Psycho-Pass – Surpasses Expectations! (Anime Review)


Ever wondered what it would be like to live in a future where not only your every move, but your every thought and emotion is tracked? Sounds like a nightmare doesn’t it? Well what if this limitation on personal freedom was for the good of society? That by doing this, the police could stop crimes before they start and that you would live in a safe and stable society and wouldn’t have to worry about being attacked around the corner. Sounds like something that might be worth the personal sacrifice? Well this is the futuristic version of Japan where such a technology exists and society lives under the watchful eye of Sibyl as “she” measures your Psycho-Pass

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Some of the amazing shows from coming out of Production I.G. 

The stats:

This is a show that’s a little different from most animes we watch since it was the anime that was envisioned first and everything else followed from there. The show was created by Production I.G., who have made some legendary animes/movies such as Ghost in the Shell, Sengoku Basara, Shingeki no Kyojin and Kuroko no Basuke, and was written by Gen Urobuchi who has written Gunslinger Stratos, Fate/Zero, Aldnoah Zero and Phantom: Requiem for Phantom, to name a few. The creation of Psycho-Pass was done with the intention that it follow in the footsteps of the works of Mamoru Oshii, who is well-known for this involvement in both Ghost in the Shell and Patlabor. This would explain why this show falls mainly under the cyberpunk genre but also includes crime fiction and dystopian themes since the creators were also influenced by movies such as Minority Report, L.A. Confidential, Blade Runner, Brazil and Gattaca. The characters were designed by mangaka Akira Amano, most famous for her manga “Reborn!” and since the release of the initial anime there has been an extended version of season 1, a 2nd season as well as a movie release, 2 versions of the manga (one told from Inspector Tsunemori’s view and the other from Enforcer Kougami’s view) as well as light novels. And if you dig it (which I did), the OST was done by Yugo Kanno. So if you’re looking for something to keep you busy over the holidays, why not go all out and give this a go?

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Expertise and inspiration come together to make one helluva show!

The concept:

In futuristic Japan, the general welfare of society is maintained by a system known as Sibyl, which is part of the Public Safety Bureau. How does this happen? Well, the city is equipped with scanners that are able to monitor you mental and emotional state at any given time and this state is given a value. Values that exceed what would be considered the “normal range” are deemed to be potential threats to society and those people are labelled as latent criminals – “latent” because they haven’t acted on their thoughts/emotions but still have the potential to do so. In addition to the numerical value, each person’s mind can exhibit a hue/colour that can be used as an indicator as to a person’s mental health. A clear hue is best and the more coloured it becomes, the closer one gets to becoming a latent criminal. It’s not all doom and gloom of course, because there are plenty of available drugs and therapies that can help you maintain a clear psycho-pass and even if you become a latent criminal, it could be treated or it could just be temporary as a result of a sudden stress or trauma. Basically, this society is a docile one that relies on Sibyl to maintain order.

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The intricacies of an individual’s cymatic scan.

Although the order is generally maintained, there are those that cannot help but become latent as well as full out criminals, placing individuals and thus society as a whole at risk. When this happens, it is the job of the Public Safety Bureau’s Criminal Investigation Division to step in and handle things with the help of a weapon known as a Dominator. The investigation division is separated into Inspectors and Enforcers: inspectors are superiors in the division and it is essentially their job to manage the enforcers; enforcers are latent criminals who have been deemed fit to serve society by using their thought processes to think like criminals and in that way be able to outwit them. Inspectors are discouraged from doing this kind of work since thinking like a criminal may cloud their hue or cause their own psycho-pass to increase. Dominators, their weapons of choice, have the appearance of guns but are more dynamic than this and are linked directly to the Sibyl system to perform immediate psycho-pass scans on criminals. Once Sibyl determines how high their psycho-pass is, the weapon is transformed where it can serve various purposes depending on the situation. We have Non-lethal Paralyzer mode: paralyses the latent criminal; Lethal Eliminator mode: kills the criminal (in pretty gruesome fashion); and Destroy Decomposer: usually used against non-organic objects to destroy them by decomposing them, as the name suggests.

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One of the most advanced, versatile and bad-ass weapons ever created: the Dominator.

So, now we have our good guys and bad guys, right? Bad guys have bad psycho-passes and that’s when the good guys come in and save the day, right? Wrong.

The story itself in the first season follows the career of Inspector Akane Tsunemori – a new recruit to the Criminal Investigation Division. Here she meets her partner, Nobuchika Ginoza – a fellow inspector – as well as the enforcers that she will be handling: Shinya Kogami, Tomomi Masaoka, Shusei Kagari, Yayoi Kunizuka and Shion Karanomori. The initial storyline looks at how the inspectors and enforcers work together to bring down latent criminals with the help of Sibyl as Tsunemori gradually gets used to her new job and her colleagues. The one that she takes a professional interest in (and one of our main protagonists) is Kogami. He’s intelligent and is like an old school detective – really able to grasp the criminal mindset and their way of thinking. As the 2 of them continue working together, she learns a lot from him and becomes a more all-rounded inspector. As the story continues and the cases pile up, they start to suspect that there may be a connection between all the various cases they’ve been dealing with… And who might this connection be? None other than one of the greatest villains of all time (in my personal opinion of course): Shogo Makishima.

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Tsunemori Akane hits the ground running with her new team.

