Psycho Pass is a fantastic show with an extraordinary cast who probably each deserve their own page but I always had a huge soft spot for Kagari and I really feel he doesn’t get enough love.
First a rant: Kogami and Kagari are very similar sounding names and it’s kinda mean on the part of such a complex narrative to try and confuse me even more than I already was
A quick refresher: Kagari is a 21-year-old enforcer with Division 1 of the MWPSB. He is considered to have “a zero percent possibility” for rehabilitation and is used as a “hunting dog” for high risk assassination jobs.
The circumstances are never described in much detail but we know that he was flagged as a latent criminal at the age of five and was immediately taken away from his family and put into a facility where he remained for 14 years. Just for comparison, 5 is younger than our society deems a person able to take responsibility for their choices. Despite this, he’s never felt any inclination to commit any crimes . It is also mentioned that in those days of the Sibyl System, on occasion entire families could be classified as Latent Criminals if just one member is. So there’s a real possibility that like Masaoka, he’s was essentially sacrificed during the transition into the Sibyl System.
Moreover, he doesn’t talk much about his time there but having seen an isolation facility in a few episodes, it’s unsurprising that he would choose what is in effect a thinly veiled death sentence rather than remain in isolation. We do know that he made a friend about a year after he was taken away (when he was 6) and they played lip reading games together. At some point the other boy tried to escape and was killed in front of Kagari. That is the only clear childhood memory he shares with the audience.
I’m unsure what Kagari would have become had he been allowed to live a normal life but one thing is clear, every effort was made to turn him into a monster. He has been deemed and treated as inhuman since before his personality was even truly formed and he has never known anything but scorn and grief. Is it any wonder that he tends to be the most callous and least empathic of the group. And yet he is the friendliest and most sociable member of Division 1 and never hesitates to put himself in harm’s way to protect others. You could argue that he has no choice in this but on more than one occasion he goes above and beyond the strict outline of his duties, of his own free will without any prodding. In his position, I’m not sure how many of us would be as kind or dutiful, which really makes that psycho pass reading super suspicious.
Within the context of the plot, Kagari is an incredibly useful device. Because he is early on pegged as a foil who’s happy go lucky attitude is used to lighten up the show, he is of course more approachable than the others which puts him in the position of teaching Akane the ropes when she starts at Division 1. He is also oddly, possibly the most relatable character. He’s long accepted his role and is just trying to make the best of it now, so he comes off as an occasionally careless but generally good guy who likes video games, mangas and enjoys cooking. In a world of bigger than life personalities, evil geniuses and unflinching authority figures, he comes off as modestly human. All of this means that the plot can use him as a comedic relief, a narrator when exposition is needed and an everyman when the story needs to be more accessible. This type of diversity in a single character is not an easy feat to achieve.
And for all his hard work and functionality, the story unceremoniously dispatches him in what has to be one of the saddest deaths in anime. And to rub just copious amounts of salt in that wound, his sacrifice was in effect meaningless as Akane, the only remaining person who knows the truth about the Sybil System, chooses to leave everything unchanged, including having him officially labeled as missing. To quote Cerebus: he died unmourned, unloved and alone. Except he didn’t:
8 thoughts on “The tragedy of Shusei Kagari”
I think Kagari is the voice of irony in the series. Whereas others are resentful or pragmatic or resigned, Kagari recognises both the injustice of his situation, as well as his inability to do anything about it – and the fact that, just maybe, under a more conventional system, he might already have been killed or permanently incarcerated in less salubrious surrounds. I think that’s why he and Akari get along; because she, too, is an asymmetrical personality who has the capacity to accept the truth of a situation as it presents itself to her, without it affecting her psychological equilibrium. His death is a tragedy; but it’s a tragedy that points to the wider irony and contingency of human existence. And his last utterance points to his acceptance of that truth.
And you know – maybe it was out of consideration for you and your name confusion that the producers killed him off…that would be in keeping with his considerate character, yes?
oh no… It was my fault all along
I loved Psycho Pass’s third season SO MUCH. Thanks for this!
My pleasure. I’m glad to hear it
I’m not sure why Akane didn’t take down the Sybil system except possibly the system had pegged her correctly as someone who simply could not do such a thing, even when given a chance.
Kagari could have taken the system out but he hadn’t thought very well about the process and let his guard down.
It might have been a lesser if two evils choice
And that relates to what your personal values are. How important the balance between order and chaos is depends on POV. I come in from a libertarian perspective that relative freedom is more important than relative security. Other people are extremely risk-averse and don’t mind sacrificing other people’s right to do things they personally don’t want to do.
Akane takes a gamble that the current system is itself unstable and will evolve into something better. OTOH, that’s a risk I would be unwilling to take. But that by itself might blow out my psycho pass so I’d never get the chance. Since the system thinks that it is stable, it is betting that Akane is wrong.
The anime raises some very deep questions, something that any great dystopian fiction does. Dystopian fiction is usually either the imposed order of a totalitarian nature or Chaos due to a failure of the external system to impose enough order – or perhaps a lack of any order at all.
I think this is why so many people have such different readings on Psycho Pass, which I see as one of its strengths. I come from a similar Libertarian POV on the matter like you said, but a younger me thought how convenient would it be if we could pre-emptively distinguish those who would commit crimes. Without even getting into the question of “what is criminal?” it’s a lot to chew on.