[Editorial Tuesday] How the Sibyl System Could Exist in Japan

Psycho-Pass was above all else, an excellent watch. Another jewel in the crown of the Noitamina time block from Fuji Television famous for the shows it has given life to (Sakamichi no Apollon, Ping Pong, Zankyou no Terror, Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso, Boku dake ga Inai Machi, and currently Koutetsujou no Kabaneri are just a few.), Psycho-Pass was something that has sparked various discussions about our own everyday society.

Psycho-Pass follows Akane Tsunemori as she joins the PSBCID (Public Safety Bureau’s Criminal Investigation Division) ((ain’t that a mouthful)). Akane, a newly minted Inspector, is introduced to Shinya Kougami, an Enforcer. In this world, set well into the 22nd century, crime has now been almost completely eradicated… well, so to speak.

Japan is ruled by a system called the Sibyl system which is designed to judge the crime coefficient of everyone in society and if that number is too high, Investigators and their Enforcers are dispatched to, either subdue the latent criminal and cart them away to what appears to be a futuristic mental institution for rehabilitation, or kill at sight. A crime coefficient, by the way, is the scale of points assigned to everyone via the Sibyl system that allows it to judge everyone and see if they will commit a crime.

The irony is that one’s crime coefficient is measured by what is called one’s Psycho-Pass (sounds like “psychopath”). So Akane teams up with Shinya and other members of her team to investigate crimes. She starts out as the greenest member of the team, but by the end, she is the one calling the shots. It should be noted, this article will be littered with spoilers. If you have not watched the show or you are currently watching it, proceed with caution and do not complain if you read information you previously had not known.

While Psycho-Pass is all fun and games and a fantastic anime produced by Production I.G, that dystopia set about 165 years into the future could possibly become a reality here in Japan. You may say, “Nah that is impossible!” or “Who would let a system rule them so mercilessly?” or even “Who would even agree to a setup like this?”, however, the foundation for a Sibyl System has already been laid.

Get ’em While They’re Young

1. psychopass S1E1

Most people do not know this and you will have had to have lived in Japan at some point and ideally taught some form of English as a Second or Foreign language in a public or private school in order for this section to make complete 100% sense. Mostly because you have seen this in everyday life.

Japan overtly militarizes their children while conformity is key. Everyone has heard the popular phrase referring to Japan, “The nail that stands up, will be hammered down.” This is 100% true. Children are almost taught as second nature, starting usually in Kindergarten or Primary, to conform to the will of the group. Group harmony is, above all else, thought of as essential and ideal. Unfortunately, this has led to some very severe issues when it comes to things like mental health in Japan, which is ranked horribly low when compared to other countries. Stemming from things like a lack of happiness, (Japan was just ranked 46th in the world last year) proper mental health assistance is extremely difficult to find.

The irony of which is that Japan has one of the best healthcare systems in the world. Recently, the biggest issue cropping up is how poorly Japan treats people of the MOGAI (Marginalized Orientations, Gender Alignments, and Intersex) (LGBT) community. True, two Wards in Tokyo have begun to “recognize” same-sex marriages, legally speaking, but when they leave that Ward (Shinjuku & Setagaya), which is not that big, their rights disappear. Documentaries have been popping up as well showing that MOGAI students are bullied horribly, and less than 1/3 of all teachers have even a clue of what to do with MOGAI students and bullying while even less have proper training. Live in the countryside outside of a big city, and that rate plummets even further. Why? Because the students are taught that by coming out, or by speaking up about things like depression or bullying, they are disrupting the group harmony.

In Psycho-Pass, everyone exists, but many do not do what they want to do. The Sibyl System is vicious where it even sanctions certain forms of music, but not others, and tells everyone what kinds of jobs they can get via an exam that determines their whole life. Remember the scene where Akane is talking with her two friends from college while they wait for the results? One even laments, after getting her results, that she will not have prospects to move upward in her own company. She can’t change jobs either. Why? Because that would disrupt harmony and the flow of society. Thus, this current everyday aspect of their own culture begins to lay the groundwork for something bigger that could rule them in the future.

