Monday, March 6, 2017

VN Talk: Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness - Part 2: Nadeshiko

I chose Inspector Nadeshiko Kugatachi for my first playthrough of Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness and I'd recommend her first since the crux of the game's conflict unravels more naturally through her. Fortunately, she is the default pick the cursor begins on, and the player has to actually make the choice to switch to Takuma.

Nadeshiko begins the game as an unemotional, even robotic, amnesiac. She remembers all her day-to-day knowledge and schooling, but events that affected her personally are all gone; the result of a training accident. Nonetheless, she's physically healthy and ready to be discharged, so she immediately decides she will go to her new job, because that is where she is supposed to be.

It sounds kind of silly that someone in that kind of condition would be allowed to go, but given the way this society is structured, if Sibyl thinks it's okay, it must be okay, and what's she going to do anyway? Just sit around waiting for her memory to come back?

I like Nadeshiko because even though she is considered unemotional and has trouble understanding the feelings of others, she has a healthy streak of common sense and calls it as she sees it. In the first case a would-be boyfriend blackmails the girl he likes into traveling back to their hometown with him. A couple of the enforcers in Division 1 think the situation could possibly resolve on its own without the CID's interference. The kids used to be friends before she moved and the boy clearly has feelings for the girl.

Nadeshiko rightfully says she can't make the connection between affection and blackmail.

Though the game doesn't give a psychological explanation for why Nadeshiko has trouble experiencing and understanding emotion, no one actually faults her for it. It's just part of who she is, and as someone who sometimes has trouble reading emotions in others, I appreciate that. Yes, she thinks differently from most people, but no one yells at her for not understanding. Even the Ms. Droid nickname feels more like it comes from a place of affection rather than malice. (It helps that the Japanese is Droid-chan, which adds a sense of endearment to it.)

Psycho-Pass as a series was heavily influenced by Philip K. Dick, but Mandatory Happiness chooses a different literary inspiration, even called out in game. Nadeshiko's favorite book is The Silver Metal Lover by Tanith Lee (and I about screamed when the book cover was described in game, only to have the narration confirm the title on the next screen).

Rather than empathizing with Jane, the protagonist (who begins the story oddly like the average citizen in Psycho-Pass), Nadeshiko sees herself as Silver, the robot who isn't human at all but seems to become more and more like one after spending time with Jane.

Nadeshiko is highly unusual as a female protagonist because of her mentality, which probably places her somewhere on the autism spectrum though that terminology isn't used. She's the least emotional member of the team, but she's not entirely without empathy, and it's sweet when she pieces things together enough to realize how she can be a little kinder to someone while still being herself. Her emotional needs are low, but not nonexistent. Rather, the same inability to process other people's emotions leads to her not being able to process her own.

This most awkwardly comes out through Takuma Tsurugi, who has a shared past with her, though initially she's unaware of it. Takuma invades her personal space a lot, which annoys her and she calls him out on it (which is why I love her), but it's clear from the early memory flashes that Takuma is also someone special from her past, which is hard to buy when he's being annoying.

If the player gets most of her memories back, we learn that Nadeshiko Kugatachi used to be Yukari Himekawa, Takuma's lost girlfriend. She's had her unemotional state since she was a child and Takuma grew up with her, persistently trying to get her to understand why some things weren't right and why others things were okay even though they seemed outwardly harmful.

But chances are, the player will not unlock most of Nadeshiko's memories the first time through, as it's not obvious which choices will lead to a memory recovery scene and the player needs to trigger enough to them to get the avalanche unlock where nearly everything floods back.

This made it hard for me to like Takuma until I start getting into my later playthroughs using a walkthrough.

The thing is, it's possible to get to a True End of the game without necessarily getting the whole story. In fact, there are multiple endings that all could be considered legitimate, and this is only possible because of the fact the game chose to tell Nadeshiko and Takuma's stories rather than an established character's.

A True End results if the villain is stopped rather than the player discovering all the plot points. I played through on sheer RP mode first, making choices that made the best sense to me given Nadeshiko's personality, but this meant that I never found all her memories.

The result was a bit of a bumpy ride, and satisfying for Nadeshiko's sake if not mine. Lives were saved, but the game is pretty heavy-handed in pointing out that Nadeshiko has all these similarities to the missing Yukari Himekawa that it's bizarre that Nadeshiko herself never thinks that she might somehow be Yukari.

