The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Psycho-Pass

Title: Psycho-Pass
Genre: Action/Drama
Company: Production I.G
Format: 22 episodes
Dates: 12 Oct 2012 – 22 Mar 2013

Synopsis: In the near future, Japan has taken a strong stance for isolationism and has created its own self-sufficient bubble controlled by a series of supercomputers.  By implanting a chip into the brains of its citizens, this society has cracked the code to people’s inclinations, aptitudes and psychological well being.   As a result, crime has been almost eradicated, and employment is practically pre-determined based on the person’s metrics. The show follows the lives of a series of police officers who investigate the few crimes the system failed to predict, and bring in the perpetrators for rehabilitation.  However, should the algorithms decide that the criminals cannot be salvaged, they are exterminated on the spot.

The Highlights
Animation and music: Extremely fitting but fairly unimpressive.
Antagonist: A delightful manifestation of structured insanity.
Story: An interesting sequence of mysteries cumulating into a greater conspiracy.


Imagine if Google became the judge, jury and executioner of society, where every action of every individual is monitored, judged and scored, and the output of the algorithms dictates the kind of life a person can live.  This is the world of Psycho-Pass.  It’s a Minority Report meets Blade Runner science fiction thriller penned by Urobuchi Gen of Madoka Magica and Fate/Zero fame, and produced by Production I.G in a very similar style to its hit movie, Ghost in the Shell (1,2).

Though the show can be concisely described as “cops track a serial killer,” it’s the setting that provides the real meat of the show.   At its core, the anime asks “do you want a free society or an orderly society?”  The world of Psycho-Pass presents a society that values order above all else. The world can be seen as a utopia by those who live within its boundaries for it offers stability, safety and opportunities for self actualization within prescribed parameters. On the flip side, since the society is built around predictive algorithms that that data mine the human biology, a person is not judged by his or her actions; a person is judged by his or her true feelings.  This straightforwardness may seem great until you realize that people will become condemned by society merely by feeling the wrong emotions.

This “bug” of the system becomes the catalyst for the most interesting character in the series: Makishima Shogo, the serial killer antagonist.  Shogo wholeheartedly rejects the notion of suppressing one’s true self in the name of order.  He sees meaning in the vortex of chaos that is the human mind.

For all its high-felutant ideas, the show does have a rather strong defect. The protagonists are not that compelling. Though the characters are well developed and undergo meaningful character arcs, there is not a single one that really resonates in any meaningful way. This is admittedly a quirk of a Urobuchi Gen show. The protagonists do not fulfill the role of power fantasy where a viewer can pretend to be a character or at least have someone worth idolizing. They basically would be the side characters in any other show, and they act like secondary personalities who act rationally within their set parameters. In short, don’t expect these characters to stir any deep emotions even though their actions may offer interesting food for thought.

Darker science fiction shows are rare in anime these days; however, Psycho-Pass makes good use of its opportunity to show how the medium can offer insights into our own society by presenting a world where certain elements are pushed to the extreme.  The budget is not where it needs to be to make everything feel top class, but the overall vision is well realized.  Watch this show if you’re in a mood to think about the dynamics of a society that must constantly compromise between the needs of the individual and the many, and can accept that there may be no real answers.

The Rating: 7
7/10

Reviewed by: Shadowmage

 

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