Equals

With a wealth of sci-fi movies about the future, the trope of a society which suppresses the emotions of its citizens has become so frequent that watching them is like playing a game of spot-the-differences. In this sea of similarities, there are a few that stand out for their excellence (and some for their failures). Not many make their way into the grey zone of uncertainty, but the sci-fi dystopian romance Equals fits in there quite comfortably. Contrary to what reviewers will tell you, it’s a movie that will leave an impression—just not for the reasons one might expect.

The movie tells the story of a post-apocalyptic society in which all illnesses have been cured except one: Switched-On Syndrome, called S.O.S for short, which causes infected people to experience hypersensitivity and emotions. The infected go through four stages, after which they are taken to a special care facility and isolated from the rest of society. There they undergo electrical shock treatment to be “cured”.

popsugar
Image from popsugar.com

The protagonist of the movie is an illustrator named Silas, who discovers that he has this very illness. The movie follows the story of how he copes with the illness, and how it transforms him into the kind of person we would encounter in today’s society: laughing, crying, and feeling sad, but above all: falling in love. The subject of his affections is his co-worker Nia, a writer, and the two struggle to find a way to maintain their relationship in a society where emotions are frowned upon and any intimate physical contact is a sign the illness has reached its peak.

Unlike most dystopian movies, Equals doesn’t begin with the familiar prologue of how humans were on the verge of destroying each other before some organization stepped in and stopped them. In fact, the movie does very little to provide even a vague framework of why things are the way they are. There is a brief mention of a war and how only two populations managed to survive, but beyond that nothing else is revealed; no details of the vaguely-described bombings or why it was decided that emotions are a hindrance.

The positive result of this decision is that viewers can focus on the relationship between Silas and Nia without worrying about extraneous details. In this sense, Equals has a rather minimalistic approach to its storyline. The plot only contains the details that are deemed most necessary. This will prove challenging for an attentive viewer who hates loopholes and loose ends, as there are quite a few of both that pop up over the course of the movie. For instance, a whole scene is devoted to citizens sitting in an outdoor amphitheatre to watch the landing of a spacecraft. The broadcast states that space exploration has always been important, but why this is the case is never specified, and the topic is never touched on again.

Similarly, the documentaries that Silas illustrates for the company are given no context, while the articles Nia writes are given no more than a few brief mentions. All of these are missed opportunities in the end, for if there’s one thing the reviews are accurate about, it’s the fact that Equals brings barely any innovation to the sci-fi genre.

kinopoisk.ru
Image from tv.belta.by

What makes the movie memorable and worth seeing? If there is something that director Drake Doremus was able to do beautifully, it was the minimalist aesthetics. The movie is a true wonder from an artistic and architectural perspective, all straight lines and pale lighting that accentuates the paleness of the actors. The entire movie is shot in a cool colour scheme with white and grey as the dominant colours. Some shots integrate Instagram-like filters and effects similar to a ray of sunshine across the screen. This is where Kristen Stewart’s typically expressionless face lights up, like a subject stepping out of a painting.

beautifulballad.org
Image from beautifulballad.org

The movie lays out all its cards from the beginning, and it is up to the viewer to decide what to make of the story of Silas and Nia’s romance. The Shakespearean twist near the end will come across as cliché for some, though I admit I sat and yelled at the screen for the two of them not to repeat the same mistake.

It’s a movie that won’t leave an immediate impression. It’s not one that can be readily talked about—much is left to the eyes and ears to experience, though some thought provoking moments do swim up at times. Equals is what you make of it, leaving a lot of unexplained ambiance, a cliffhanger ending, and a mostly unexplained title. The rest is left up to the imagination, and to how much one is invested in Silas and Nia’s journey.

-Contributed by Margaryta Golovchenko

Advertisements

Spec in Song Spotlight: Kyle Morton

typhoon - white lighter
Image from wearetyphoon.bandcamp.com/album/white-lighter

Spec in Song explores the use of the speculative in music, whether it be fantasy, sci-fi, horror, or beyond.

