It’s been a while since I posted one of these. I figured I should buckle down and tackle a few shows I watched earlier in 2016 before my rather unreliable memory decides to chuck out the finer details.
As the title says, this is intended to be a series of posts to appreciate anime characters that have made a lasting impression on me. I’m going by series for now since that seems easier but I expect there will be mixed posts somewhere down the line. The five listed here are also my top five favorite characters from Psycho Pass.
Psycho Pass is set in a futuristic society where technology is immensely advanced and most people lead happy, healthy lives… in Japan at least. The rest of the world is screwed. In Japan, the lauded Sibyl System keeps the people safe and content. It basically plans out their lives for them, using cold logic to assign jobs and arrange dates. A fair amount of attention goes towards eradicating crime by imprisoning people whose minds are even remotely inclined towards violence, i.e, latent criminals. Such a utopia seems too good to be true and sure enough, the darker sides of such a society are slowly explored by the show, culminating in a shocking reveal about Sibyl itself.
Psycho Pass is remarkable not only for its setting and plot but also its characters who range from a charismatic psychopath with humanist tendencies to an endearingly naïve newcomer to the world of Sibyl’s justice. Let’s take a look at a few of them.
[Spoilers for both seasons ]
01 Makishima Shogo
I want to see the splendor of people’s souls.
This is the aforementioned psycho and is anyone even surprised that he’s on top of the list? Makishima was among my top five male characters in the 2016 Roundup post as well. He’s got quite a way with words so choosing a single quote was a struggle.
Makishima Shogo is the primary antagonist of the first season and his presence is felt even in the subsequent productions. Makishima is an aberration in the world of Psycho Pass. He is immune to Sibyl’s primary method of keeping society safe; his crime coefficient cannot be measured and thus his capacity and/or inclination for criminal behavior cannot be assessed. Simply put, he can slit a person’s throat with a smile and Sibyl won’t even register his actions. As he has no respect for the people puppeteered by Sibyl and absolutely no remorse for the chaos he causes, Makishima makes for a very effective villain. But it’s not his cold-blooded brutality that makes Makishima stand out. Rather, it’s the fact that no matter how repulsive he is as a human being, you can’t help but think during several points in the story that this crazy asshole’s got a very good point.
You see, Makishima Shogo loves human nature. He loves free will. He wants to free Japan’s people from Sibyl’s oppression so that they are free to direct their own lives. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? None of us likes being controlled and a man who wants to place humanity’s fate in its own hands could have, in other circumstances, been a noble hero.
Unfortunately – mostly for the people involved with Makishima than the man himself – his way of going about his dream isn’t the best there is. He is interested in human nature but since Sibyl’s humans are happy, smiling, oblivious unicorns, he tends to focus on the other end of the spectrum. Fear and pain are Makishima’s yardsticks for measuring people’s worth for he believes that only then are their innermost characters exposed. He believes in giving them power so that their true desires are unleashed. As the people he picks for these little social experiments are hardly paragons of mental stability, the outcomes are almost certainly nasty. Violence and chaos are the tools Makishima uses to manipulate the ragtag group of supplicants he’s gathered and the end results are atrocious not only for their victims but also themselves.
But despite all of this, Makishima is extremely compelling. We know he’s cruel but there’s a naked humanity to that cruelty. He sees himself as above good and evil, and if the flawed technological deity of his world that can’t adequately judge him, who’s to say he isn’t? If nothing else, Makishima seems content with the path he chose right until the end. Even his death is satisfactory to him for it also gifts him an irreplaceable place in his murderer’s heart.
02 Tsunemori Akane
Society doesn’t always do what’s right. That’s exactly why we ourselves must live virtuous lives.
Akane is the show’s main character, the young graduate who’s new to the workings of Sibyl but who nonetheless tries her best for the betterment of society. Due to her naiveté and natural ignorance, Akane is initially not as engaging as some of the other characters but she proves soon enough that she’s made of tougher stuff than what one might assume and eventually finds her own place in the complex world she inhabits.
