Anime Reviews: Psycho-Pass
Slick, stylish, and packing an engrossing narrative, Psycho-Pass is an addictive and rewarding series for any anime fan needing to satisfy their sci-fi craving.
Production: Production I.G
Series Length: 22 episodes
Air Dates: 10/12/2012 to 3/22/2013
Age Rating: 17+ (strong violence, mild language, brief partial nudity and suggestive content, dark or disturbing thematic elements)
Summary: In the year 2113, society has evolved to the point where crime is almost nonexistent, prosperity is at an all-time high, and citizens are assigned to jobs that meet their abilities, all thanks to the revolutionary Sibyl System. The Sibyl System maintains peace through the instantaneous scanning of a person's Hue (their overall personality rating and mood) and Crime Coefficient (the person's propensity for becoming a danger to others), which are collectively referred to as a person's Psycho-Pass. Most people possess a healthy Psycho-Pass, but the police are called in when those with extremely high Crime Coefficients are spotted. Made up of Inspectors, the healthy-minded overseers of all judiciary operations, and Enforcers, loose cannons whose high Crime Coefficients mark them as latent criminals yet choose to serve, the MWPSB can scan the Psycho-Pass of any potential criminal using high-tech guns known as Dominators, which selectively fire only at criminal targets. Rookie Inspector Akane Tsunemori already knows all of this, but her first day on the job will lead her to discover there's more to this perfect world than meets the eye...
The Good: Slick presentation and fascinating setting; intriguing plot with attaching characters
The Bad: Akane's character design doesn't sit well with me; sequel-bait ending
The Ugly: The moment where you first see a criminal turn into chunky salsa
Now this is more like it. Though the non-Azusa cast members made the experience more worthwhile, it's patently obvious K-On! is not my kind of show. With a few exceptions, I'm more about finding shows with compelling plots and multi-faceted characters--sure, an enjoyable slice-of-life is fine here and there, but I want twists and turns, and I want meaningful arcs and cathartic losses. I want interesting settings, and I want some solid action on the side. And in general, I want superb voice acting in both the English and Japanese versions, just so I can customize my experience. Some great tunes wouldn't hurt, either.
You can probably guess where this is all headed by now: All of these, and more, were gift-wrapped just for me in the form of Psycho-Pass. And now I'm going to endlessly elaborate on those things, and I'm going to give it a positive score and tell you to buy it. And you will read everything I am about to say, because I told you to. Oh, and don't get any cute ideas like scrolling down to the bottom; I'm watching you. Maybe. Or maybe not. But now you can't afford to risk it, can you? Can you?! You are like putty in my hands! Now, onto the gushing--I mean, review!
First of all, the visuals of Psycho-Pass are rock-solid. Of course, the artwork is dark and the animation is smooth, but the real star here is the futuristic designs of the many technologies present in the story. The city has this awesome cyberpunk-y feel to it, where computers and devices have taken over most human operations (even the very act of getting dressed is handled by an AI), and there exist, at the same time, the most lavishly wealthy technological paradises and the dirtiest, grimiest craphole apartments, right across the street from each other. The tech is all really cool, and the Dominators, the special guns our heroes use, are especially neat with their shape-changing barrels and all the bells and whistles that come with it. And like I said, top it all off with great animation, and you've got yourself a treat for the eyes.
To complement the dark artwork, we're treated to some dark background music, courtesy of Yugo Kanno (whose other works I'm not really familiar with). I may not know the guy, but with great tunes like "Psycho-Pass," "Senzaihan," and "Dominator" sprinkled throughout, I look forward to running into him again. But again, the real stars of the show are the opening and closing themes--for starters, opener #1, "Abnormalize," is an energetic rock song with some really bizarre riffs and vocals that set the mood of unease and desperation, which, of course, is perfect for the show. Closer #1, "Monster Without a Name," is a very bleak-sounding electronica tune with catchy hooks and pulsing momentum, and works very well. But these pale in comparison to what would come later: second opener, "Out of Control," is a spectacularly rockin' tune with infectious basslines and atmosphere, while second ending, "All Alone With You," is probably the bleakest pop ballad I've ever heard with a fantastic, intense chorus. To sum up, the soundtrack for Psycho-Pass is very well-done, and I'm gonna be finding a way to stick some of these tunes onto my mp3 player sometime soon.
And can I say how much I enjoyed the setting for this series? I've already mentioned its vaguely cyberpunk aesthetic, but plenty of other little things made this world come alive to me. I love the relationships between the Inspectors and their rowdy Enforcers. I love the various tech, like cyborg implants and personal holographic projection (wearing your online avatar in real life just sounds so cool!). I love seeing the cracks in the so-called perfect system unfold (because of course they're going to), I love the little peeks we get into the average citizen's daily lives in this technological paradise, and I love how cohesive it all is, mixing together to build a world that feels vibrant and almost real.
Now of course, without a great storyline and memorable characters, a spellbinding setting can be utterly wasted (not that I'm pointing any fingers or anything), but as is patently obvious by my Hub summary and list of pros and cons, Psycho-Pass skillfully avoids that trap. The story itself is based on the simplest possible concept for a setting like this ("It's a perfect society! Oh no, someone's trying to topple it because of flaws we didn't notice! We'd better stop him!"), but numerous twists and turns along the way are more than enough to keep it fresh. As for the characters, I latched onto 'em right away--whether it be straight-as-an-arrow Lawful Good Akane, loose cannon "I do things my way" Kogami, hard-ass "My word is law" Ginoza, or any of other colorful cast members, you will find a favorite easily. Mine is Masaoka, the "I've been catchin' criminals before Sibyl was even a pipe dream" old-fashioned hard-boiled Enforcer with a heart of gold.
But the time has come to complain, and fortunately, there's not a lot for me to complain about. First of all, something about Akane's character design just rubs me the wrong way. I can't tell if it's the shape of her eyes, or if it's her straight-line bangs, or maybe just the fact that you can't see here eyebrows behind said bangs, but something about her design just feels really odd. I think the art director really should've taken another pass or two over Akane, because she's the only one I have this problem with.
Secondly, and more importantly, the ending is clearly and obviously designed to lead cleanly into a sequel, especially the stinger caption in the final shot. I would've been perfectly fine if the foreshadowing and stinger were omitted and we just kept to the "it ends just as it began" motif that was strong in the final few minutes--maybe save the omissions for Season 2 and let popularity decide if it even happens--but oh well. A minor sour note, really. And with the rest of the show being as good as it is, I suppose I wouldn't mind seeing the sequel, anyway.
And that's Psycho-Pass, easily one of the better sci-fi anime to come out in recent years (and also one of the only ones, as anime has really been trying hard to avoid doing sci-fi lately). Just be warned that it's definitely not for the wee ones, but if you're not a wee one and you're an anime fan who's been hankering for some hard sci-fi in these dark, desolate times, then here's an excellent title to add to your library. Enjoy your heated arguments about the pros and cons of omnipresent brain scanners, computer-predetermined career paths, and autonomous police forces!
Final Score: 9 out of 10. Though the sci-fi anime landscape has been barren and lifeless this past decade, Psycho-Pass serves as an oasis in the desert with its creative concepts and engrossing setting, though having solid visuals, an intense soundtrack, a twisting storyline, and attaching characters certainly strengthens its appeal.