No Boom Boom Stick for You

2. PsychoPass S2E2

Japan enjoys an incredibly low crime rate. It’s one of the lowest in the world. The gun crime rate is even lower. Per gunpolicy.org, Japan reported that there were 6 deaths in 2014 related to guns, 30 in 2011, and 22 in 2007. That gives its ratios of gun deaths per 100,000 people in the population as 0.00% in 2014, 0.0% in 2011, and 0.02% in 2007. Mind-blowing is it not? Tragically, we just had one of the worst domestic terrorist incidents in the history of the US. A few weeks ago in Orlando, Florida, a man rushed a gay club spraying gunfire that resulted in the deaths of 49 people with 53+ injured. The US should take a note from Japan when it comes to gun safety. Well, where does gun safety come from?

In Japan, unless you are on the other side of the law and involved in yakuza dealings, which is not recommended, guns are extremely difficult to come by. Police officers carry guns, but they are trained ad nauseam to use the firearm as an absolute final last resort when they judge that a situation is too far gone and lethal force is the only recourse. In order to better equip officers, they go through massive amounts of training to enable them to negotiate with criminals and people under duress, so that they can avoid violence.

Tragically it does happen, but the need for firearms has dropped to a point only where it is absolutely necessary. The same is true if you consider how the weapons work in Psycho-Pass. The weapon evaluates someone’s Psycho-Pass and Crime Coefficient, and if it is over a certain amount, then it will fire a stunning beam. However if the Crime Coefficient goes over 300, then the weapons transform and a lethal beam of energy is fired destroying the target. The chance for human error is, supposedly, removed from the situation thus making society “safer”.

When it comes to guns in Japan, you can get your hands on one legally, but per stated above it is incredibly difficult and expensive to get one. Normally the only gun you are allowed to have access to in Japan is a hunting rifle. Then, if you are able to carry that weapon without incident for years upon years, you can apply to get a personal firearm such as a pistol. However, just to get the hunting rifle, the process is excruciating. One must go through multiple background checks, physical and mental examinations, police interrogations, family member interrogations (Yes, other people have to be interrogated so YOU can have a gun), a detailed layout of your house has to be produced, and more.

It’s possible, just not easy, and it is very complicated to get one. So why get one? Just be like the rest of Japanese society where very few people actually own guns other than police officers. So just like in Psycho-Pass, the government monitors crime closely which allows them to not only keep weapons out of hands but since it is so difficult to get one, people usually pass on it. Really, who needs a hunting rifle in Tokyo? This would, arguably, make it easier for a system, like the Sibyl system, to take over.

Meh, I don’t Feel like It – General Distrust of Everyone & Politics

3. Psychopass S1E13

In Psycho-Pass Season 1, there are helmets that allow citizens to commit crimes. These helmets reflect the crime coefficients of the innocent people around them and bounce what should be their own crime coefficient, back on to the victim. Remember the scene where one man attacks a woman? He ends up killing her and the robots think that the issue is with the victim and not the aggressor.

Glossing over how this is clearly a metaphor for victim blaming, he gets away with it and then when confronted by the police, he is unable to be shot due to in part the helmet and the weapon not wanting to fire. What do all the passersby do? They whip out their phones and begin recording. Not a single person reaches out to help her. This also is a metaphor for not only Japanese society, and the core theme here of apathy, but also of western society. How many times are videos of people fighting uploaded to social media? In said videos you always see a group of people egging a fight on while recording and doing nothing. Apathy. Compound this apathy with the fact that Japanese society is unique when it comes to politics and it’s perfect for a Sibyl System setup in the shadows. In Japan, there is a general distrust of not only those around you but especially politicians.

Young Japanese people are notorious for not having any interest whatsoever in politics. They don’t read up on issues unless it affects them directly, they hardly vote, if at all, and they are not up to date on anything political for the most part. Or, if they are, they read up, but will almost never ever take up a cause to make a change. Why? Group Harmony and Apathy. Just like how the Sibyl system works taking only a portion of society’s votes and judging others to pass sweeping laws, only the elderly are truly involved in politics.

Japanese politics are often referred to as “gray-haired politics” because only those who are retired 60+ and the elderly, vote and pay attention. This leads to the elderly making sweeping laws for a majority of the population. What could worsen this? Political scandals. It’s not news that politicians almost always have a hidden agenda and skeletons in their closets. One does not get into power without owing someone a favor somewhere or making at least a few enemies. Japan is rocked by a new political scandal seemingly once every few months.

