Friday, November 9, 2012

Production I.G. - They Are Who We Thought They Were

*This is an extension of another article I wrote here.
** Update: As of May 2013 my senior project is completed and titled "Establishing a Post-human Identity through Mamoru Oshii's Ghost in the Shell and Innocence Films." It can be found on the Post-humanity tab above, and is available in PDF format.

At this point, I hope it's no secret that I love Production I.G. Most of what the studio releases becomes an instant classic (all of the Ghost in the Shell franchise; the Blood vampire series; Eden of the East, etc.). In addition to excellent CG and traditional animation, I.G. has a penchant for philosophical themes. Whether working with Mamoru Oshii, Kanji Kamiyama or now Gen Urobuchi, Production I.G. thrives on dark mysteries laced with enough academic references to leave learned viewers salivating. 

PSYCHO-PASS. Copyright Production I.G.

Episode five of PSYCHO-PASS specifically relies on the writings of both Jean Jacques Rousseau and Plato to explain the criminal behavior of Mido, who has been assassinating popular avatar users and making their characters even more popular. As far as I know, Plato is most famous for his Republic writings, which mention his famous cave allegory and defines at least three Forms of being (the metaphysical, defined as an idea in its purest form; the real-world attempt at the metaphysical form; and the copy of the real-world attempt at the metaphysical, i.e. a copy of a copy). For Plato, the metaphysical realm is associated with absolute truth and knowledge, and its Forms are corrupted through tangible, real-world manifestations. 

For Mido, the logic to his homicidal spree lies in assuming that the  “real” Spooky Boogie and Talisman existed in the public's perception of what they should be, not in what they actually were like. In other words, the intangible and ultimately metaphysical truth to Spooky Boogie and Talisman is what Mido sought. To remedy this disparity between public perception and physical manifestation, Mido relieved Talisman and Spooky of their tangible bodies and boosted the popularity of their avatars by depicting their “true selves" and their "pure ideals," no longer ruined by imperfect human representations. Mido's solution doesn't make sense, however; what he actually did was reduce the avatars to an even lower form of Platonic knowledge, a copy of a copy. If Spooky and Talisman's real-life counterparts were channeling metaphysical ideas and distilling them, then Mido could only copy what he thought they were trying to convey. It's rather dicey territory that threatens to get too complicated if taken too far. Killing Mido off was probably a good move.

In relation to Jean Jaques Rousseau, Masaoka comments on our corporeal bodies, not our virtual avatars, keeping us alive. He mentions that societal bonds are strengthened through physical exchanges and communication, and suggests that the intangible internet may be in fact detrimental to that cause. Truly, most people use computers in physical isolation, interacting with on-screen symbols that distill another person's ideas from half a world away. A common argument when discussing virtual worlds is that a desire for disembodiment and fetishizing of the digital will become the norm, and Mido comes to embody this fear by worshiping the symbols Spooky Boogie and Talisman projected onto the public psyche rather than the real-life persons responsible for those avatars. 

That was a rather dramatic remove from my usual writing style, I know. I've been studying a lot of posthumanist and cyborg theory in preparation for my senior project, tentatively titled On the Border Between Flesh and Steel: Posthumanism Through the Anime Cyborg; those who have been reading the blog since summer may recall a brief post I did on that. I've gotta practice slipping in and out of scholarly-mode.

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