The content of Kyle Morton’s songs is just about as wide-ranging and eclectic as the musical styles he works into them. This makes sense considering that his main band, Typhoon, consists of eleven multi-instrumentalists; their work features acoustic and electric guitars, basses, violins, drums, ukuleles, banjos, and even a horn section. Yet somehow in this mess of moving parts, he manages to craft imaginative and intricate speculative worlds.

Morton is by no means a ‘speculative artist,’ however you might define it. His themes and stories are all grounded in real-world problems such as aging, relationships, and chronic illness—specifically Lyme disease, of which Morton is a sufferer.

However, as he addresses these ideas in his colourful soundscape, the imagery and plot he weaves place him among some of the greatest sci-fi and fantasy writers of our time.

In “100 Years,” from Typhoon’s third studio album, White Lighter, Morton paints a bleak and downright disturbing picture of a post-modern dystopia. After he (or his character) falls asleep under a tree and sleeps for 100 years, he wakes up to find the world changed. “I awoke in the future,” he says, and what a future it is.

Entire cities of old folks’ homes / In every household a hospital bed for everyone / They laid me down and they stripped my clothes / They gave me a shirt that says / ‘I survived my own life.’”

Morton draws a painful link between society’s emphasis on survival over living and his own struggle with mortality. In doing so, he flings the listener into a different world. Yet this world is torn down just as quickly as it is created, giving way to introspection. “I told you / I told you / I have nothing left with which to hold you.”

Morton’s lyrics are an interesting blend of metaphor and hyperbole. Some are realistic, if overstated (like living for 100 years, even in sleep), but are combined with fantastical elements. What comes out of this mix is fantastically deep world-building, spiralling even out of a few short lines.

He continues this world-building on his solo studio album, What Will Destroy You, bringing a post-apocalyptic flavour to tracks such as “Survivalist Fantasy.” This is a song that explores his complicated relationship with intimacy in a sort of ‘last man on Earth’ scenario.

The scene is set by the lines: “The traffic lights are out and all the phones are dead / Don’t answer the door for anyone.” In a world with a zombie apocalypse obsession, these lines strike a cultural chord. At the same time, the lyrics aren’t intrinsically apocalyptic, and can bring to mind real world scenarios of riot and revolution.

Before we lost the power I think the television said / Stay inside your homes wait for help to come / That must have been weeks ago / Now I’ve got this sinking feeling / You and I are the only ones.”

Again, we see world-building that takes familiar themes and alienates them so that they make more sense surrounded by the fantastical. Who hasn’t thought, when fighting with a partner or struggling to communicate with a loved one, that the world is coming to an end? Who hasn’t questioned the value of living when there doesn’t seem to be any life in their years?

Morton writes stories that are both close to home and entirely other-worldly, which makes for a complex lyrical experience. Being familiar and yet new, it’s definitely worth a stumble through one of his worlds.

Suggested Tracks:

-Contributed by Stephan Goslinski

After Alice: Beyond the Rabbit Hole

y450-293

How many characters from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland can you name off the top of your head? It’s alright if you can’t name them all, but you’ll surely get the main ones, like Alice, the Mad Hatter, and the Queen of Hearts—possibly even the Dormouse, if you ponder long enough. But how many of you remember Ada Boyce, Alice’s best friend in the real world, who is mentioned only briefly in the original novel, or Alice’s older sister, whose name has been the source of much speculation? Chances are you either didn’t notice them or they sit in a dusty back corner of your mind.

This is exactly what Gregory Maguire set out to change with his new novel.

After Alice is not your typical retelling of a beloved classic. It doesn’t focus on Alice—her only dialogue consists of no more than five lines near the end of the book—and it doesn’t simply transpose the ‘Wonderland formula’ onto a different time period.

