When we talk about classic or great anime villains, the likes of Griffith, Johan and Frieza will always pop up. Yet, very few people know of Makishima’s existence. He’s tremendously underrated for a villain this compelling. What is the world he lives in, his ideals, is he right or wrong and how he goes about his plan? In the anime Psycho-Pass, the world has become more cyberpunk and Japan is being controlled by the Sibyl system. Yet, nobody seems to mind as Sibyl is made out to be a system that will make society perfect. This is where Makishima comes in.
To understand why Makishima is so great, we need to learn what is he fighting against. The Sibyl system measures the psycho-pass of all its citzens which is their mental state such as stress, happiness, anger and so on. This in turn will make their psychopass go up or stay low. If it goes higher their crime coefficient becomes higher. If it has become high they need to be rehabilitated or else killed. If a citzens were to stay low, they would be seen as the ideal member of society. If it gets high enough it’s seen that the citizen in question is more likely to commit a crime and become an undesirable in society. In some cases, a psychopass will become so high that they’re not able to be saved and are either exterminated or forever institutionalised. However, it’s more than just that. Sibyl will determine through exam results what jobs you’re allowed to do.
Even though this society works technically, there is a serious lack of freedom. People have become more like sheep than ever before as they purely rely on a system’s judgement. This is where our main characters, Akune and Kogami, come in as they’re a part of the police force. They are tasked with hunting down these citizens with high crime coefficients and either exterminating them or paralysing them using a dominator. A dominator will use Sibyl’s intelligence and read the psycho pass of the person it’s aimed at.
One thing Makishima does differently to a lot of other villains is that we see him in private. We see what hobbies he has and what he likes to discuss. We know from his conversations that he loves classic literature from the likes of Shakespeare, Philip. K. Dick and Jonathan Swift. This is important for us as an audience to connect to Makishima beyond his interesting philosophies and ideals. These are small conversations and interactions, however it provides a lot of insight into him personally.
One particular line he says strikes a chord. He’s having a conversation and he says society is now similar to the book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. He tells his partner it’s a classic, and to watch the film and compare it to the book. His partner says he’ll grab an ebook of it. Instantly Makishima responds:
“No, don’t buy the eBook. Ebooks lack character.”
He goes on to talk about how real books serve far better for the human mind in the case of keeping it stimulated and real. This interaction show how not all things in this futuristic world are to his liking, and how he appreciates the old-fashioned way of doing things.
Makishima has a certain mindset, you could say he’s a genius of observation and philosophy. He seeks knowledge and due to this extremely rare mindset, the Sibyl system can’t read his psycho-pass properly no matter what he does. He’s labeled as asymptomatic. Due to how Makishima thinks, the Sibyl system can’t tell whether he’s doing right or wrong. Already he can see this so-called ‘perfect system’ isn’t what it seems.
Makishima sees this lack of freedom and constantly tests the people. The best example is Akune. He has her friend held with a blade to her neck. Yet, Akune’s dominator won’t read Makishima’s at the level of a criminal. He then says ‘According to your dominator I’m a perfectly sane citizen.’ Makishima even throws her an old classic rifle to kill him with. This was done as a test of her own morals and judgment to see if she could do it without Sibyl’s say. She struggles to kill Makishima without Sibyl’s permission, as the only life she has known is one where you follow Sibyl’s orders and not your own judgement. This scene showcases two big messages Makishima represents: 1) How people can’t decide to do anything without Sibyl’s permission 2) How this ‘perfect’ system treats Makishima like the ideal citizen in society despite his clearly monstrous tendencies.
He poses a philosophical question: What sort of criteria you use to divide people into good and evil? And can you possibly make up your own mind about what is good and what is evil when a draconian system like Sibyl is dictating your decisions?
Ironically, the villain of the story represents freedom. Makishima is free from the system and can do whatever he wants. He’s not just a mindless killer either. He wants people to understand his goals, and wants people to see the truth of how they’re manipulated daily. We see throughout the story that the Sibyl system keeps information private to keep its perfect image. Even the existence of asymptomatic people like Makishima is unknown.
Makishima helps create helmets that can read the lowest psycho pass in nearby and make it their own reading, which means criminals in possession of these can commit crimes with impunity while maintaining a low psycho-pass score and remaining undetected by Sybil. Makishima brings these out to the public, but has little influence on how effective they will become since it is up to the public.
A man wears this mask and goes out to the public and brutally murders a woman. What’s the response? Nothing. People watch and don’t get involved as they’re too afraid their crime ecoefficiency will spike up. They have AI guards patrolling, but they just merely watch as the masked man has a perfectly fine psycho-pass. What is interesting about this passage is how the people who witnessed the murder had their own psycho-pass rise up just by being a bystander to the crime. Due to them watching such brutality it made their mental state more susceptible.
Now that there are more masks available to the public. How do the people react? The public has had enough and start beating down anyone who wears or is suspected of wearing a mask. Riots have flooded Japan, all because Makishima gave the people freedom of choice. Did Makishima manipulate anyone into this? no. Did he force anyone to do this? no. This was all done by society and all it took was a small push from Makishima.
Is Makishima Right?
Makishima presents interesting questions and proposes to this new world and clearly portrays the flaws within the system. Makishima leaves us morally challenged with his actions which is the same for him. Once we see Sibyl for the dark truth behind it, it’s apparent that Makishima was right all along about the system and how society has been changed for the worse. So is it wrong for Makishima to try and take down this system that is lying to its society? It’s not easy to answer. This is what makes Makishima such an amazing villain. Even though he is morally complex, we can understand his perspective as we can see the corruption of the world.
Makishima beautifully contrasts the world around him and proves that Sibyl is wrong, merely by existing. Speaking about the simplest things so whimsically and making his point so eloquently, Makishima deserves more credit for all of his morally challenging questions and being a rare villain to pull the audience over to his side and show what he may be doing is for the better.