Makishima is the exception to the rule. Remember I said you would be wrong if you thought it was simple? Well he is the reason why. Unlike most criminals who have their psycho-passes read and determined quite easily, when Makishima commits violent acts his psycho-pass remains within the normal range and never deviates. In fact, it seems to decrease as he continues with the act. He is charming and charismatic and it doesn’t take him long to amass a small following that are only more than happy to help him achieve his goal in waking society up from the docile “cattle” they are and to bring down the Sibyl system that they have been so dependent on so that they can know what it truly means to live.

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With Makishima Shougo it’s a case of “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times”.

The review:

Right from the get-go you’re thrown right into the thick of things as you see things from Tsunemori’s perspective as she gets assigned her first case with the team. This approach is best since it keeps you engaged right from the start while you familiarise yourself with the ways of this new world. As the story progresses, each of the characters develops in their own way and, in some instances, we also get to take a look at the past of some of the enforcers. This attention to the changing outlook of the characters gives the show a dynamic flow and also gets you thinking along philosophical lines. That’s one of the things I enjoyed most about this anime – the way that you can empathise with both the protagonist and the antagonist viewpoints. The show stays away from any romantic entanglements for the most part and remains focussed on interactions from a work/family/friends perspective. I think that was a good call since it keeps your focus on what the creators intended to get across.

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Just one of the philosophical avenues this anime explores.

Although there is the assurance that you would be living in a much safer society, at what price does that safety come? To be constantly watched and monitored for any signs that you might harbour ill thoughts or feelings and to then be labelled a criminal on this basis. Is it really fair to persecute people on the basis of their potential actions? And so, even though you may live in an environment where you don’t fear crime, ironically you end up fearing the very thing that is supposed to allay those fears, i.e. Sibyl. And what is Sibyl anyway? If you’re watching and paying attention you will see that there are a lot of these little ironies throughout the show that highlight the various themes of the show.

By the same token, this is what makes Makishima such a great antagonist. Yes, he embraces the cruel and savage side of human nature, but isn’t this the point? That this side is a part of being human? So is he really wrong in trying to point this out and destroy Sibyl? The rivalry between Kogami and Makishima is one of the highlights for me because although they are technically on opposite sides, it’s more like they are opposite sides on the same coin. Kogami may not agree with his methods, but somewhere deep down he knows that what Makishima is saying is valid. They are both intelligent, driven and have both intellectual (quoting Friedrich Nietzsche, Foucault, Shakespeare, George Orwell, Jules Verne, Arthur Conan Doyle, Jonathan Swift, Philip K Dick, Marquis de Sade, Kenzaburou Oe, Junichirou Tanzaki among others) and physical showdowns (the style of fighting used is Pencak Silat) that are worth noting. They understand each other best and this is why the show slowly evolves with each episode as the cat and mouse game between the 2 ensues.

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Protagonist vs. Antagonist: worthy opponents or bromance partners? You decide.

I will admit that keeping track of what is presently happening in the episode whilst trying to piece together the bigger picture and paying attention to the messages the show conveys can be a lot to take on in one go. That’s why I watched this show twice because the first time around I was just pretty much blown away by the animation and the music and the action and the various crimes and situations that kept coming up. The second time around I watched the extended version (essentially compresses 2 episodes into ~45 minutes) which gave me a chance to really tie together the story and concentrate a bit more on the philosophical side of things. Perhaps you won’t have quite as difficult a time trying to keep track of all the various elements and aspects of the show, but don’t say that you haven’t been warned.

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Fight scenes that are well choreographed and worth the wait.

Looking at the production itself, I would have to give major props to the Production I.G. team because they gave their everything for this show – even going so far as to suffer from complete exhaustion at one point and handing over the creation of episodes 17 and 18 to an outside team before coming back to finish the last few episodes and going back to correct episodes 17 and 18 for the DVD/Blu-Ray release. The feel of the show as a whole has a dark tone, which is kind of in contrast to what one would think a “near-utopian” society should experience, but this lends a sort of gravitas to the show so that you don’t mistake it for science fiction and keeps it in the cyberpunk genre. The music, as always, gets honourable mention since it introduced me to Ling Tosite Sigure, Nothing’s Carved in Stone and EGOIST. I particularly like the Nothing’s Carved in Stone OP for the 2nd half of the season not only because the song is great but also because of the animation of the OP itself – bright and vivid colours that are in direct contrast to the colour scheme of the show itself (something I did mention in my previous post about GANGSTA.).  The OST also suits the show well and gives it that “epic movie” sort of feel with a great theme song that is carried throughout the seasons and the movie in various versions. Fantastic stuff!

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Vivid colour provides an interesting, contrasting tone for the show.

Parting shot:

You’d think that I would have nothing more to say after going all out on this post, but let me say that if you’re looking for something to dust the proverbial cobwebs of your mind then Psycho-Pass is the one. It has interesting characters, great plots of a pretty dark nature, cool animation style and is an overall very entertaining story. And like I said, if you’re really into it (like I obviously am) then you have an extended edition, a 2nd season and a movie that you can watch which picks up after the events of the first season and gives you a sense of continuation which is nice. It may not be light-hearted and it isn’t for kids, but don’t hesitate to take a trip to Japan in the year 2113 where the future is not quite as bright as it seems…

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Image credits: Shueisha, Tatsunoko Production

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  • Overall
4.5

thedigitalpen

About thedigitalpen

"If you truly want to escape from everyday life, you've no other choice but to keep evolving. No matter whether you're aiming higher or lower." - Orihara Izaya ("Durarara!!") My escape from everyday life is anime, manga, Japanese music (rock, pop, hip-hop etc.), a bit of gaming and writing about those very same things that bring me so much joy... And the cherry on top? Getting to share those interests with like-minded people.. so if you're reading this, then that means you! Want to see my evolution? Then watch this space!