Instead, the focus is primarily on Ada Boyce and her journey of self-discovery while going after her friend Alice. Ada’s journey through Wonderland is a much calmer one, with quirkier run-ins with familiar characters like the White Knight and the Cheshire Cat, whose wisdom—while as timeless as ever—is articulated with a more sarcastic tone that’ll surely make you chuckle. However, not all of the beloved stars from the original make it into this adaptation, with characters such as Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum only being indirectly mentioned.

For loyal fans of Carroll these absences might be a shock—how does one fare without such vital characters? That, however, is the beauty of the novel. Maguire isn’t proposing a mere head-first dive back down the rabbit hole with all the same tricks. Instead the reader is greeted with well-crafted additions and a ‘behind the scenes’ atmosphere. What did the Wonderlanders do once Alice’s spotlight moved on? Such are the angles on which the novel shines some light.

While Ada is off on her own adventure, the often-overlooked aspects of the original story are touched upon: what was happening in the world above? Surely the adults noticed the absence of a child, or—in this case—three children!

The novel’s depictions of Lydia, Alice’s older sister as named by Maguire, and Miss Armstrong, the governess of the Boyce household, introduce the reader to the world of adult worries. Their stories are interwoven to fill in the time-frame during Ada’s journey through Wonderland, giving the writing a cinematic quality.

By far the most intriguing addition to the novel is the character of Siam. He is a dark-skinned boy who is rescued from the slave society of America and accompanies Josiah Winter, another new character, on his journey to England. Siam was the answer to the one frustration I always had as a child: who the heck in their right mind would want to leave Wonderland? He is particularly worth paying attention to; from his complex past to his unusual actions in the present. His decision at the end of the novel spoke to the child in me and appeased her, as this question will forever be the greatest issue I have with Carroll.

After Alice is a great new take on the classic, although not quite the sequel it was marketed to be. The number of characters and stories are often overwhelming, and some chapters that attempt to add a philosophical layer to the story fail to come across as such. But ultimately, that isn’t the point of this novel. Rather, it offers you another visit into a beloved literary world from a new angle, one that does not sacrifice the familiar, witty humour and confusing wisdom that defines the original.

-Contributed by Margaryta Golovchenko

Hannibal: What do you see?

Sight is the key to appreciating the design behind Bryan Fuller’s three seasons of Hannibal. Television is first and foremost a visual medium, and no show makes better use of it.

The first two seasons of Hannibal take place before the events described in the famous novels by Thomas Harris, with the third season leading into an incredible adaption of his first Hannibal novel, Red Dragon. What starts off as a killer-of-the-week cop drama slowly becomes a bloody, insane, near supernaturally charged love story between its two lead characters. Hugh Dancy stars as Will Graham, a man who can empathize perfectly with anybody and whose sense of self and reality is shaky at the best of times. Opposite Will is his psychiatrist, Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen), who enjoys philosophizing about God, eroding Will’s conception of the world, and elaborately cooking, serving, and eating people (in meals that always make guilty viewers a bit hungry).

Hannibal sees in Will the potential for a companion. He believes that Will can understand him and can share his fun of elaborately killing people. Hannibal thinks there is nobody else in the world who can see him like Will can. In effect, he falls in love. (The internet’s couple name for them, “murder husbands”, even finds its way into a line in the third season.)

The horror is apparent, but how does Hannibal fall into the realm of speculative fiction? Well, in several ways. First of all, the show itself exists in a heightened reality, one where Hannibal Lecter is an almost ineffable devil-like figure, capable of performing horrifying feats or tricks while wearing a three-piece suit. He can dash across fields, disappear without a trace, and kill countless people in increasingly elaborate ways, all in time for dinner. The show often has little time for real world logic, sacrificing what’s possible off screen for what’s beautiful on screen.

But within the logic of Hannibal, there is Will. And within Will blossoms the magical realism that places Hannibal into the realm of speculative fiction.

            “See?” is a code word in Hannibal. What Will sees is more important than the real world. Through the eyes of killers and lunatics, as well as through his own subconscious, Will sees a world far more magical (and horrifying) than our own.

