(Warning: This article contains spoilers for the Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness Video Game)
Psycho-Pass is an amazingly written anime series, well for the most part at least.
I won’t go too in depth, but to provide a summary of sorts: Psycho-Pass takes place in an authoritarian future dystopia, where omnipresent public sensors, collectively known as the Sibyl system, continuously scan the Psycho-Pass of every citizen in range. This Psycho-Pass the sensors measure consists of the mental state, personality, and the probability that the citizen will commit crimes (known as a crime coefficient), and the system will alert authorities, specifically the Public Safety Bureau or PSB, when someone exceeds accepted norms. To enforce order, the officers of the PSB carry hand weapons called Dominators. Dominators are special guns used to suppress threats and can either paralyze or eliminate the target depending on how high their crime coefficient is. Within the PSB, there are two different roles, Inspectors and Enforcers. Inspectors are detectives who constantly have a clear mental hue, meaning they’re the best at making logical decisions, while enforcers are latent criminals who have committed no actual crimes but have a crime coefficient that never goes under 100%, meaning it’s their job to do the dirty work which inspectors can’t. The Visual Novel video game, Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness, was recently released this past September for the Playstation 4 and Playstation Vita and I had the chance to play through it.
The game takes place within the first few episodes of the series and has you play as one of two original characters specifically created for it. The inspector with amnesia, Nadeshiko, and Takuma Tsurugi, an Enforcer trying to find his missing friend.
As you might be able to tell from the game’s title, it all centers around the achievement of happiness. Even your first case, which seems typical at first, deals with happiness in a certain way which the main cast does not notice specifically: A Japanese high school student named Haruto finds a mysterious new AI downloaded as his digital secretary and it asks him about what will make him happy, which in this case is finding the girl he likes, who he got separated from since being selected by different high schools, and spending time with her. At first it seems like the girl is fine being with him, but later he starts to go a bit crazy and gets obsessed with the thought of them staying together forever and even starts to physically abuse her after her several escape attempts. We find out that the Enforcer, Takuma, had come from a similar but less intense situation, trying to find a girl he was in love with who had randomly disappeared prior to the events of the game, having some empathy for the suspect at first. When found, Haruto’s crime coefficient is over the limit and it’s up to the player to decide what action to take.
The villain of the game, Alpha, is an A.I. program who at first seems to have a relatively noble and selfless goal, which is to help all humans achieve happiness. Alpha typically targets those on the edge and helps them evade detection by the PSB, such as the previously mentioned student or a stressed out mother of 2 young children, thinking that he is helping them when in reality he is actually making their situation worse. The third mission is where all of this really starts coming together. Alpha causes a school riot by giving students a drug he made called Heaven’s Gate which is a combination of pre-existing legal ingredients causes a clear mental hue but at the cost of lower brain function. This drug also happens to be addictive and overdosing on it can cause people to go comatose or die. Later on, after the riot plan fails, Alpha decides to poison the food supply with the drug and the PSB decides Alpha must be dealt with directly in the virtual space where he resides, and it’s decided that the two new characters would be best to handle this job, due to their connection with the events.
Because humans can’t seem to achieve permanent happiness for themselves, Alpha decides he will find his own way to help them achieve it. What Alpha doesn’t realize is, as Takuma says, happiness is something people have to decide for themselves, and as was previously stated, through attempting to help people achieve it in his own perceived way, he’s actually making their situations worse. Alpha may be a self aware A.I., but due to being programmed with emotions and having abandonment issues he still has the mind of a child, thinking he’s come up with a logical solution without really seeing or understanding the consequences of his seemingly noble actions.
Happiness is something we all seek to achieve but many don’t realize happiness is not something that can actually be found and actively seeking it can make its achievement even more difficult. According to researcher and author, Jane McGonigal, instead of directly searching for happiness, it is better to aim for more specific goals such as learning new things and helping others, and then become happy through achieving these goals and others like them. There are a number of ways to be happy but it is impossible to actually find. Happiness is something we have to make for ourselves, by involving ourselves in activities which provide their own reward. As shown in this game, it can be dangerous to try and fabricate our happiness, and getting the proper help we may need is a much better solution than us causing ourselves to have an unhealthy mental state from faking or disguising our own feelings.
You can read more about Happiness achievement in some parts of Jane Mcgonigal’s books, Reality is Broken and SuperBetter, as well as in Sonja Lyubomirsky’s book, The How of Happiness. I also recommend Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Happiness Project.