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"PYSCHO-PASS" Puts a Dystopian Twist to the Cop Drama

Updated on August 23, 2015
Enforcer Shinya Kogami tracks down the nefarious  Shogo Makishima.
Enforcer Shinya Kogami tracks down the nefarious Shogo Makishima. | Source
Directed by: Naoyoshi Shiotani
Rating: R
Studio: Studio I.G. 
Number of Episodes: 33

Anime has been known to reinvigorate genres critics deem creatively dead. "PYSCHO-PASS" is a fantastic example of this, combining the dystopian thriller with the cop drama to pose critical questions about our society and how we handle crime.

Though the series relies on strong characters and their development, where "PYSCHO-PASS" differentiates itself from other shows of this nature is its concept. Set in 2113 Japan, the criminal justice system has been replaced by Sibyl, a system where criminals are not determined by their actions but by their psychology. Certain psychologies are assigned with a number or "crime coefficient," with the lower the number the healthier the mind. Depending on the coefficient, "criminals" can either be taken into custody or murdered on the spot through the use of the semi-intelligent guns called "Dominators."

Series Antagonist Shogo Makishima has a unique gift as he can always maintain a clear Pyscho-Pass even when he is about to murder someone.
Series Antagonist Shogo Makishima has a unique gift as he can always maintain a clear Pyscho-Pass even when he is about to murder someone. | Source

This creates a problems, as crimes are not defined by actions but by abnormal psychology. The morality of this universe gets especially muddled when said crimes do not translate into the assigned coefficient Sibyl has for it i.e. when a man mass murders people but has a Pyscho-Pass of 0.

Enter Shogo Makishima (dub: Alex Organ,sub: Takahiro Sakurai), the man who "breaks" the system. Being "criminally asymptomatic," Makishima can literally do just about anything and maintain the same psychology in the eyes of the Sibyl system, making him virtually untouchable. He takes advantage of this when he can, but for most of the series he lurks in the shadows, preferring to busy the Ministry of Welfare's Public Safety Bureau (MWPSB) by motivating select criminals to commit crimes.

Makishima acts as a puppet master, motivating all of the killers for his own amusement including 19-year-old Rikako Ōryō.
Makishima acts as a puppet master, motivating all of the killers for his own amusement including 19-year-old Rikako Ōryō. | Source

That is not to say that Makishima doesn't have his overall plans (he hates Sibyl as a system and wants to get rid of it), but the majority of the series involves the crimes of his subordinates.

Speaking of which, "PYSCHO-PASS's" rogues gallery always keeps the series interesting (at least in season 1), offering a ride range of killings including a chat room killer, a rich cyborg, and a mad artist who incorporates bodies into her art.

"PYSCHO-PASS's" iconic theme sets the mood for the series. Song credit: "Out of Control" by Nothing's Carved in Stone.

What really makes the series work is the rivalry between Makishima and Enforcer Shinya Kogami (dub: Robert McCollum, sub: Tomokazu Seki). The show sets it up as a battle between two titans, as their lives are intertwined. Series protagonist Akane Tsunemori (dub: Kate Oxley, sub: Kana Hanazawa) explains: "Long before they had ever met, I think this destiny awaited them. It wasn't like they didn't understand each other. They understood each other better than anyone else, and each was focused solely on the other.”

Kogami and Makishima are well-supported by the characters around them, as Makishima has his rogue's gallery and Kogami, his associates. Akane Tsenemori, being a novice Inspector, works as a plot device to introduce the audience to this world and its characters. Think of her as the equivalent of the silent protagonist, as her relative normality makes her easy to project onto. Inspector Ginoza (dub: Josh Grelle, sub: Kenji Nojima) serves as the generic leader of the group and has an interesting chemistry with his father, Tomomi Masaoka (dub: Jason Douglas, sub: Kinryū Arimoto) an old cop whose traditional perspective anchors the show to reality.

Ling Tosite's "Enigmatic Feeling" opens every episode of "PYSCHO-PASS 2," and is my personal favorite of the two themes.

Everyone in season 1 has a distinct arc which, likeable or not, maintains the audience's intrigue. "PYSCHO-PASS 2," the second season, cannot say the same.

Suffering from a much reduced run (11 episodes), "PYSCHO-PASS 2," tries to distance itself from season 1 by telling the same story but with a different twist. Kirito Kamui (dub: Clifford Chapin, sub: Ryōhei Kimura) serves as the villain this time, seeking to empower those suppressed by the Sibyl system by giving them a means of evading it. Kamui does a fine job as a villain, though his lack of a proper rogue's gallery and spiritual depth prevent him from coming anywhere close to Makishima levels.

Enforcer Tomomi Masaoka anchors the show in reality through classic tropes. Plus, he has a robot hand.
Enforcer Tomomi Masaoka anchors the show in reality through classic tropes. Plus, he has a robot hand. | Source

One thing I will say about season 2 is it has a much deeper discussion about the Sibyl system and what it is, details I will leave out in fear of spoiling it for new viewers. Compared to season 1, so much seems to be missing, from the episode count to the rogue's gallery to even the cast, which for reasons I will not explain replaces a few characters.To make matters worse, the story feels so much more rushed and slapped together than season 1, and as a result, it's commentary on the human condition through Sibyl has less merit than its predecessor.

"PYSCHO-PASS" is a fantastic series and if you have any interest in its genres, I recommend that you watch it. Though season 2 lacks in many ways, it doesn't take away from the overall experience. I am optimistic for the movie, and am excited for any possible OVAs in the "PSYCHO-PASS" universe.

A great show

3 stars for "PYSCHO-PASS" seasons 1 + 2


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