What Will sees is often more important to the plot than what is real. His hallucinations (or “Willucinations” as I stubbornly call them) make up a huge part of the show. They manifest as a way to show the viewers Will’s mental or emotional states, but often Will’s visions cut to the truth of what is going on around him, like haunting specters revealing the secrets of the plot.

Throughout the first season, Will isn’t aware that Hannibal is the ultimate monster he is chasing, thinking that the man is only his tall friend who likes to cook. But Will’s subconscious knows better.

With increasing alarm, Will is haunted by visions of a stag covered in raven feathers, a replica of a small statue in Hannibal’s office. The Raven Stag follows Will, nudging him closer towards the truth, pushing him along.

Once Will discovers what Hannibal is, we are given glimpses of how Will now sees him. Will sees a Wendigo, a great, antlered black creature that eats human flesh. But still the Raven Stag haunts him, becoming a symbol not only of Hannibal but also of Will’s relationship with him. The Raven Stag bursts into flames in times of transformation, forcing Will to continue on with his question of whether to catch, kill, or embrace the cannibal.

Behind Will’s eyes, scenes of murder spring to life, time reverses, objects transform, and corpses revive. In his visions, the Wendigo becomes the Hindu god Shiva and warns Will of bloody rebirth, the Raven Stag dies to signal to Will that something bad is coming his way, and water wells up around him in bed to warn him that he is drowning in Hannibal’s influence. Whatever design Will’s madness takes, it always points Will towards the truth, to help to him understand.

Apart from Will, the only character who is explained with magic is season three’s Red Dragon himself, Francis Dolarhyde (played to terrifying effect by The Hobbit alum Richard Armitage). In Dolarhyde, we see the battle between the man and the monster within him by the shadow of wings on his back and the slither of a tail moving behind him. We know in one particular scene that Dolarhyde is beating himself up, but what we are shown, and what we understand, is that Dolarhyde is fighting the dragon. We know what is real, but we see what is true.

That is the point of magical realism in Hannibal: to help us to understand. Why tell us what’s happening or how characters feel when it’s possible to show us? Why tell us that Hannibal is the devil of Dante’s hell, when you can show his face blend with that of a painting depicting Satan in The Inferno? Why tell us that Hannibal and Will are becoming more alike when you can show us their faces and bodies melding and mirroring one another through the glass of Hannibal’s cell? We are not told; we are shown. We accept what we see, and we understand it. “Who among us doesn’t want understanding and acceptance?” Hannibal asks. And that is what the show asks of its audience: to be seen and understood.

The magic of Hannibal distorts reality so that we are forced to see these horrible acts of violence and murder as Hannibal sees them and as he wants Will to see them. Some of the displays of blood on Hannibal are uncomfortably, and undeniably, like art.

As Will admits in the very last line of the series, what we see on Hannibal is “Beautiful”.

It’s not real, but what’s real is not important. What’s important is that we see art and beauty and magic in the dark and the horrifying. We see, and we understand.

-Contributed by Ben Ghan

The Flash Season One: “Run, Barry, Run!”

“Life is locomotion… If you’re not moving, you’re not living.”

So begins the famous motto of the comic book hero the Flash, and when adopting the story of Barry Allen for the small screen, it’s clear that this motto was taken to heart. With apparently no fear that it will run out of stories, The Flash ran through its first season at breakneck speed.

When Barry Allen was a little boy in Central City, he saw his mother, Nora (Michelle Harrison), be murdered in a yellow ball of light, and his father Henry (John Wesley Shipp) was charged with her murder. Barry goes to live with his parent’s friend, police detective Joe West (the amazing Jesse L. Martin), and Joe’s daughter Iris West (Candice Patton).

