Room 208

Elaborate Burn

Posts from July 2015

Disconnected thoughts on the Psycho-Pass film

  1. You might remember that the second season of the Psycho-Pass TV series was basically narratively inconsequential. Since its release schedule suggests that it was being worked on in parallel with this movie, I’ve long suspected that this was a deliberate decision by the writers to keep plot contradictions from popping up. The film does nothing to disabuse me of this notion, since it seems content to proceed as if virtually all of PP2 never happened. Which is perfectly fine by me, since the behavior of the Sibyl System is core to the movie’s plot, and PP2 made it too subject to the whims of individuals to be truly menacing.

  2. Speaking of which, fansubbers, it’s spelled S-i-b-y-l. As in, you know, the Sibyls of Greek myth. Not S-y-b-i-l. The correct spelling is onscreen more than once, for crying out loud.

  3. There is a lot of badly-pronounced English in the movie, which isn’t really necessary. I suppose it’s a reasonable choice of language for a multinational union of Southeast Asian countries, but it’s still a little hard to sit through the Japanese voice actors’ middling inflections. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for an official version that splices together the Japanese and English dubs, though even then they’ll all sound like Americans and not real Cambodians or Thais or Malaysians or what have you. Oh, well.

  4. EGOIST’s “Nameless Beasts” really is a great song.

  5. Mika, Akane’s junior colleague as Inspector, still has her air of superiority about her, but given that she only has a handful of lines in the movie, I’m willing to forgive the lack of development. If it hadn’t been for the awful way she was handled in PP2, I doubt many people would give her behavior here a second thought. The rest of the characters introduced by the previous season basically only exist as extras, which isn’t much of a change from before, come to think of it. Maybe a third TV series would do them some good.

  6. There’s a lot packed into the film’s 114-minute runtime, and as a result some major plot threads are resolved only hurriedly in the end, perhaps a consequence of the definite tilt towards explosive action sequences and visceral hand-to-hand fights. This is nowhere near the triumph that Gen Urobuchi’s earlier work on Madoka: Rebellion was. Still, though, the movie manages to do what PP2 couldn’t and extend the world to a new setting, new characters, and new conflict. We learn much more about what the Sibyl System was designed to protect its citizens against. We realize that systems, like humans, seek their own survival. And we feel that slight allegorical twinge, as if the contradiction of violence for peace were an important question on the minds of Japanese viewers right this very moment.

  7. Seven is a great number to end on, don’t you think?

Kei’s family lives in a bungalow in a nondescript residential neighborhood not far from Shinagawa Station. On this particular Friday afternoon, I’m watching as Kei roots through her closet. We’re the only ones at home for the moment. Kei’s father is working his desk job at a textile importer in Shinjuku, and the two boys, four and six years younger than Kei, are at school. Her mother, who would ordinarily be with us, is out to buy groceries.

“Aha, found it,” Kei says, pulling a handheld electronic device out of a worn cardboard box stashed underneath a shelf of old clothes. The logo on the face reads “MISE 8400,” and it resembles a miniature version of a keyboard from the eighties. A two-line green LCD screen sits above the top row of keys. On the side is a 3.5-inch floppy drive. Kei randomly presses a few of the keys down with her free hand, which bounce back with a series of resounding clacks.

MISE was one of the first manufacturers of these so-called pocket computers, a name that stuck even though pockets spacious enough to fit one were rare indeed. Most were capable of running basic programs written in an interpreted language called AIM, designed in the 1970s by academics attempting to create a teaching tool for new programmers. The 8400 was released in 1986, at the height of MISE’s success. Over two million units were sold. Unfortunately for the Boston-based company, the rapid growth of the modern personal computer market during the 1990s essentially destroyed any future for pocket machines, and MISE eventually folded in 1997. Its remaining assets were bought by HP, who put the technology to use in their line of graphing calculators.

Kei flips the 8400’s power switch back and forth a few times, to no visible effect. “I was kind of expecting this,” she says. “I haven’t touched this thing in a couple of years, so the batteries have probably gone bad.” She beckons me downstairs into the kitchen, where she pulls a pack of trusty AAs from a drawer. After putting in fresh juice, Kei tries to turn the computer on again, and sure enough, the front display lights up with a simple prompt: READY in blocky, all-capitals English.

“I was only four or five when I first started playing with this, so I didn’t know any English words at all,” Kei tells me. “There was something magical about turning this box on and having it talk to me in a new language, like a kind of secret code.” She taps out the command SAY INTDIAG(), and presses the “Run” key: immediately, it responds with ROM V2.52 02/15/91 800 K OK. “Actually, it messed me up when I learned English in school later. I knew all these technical terms like ‘initialize,’ but not more normal words.”

“Were you ever teased about that?” I ask.

“Not really,” Kei says. “I don’t think anyone else knew any better.”