Review: Psycho-Pass

It’s “The Minority Report” but animated! 

Psycho-Pass title card

Phew, it seems this season’s hit, Psycho-Pass has come to an end and boy do I have stuff to say about it since I have a soft-spot for this type of science fiction. Tonight, I, the Inverseman will be reviewing this anime with FULL SPOILERS. So you may want to skip down to the pro-con chart. I will also mark off the spoiler sections.

Psycho-Pass character lineup

The premise of Psycho-Pass is that in the future, a person’s likelihood of committing a crime can be measured quantitatively by their Crime Coefficient. While not guilty of any actual crime, these latent criminals are incarcerated or even executed, but some latent criminals get some freedom back as Enforcers, those who hunt down other criminals, latent or otherwise. Akane Tsunemori is a new inspector at the public safety bureau tasked with supervising a team of Enforcers, she is a normal girl with a healthy Psycho-Pass about to be roped into an affair way over her head.

Psycho-Pass the Dominator

Make no mistake, in spite of the designs by Akira Amano, the story is still penned by Gen Urobuchi, so prepare for suffering. The initial shock of the early deaths where bodies blow up and criminals with huge Crime Coefficients run rampant commit truly ugly crimes is merely a beginning hook. The Urobuchi style of suffering involves a psychological disturbance. Like in Madoka it’s not like the deaths are ultra-violent, but rather that they are intensely unsettling. Though here I think there’s just a bit more license to be more gruesome and intense with the violence to the point where the staff did mention that they wouldn’t readily show it to their kids. To top it off, the staff did also ban the use of moe in production.

Psycho-Pass Division 1 memories

The story starts off as a matter of detective crime, with the initial themes of criminal psychology of the Enforcers and what it means to be a detective. While the startup is slow, those initial episodes sink you into the world and I believe are necessary to get you accustomed to the way the citizens think. Moreover, it makes the shocks later on more potent and serves to lay a foundation for the real themes at work. However, it’s not all peaches and cream. Yayoi’s episode didn’t feel especially strong just barely a throwaway episode. I would have rather dove into Ginoza’s character more, since there’s tons of feeling with his family life.  I also do have qualms with the ending, which produce a precursor for a second season, but I wish more closure was given. It doesn’t mind me so much that a certain someone “won”, but the execution and a few loose end plot devices make it feel like I actually need season two to start right away next week.

Psycho-Pass literature of choice

A more technical thing I’d also like to call into question is the copious allusions to literature, philosophy, and various religions which is a hit-or-miss occasion. Granted, being a math teacher with a soft spot for philosophy and faith, I understood about 75% of them, but I’d need the English department for a few of them. For the allusions I did get, they were well-executed mostly, but some of them felt a bit shoehorned in just because they had surface-level relevance to the plot. Finally there are the really stealthy ones, which to me were the best. (i.e Akane summing up Moby Dick unintentionally)

HERE COME SPOILERS

Hyper Oats

In this disturbing dystopic series, we see numerous powerful themes emerge. Makishima wants to return to a time of old where people had dreams, aspirations, and passions. The splendor of the human soul so to speak that the Sybil System has robbed from humanity, but not in the way of mere blind obedience. At least zealots have passion and do things of their own will, be they of old causes or modern ones. The servitude to Sybil is more of an “it is what it is” from a seemingly impartial “machine” which promises ataraxia and serenity. The hallowed detective’s intuition has become being an executioner of Sybil’s judgment. Jobs are simply fulfilling what the Occupation Assessment Test deems you fit for. Even art is a product of an authorized musician. Everything is mechanical without the will to do any of the the things listed in a form of peace should you not be an unlucky exception. This serenity from the system and from a “removal of stress” or a removal of any ambition results in the vegetable states people enter from abuse of the psycho-therapy.

Psycho-Pass holosuits

Much of the series has a contrast of real and fake in a cruel irony. From the first scenes we see the rain distort the happy police mascots’ holograms revealing the cold mechanical drones underneath. Almost everything is a hologram and not even the food is all that real being from a single source of genetic oats. The Sybil System is a so-called law formed from the minds of essentially criminals or those lucky enough to be above Sybil. Individuals preaching their freedom as they absorb themselves in a uniformly magnanimous hive mind.

