, they may tear at random sites on that bridge. Over several cycles of cell division, the chromosome recombine at places that would not be possible under normal replicative processes, and these chromosomal aberrations have been associated with every type of malignant tumor.
A complete absence of stress is not something that readily has a real-world analogue beyond what I have already discussed. The mechanisms associated with eustress deficiency can be seen as a sort of atrophy where this upregulation process associated with repair is lost over time, simply because nothing ever stimulates the repair process. Over long periods of time, the body most likely fails to repair itself at all, becoming unresponsive to external stimuli. In essence, by sheltering one’s mind excessively from stress and damage, the kind of impotency that results is not purely psychological, but has adverse effects on health as well. Can a similar concept apply on a broader social level? Will systems that fall into serenity die as well – and is Makashima doing the world a favor by challenging it?
The setting sun in the Land of the Rising Sun: Japan’s Health Care Dilemma
For the first time, Psycho-Pass broaches the issue of health care and public health in a very concrete manner. I was looking for a good time to tie in real-world applications, and this particular episode really blew the doors wide open for that analysis. At this point, I’m convinced that Urobochi indeed has some significant degree of social critique in mind, so I won’t be overanalyzing and reading too much between the lines.
Japan’s system of universal health care, kaihoken, was established in 1961. Taxpayers fund part of this system, but the state foots a vast proportion of the expenses due to an aversion to raise taxes. Instead, much of the burden of the cost is shifted to providers such as individual hospitals, many of which operate at a loss. As a result of this structure, kaihoken has enjoyed great success for its 50-year run thus far, providing excellent care that has vaulted Japan’s average life expectancy to the highest in the world, and cut infant mortality to the lowest in the world. Furthermore, the average Japanese citizen has more access to care, seeing doctors twice as often per year, taking more life-prolonging drugs, and spending three times as much time in hospital beds compared to comparable European health care systems. All of the benefits of kaihoken are delivered for a mere 8.5% of the national GDP, one of the lowest rates (the most efficient European systems are operating at an average of 10% GDP, with the United States spending almost twice as much of its GDP as Japan).
However, the economic growth and population dynamics that accompanied the explosive success of kaihoken have turned on their heads. With the average life expectancy of Japan extending by nearly 30 years since 1961, the proportion of the elderly have quadrupled, whereas the population has shrunk. As with any system of health care that utilizes a form of insurance, the healthy masses bear the brunt of the expenses for people who need access to health care at that moment, with the tacit understanding that the same access will be available to them should they need it. Essentially, it is crucial that there is a proportionally larger part of the population that can foot the bill of the sick and elderly so that the system does not buckle in on itself.
Recently, kaihoken has been struggling to preserve this. According to Kenji Shibuya of the University of Tokyo, “the Japanese health system that had worked in the past has begun to fail. The system’s inefficiencies could be tolerated in a period of high growth, but not in today’s climate of economic stagnation.” The signs of inefficiency are clear – there are significantly fewer doctors relative to the population than the first-world average. Specialists tend to be fewer, and doctors work grueling hours for relatively low pay. Despite the fact that almost everyone has access to doctors within a day, the wait time can be extremely long for a consultation, and this has resulted in well-publicized cases of deaths. Even though “the Japanese are a quarter as likely to suffer a heart attack, they are twice as likely to die if they do (Economist, Sep 2011).”
Urobochi weighs in on the effectiveness of health care from the perspective of “over-care,” an issue that has garnered more attention in the United States in particular, where the fee-for-service reimbursement model is dominant. Under fee-for-service, doctors are paid based upon the number of services that they provide, rather than the outcome of those services. As a result, doctors are incentivized to provide more drugs and services, even if such treatments have no positive effect upon the health of the patient. Overtreatment and over-prescription of drugs has been shown to actually have negative effects upon health, including broader public-health dangers such as drug resistant pathogens. Strains of anti-biotic resistant staphylococcus are a source of constant concern for US hospitals, which suffers from relatively high risk of deaths by infection after major surgeries.
