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Some rambling thoughts on Psycho-Pass and its ending

Almost from the start Psycho-Pass was clearly a show where the ending was pretty crucial and a bad ending would be a real problem for the show as a whole. Did Psycho-Pass come through in the end? My view is yes, although there are people who disagree. On the whole I consider the last episode a good ending although not a great one; to put it one way it was a well done and periodically exciting presentation of the last act of a play that we had all seen coming. There were no big surprises, no last minute shocks, simply well delivered story beats that we had already been (mostly) expecting.

(I'm now about to get into spoiler territory.)

The surface story of Psycho-Pass is the hunt for Makishima; apart from the first episode (which mostly serves as an introduction to the setting and the characters) the entire storyline is driven by his actions and revolves around them. But that's not really what the show's about and I think that how people feel about the ending (and thus the show) will depend on what they think the real story of Psycho-Pass is and that in turn depends on one's view of Sibyl. One view is that Sibyl is an inherently evil system and that the show should be about overthrowing it; this makes the ending at least a depressing one since the system survives and indeed co-opts Akane despite her knowing its terrible secrets. But I don't feel that way about Sibyl. Instead I've come around to seeing Psycho-Pass as fundamentally Akane's character arc, the story of Akane really growing up, maturing, and making her own decisions. This view makes the ending a powerful conclusion to the series because we see Akane come full circle to be a competent character and confident leader.

(I'll be honest; I'm biased towards this view partly because it makes the ending make sense.)

Having said that I don't know what the show really feels about Sibyl by the end. Is it evil but necessary? Flawed but necessary? There's certainly a lot of argument (tacit and explicit) in the latter parts of the show that Sibyl is now a necessity and society will fall apart without it. Also, part of my confusion is that the show and I clearly have rather different opinions on how horrifying the truth of Sibyl's deep secret is.

(This is serious spoiler territory now; I'm about to be explicit.)

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anime/PsychoPassNotes written at 15:38:20; Add Comment

My view of Psycho-Pass's Sibyl System

(There are spoilers here.)

The Sibyl System is at the heart of Psycho-Pass and so I think that how people view it will be at the heart of how they react to the ending of the show. Because of this I want to write up my thoughts.

There is no question that the Sibyl System is flawed; the show goes out of its way to show us that in the first episode. Nor is there any question that it's tacitly oppressive; again, the show makes that clear with things like pervasive surveillance, mandatory treatment if your psycho-pass becomes cloudy, and potential imprisonment if the (flawed) system thinks that you've become merely potentially dangerous. One character has lived his entire life from childhood onwards as what is basically a non-person prisoner simply because the Sibyl System thought he was too much of a latent criminal.

But this brings us to the big question: is the Sibyl System an actively evil thing, something built and operated with malign intent or as a conscious tool for oppression? My view is that it is not.

I feel that Sibyl is fundamentally benevolent and well intentioned. Its flaws are not the result of active evil but (mostly) from being built with imperfect and limited technology; these make it both simplistic and overly rigid and thus inherently flawed. While the system is dishonest about how well Sibyl works and its limitations (and exactly how it works), this stems from good intentions. And generally Sibyl actually works. For the most part it delivers on what it claims to and does so without abuse, and as a result it's welcomed by people. You can argue about whether or not this is wise of them, but to the extent that Sibyl reduces people's free will it's not because Sibyl takes free will from people but because people voluntarily relinquish their free will to something that will do their thinking for them.

(You can argue that some of Sibyl's goals are inherently bad, eg that even if it had certainty that someone would commit crimes in the future they should not be imprisoned now.)

We never see Sibyl make a clear false positive diagnosis of (dangerous) criminality; its bad judgements of that (starting in the first episode) are always rational and driven by clearly limited and rigid views (eg 'too much stress makes people dangerous'). I maintain that we also never see strong evidence that Sibyl is corrupt and is being used to enrich and empower particular people.

(Yes, Sibyl covertly holds important and powerful positions. But there is no evidence that these positions are being abused for personal or group gain; instead, they are simply being used as part of making the whole Sibyl system work.)

To me this makes Psycho-Pass a much more interesting show than if Sibyl was a clear tool for evil and oppression. As it is you can have a real disagreement over whether Sibyl is a good thing and whether its benefits are worth its drawbacks.

(It also gives the show a different perspective, less about outside oppression and more about what people voluntarily do to themselves both individually and as a society.)

anime/PsychoPassSibylView written at 14:26:41; Add Comment

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