Monday, March 13, 2017

VN Talk: Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness - Part 3: Takuma

I held off playing Takuma's story until I finished all of Nadeshiko's endings in Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness, which was pretty hard to do, but I wanted to drain every scrap of her story I could get before moving on. It probably wasn't necessary, but I would recommend getting at least one of the playthroughs where she regains her memories while an inspector before playing Takuma's storyline.

The reason for that is because Mandatory Happiness hinges around Alpha and Yukari's mutual memory loss and the problems that result. Takuma can unravel the truth for himself, but he doesn't experience it firsthand. And usually he finds out about her planned integration with Sibyl as a quickie info dump which is harder to take without context.

But Takuma's story answered a lot of questions I had leftover from Nadeshiko's playthroughs. We know from her flashbacks that he did not spend all his adult life as a enforcer, because he obviously spent a lot of time with her, which would have been impossible as a latent criminal. It turns out that he only became a latent criminal after Yukari went missing, and his Crime Coefficient increased because of his single-minded hunt for her.

Considering that he was meeting with some severely questionable people in his attempts to find her (even Makishima in Nadeshiko's playthroughs), it's not surprising that this was the turning point.

Takuma's story also fixes a lot (though not all) of what I found problematic about him in Nadeshiko's route. During the first case he's incredibly sympathetic towards the perpetrator, Haruto, the high school boy who blackmails his crush into hanging out with him after she was sent away to a different high school. I found the perpetrator's actions to be reprehensible and on Nadeshiko's playthrough, Takuma is upset by the case because he feels that at one point the two kids honestly liked each other. If Sibyl hadn't intervened they might have been happy together and none of this would have happened.

This is possibly true, as Shiori obviously did care about Haruto at one point, but the weird thing that stuck out at me was that Sibyl wasn't what came between Haruto and Shiori, but Shiori's mom, who thought Haruto was a bad influence on her.

Playing through Takuma's storyline it's clear that he's conflating his own backstory with Haruto's, because he and Yukari were similarly close and then Sibyl decided she'd be better educated in Tokyo than the outlying Sado Marine City. This caused them to be separated, and though they continued to meet each other from time to time as adults (which is clear from Nadeshiko's memories), they were living in different worlds in the different jobs Sibyl had assigned them.

Takuma still, unfortunately, sports oddly outdated bits of masculinity. He's actually worse on Nadeshiko's route, but that doesn't eliminate his ideas of how a man should behave. One of the things I was hugely concerned about, given the wide latitude the player has in determining Nadeshiko's fate in her own story, was how much influence the player as Takuma would have over hers.

Takuma's entire motivation for joining the CID is to find Yukari, who we know is a person capable of making drastic, life altering decisions about her own fate, even knowing how Takuma cares about her. I was afraid that if the player as Takuma restored her memories, he could talk her out of her most drastic decisions.

Thankfully, my first ending with Takuma proved my worries wrong, as we end with a situation not possible in Nadeshiko's playthrough, where Takuma is aware of the truth about the Sibyl System and accepts that Yukari is going to become a part of it. He got to meet her again and he knows she's now leaving by her own choice, and he's okay with that. And that's the Takuma I love from Nadeshiko's playthrough. (There are other parts of this ending that came out clunky, but at least this part I liked.)

A lot of his choices throughout the game revolve around how obedient an enforcer he's going to be, and that shapes the way his endings branch. He's a impulsive character, who is currently constrained by the rules of his employment, so unlike Nadeshiko I actually feel like it's easier to play Takuma wildly in one direction or another. Maybe he understands the need to stay in his employer's good graces, maybe he can't help being a loose cannon.

Like Nadeshiko, Takuma essentially has four paths, but a total of six rather than eight True Ends; one where he raises his Psycho-Pass high enough that he's promoted from enforcer to inspector (which is hugely remarkable since that situation never happens in the anime), one where Nadeshiko recovers her memories on her own, one where Takuma goes rogue and teams up with Alpha, and one where he fails to recover Nadeshiko's memories while still remaining an enforcer.

Takuma can still be a bit bone-headed in his endings, the worst offender being the one where he decides not to restore Nadeshiko's memories because he equates that with murder (since Nadeshiko would disappear and Yukari return), to which I say "Wha…?" because Nadeshiko is just Yukari with missing memories.

It would have been better if he had made the choice because he didn't want Sibyl to get its hands on her, knowing that her missing memories and lost asymptomatic condition is all that's keeping her from being absorbed into the hive mind, but for some reason that's not really what he seems to be worried about.