The broader point made in Psycho-Pass is that science and technology, no matter how advanced, still represents a sort of rat’s race. Even though treatment under Sibyl is highly specialized and even individually tailored, the outcomes actually appear to be counterproductive, as the average life expectancy has actually dropped since the institution of Sibyl. Such results are readily observed in actuality as well, particularly in the realm of end-of-life treatment. A large proportion of all health care expenses incurred within the United States are spent upon aggressive interventions in the last year of life, and within that amount, much of that is spent within the last month of life. Alternative methods to end of life treatment, such as hospice care, do not opt for the expensive surgeries and drug regimens that are so prevalent. Instead, they focus on improving the quality of life of the dying patient, by administering the proper treatments to reduce pain and suffering. It has been found that on average, heart attack victims have a longer life expectancy on hospice care than the intensive care unit, and enjoy significantly more happiness (time with family). The families themselves are far more likely to accept the outcome of the treatment at the time of death, and are less likely to sue.
One major axis of contention in which Psycho-Pass negatively reflects upon the current system of health care in Japan could particularly be the process of drug delivery. Due to the time pressures placed upon doctors by their workload, there is a tendency for doctors to over-prescribe. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that many hospitals own their own pharmacies. Furthermore, their doctors are largely unable to serve as researchers as well, and little data is collected on the outcomes of the drugs that they prescribe. This lack of data suggests that the quality of drugs is not tightly regulated, a condition that could lead to a reversal in the effectiveness of kaihoken in years to come. It remains to be seen whether concepts of health continue to be employed in Psycho-Pass. Ultimately, it has been shown that the world has a lot more flaws than initially believed, and I’m keeping a close eye on Makashima. He’s the most interesting piece on the board right now, if you ask me.
I had some vague philosophical questions after the introduction of a dynamic virtual-reality system, concerning matters of identity and what constituted reality rather than illusion, but leave it to Psycho-Pass to blow the doors right open in its latest arc. Before I begin, I must say that this show one I’ve followed, in which I actually felt like I am being lead around. It piques my interest about a fairly eclectic range of ethical, legal, scientific, and philosophical issues, and manages to address them subtly in an incredibly satisfying manner. What appears to be a fairly formulaic method of developing a show – that is, by introducing a vast, sweeping system, and then explaining how that system interacts with the world through various iterations under different circumstances (seen in Code Geass, Guilty Crown, etc) – is used in a manner that would make Tolkien proud. Psycho-Pass is not world-building, and that is well evident in notable weaknesses in the joints; however, every event is a clash of ideas, a tapestry of philosophies that shift with the mindset of the viewer. I would love to revisit this series on a regular basis should my conceptual framework of the world change.
When the curtains of this act opened, I found myself checking whether I was still watching the same show. Of course, Tsunemori Akane (I’ll try to be more consistent and honorific!) was still conflicted about whether or not Kogami actually is the man his words suggested he is. The only difference? She was a disproportionate jellyfish-like character in a Madoka-meets-Sword-Art-Online kind of world. Joining her were online personalities such as Talisman, a sensational oracle renowned for his ability to offer excellent advice based upon the stories of his guests, and Spooky Boogie, an idolized anarchist with a taste for the occult. The introduction of this bizarre cast opened up another dimension of the Psycho-Pass world that was given a nod in the third episode: the element of human interaction and entertainment. I will later revisit this topic, because the portrayal of the Internet seemed a bit too close to home, and therefore out of place. Nevertheless, the widening chasm between illusion and reality would prove to be the next trial for Tsunemori, Ginoza, and their team of hunting dogs.
Despite the practical advice that Masaoka gave Tsunemori on her first day on her job (to just aim with the Dominator and follow its lead), it seems that the job itself is far more complicated and requires a good bit of deductive reasoning. Ginoza is presented with a strange case report of a man who has not been spotted by drones for weeks, despite reports of his toilet being broken. Kogami is quick to tout his intuition as an Enforcer, quickly identifying the murder and the horrifying method through which it was carried out. Despite the death of Hayama, the online avatar Talisman continues to operate and garner even more popularity, leaving Tsunemori and the gang with neither clue nor motive. Akane attempts to lure out Talisman’s real identity with the assistance of Spooky Boogie, a former classmate, but the trap intended for Talisman at an off-line party was turned on its head, resulting in a disastrous police raid and the subsequent murder of Spooky Boogie.