Fifteen years later, a bunch of scientists at a place called S.T.A.R. Labs blow up something called a particle accelerator, Barry gets struck by lightning, and bam: super speed. Barry is then taken under the wing of the mysterious wheelchair-bound scientist Harrison Wells (the hugely fun Tom Cavanagh), who trains Barry to use his speed. Barry is also assisted by Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes) and Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker), researchers at S.T.A.R. Labs. Barry is up and running as a superhero with his own costume and symbol and is fighting supervillains (who were also empowered by the particle accelerator explosion) by the end of the pilot, and the whole city is calling him ‘the Flash’ only a few episodes later.

On an emotional level, The Flash is strongest when it explores Barry’s relationships with his three father figures, Joe, Wells, and his real, imprisoned father. All these actors have amazing chemistry with each other, and Barry’s relationship with his three father figures tugs at viewers’ heart strings. Another huge part of the joy of this show is its smiles. Barry likes being the Flash. He loves it! He dashes across the city with a big smile on his face, and we find ourselves smiling with him.

However, The Flash isn’t perfect by any means. I would argue that this show doesn’t do a great job with its female characters, starting but not ending with Barry’s mother dying in the pilot.

The show explores Barry’s love for Iris West. In comic book land, the two are star-crossed lovers, but the show does little to support that. Iris is under the impression that Barry is her best friend, and treats him as such, but all the while Barry mopes behind her back.

This, combined with Barry practically being adopted by the West family as a kid, makes Barry’s secret crush a little… icky. It would help if Iris was given other stuff to do, but she really isn’t. Iris is also the last person on the show to find out that Barry is the Flash—literally everyone else knows before her.

Caitlin Snow, however, is given plenty to do, and is a strong character—certainly the strongest female character on the show—but her ark is still heavily tied to her fiancé Ronnie Raymond, the hero Firestorm. All in all, it’s not enough, and if the problem is still around next year, I’m going to be seriously angry.

The first season’s other weakness was its need for a ‘freak of the week’. Many episodes would introduce a villain, give them no development, have them be beaten, and then lock them up, never to be seen again, by the end of the episode. Most of the villains didn’t even seem that threatening. You’d be amazed by how many villains can be beaten by running around them in a circle, though admittedly I loved when the show just solved its problems with the Flash running in a circle and Dr. Wells shouting, “Run, Barry, run!”

But when the show did its villains well, it did them well. The Flash has a famous gallery of rogues. Wentworth Miller gave a standout performance as Captain Cold this season with so much cheesy goodness that I would cheer whenever he came on screen. This is a character who holds a gun that shoots ice and makes just as many ice puns as Schwarzenegger in Batman & Robin, but somehow manages to still be amazingly fun and genuinely threatening.

But it was in episode twenty-one, “Grodd Lives”, when Flash faced off against a giant telepathic gorilla villain that I realized that the true genius of this show is that it is blatantly unashamed of being based on a comic book.

This works so much so that when the season finale, “Fast Enough”, rolled around, there was nothing that could take me out of it. As I looked back on the whole season, I realized this was always true, and that the show’s roots in the comic book medium stretch beyond its use of time travel, super speed, or cold guns.

The influence of comic books can be seen when a 1930s comic book Flash helmet pops out of a wormhole in time and space. It can also be seen when Harrison Wells reveals he’s from one hundred and thirty years in the future and that his real name is Eobard Thawne, dawning a yellow flash costume with glowing red eyes. What? Harrison Wells is playing the Reverse Flash?reverse flash

Yup.

He actually calls himself the Reverse Flash?

Yup.

And that’s barely a spoiler because we as the audience know this by episode nine—because when it comes to the Flash, nothing ever slows down. So when the Flash races into a black hole for the last shot of the season, it’s just as enjoyable as it was way back at the beginning of the year. This is a show that is based on a comic book, and loves itself for being based on a comic book, and that’s why I love it.

This show never slows down, and even though it never says the words, the Flash’s life really is locomotion. So you can’t help but mouth the words along with the characters on screen almost every week as the Flash shoots off in a blur of surprisingly good CGI yellow lightning:

“Run, Barry, Run!”

