Apr 252013

Hello everyone, and welcome back to Objection! This week, rather than having a two-on-two debate, we’re doing a round table on the popular anime Psycho-Pass. Four of our staff are going to take turn discussing what they liked the best about the show, if we liked it at all! Each writer will present their case one by one, leaving you to decide who you most agree with. Let’s get started!

Psycho-Pass title card

Pluffei: I haven’t finished the series yet, so I can only give an incomplete assessment. As of now, I feel like the character development is rather weak in the series, in terms of everyone except for Akane and Makishima, whose characters are quite solid.

Story-wise, I do like the futuristic utopia premise, but it’s actually very hard to keep in mind that the people in this setting think a different way than we do. It was hard for me to immerse myself in the story and characters, because their natures, as citizens of a pseudo-utopian society, were so different from that of the modern city resident. It was a hard task, and Psycho Pass tried, but didn’t live up to expectations.

So overall, Psycho Pass for me didn’t live up to its hype. However, in comparison to the rest of the season, I think it was pretty good. It’s worth the watch if you have nothing to do, but otherwise, there are better futuristic utopian societies to watch crumble.

The cast of Psycho-Pass.

The cast of Psycho-Pass.

Laevatein: Psycho Pass is Urobuchi’s foray into the cyberpunk genre, and it’s immediately clear Urobuchi wants his work to be as great as some of the more ubiquitous ones. Taking after the likes of Blade Runner, Minority Report, and Ghost in the Shell (with a sprinkling of Neuromancer), Psycho Pass envisions a world where a person’s likelihood to commit a crime is quantified and stored in government databases. This turns law enforcement from a reactionary measure to a preventive measure. Now stopping crime and catching criminals before anything happens is a serious ethical issue, one Psycho Pass explores, answering other questions along the way.

“How did society ever come to a point where it needed this?” was one question I was very interested in. Unfortunately, Psycho Pass never really got around to answering it, preferring to skirt the issue by focusing more on its plot and fleeting glances at other elements of its society not relevant to the plot. Though a good portion of Psycho Pass featured arguably irrelevant elements of its setting, its main plot was a pretty decent critique of isolationist Japan, though it concludes with an underwhelming answer.

Characterization and development are perhaps Psycho Pass’ greatest strengths. Akane Tsunemori, the series’ main heroine, in particular is wonderfully characterized, and over time develops into multifaceted character with a clear mental dichotomy that’s quite believable. The antagonist and the main hero are also both characterized quite well, though they don’t see as much development as Akane, and often devolve into Urobuchi’s mouth pieces. Though the other characters in the show are also characterized decently well, they often do not develop at all.

Overall, though Psycho Pass has pretty good characters and plot, the show suffers from uneven pacing due to its somewhat pointless stand alone episodes, as well as its barebones worldbuilding.

Barebones, and incredibly disturbing to look at.

Starshine5050: What this show does particularly well is not only creating characters, but having great chemistry between them. When the show beginnings we know very little about how this society works and how it evolved from the one we have now. However, the interactions between characters really helps to detail the way in which this society works and its belief system without coming off too exposition-y. The way the team as a whole work is probably the only reason I stuck through as many episodes as I did.

To be perfectly honest, I liked the short episodes and found the ending to be sort of drawn out and anti-climatic. While I understand that there needed to be a connection between all the stories and a main antagonist to set up a conflict, I actually thought it was cool to explore the team’s dynamics on a day to day basis. The members of the force were certainly charismatic enough to be able to pull it off without becoming a procedural mystery-a-week type of show.

The philosophy in the show is quite dense, but if you can get through all the references it is actually an interesting take on the nature of society and justice. The series’ genius comes from the fact that this is an intellectual show under the guise of a futuristic action thriller. How do we define what is right and wrong? Who gets to decide and who can we trust to decide? Can people enact justice on their own or should they let the police do it, even if it means some criminals get away? The show provides no easy answers, but really forces you to think about whether a criminal is better off dead to save society or to put him through the system, however flawed, to keep society together. Some people view the ending as the creator’s definitive answer but I disagree – I view it as the explanation of how one answer would have been, and villainizes neither Akane nor Kogami for their moral choices.

In the end, Psycho Pass is a strong show with an interesting position on the responsibilities of a society and the imperfect definition of justice. While the story could have been handled better, it holds up well in the narrative that it weaves, particularly because of its strong characters and their chemistry. If anything, I would like to see the series expand and take a look at the rest of the anarchy the world supposedly fell into and take the themes to new places.

psycho-pass-firing gun

Inverseman: Psycho-Pass is a great homage to lots of classic sci-fi. As a guy who is very invested into the concepts and ideas of the show, it had a mighty task of living up to other great sci-fi novels and films. That said, I believe it does an amiable job of being “Minority Report: the Anime”.

At the forefront is the characterization, I love how much Akane develops as a character. She goes from a weak-willed greenhorn who was a product of good test grades and a textbook model citizen (of a dystopian society) to a strong character with real ideas and opinions. And it wasn’t just the protagonists that were developed, Makishima was a very believable and well-written antagonist. However, some characters that were equally interesting and also really developed didn’t get the screentime I believe they deserved, like Ginoza and his dad. On the other hand, there were characters that seemed to get almost a throwaway episode, like Yayoi, who seemed more or less irrelevant.

The pacing of a dystopic story is always hard, because the first thing the author must do is immerse the audience into the crazy and twisted world. Personally, I think a dystopia should seem normal to the viewer, everything should seem okay but in actuality, when push comes to shove it should bleed out the horrifying ramifications of the society, so I actually think most of the worldbuilding was rather strong. A dystopia, in my opinion, shouldn’t have giant labels of “this is a hell on earth” on the outside, but more like a chilling haunt of something seemingly off in a paradise for psychological discomfort, which I think Urobuchi does well. The strike against it would be introducing elements of the world that should have been established much earlier towards the end of the story, like hyper-oats.

Now that’s all and good, but my main weakness I see in the story is the lack of closure of the story. There was a lot of “hey watch season 2” at the end, and the ending itself felt very disjointed from the rest of the story, especially the epic showdown that seemed to be building between Akane and the system. Moreover, there were lots of discarded plot devices that just never seemed to show up again, not a plothole, but more like unsatisfying clues that lead nowhere. At any rate, that’s my main complaint about the show, and my desire to watch a season 2 comes more from not having a complete meal rather than a desire for seconds.

All in all, I think Psycho-Pass is alright. Not the best, but at least it had a nice spin on lots of good ideas. For the season, I think it was good, and I absolutely love the concepts. I just want the cherry on top to finish it out.

PSYCHO-PASS villian hero

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As just a regular, hard-working work, often-stressing, procrastination-mastering history and journalism student, I often turn to the silver and small screens for relief, even though I'm only an average cinema-and-television loving viewer, commenting on what, and does not, makes good entertainment. I love horror everything - book, TV shows, games, movies - even though they frighten me terribly. I'm a long time believer of the old saying "When life gives you lemons, don't take life's lemons! Give the lemons back!" So, onward I go, returning lemons and logging an unhealthy amount of screen time for your enjoyment. So please be sure to read my stuff and let me know what you think, I'm alway looking to improve and be the best, most cynical critic I can be!

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  One Response to “Objection! – Psycho-Pass”

  1. I’d just like to point out that hyper oats were introduced in the very first episode.

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