In a futuristic world where a computer system dictates society’s norms and humanity has been stripped of all freedom, the only hope for salvation is a rag tag crew of the criminally insane.
Headed by renowned writer Gen Urobuchi, Psycho Pass dares to question key concepts of criminal psychology, while also leaving the audience to ponder as to what we really see as freedom of choice.
The story starts off following a rookie police officer named Akane Tsunemori on the first night of her job in the Public Safety Division. There she is introduced to the police’s most powerful weapon, a group of condemned mentally unstable inmates that have been given a second chance by the “Sybil” system and branded as Enforcers.
It’s also on this job she is handed a custom built handgun known as a Dominator, a weapon with the ability to detect a person’s mental stability and issue punishment based on their actions. In most cases the Dominator will stun the target, but if the targets Psycho-Pass is too high, then the Dominator becomes an Eliminator and the command to kill is issued.
From there, the show proceeds to introduce its characters over time, with each one having a different outlook on society and its way of dealing with those branded as latent criminals. It’s during these times when characters talk about the state of the world that you get to sense of how complex the show really is, and that the world that’s being built isn’t just to house the characters and stories, but could be the location of an actual civil system like “Sybil”.
Akane Tsunemori starts as the shows main protagonist, but quickly becomes a vehicle for the audience to look through, a gateway to this bleak world. The real star of the show is the male protagonist Shinya Kogami, an Enforcer who’s power of deduction and weapon handling are some of the best in the police force.
The majority of the show follows these two and their conversations together about current state of affairs, with Tsunemori often questioning Kogami’s judgment on the matter at hand. Think True Detective with science instead of religion playing a large role in their relationship.
Gen Urobuchi (Also known as the Urobutcher) is known for his ability to create colorful and ultimately flawed characters (See Madoka Magica), and Psycho-Pass is no exception, boasting a small but fulfilling cast of well written and damaged characters. Each one of the Enforcers has been classed as a menace to society and, in essence, has had their humanity stripped away from them.
These remnants of human beings all deal with their loss of humanity differently, and it’s this coping mechanism that plays a large role in their character development. It’s fascinating to watch a character refusing to listen to logic as it may contradict their duty as an officer, and that trying your best to reduce your instability may be the very thing that drives you away from the sanity you cling to.
The dark undertones and depressing atmosphere are a one of the shows many highlights, but they can also be one of its biggest downfalls.
Many shows have a good balance of dark moments and light hearted moments that help alleviate the sadness from the dark bits. Psycho-Pass however, is all dark, all the time. The opening shot of the first episode is that of a dystopian city in the rain, the only sounds heard are those of cars honking their horns and police sirens blaring.
This bleak and gritty tone is established from the very first scene and continues all the way through the show, going out of its way to destroy any ambition the viewer may have that a situation may end up not being so traumatizing.
I for one found this to be an enjoyable aspect, as it allowed a more mature story to be told without any interference of awkward humor or fanservice. However some may be put off by the dreary tone and constant downer the show graciously flaunts.
With studio Production I.G being well established for their ability to portray dystopian futuristic worlds incredibly well, and Akira Amano (of Hitman Reborn) being able to draw beautiful characters, it’s no surprise that Psycho-Pass looks fantastic.
Animation is consistently pleasing to the eye, and there was never a time when character animations were noticeably lacking in facial features. Characters animations when talking are given just as much attention as movement and action scenes, and the CGI is used to such great effect that most of the time it’s hardly noticeable.
It’s great to see so much work go into such as complex and world driven series, and it’s even nicer when characters proportions are kept within the realms of reality.
Just saying that Yoko Kano is attached to do music for an anime would get most fans excited for a show, and her contribution to the OST to Psycho-Pass is once again phenomenal. There was never a time the music felt out of place or unnecessary, every track is chosen to be played at a certain time for a reason. Music fans can rejoice as what you hear in Psycho-Pass is indeed wonderful.
The dub is also something of note. Recently Funimation have gotten lazy with their dubs, often bringing back the usual suspects to voice characters that don’t suit their voice. Luckily they realized their mistake and treated Psycho-Pass with respect, going for new and unlikely voice actors to play the characters that suit their voice best. I fully enjoyed the English dub and feel that it’s a perfectly good way to watch this visually entertaining show.
It’s not usual that both the openings and endings manage to fit a series with both its music and visuals, yet somehow Psycho-Pass manages to do it fantastically. The first opening manages to capture the inner battles that many characters suffer from, while the second focuses on the chaos that’s slowly building throughout the series. Both of them use creative visuals and techniques to portray emotion like few other openings, and they’ve both quickly gone up as two of my favorite openings of all time.
Psycho-Pass is a truly wonderful series that treats its viewers like mature adults. It doesn’t pander to the audience by making silly jokes or having sexual references, and instead hits them with the hard truth that society is broken.
While many may be put off by the consistently dark themes and lack of lighthearted moments, the show does an expert job and making sure it’s never being dark just for the sake of it. If you’re looking for the next show to make you stop and think about how society works, or you just want a cool sci-fi police detective drama, Psycho-Pass comes highly recommended as the best anime of 2013.
+ Mature story that doesn’t shy away from getting dark
+ Consistantly fantastic animation
+ Music is a treat to listen to
– Never lightens up, is always depressing
– Not everyone gets the same screen time
– By the end, it’s still no clear what exactly a “Psycho-Pass” is
Other anime recommendations
Mature Sci-fi: Ghost in the Shell
Thought provoking use of Science: FullMetal Alchemist Brotherhood
Thanks to Manga UK for supplying a review copy