Today we are celebrating Magane day! This super fun little traditional was started by Mel over at MelinAnimeLand. Last year I shared my love for the feisty bespectacled baseball player Miyuki. This time around, I’m going to use the occasion to talk about a character I’ve actually been meaning to feature for a long time: Ginoza.
It’s rather fitting that I go back to Psycho Pass for this character study series. You may not know but that’s where it all started. Back when I was still a baby blogger, I wrote a short but heartfelt post about Shusei Kagari. It wasn’t very good but it was full of the best intentions. It’s also my most viewed post by far. I have often thought that I should rewrite it but I can never bring myself to do it. It’s special to me.
I wrote in that post that I could have probably write posts for each character in the cast. I really meant it. Psycho Pass spends a lot of time fleshing put the characters. As a result, we end up with an impressive cast. Of course, I have always had a very soft spot for Kagari, however a close second and occasional favourite (they trade places a lot) is tortured squad leader Nobuchika Ginoza.
*** Nobuchika remains one of my favourite names. If l get to name anything in the future, I’ll name it that. ***
Ginoza is one of the few characters to survive the events of the series, but pretending he got away unscathed is just laughable. Nobu had it rough and the narrative went about meticulously unraveling his character until he crumbled completely. He really couldn’t get a break. The fact that he managed to keep it together as long as he did was pretty impressive. In a way, Ginoza was the plot’s punching bag. He was there to show us everything that could go wrong with the Sybil system for the little guy.
The point of Sybil, and the conceit behind Psycho Pass, was that the average person gives up a certain degree of freedom, obeys the system, and in exchange is guaranteed a generally prosperous and carefree life. Sybil will keep you safe and happy. That was the deal.
Nobuchika is a man who obeys the rules. He is the definition of “by the book”. Not only that but he chose to dedicate his life to protecting the Sybil system and enforcing those rules. In a society where people are completely isolated from any form of strife or violence, it takes a very special type of person to willingly put themselves in the path of danger. Clearly Ginoza firmly believed in Sybil and the greater good it represented to society.
And this, despite the fact that he had seen the flaws first hand. Even before the events of Psycho Pass, the Sybil system had ravaged Ginoza’s family and left it irremediably shattered. Nobuchika’s father Masaoka, is widely believed to be an early “victim” of the system. While Sybil was still fairly new and the kinks were being worked out, it was not unusual for the Psycho Pass results to yield false negatives. A lot of people are thought to have been mistakenly labeled as latent and incarcerated accordingly, but this was never officially acknowledged nor remediated. After all, the system demands unquestioning obedience (faith if you will). If the populace believes it to be fallible, then the whole thing risks crashing down.
So Masaoka, another good man who trade his life in the service of society, saw himself stripped of his title, his family and his freedom. One of the biggest problems with the Sybil system is that it’s one way track. Although the theory is that once your Psycho Pass returns to clear state you will be free to rejoin society, the reality of human nature means that being incarcerated and treated like a criminal is necessarily going to put more stress on you which will end up making your psych results worse. It will make you even more worried, then your pass will fall, and you will despair even further and so forth. The set up guarantees that one slip up is all you get. And a man like Masaoka, who had been exposed to the worst society had to offer was of course more likely to that particular slip. And once he did, his life was over. At least his life as he knew it.
***For those of you unclear, the actual crime of having your Psycho Pass fall into unacceptable parameter, means you were stressed and prone to thoughts that are considered undesirable.***
The young and impressionable Nobuchika saw all this happen. Saw a great injustice levelled at a man he considered his hero. Saw that man accept it. And Ginoza chose to stand by the system rather than his own father. He must have known how unreasonable his choices were. Not only to go along with the system but to follow his father’s path in law enforcement. That was basically asking for it. We know that Ginoza is much more sensitive than, well pretty much everyone on the force. I really wonder how he passed the exams to make it into the field, in the first place.
But he did pass them, and dutifully carried out his assignments until he made it up the ranks. Then he saw the system act up again. Kogami’s case is a little less ambiguous than Masaoka’s. It’s clear that Shinya does have violent tendencies and his drive to avenge a fallen colleague and punish a criminal outside the confines of the system, were a clear breach of protocol. I’m pretty sure any legal system would have punished Kogami for his actions (unlike Kagari or Masaoka). However, the Sybil system made it impossible for him to simply pay his debt to society and become a useful member again. As such, they lost an excellent detective and Ginoza lost a partner and a long time best friend.
Yet once again, Nobu stood with Sybil. Once again he brushed aside feelings and personal considerations and put the greater good first. Even though his own system was becoming dangerously strained, he persevered down the road he had chosen. He stuck with the Public Safety Bureau. As a supervisor of Division 1, he did what he could to guide his team. He honoured his duty to serve and protect. And he obediently submitted to clinical observations. He underwent all the tests and prescribed psychiatric exercises. He did everything he was supposed to and went above and beyond. He obeyed the system, to the letter.
And in the end, the system methodically broke him, just to punish him for being broken. After being a hero who lead a team to restore order during one of the most traumatic events to ever take place in Japan. After burying half his team, who happened to be his only friends and family. After giving everything he had to uphold Sybil and ideology he believed in. That very system turned on him and labeled him less than human…forever.
No social political system is perfect. They are all carefully balanced assortments of compromises. All systems demand a certain degree of sacrifice. Ginoza represents that sacrifice. All the inadequacies and lacks of Sybil were heaped upon him. He was the perfect citizen yet he still ended up a lamb. And the narrative if Psycho Pass was all the more powerful for it.
After all, even having lost absolutely everything, Ginoza still believed in the system. That moral ambiguity made what could have been a good vs evil story into so much more!
And to get back for a second to Megane Day. I chose Nobuchika particularly this year because of what his glasses symbolize. Rather than a simple design choice to better distinguish him from the other attractive men on the force, the glasses actually play an important narrative role. At the end of the first season, we find out that he doesn’t need prescription lenses and his glasses are an affectation rather than a necessity.
Not because he’s an emo Not just because he’s an emo hipster, but as a way to distance himself from the father he considered a traitor to the cause. Nobuchika had been told his entire life that he had his father’s eyes, so when Masaoka was labeled latent, he cut his ties to the point of trying to hide his own eyes. Nobuchika’s willingness to give up those glasses mirrors his character’s evolution!
When looking around for pictures for this post I found that my awesome OWLS leader :Kate GrimmGirl Sade, had written an amazing post on Ginoza way back in 2015. You should go read it too – it’s not like you can have too much Nobuchika!!!