Given the world of Psycho-Pass and knowing what the Sibyl System is capable of, it was easy to believe that Nadeshiko's current identity was forged and she has access to no records of her previous life, but she never even checks, which seems like an obvious step for an amnesiac. Though, depending on how you choose to play her, Nadeshiko can also have absolutely zero interest in recovering her previous self.

Nadeshiko's full story, once it comes out, is that as Yukari Himekawa she was in charge of the Silver Project, which was to create a human-like AI that could be a companion to humans. One of the greatest sources of unhappiness remaining in Sibyl's mostly peaceful society, is that of loneliness. Without a friend to confide in, people's Hues can become clouded, and even though Yukari herself was not adept at recognizing why this happened, she understood that human contact was important, and the Silver Project was aimed to become a stopgap for those whose social circles had become so small they had no one left to turn to.

Yukari wanted people to be happy.

But, she also wasn't very good at determining what happiness was, and ended up murdering a bunch of comatose patients that were never expected to wake up because she thought that would free their families from having to worry about them. She was perplexed that this actually made things worse.

Yukari was apprehended pre-game, but at the same time was discovered to be criminally asymptomatic, which in Psycho-Pass means that they cannot be read by Sibyl and their Crime Coefficient remains low, like a law-abiding citizen. Because the Crime Coefficient is instrumental in identifying and apprehending criminals (the Dominator won't even unlock to allow a paralytic shot if the Crime Coefficient is under 100) the existence of criminally asymptomatic people is hushed up.

Those who are found, are encouraged to join the Sibyl System (a hive mind), by force if necessary, in order to better account for the variations in human behavior. Yukari did not need to be forced as she saw joining Sibyl as a positive, but Alpha, her Silver Project prototype, panicked and messed up the procedure as they were going to remove her brain.

The result was both of them getting their memories fried (though Alpha remembered enough to know that his purpose is to make people happy and that will please Mother). Since Yukari ended up losing her criminally asymptomatic condition along with her memories, Sibyl decided to put her on surveillance as part of Division 1 with a new name, new face, and new voice (presumably so she can't be recognized as the disgraced Yukari) and see if she recovers enough to join Sibyl.

Depending how the player proceeds through the game, Nadeshiko will react differently to being recruited into Sibyl after getting her memories back, and she might not agree with her former self at all.

Though there are eight True Ends for Nadeshiko, they're really broken in four different sets of circumstances; if Nadeshiko recovers her memories without any damage to her Hue, if Nadeshiko recovers her memories after having her Hue severely clouded, if Nadeshiko gets demoted to enforcer and recovers her memories after killing Alpha, and if she never learns the truth.

My favorite ending is probably one I would not have gotten without a walkthrough since it comes from recovering her memories after damaging her Hue, since I have trouble having Nadeshiko make stupid decisions. She is a logical and efficient character, so I don't think it's likely she would have gotten to that point on her own, even if detective work isn't the job that Sibyl initially foresaw for her when she was Yukari.

But she if does get to this state, she confides her true identity to Takuma shortly before their confrontation with Alpha, and once the big lug gets the story straight he is damn well 100% behind her. Even though he's been annoying and chauvinistic at times, one thing I really like about Takuma is when Yukari needs him, he listens to her, and no matter what, he's willing to abide by her decision. He doesn't talk back, he doesn't try to convince her she's wrong. Once her mind's made up, his entire attitude is "What do you need from me?"

And her ask is huge. But he still goes for it, even knowing that he'll probably never see her again.

That was the one ending path where the final choice is to join Sibyl or escape overseas with Takuma and Alpha. I chose to have Nadeshiko stay, for the greater good, and to have Takuma raise Alpha in her place in freedom outside of Japan. And he does it. He said he wanted to carry half her burden for her and by golly he sticks to his word without a hint of complaint.

I did want to slug him just a little bit though for his last sexist remark about needing to indulge a woman from time to time (he was telling Alpha why they had to let Nadeshiko/Yukari leave them), but if anything it's nice to see a flawed character executed so well that I like the guy despite his issues.

After finishing all of Nadeshiko's endings though, I realized I still didn't have a full picture of the story. I had most of it, but I was still missing a few things, mostly in regards to Takuma and his involvement with Division 1. So we'll cover him next week!