Keeping Takuma's single-minded dedication to Yukari is a little rough sometimes when it comes to endings, since he has to respect anything she says in order to remain in character, so if the player recovers Yukari's memories, the game generally handles this by having her hesitate to suggest a plan. In which case Takuma can suggest something, even if it's just to prod her for what she really wants.

The strange thing about Takuma's storyline, as least from the scenes I got, is that how Yukari physically came to be Nadeshiko isn't really touched on. He notices over the course of the story that Nadeshiko behaves a lot like Yukari. She even thinks a lot like Yukari. Of course she doesn't look or sound like Yukari so they shouldn't be the same person, but he can't shake the feeling.

On multiple routes, Takuma becomes convinced that she's somehow Yukari even without it being spelled out for him (which is kind of funny because he doesn't have a clue in her storyline). He even correctly concludes that the reason he was chosen to be an enforcer in Division 1 was to trigger Nadeshiko's lost memories.

Which is nice, because it shows that he has the aptitude to be a detective and pulling him out of rehab wasn't a complete asspull on Sybil's part. Even on the route when he regains his standing as a free citizen and continues life as an inspector, it's not taken from him once his job is done and Yukari has become a part of Sybil. He remains at his position which he now believes is the best place for him, just like Sybil is the best place for a person like Yukari.

Like Nadeshiko, his True Ends are split between whether he stays in the system or leaves it, but one particular ending warrants a special look because it's the only one that goes so far off the rails that I have trouble seamlessly integrating it with the rest of the anime series.

That's the one where Takuma allies with Alpha and fittingly it seems to be really hard to get (I used a walkthrough). It looks like the player has to tank Takuma's Hue all the way to the bottom, get thrown on probation because of a bad counseling session, but take one supplement afterwards to raise his Hue before the final crisis is fully underway. This will allow Takuma just enough freedom to choose to be on the search team rather than the rescue team (he won't get a choice if he's really tanked). It's possible that it's also necessary for Alpha to voluntarily abandon his cyborg body earlier in the story rather than be forced out of it due to head damage.

This setup leaves Takuma rebellious enough that he's willing to do his own thing, which is going to Yukari's old apartment and hooking up with Alpha.

Once Takuma identifies himself to Alpha as his father, this changes everything and throws out two-thirds of how the final crisis would usually play out. When Takuma and Alpha agree to team up and recover Yukari, Alpha ceases to care about his happiness agenda (I guess Mother is the higher priority since she can't praise him for a good job if she doesn't know who he is) and makes for a wild ride.

It was a fun route, but only in a completely crazy off the rails way. Takuma ends up sneaks Alpha along for the ride to the team headquarters so they can get Yukari, but things go horribly wrong and they end up having to subdue most of Division 1 as they make their escape, which is why canonically this is a giant mess, even though it's incredibly funny seeing Alpha mess with the hospital holograms and turn the place into a virtual castle complete with monsters (which are actually the medical drones).

The thing is, there's no way that the remaining members of Division 1 are going to forget the time that Takuma Tsurugi went rogue, ran off with one of their inspectors and the prime suspect of one of the most disastrous cases they've ever had. Something like that leaves a mark.

While there are plenty of endings where the two of them disappear and Alpha survives, Alpha's survival is always hidden from anyone other Nadeshiko, Takuma, and possibly Sibyl. The disappearances happen after the case is closed, so as far as the CID is concerned Alpha is finished. An enforcer (and inspector) disappearing after that is a much smaller, unrelated incident.

Moreover, in this ending Akane discovers the existence of criminally asymptomatic people when she tries apprehending Nadeshiko after she gets her memory back, as well as being told the truth of the Sibyl System, which pretty much undermines all the secrets she eventually learns in the mid-to-late part of the anime's first season.

She also uncharacteristically runs off and lets them go. Takuma's narration presumes that she does this because she really can't do anything to stop them if her Dominator doesn't work, but it's not in character for Akane, who went after Makishima with an unloaded pistol even though it meant hanging off the side of a truck in the anime.

Aside from that, most of Division 1 was knocked out, almost permanently, and Alpha escapes, which is not something any of them are likely to forgive.

Since it's hard to naturally trigger and I really like the Takuma/Alpha team-up, I'm not too upset that this ending exists (and it was kind of funny), but I wish it had managed to stay more in the realm of believability.

Still, it was the final ending I played, and was an entertaining enough capstone to Mandatory Happiness.