Behind the chain of seemingly motive-less murders, Tsunemori’s internal turmoil over the morality of Kogami continues to brew and bubble over. Despite repeated warnings both from Ginoza and from Masaoka to simply do her job instead of trying to understand her subordinates, Tsunemori continues to ponder deeply about what changes Kogami from the understanding, kind man into a bloodthirsty animal. One particular manifestation of the differences between Tsunemori, who is both young and fairly active socially, and the Enforcers, especially Masaoka, who is grizzled and quarantined from society, is the idea of trust, especially of strangers.
The medium of this dichotomy is the Internet, which anonymously facilitates social interactions. The essential functionality of the Commu-Sphere is not much different from many social networking sites today, and even games with large social communities – people create their own avatars, host their own rooms or domains, accrue popularity, and can receive stipends and payments for their success. While the net has become an integral part of society, Masaoka mistrust in anonymous interactions is not completely groundless. After all, technology reigns supreme in Psycho-Pass, and the idea of privacy is much different in a society in which merely going outside is enough to give out all your personal data, including your psychological state. With information being so tightly controlled, and the very nature of personal reality alterable with the press of a button, that the Internet seems to be a last bastion of anonymity is rather strange. I want to make the claim that this high fantasy represents the pinnacle of escapism from an overbearing and heavy-handed society, but I just don’t see that as being the case. As we saw in prior episodes, even full-body avatars can be applied publicly and used as disguise.
Even if it fails to serve this lofty function, the Internet is still a realm where one’s avatar certainly needs not align with the actual personality behind it. In the case of Talisman, the murder took place after a decline in popularity, after which the avatar was hijacked and the popularity restored. In a sense, the ability to not be oneself and therefore evade the Sibyl system is but a prelude to the criminal’s physical ability to avoid being detected while still sneaking up on his targets to commit gruesome murders. Indeed, it is not only the Sibyl system that has glaring weaknesses. During the raid on the Exoset, we are presented with both the dangers of mechanically relying on the numerical assessments of Sibyl, and the erroneous decisionmaking of the Enforcers (that is, to cast out a net on everyone at the club by indiscriminately shooting). If any of the partygoers had experienced a severe spike in stress levels due to the hacking of the holograms, the results might have been much more severe.
The Madness of Perfection : Platonic Ideals and Forms
What? They never told me that I needed to know Excel!
Ginoza, whose by-the-books method of dealing with law enforcement has been consistently shown as less effective, once again clashes with Kogami over the optimal method of locating the culprit. Ginoza attempts to track the access points of Talisman, only to lead his team into a bomb-rigged apartment. On the flip side, Kogami once again displays his keen attentiveness to detail, identifying a difference in speech patterns between the new hardline-anarchist Spooky Boogie and the friendly one who had conversed with Tsunemori just the day before. Akane, struck by the realization that her actions were linked to the death of a classmate, is also burdened with feelings of guilt and responsibility. The surfacing of a third murder victim from half a year ago reveals the identity of the Mido, the murderer, and the hunt begins.
Masaoka, equipped with a Dominator in one hand and a bottle of hard liquor in the other, leads the charge into a hotel in Roppongi where Mido is hiding. Mido once again hacks into the hologram generation system, utterly disorienting his pursuers. Masaoka demonstrates that fighting sober just isn’t the way to go, breathing gouts of flame to set off the sprinklers. Kogami shoots Mido in the arm, and leaves Mido to Ginoza’s team. In the debriefing, Ginoza reveals tragic information to Tsunemori about Kogami’s past – and present struggles.
One thing that rubs me the wrong way about this show, or perhaps the overreliance on a system that is demonstrably faulty, is the tendency to treat crime (and the tendency to commit crimes) as something monolithic. The reasons people have to commit crimes can be quite diverse, ranging from temporary increases in aggression and resentment due to trauma, environmental or social influences, biological conditions, or even a destructive desire to dismantle a social status quo due to the ennui of the cunning. These different motives and triggers can all be dealt with in special ways that really don’t require people to be blown up. The larger question I’m interested in, however, is how does the system stack up against people who, well, are psychopaths?
