…Words cannot describe how infuriated I am about this sequel, but i’m going to try. Word of caution; this is going to be long and ugly.
Even after 6 episodes, this season has failed to capture the engaging atmosphere that could previously be established in 2 minutes. From the lack of detail to the muted color palette to the lazy use of camera angles, there is very little effort put into this production when it comes to visual consistency or audience perspective. Despite claiming to take place in the same city, it doesn’t have any of the grim beauty or grand scope that made it feel alive. The setting feels barren, the action feels dull, the gore lacks impact, the tech seems outdated, the visual scope lacks ambition, and the characters move like the poorly rendered CG machines surrounding them. And let’s not forget the obnoxious use of repeated footage in the OP.
As for addressing the franchise’s main message, it seems like this show doesn’t get the point of the Sibyl System at all. It acts like Sibyl is a robotic oppressor with no understanding of humanity and the only way to stop it is to harm those who comfortably live inside of it or hide from its judgement at any cost. In reality, we know that the only reason Sibyl could judge every human living in its grasp was because it ran on the minds of sociopaths, had its eyes everywhere around the city, and could override its own systems if needed. The reason it remains is because the society surrounding it depends on its ability to maintain order while still providing the illusion that they are safe. So it makes no sense why years after Makishima created a loophole in their system, they would sanction a drug that reduces crime hues while making zero updates to their technology. No surprise in tricking a powerful foe when it highlights its old wounds, purposely makes new ones, and refuses to use its best weapons in times of danger.
Even the way it’s implemented in the story comes off as lazy and exploitative. Practically all the plot points seem dependent on stupid decisions by the cops so that they get the most violent result. The strategy our villain uses by releasing insane people in supposedly safe areas seems like a shrunken copy of Makishima’s plans. Sibyl’s easier to trick than a Redbox scanner and doesn’t have an independent identity now, so finding the loopholes doesn’t seem nearly as impressive as before. And the only true mystery present is why such obvious clues and evidence present at both crime scenes and testimonies would be treated as hogwash by the MWPSB. This lack of intrigue and careful plotting gives me nothing to latch onto on a storytelling level. It’s just a mash-up of silly shock-bait connected by a skeleton of a mystery and the shadow of a smarter narrative.
This stigma unfortunately transitions to the characters as well, keeping old characters glued to the background while treating new characters like board game pieces. I know that half of the original cast died last season, but their presence through most of the plot points feel pointless or replaceable. Ginoza and Yayoi look like they’re sleepwalking through their jobs as office workers and backup enforcers, all while Karanomori casually looks through video footage before someone else points out a clue for her. Background characters like Saiga or Aoyanagi hold a bigger influence over the story, but the former simply works as a box of exposition while the latter works as a pathetic attempt at emotional impact(Crush with Ginoza=Feels?). And while it’s nice to see Akane take the role of a competent leader now, her role as a lead seems weak without the drive and struggle that made her character grow. Aside from her love sickness for Kougami and witnessing the extent of needless casualties, there’s nothing for her character to struggle about. Her daily routine seems to consist of witnessing clues directly handed to her, followed by outwitting an army of killer robots, and saving the occasional psychopath along the way, all while she’s exempt of all blame for his death later on.
It’s hard to blame this on Akane though, because her new coworkers lack the skill to reduce her workload(except one hacker) or the charisma to make it interesting. Like the board game pieces I mentioned earlier, all they have to offer is a set of generic traits and a role that’s been filled before. Section 2 and 3 amount to little more than added manpower or a larger body count, and they disappear so fast that you barely even know their names. Shou is only brought up once so that he can point out layered holograms, Shisui is there as the slutty minion of our main villain, and Tougane is meant as a poor replacement for Kougami and a secondary villain for stalking Akane. My problem with these characters is that the show expects us to know them by heart, yet they barely get a proper introduction, have nothing aside from names and basic traits, hold very little importance in the story, and either come off as forgettable or annoying.