In the beginning, Akane was far from my favorite character. Her idealistic approach seemed downright ridiculous the context of the anime but as time passed and she changed with it, I started thinking that her idealism is actually a very important and meaningful part of Akane. Unlike her more experienced colleagues, the Akane at the beginning is a product of Sibyl’s perfect society. All she’s seen are the best aspects of the Sibyl System. Add that to the fact that she’s driven by genuine compassion and a sense of duty, it makes sense that Akane would have some pretty ideals about law and justice.
Akane’s choice of career is not just about serving others either. Akane has an excellent academic record and Sibyl’s assessment is such that she has the aptitude for a variety of sectors, which is great from an objective standpoint but it also means that unlike the majority of her peers, Akane has to agonize over her choice for the future. Just like every average person in our society. Her opting for the Public Safety Bureau is not out of pure altruism but also because she was the only one who qualified for it, leading her to think that there’s something only she can do there, that the Bureau is where she’ll find her purpose in life.
Of course, it’s not that easy and Akane’s very first day lands her smack dab in the middle of a messy situation where her morals clash with Sibyl’s cold judgment. Her morals win and that sets the tone for her development.
Even after her naiveté is brutally ripped from her and she’s forced to see the darkest parts of her picture-perfect society, Akane manages to keep her head above the water. She soldiers on. She perseveres. She doesn’t take the law into her own hands like Kougami or lose herself to the darkness like Ginoza. She feels her emotions freely but doesn’t let them control her actions and reactions. In short, she manages to balance her head and her heart all the while possessing a moral compass that points squarely north. She might still harbor her ideals but she works towards them not with blind optimism but hopeful rationality. In short, she’s fucking great.
And in the end, Akane does find her place, her purpose. She’s unique for the way she manages to accept the unsavory truth of what Sibyl truly is while still retaining the practicality to understand that society sill needs the system.
03 Ginoza Nobuchika
As a leader, you need to learn from the mistakes of others, not your own.
Ginoza starts out as Akane’s senior officer, the one who’s supposed to show her the ropes and get her acclimatized to the Bureau. However, Ginoza’s rigid adherence to rules and his hostility towards the Enforcers clashes with Akane’s softer approach, and the two take some time to find a good rhythm.
Like with Akane, Ginoza is a character that grew on me slowly. At the beginning, he’s far from pleasant. He comes off as cold and harsh, treating the Enforcers as mere bloodhounds and doling out a fair amount of condescension towards his new partner. It’s not until later that his prickly exterior is revealed to be a defense mechanism as well a shell born out of a lifetime of bitterness. Ginoza is someone who lost his father to Sibyl’s judgment and had to grow up with the stigma of being the son of a latent criminal. Though he chooses to pursue the same career as his father and even ends up working with him, that old resentment and fear remains persisted. Losing his first partner Kougami to latent criminaldom doesn’t really help in that aspect. Ginoza, perhaps a little selfishly, sees the demotion of both his father and his friend to be personal betrayals and treats them accordingly.
So, yeah, he’s not really a nice guy. But he gets better and evolves. So does his hair but that’s probably unrelated.
Ginoza gets a sharp (metaphorical) slap to the face in the course of season 1 and is forced to re-evaluate his priorities. His fear of becoming a latent criminal like his father, which has driven his actions for a long time, ends up taking a backseat as his sense of duty becomes more prominent. Once he lets go of his fear of himself and resentment for his father, Ginoza changes for the better. He accepts that his job is hardly a good one but that it needs to be done all the same.
It’s ironic how Ginoza’s greatest fear of becoming a latent criminal is what ends up giving him a measure of peace in life. Ginoza as an Enforcer is visibly more happy than he was as a Detective. Maybe it’s that his father’s death and his subsequent breakdown gave him a new perspective in life. Maybe it’s because he gets better when the constant dread of clouding is psycho pass becomes a non-issue. Either way, by the end of the first season, Ginoza is drastically different from how he was at the beginning.
He’s much more open, smiling and laughing with more ease. He also displays more care and concern for his friends/colleagues. He seems to become more efficient in his work as well, shedding his old inflexibility to eschew the rules when the situation calls for it. Though the circumstances leading to it are less than idea, there’s no denying that Ginoza has changed for the better.
04 Kougami Shinya
Being a detective isn’t about bringing someone down, but rather protecting someone.