Even now, people who are in the act of committing crimes exhibit exceedingly large crime coefficients, even if they have ways of hiding their coefficients normally. I had a sneaking suspicion that the murderer in these last two episodes would pose a particularly problematic case because he seemed to murder with a very twisted motive, if one could even call it that. Would Sibyl be able to deal with people who can commit atrocious acts in the name of righteousness, fully believing that their evils are actually good? Do these people exist, and is Makashima Shougo one of them? Certainly, this was not the case with Mido, who despite his insensitivity to murder and mutilation merely possessed a dangerously idealized worldview.
While many questions about Sibly are still unanswered, we are given some insight as to why people still carry out crimes despite the advanced anti-crime technology, and the role of Makashima as the primary antagonist of the series. Kogami left a salient remark for us to digest while explaning to Ginoza why the hijacked avatars could become more popular than the real ones (once again returning to the issue of appearance versus reality, and making me want to rewatch Nisemonogatari again), stating that idols are not self-made, and thus transcend the identity of any particular individual. Idols are icons, collective elements that well up from the masses’ desire to see a particular character realized. The actual character is but a vehicle for the reflective process of the fan that sees his perspective of the world reaffirmed (perhaps a form of confirmation bias, searching out and hearing the things that you already hold as true).
Indeed, idols even in our society are defined at least equally, if not mostly, by a collection of attributes or properties that they hold, compared to their actual identity as people. For this reason, idols are ephemeral because they do not have a timeless quality – they will not always retain the properties that confer that iconic status to them, and therefore people lose interest over time. A similar argument can be made for the notion that idols serve as “mirrors” for collective interest. Women are frequently treated as icons in popular culture, seldom for their individual identity, but rather because they have a set of characteristics that society finds ideal and appealing. That these iconic women are presented in overly sexualized and stylistic manners creates self-reinforcing social norms, and people frequently see themselves as striving to obtain an ideal, but never being able to reach it. For Mido, the ideal form subsumes the identity of the actor behind the form, but it is inevitable that the actor will never be completely representative of the form. In the same way that even the most beautiful woman will wither with age (or changes in representation), the ideal forms that he cherishes (Talisman’s charisma and helpfulness, Spooky Boogie’s sensational anarchy) are subject to the fluctuating whims of their respective actors. The idea of a perfect form that exists a priori and independently from the natural world, is what Mido refers to as Platonic “ideals,” which can be used interchangeably with “Forms.” Plato wrote, largely under Socrates’ name, that for every instantiation of an object or trait, there existed a perfect representation of that object or trait in an epistemologically inaccessible plane. Thus, it is possible to know virtue a priori the same way it is possible to know numbers – even though physical instantiations may not exist, there still exists a conceptual framework that pegs those ideas to reality.
After all has been said and done, Mido’s motives did not seem to be so insubstantial and unambitious. By freeing his conception of perfect forms from the shackles of flesh, he sought to use their influence to reshape the thought of society according to his vision for a perfect world. Unfortunately, in what may be Mr. Urobochi’s subtle stab at philosophers living philosophically, Mido was too subservient to the ideals, to an unattainable perfection, to tangibly grasp his own desires. Because of his commitment to the abstract, he lacked a personality, an identity of his own. Ultimately, this arc began with Tsunemori questioning her own identity in relationship to Kogami, and neatly ends on a very similar note. However, the game is completely different at this point.
Ginoza, who despite his general ineffectiveness, has consistently proven to be strict and coldhearted, opens up to Tsunemori for the first time. Even though he once again warns her to keep her emotional distance from the Enforcers, he offers the advice as “fool” who had to learn the hard way rather than as a superior barking out orders. We have been repeatedly told that Enforcers are well-suited for their job because they share psychological tendencies with criminals, and therefore are better at understanding their motives and their behaviors. Additionally, we’ve received tidbits from Nietzsche, suggesting that delving too deep into the underbelly of evil is also a corrupting process. Finally, we are given the name and face of the man who sacrificed his humanity in order to carry out his justice and morality – Shinya Kogami. With Makashima stirring up trouble on the horizon, it seems reasonable to revisit the introduction of the series: the case that drove Kogami into the darkness was his confrontation with Makashima, who remains the unsolved 102nd.