Psycho-Pass Urobuchi ultra violence

The System isn’t the only one that’s crazed though. The villains as the show goes on have intensely deep pains or sympathetic misunderstandings that come from the System. The early criminals have a very simple mind from paranoid latent criminals to crazed fans. Later villains deal with the removal of passion or the sensation of revitalizing oneself by denying another life. The feeling expands to the basic element of mob mentality where when Sybil temporarily fails, all hell breaks loose. In a society where you can keep your doors unlocked from your trust in the street scanners, what happens when you have to watch your back again or, more chillingly, when you witness a death right in front of you and decide to not say a thing? (One needs only to look at real life for examples of the latter bystander effect, but this is in maximum form.)

Psycho-Pass Makishima

Then there’s Makishima, a really powerful villain whose pains I can personally connect with. His desire to see the splendor of the human soul and authenticity in living, to overthrow a system that has created an intense artificiality of living. Here is someone who wishes for a revitalization of ambition and willpower, and seeks individuals who have a worthily cultivated ambition. In particular Kougami’s resolve in his belief in being a detective and not one of Sybil’s triggers or hunting dogs trumps all the deranged minds Makishima has manipulated, an ideal of his devotion to a greater ambition than vengeance over loss, fanatical fandom, or a craving for youth. Such a character is a purity of Makishima’s mission in a way, evidenced by how he admires Kougami’s desire to kill him, which makes Kougami desirable to him (cue fangirls). The grandiose train of thought illustrated here all derives or is catalyzed from his loneliness as someone outside of the system’s judgment and outside of society. Combine this with a belief that he and those around him are disposable (another effect of Sybil likely) and you get an incredibly believable antagonist.

Psycho-Pass Akane salutes

On the other side, Akane and Kougami are very well developed protagonists, especially Akane. You can really see her develop from a greenhorn with no real sense of direction to someone with a clear opinion and firm resolve in her belief in the law and people’s roles in protecting the law from menaces like Sybil. Complexity introduced as Sybil “wins” in the end as Akane sees the need for a system like it at the current time but her hope that one day it will be shut down. Much like how Kougami was a pure figure for Makishima, Akane is a pure figure for Sybil, she is an ideal citizen despite likely being criminally asymptomatic. Akane has all the tools to walk lockstep in how the system desires in spite of her firmly rejecting it and believing in a better justice with the ambition that was removed from society by Sybil. Both protagonists serve as foils to respective antagonists.

农业番PP Art by 果果果

 SPOILERS ENDING HERE

Psycho-Pass Division 1 onlooking

The voice acting is strong. Kana Hanazawa does a great job as Akane and having all-stars like Tomokazu Seki playing Kougami shows in the casting. Animation and music also get high marks with the dark design giving that sinister feel without going too over the top, since the society looks clean but is diseased within. You can see the production values in the show and it’s well used.  CG could be hit or miss, but it wasn’t too offensive for me and was mostly relegated to the artificial objects like the machines, drones, and the Dominators.

Psycho-Pass Masaoka taking a drink

All in all, Psycho-Pass may not be series of the year for me, but it gets solid marks in my book and is one of the best of the recent season. I’d highly recommend it to anyone who digs sci-fi. In fact, I, the Inverseman might as well put it on my list of “anime to show to normal people” since the themes are very strong and relevant to the viewer. Join me next time when I teach you how versatile oatmeal is.

Pros

– Very strong themes on what seemed like already tread territory

– Strong character development with main protag/antagonists

– Solid BGM, acting, and animation

Cons

– Some allusions to culture are hit-or-miss

– Ending needs season 2 for real closure

– Debatable pace

Rating:

rating40

Miscellaneous details
Studio: Production I.G
Director: Naoyoshi Shiotani
Character Design: Akira Amano
Music: Yuugo Kanno
Original Run: October 12, 2012 – March 19, 2013

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Inverseman

The Inverseman is an evil overlord from an alternate dimension representing humanity's anti-existence who wound up becoming a modest civil servant.

Inverseman

The Inverseman is an evil overlord from an alternate dimension representing humanity's anti-existence who wound up becoming a modest civil servant.

3 Comments:

  1. Great review. I think the greatest thing about Psycho-pass was its attention to details. Many things were subtly teased all through the show. For example, like you've mentioned, the contrast between reality and hologram was ironic. I was also interested in the new illness that happened when people have been stress-free for too long.
    I didn't know much about the reference to literature and philosophy used in this show so I could not say much about that.

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