-Contributed by Ben Ghan

All Hail the Gods of Cinema: A Review of Avengers: Age of Ultron

I want to be a superhero—really badly. When someone asks me, “if you were a superhero…”, I respond with a full run-through of my back-story, my sidekick, my side-squirrel super-pet, and the stitching pattern on my tastefully cut leather boots. It pays to be ready, you see, when the Avengers’ recruitment agent inevitably comes knocking.

Sigh.

Their recruitment oversights aside, the Avengers are a pretty awesome bunch. They were and are the fuel of many daydreamers’ fantasies, and some of those daydreamers are apparently rather good at making movies. Enter 2012’s Avengers and its sequel, Avengers: Age of Ultron. I find it very hard to disprove that Avengers was amazing. It set up all the right themes, each character had some sort of development, and ultimately the new team was formed. Also, the Hulk punched a Chitauri space-whale in the face. Just sayin’.

From the apocalyptic epic-ness that was Avengers, where-oh-where could Joss Whedon go from there? Well, to the Age of Ultron. Complete with a new, snarky AI villain, the Age of Ultron deftly lived up to the foundation set in Avengers. Ultron, our titular bad guy, was incredibly well done. He brought a depth to the Avengers that was perhaps lacking. Created from Tony Stark’s desire to “save everyone”, Ultron took one look at the internet and decided he was quite capable of doing that himself, thanks. He then goes on to recruit a pair of “enhanced” siblings, Wanda and Pietro Maximoff, though we know them better as Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. Their addition was a welcome layer to the already multifaceted story line. Seeking revenge for the death of their parents and protection for each other, they acted as the perfect foil to Ultron with his single-minded goals. They give Ultron opportunities to explain his logic and reveal his motivations, which in turn gives the viewer much-needed glimpses into the depths of his mind. Once the siblings realize that perhaps their goals are a bit different from Ultron’s after all, they split up from him and become fully fledged characters in their own right.

The Avengers as a team are pitch perfect. They play off each other extremely well, with plenty of one liners and “bro-moments”. Even the characters without their own movies (of which I am counting the Hulk, sorry Edward Norton and Eric Bana), felt like real people, and their relationships were also well-developed. This, of course, must lead to a mention of the possible romance between Black Widow and the Hulk. Opinions are torn, but I must say, it was… okay. None of the other team members were particularly available to have love interests, and as far as romances go, it was kind of cute. Well, as cute as it can be when one is a green rage giant and the other can kill people with her pinky. Angst-ridden and melodramatic, yes, but let us not forget: this movie was based on a comic book. Angst and melodrama are the bread and butter of that medium.

And, of course, Vision: the final addition to this expansion of the Avengers’ story. Hoy. In a movie where there is already a super powered AI, the inclusion of another could have been superfluous. But it wasn’t. With perhaps five minutes of screen time, Vision is damn cool. I give props to whoever made the decision to have Paul Bettany in a costume rather than having a CGI rendering of Paul Bettany in a costume. It lent an element of realism to the SFX visual extravaganza that was Age of Ultron. Vision’s final conversation with Ultron brought the movie to a contemplative close and confirmed that all Ultron really needed was a hug.

Age of Ultron was flashy. It was over-the-top. It had good characters and silly jokes. It epitomized all the requirements for a summer blockbuster and then some. It also had superheroes and supervillains and all the stuff in between. And, with a whole new generation of daydreamers, isn’t it precisely what we wanted?

-Contributed by Rej Ford

How High is Your Number? Analyzing the Sibyl System and Crime Coefficients in Psycho-Pass

This review contains spoilers.

In celebration of the airing of the anime Psycho-Pass 2, today we’ll be looking into the idea of the Sibyl System in Psycho-Pass and how it proposes questions of morality and rationality. Psycho-Pass takes place in Japan in the year 2113, when  a sentient computer network called the Sibyl System has been created to use a “cymatic scan” of the citizens’ brains to determine their personality, mental status, and their potential to commit crimes—their crime coefficient. The system categorizes and decides the fate of all citizens.

