Spoilers: Psycho-Pass Season One and Two (though season two is mentioned on several occasions)
I have elected to split this post in two. This first one looking at the more minor, although no less significant protagonists, and the second looking at Akane and Kogami as the main protagonists before moving into our posts on the antagonists.
“Psycho-Pass” presents viewers with a set of unique characters since the larger society feels more or less perfect the only interesting people are the criminals or soon-to-be criminals. In this post I will continue from where we left off in context to go further in depth about MWPSB’s Division One and Shougo Makishima as the primary protagonists and antagonist respectively. For now I am going to leave out a consideration of Sybil as a “character” since the place of collective entities like Sybil is the driving force of season two, making the topic more appropriate for an examination of those episodes. Aside from this, Sybil really only takes on an active role in the narrative toward the end of the season and sort of acts as support and a plot driver in the last couple episodes. This segment of our analysis will assess the main protagonists and consider their values. From this we can extrapolate a set of shared ethics and differences based on the well developed background each character is given since most if not all ethical questions can be framed as posing a few basic questions about what we as individuals value and how we prioritize those values against legitimate competing interests.
First the MWPSB’s Division One consists of two Inspectors overseeing four field enforcers, two of whom are former inspectors, and a techie, this dynamic group represent a diverse perspective on the purpose and effect Sybil has on the wider population. Starting with the Inspectors we have; Shion Karanomori, Shusei Kagari, Yayoi Kunizuka, Shinya Kogami, Akane Tsunemori, Nobuchika Ginoza and Tomomi Masaoka.
Shion Karanomori division one’s analyst enforcer is an educated woman, having studied to be a physician before being labeled a latent criminal and placed in the MWPSB. Comfortable in her position and abilities but very skeptical of the system she serves Karanomori exhibits the kind of sarcasm that blends well with the personalities of many of the other enforcers in Division One; she and Kunizuka are more romantically involved. She does hate the Sybil System, and is not afraid to express this at the same time like most of the team she recognizes its importance to Japan. In this respect she is drastically different from Kagari who would like to see the system destroyed; though even he has boundaries in this mission.
Yayoi Kunizuka has a entire episode basically dedicated to her story moving from government sanctioned artist to latent criminal as her interests became tied to the rapidly growing artistic underworld that came up under the Sybil system’s strict regulation of anything that could be potentially harmful to the mental stability of society. During this episode Yayoi will conclude the MWPSB acts as a mitigating force between Sybil and society, human agents who, in what Masaoka and Kogami would refer to as the old days, were able to make judgement calls and decided for themselves when more or less force was appropriate in handling a suspect. The same judgement notably absent from episode one in the team which had become increasingly apathetic toward this cause; though to be fair this is the point of Sybil. Kunizuka outside of this episode ties into to a class a person who are just “ok” with Sybil. A viewer gets no real sense of how she feels one way or another, she is an effective enforcer, tolerates little nonsense, but does consider her team as family. In the Rikako Oryo arch Kunizuka attempted to comfort one of the students who had recently lost her friend, from this we get a better sense that her particular approach to this job has been or is becoming more like that of Tsunemori who demonstrates compassion for victims in order to most effectively conduct an investigation.
Shusei Kagari: Labeled a latent criminal by the age of five or so enforcer Kagari had his entire ordinary civil life stolen from him by Sybil, and it is never revealed why, though that is rather the point, not to question Sybil, because of this he justifiably hates the system which makes his apparent protection of the system from being exposed late in the season rather odd. Kagari’s life has not been all bad, he seems to take some level of pride in his unique standing as a younger enforcer, and in many ways gets to behave the way, what for us, is ordinary teenage behavior. He enjoys video games, drinking, good food, and the members of Division 1 who are the closest thing he has had to a family his entire life. So at the end of the season Kagari barters with Gu-sung Choe, Makishima’s right hand man, to allow him releasing footage of Sybil before Kagari kills him for putting the lives of his friends on the line. In an unfortunate turn of events Sybil, in the form of chief Kasei, kills Kagari having determined the relative value of his life to Sybil’s secret was not worth allowing him to live. As an individual Kagari appears to have been something of a hedonist, enjoying life for everything it was worth and taking advantage of his position as an enforcer to make what would ordinarily be a miserable life more enjoyable.
Nobuchika Ginoza The second and more senior inspector of Division one. Ginoza is a no nonsense boss concerned with doing the job by the book, and keeping the psycho-passes of normal people healthy by constantly deploying the enforcers who, on the surface, he refers to simply as attack dogs. As time goes on however, we come to understand that he is more deeply connected, at least to Masaoka, his father, and Kogami, his former partner in Division One. Ginoza is driven to protect those he cares about, enforcers included, but he understands and takes a realistic approach to his work and life resulting in his demotion by the end of season one from inspector to enforcer. His values certainly are split and no where is this better captured than at the end of the season when his Masaoka has Makishima caught and the antagonist tosses a stick of dynamite toward Nobuchika forcing the old detective to choose the case or his son. Ginoza implores his father to not let Makishima going so far as to call Masaoka an inspector revealing the importance he places on completing the job that he would give up his own life for it. By the end of season one I think Ginoza understands, rather as his father did, the job is just a job, the people you consider friends do not ever really abandon you even as latent criminals.
Tomomi Masaoka Loving referred to as “Pops” and “Old Masaoka” by some of the other enforcers Masaoka fills the role of an old time inspector who remembers what life was like prior to Sybil and dispenses sage-like wisdom for Tsunemori while dutifully performing his role as an enforcer. He is perhaps my favorite character in the series because he knows what he values, how much he values it, and is unafraid to act on those values. In two of his best scenes Masaoka lifts Ginoza off his feet and throws him up against the Dominator dispenser, much to the shock of everyone around, in defense of Akane who has just been rebuked by Ginoza one too many times for the old inspector. The other scene occurs when he has Makishima trapped while Ginoza is pinned under some large crates, his arm crushed. Makishima lights a stick of dynamite and Ginoza shouts at his father to not let that man go, that Masaoka is an inspector it is his duty. When he asks if the plan is to blow themselves up Makishima retorts he is not that stupid and tosses the explosive toward Ginoza. Despite Gino’s heightened protests in that moment Masaoka makes the choice to release Makishima in order to save his son at the cost of his own life. It really is one of the more powerful moments and I think even Makishima recognizes this because he pauses for just a moment while getting up to see the results of the decision before continuing to make his escape, Kogami biting at his heels. Masaoka is a special character because he understands how to work with a variety of people and while he misses the old ways understands his role in the new order, though he will not allow this position to violate his core set of values and dedication to both his team and family.