Which leads us to the most annoying character to come out of anime this year: Mika Shimotsuki. Unlike the rest of the new characters in this season, she holds a considerable amount of influence over the story next to Akane and the villain. I haven’t seen a character this despicable and prone to causing trouble while claiming no responsibility since Nina from Code Geass and Makoto from School Days. She disregards any advice from both her partners and superiors, refuses to take action when it counts the most, and constantly badmouths Akane for her unconventional methods and debatable clues despite multiple events proving them right. Supposedly her reason for acting so disagreeable is that she believes the Sibyl System can do no wrong, and relying on any measures aside from written police procedures is wrong. Yet not only does this seem like an attempt at filling the role of Ginoza from last season, but there are several reasons why her attitude doesn’t work here.
First of all, this season paints the Sibyl system as corrupt and unreliable anyway, so she comes off as ignorant and whiny. Secondly, her constant insistence on disagreeing with Akane seems less like a voice of reason and more like petty issues of pride, something that shouldn’t be this big of an issue if they’ve been working together for quite some time. Thirdly, her hesitance to take action when over a dozen people(including an inspector) were held hostage by a sociopath in an isolated store led to everyone inside getting slaughtered by section 3. Forgetting the fact that this doesn’t get the media concerned or costing Mika her job, she has no right to attack Akane when sticking to the rules made her responsible for a massacre. And finally, SHE’S EXPERIENCED FIRST HAND THAT SIBYL ISN’T PERFECT! Even if we ignore Makishima’s helmet riot, we’re still left with her involvement in Rikako’s lethal art projects. She witnessed two of her best friends end up as rearranged limb collections thanks to Sibyl’s blind spots, all while the person responsible was never found again. And yet aside from a lesbian crush towards Yayoi, it seems like she’s completely forgotten about them. If you haven’t gotten the point yet, I F#CKING HATE HER!
If there’s one new addition that has the potential to be interesting, it’s our main villain Kirito Kamui. Even if his use of reckless followers seems counter-productive and how much his success depends on the police’s incompetence, the core of his character is a fascinating idea on its own. Unlike Makishima who wanted to liberate the human spirit at the cost of peace and order, Kamui wants to provide an escape from Sibyl’s judgement. He wants to directly attack the Sibyl System by proving that people can hide from its judgement and be content without it. And he encapsulates this idea perfectly, being virtually invisible from Sibyl’s eyes thanks to extensive use of holograms, facial surgery, and repressive drugs. But for all his promises of clear crime hues, he’s also responsible for the blatant massacre of innocents and stealing other’s identity to utilize the same weapons issued by what he’s attacking.
This is especially clear in ep 6 when he programs a popular mobile game as a control system for military drones. As he collects Dominators like candy and uses a brainwashed Inspector Shisui as his hunting dog, he has hundreds of naive citizens hunt enforcers for fun. The fact that a supposedly pure society is murdering those around them with glee truly discredits the idea that a clear crime hue equals a clear morality. It’s easily the highlight of this show, and the one moment thus far that felt like I was watching Psycho Pass. Too bad that even this moment felt like a copy of the previous season (the helmet arc) and was crowded by so much crap. Dominators suddenly have ammo limits(even though they clearly didn’t in ep 4), Shisui’s Dominator usage isn’t revoked when the radar says there are two of them hunting enforcers, no one uses their communicators when it counts, Karanomori decides to show the players what they’ve done rather than disconnecting the game(causing hundreds of crime hue corruptions), and Akane LETS KAMUI GO because Tougane reminds her of Kougami thanks to the smell of cigarettes. WHAT A LOAD OF SH#T!
Before I end this post, I want to make it very clear that I wasn’t planning to hate on this show just because Gen Urobuchi wasn’t the writer. I know that Tow Ubukata is infamous for ruining the Ghost in the Shell franchise with Arise, but I wanted to give him a chance thanks to the incredible Mardock Scramble. But as of now, this sequel comes off as both a bad imitation of the first story and a poor attempt at being its own thing. By the time this post is up, the show should already be over, so be ready for my final verdict after I cool down from this tirade. Hopefully it’d be much shorter than what’s written here.
For a more detailed look at the shot comparisons between this and the first season, check the link below from Digibro:
EDIT: The episodes after this reach such bad quality that i’ve honestly forgotten them after nearly half a year. Head to the Unblogged post for winter 2015 for my actual thoughts, but let’s just say my anger at the time and my lack of anger now made writing it all impossible.