Akane Tsunemori is a new Inspector in the police force. She is in charge of commanding Enforcers—people with high crime coefficients and thus deemed to be potentially dangerous criminals—who assist her in her tasks. Akane and her fellow Inspector Nobuchika Ginoza find and apprehend criminals who have been scanned by Sibyl and marked as dangerous.

On her very first mission, Akane is in the midst of chasing a man  who has reached a crime coefficient that marks him as a potential criminal. He has taken a hostage and, as the chase drags on, his coefficient rises so high that the Sibyl System authorizes the police to use lethal force. Nobuchika uses this opportunity to eliminate the criminal, disregarding the presence of the hostage.

Despite removing all immediate threats, the mental trauma to the hostage is too great and causes her to undergo extreme stress, raising her crime coefficient. One of the Enforcers makes the decision to apprehend her, and her coefficient continues to rise, allowing the use of lethal force. Before he eliminates the woman, Akane neutralizes the Enforcer with her own gun, essentially preventing the woman’s death. She comforts the woman and eventually the coefficient lowers, allowing Akane to paralyze and treat her.

Following the logic of the police force, any citizen who has a higher-than-normal crime coefficient must be apprehended or eliminated once Sibyl scans them. However, Akane uses her own morality and ethics to judge the situation, saving the hostage’s life. Although she manages to save the woman, she must now report to Ginoza why she neutralized the Enforcer. When the viewer examines the events, it seems natural to save the hostage and get her to safety. But the world of Psycho-Pass does not work in this way. The Inspectors must act rationally—without emotions—and when a human is deemed unsafe, they must be managed under Sibyl’s orders.

In another case, a serial killer successfully murders one of Akane’s friends while she watches, unable to paralyze him since Sibyl’s scan has deemed him safe. His crime coefficient is well below the threshold of potentially dangerous, and even though Akane is given a real handgun, she cannot bring herself to shoot him after seeing that Sibyl considers him harmless.

After this event, it’s difficult to discern whether Sibyl is truly reliable, and it makes it hard to judge people from a rational standpoint. The moral expectation would have been to shoot the killer in order to prevent the death of Akane’s friend, but everyone has been taught that it’s rational to follow Sibyl’s orders. Sibyl uses mathematical equations and previous experience to judge people, but this system of judgement still leads to the death of Akane’s friend. This conflict blurs the lines between rational and irrational, and compromises the reliability of sentient artificial intelligence like the Sibyl System.

In this anime, sentient AI is presented as detrimental. This idea was also explored in the 2004 film I, Robot. In the film, a supercomputer named VIKI manages both the entire network of robots and the entire city’s control system. VIKI determines that humans are too irrational and tend to cause themselves harm as a result. Despite the fundamental rules given to the robots to never harm humans, VIKI formulates rational ideas that bypass these rules. Although it’s immoral, she believes that by confining and restricting people’s actions, she can prevent them from hurting themselves. Doing so, however, would eventually enslave humanity under robotic control.

On the other hand, sentience can also be a technological advancement that can aid humans. The other robots in I, Robot, show how helpful AI has become: there are personal caretakers for each citizen, advanced security systems, and improved transportation. On top of that, a special robot called Sonny begins to develop emotions, and once he learns of VIKI’s plans, his morals push him to escape the network and attempt to stop her. He eventually communicates with a detective and they work together to stop VIKI. Sonny’s actions are based in morality, whereas VIKI’s actions are based in rationality.

But in PsychoPass, although Akane seems to be right in her judgments, Sibyl punishes her for her actions. Akane was acting in moral terms, but Sibyl was acting rationally and followed the rules. With this omnipresent being as the judge, it’s hard for people to decide on their own whether Sibyl’s decisions are truly both moral and rational. This anime brings up questions about our own society: will artificial intelligence become vital in our everyday lives? And if it does, will it benefit society or hinder it? Would its decisions be morally acceptable if they always act on a rational basis? The questions are endless; but we may see answers in the near future.

-contributed by Elizabeth Lau