Currently, or rather up until mid-June 2016, the Tokyo governor was wasting away millions of yen tax money on luxurious purchases. This started at least in 2014. He was caught and for almost a month he insisted that he was innocent and the spending was necessary. Refusing to step down, he eventually cracked under the pressure and agreed to resign, but that was not before he fought long and hard to keep his job. By doing this, his face and this scandal were plastered everywhere.

These scandals lead to more distrust of a government which means more apathy because people cannot put their faith in the government when they are being constantly let down by it. Don’t vote, don’t pay attention unless it’s a big scandal, and it would be easy for a Sibyl system to be set up! Not to mention too, Japan is also notorious for passing toothless laws. The Diet recently passed a hate speech ordinance which outlaws hate speech and says that all people should be treated equally. Doesn't that sound nice? One problem, though; there is no penalty. The law is the legal equivalent of telling a child “Don’t do that because it’s bad, but if you do it, I can’t stop you or rather it will be up to the police officer’s judgement at that time to determine if a real crime was committed or not.” Why even bother passing the law? Oh right, apathy, apathy. Can you see a theme here?

*Bzz Whirr Whirr* Good Morning Mistress, What Is Your Command?

4. Psychopass S1E18

It’s no secret that Japan has robots and other things. A love affair with technology has allowed Japan to advance and have things that many people in the West are just now being exposed to. QR codes have already caught on in the West, but they have been in Japan for at least a decade. Pepper, a robot developed by the mobile mega-giant Softbank, which owns Sprint in the US by the way, is in almost every major Softbank retailer store in Japan. You can buy one as well for about $30K if memory serves correctly. Pepper can greet you, assist with various tasks and surprisingly can do more than one would think. Pepper was rolled out in the last 18 months and it’s everywhere already. What’s next? Self-driving cars, robo police, or automated supermarkets? Who knows, but it sure is coming.

Cameras are everywhere in Japan. Streetlights, restaurants, convenience stores, train stations and more! It’s safe to say, that if you threw a rock in Japan, you’d probably hit about 6 people, 3 convenience stores, and 10 cameras. Technology is amazing these days. We have facial recognition, heat sensors, and more. Airports and the FBI, among other major organizations, use this to keep our society safe. How does that happen in Psycho-Pass? Oh right, those cameras that are everywhere seem to be just your everyday camera, but in reality they just had an upgrade to be able to measure something like a brain, or an intent to commit a crime.

More places in the West are also increasing the use of cameras and what not, but improved security measures means also that more and more people can be tracked. It’s not a surprise that organizations like the NSA also track people and phones already, so we really are looking at a society that could be similar to the one in Psycho-Pass a few decades down the road.

Hey, Japan Isn’t All That Bad Though! (Final Thoughts)

5. psychopass S1E22

It’s clear that the Sibyl System exists because it makes it easier for people to live their lives. Without people working in the various branches of government, people can place their trust in the Sibyl System to protect them and uphold general order. Aided by the police force and being isolationist, Japan becomes self-sufficient. This is a very real society that could be aided by technology. When you look at Psycho-Pass and the pillar ideas put forth in this article, it may seem like Japan is being bashed. However, it is not! It is merely being used for parallels.

Japan is a wonderful, multi-faceted society, but if one truly enjoys or loves where they live, then they are able to criticize issues, look at the facts, and present them as such. We hope this has been an eye-opening article showing anime can sometimes predict or draw from real life. It, however, is just not always how we imagine it to be.

Nagareboshi

Editor/Translator

Author: Nagareboshi

American by birth; international by choice. I am trying to bring attention to one of my favorite causes; me. I translate by day and write by night. Aspiring polyglot. My dream would be to be the personal translator for Amuro Namie. Other than that, my hobbies include languages, weightlifting, sleeping, karaoke, GOOD coffee and music. When I’m not doing any of the above, I am most likely laughing hysterically at Willam Belli videos or EV farming. I ain’t gunna Rupologize for it neither. Waifu are Shirai Kuroko & Euaerin.

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