Kougami is a character who’s as much of a main character as Akane during the first season and a good majority of the story follows his struggles against the constraints imposed by his own society while he hunts one who defiantly thrives outside of those same constraints. In other words, he wants to kill Makishima dead but Sibyl has other ideas so our boy’s frustrated.
If I’d made this list during the first half or so of Psycho Pass, Kougami would have been on top of the list. But while I still like his character and his contribution to the anime, he’s no longer my absolute favorite.
Kougami, when we first see him, is a classic anti-hero. He’s rough and ruthless, and shows no compunctions about executing Sibyl’s order despite their questionable morality. That said, he’s far from cruel and while he is undoubtedly hardened by his time as a Detective and then as an Enforcer, he has not allowed it to freeze his heart. In fact, it could be argued that Kougami’s problem is that he has too much heart. But unlike Akane, whose emotions manifest in largely positive ways, Kougami is led by his feelings towards the darker end of the spectrum. The re-emergence of the man who’s responsible for the loss of a treasured friend and colleague, which is what destabilized his psycho pass in the first place, sends Kougami into a desperate quest for revenge that doesn’t end well for any parties involved.
However, Kougami wasn’t always so fixated on vengeance. He used to believe that the duty of a detective wasn’t action but protection. He nobly wished to safeguard the innocent. But that wish got twisted when he realized the law can’t always protect people, that it will sometimes be powerless to stop the real monsters – monsters like Makishima.
It’s easy to see Kougami the Protector even in Kougami the Avenger. His revenge isn’t wholly a selfish thing. As much as he’s driven by the loss of his friends at Makishima’s hands, it’s also a genuine desire to stop any more needless tragedies that prompt him to abandon Sibyl’s law in favor of a more hands-on approach. It’s hard to say whether or not he’s right but there’s little doubt that Kougami believes that he is. And his method certainly is effective even if he royally screws himself over in the process.
Makishima does a real number on this guy. More than anyone else in the series, Kougami is his victim even after the latter’s death.
05 Kunizuka Yayoi
It’s okay, let your emotions out now, otherwise your Hue will get cloudy.
Kunizuka Yayoi is a young Enforcer with Ginoza and Akane’s team. She’s a side character with only a little screen time and few lines but she manages to stand out all the same. Yayoi is perpetually stoic front but there are plenty of hints to suggest that she’s very much kind person.
Some of you may find it odd that Yayoi made it on this list rather than Masaoka or the Sibyl System itself. I know she’s an unlikely choice given that she’s not someone of great importance to the plot and since most of her character exploration is confined to a single episode. But all the same, Yayoi is a favorite of mine and I’m fairly sure it has more to it than my penchant for women in suits. Though that’s a valid reason on its own…
Yayoi is a victim of love. That sounds melodramatic but it’s more or less true. Prior to becoming an Enfocer, she was the guitarist of a Sibyl-approved band but she becomes drawn to the singer of a non-approved band with anarchist leanings and her hue darkens by association. After a brief but maddening stint in a rehabilitation center, Kougami offers to make her an Enforcer. She gives it a trial run in hopes of seeing Rina, the aforementioned singer whom she’s heavily implied to be in love with, but ends up finding that Rina is part of a group of rebels. She even attempts to apprehend Rina but fails. Yayoi soon leaves behind her music and takes up justice. Basically, her entire life got turned on its head because she liked the wrong girl.
My fascination with Yayoi began before her day-in-the-limelight episode but afterwards, it was kicked up a notch. The Yayoi from her musician days is far more expressive than the Yayoi who’s an Enforcer. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume that the change is related to Rina’s betrayal. Something personally devastating like that could harden anyone, especially when that person is soon exposed to the criminal underbelly of their perfect little society.
But it’s also clear that despite her cold expression, Yayoi is not a cold person. Quite the opposite actually. She cares for her colleagues and is visibly upset when one of them disappears while investigating something. We even see her taking the time to console a distressed girl whose friend has been killed. She’s a woman of few words but when she does speak, she doesn’t waste her words.
If there ever is a third reason of Psycho Pass, I’d like to see much, much more of her.