Reviews: Psycho Pass
Psycho Pass is bad. I said it. When I was recommended the show, I was told that it was a brilliant look at a dark future, one that posed meaningful questions about human psychology and moral issues. What I ended up watching was a show that thinks it's a brilliant look at a dark future that poses meaningful questions about human psychology and morality. In reality, it is, to borrow a phrase, "nothing but plaster beneath the shiny paint." Characters quote a lot of philosophy, and even more great literature—to the point where one suspects that the writers have no ideas of their own—but if you peel away the fancy language, they aren't saying anything. You can't have a dialogue about the ethics of a societal structure, when the society in question is controlled by the most ridiculously evil government this side of Stalin's. The reveal of how deep Sibyl's corruption goes should be a defining moment for the show, but instead it serves only to invalidate half the discussions the characters have had. There's no point in talking about the pros and cons of Sibyl after the reveal. It's pure evil and it has to go. And that's where the real problems begin, because take away the debate about the society that the show constructs, and there's nothing to it. The protagonists are bland and two dimensional, the villain even more so. I've heard people praise Makashima as the next Johan Liebert, but he's a Villain Sue in the vein of Sosuke Aizen. Worse yet he's not even the true villain of the story. He's a prop used to distract characters and audience alike from the fact that Sibyl is the actual bad guy, and that nobody is doing anything about it. If Psycho Pass were about people trying to overthrow a dystopian government it could've been interesting. If it were about people trying to capture criminals in a society with dystopian overtones it could've been interesting. Alas it's about people trying to capture criminals in a society that beats you over the head with how evil it is, where the malice of the government renders our "heroes" accomplishments moot. No matter how many murderers they apprehend, they aren't making a whit of difference in anybody's life. Psycho Pass fails, as a narrative, and a philosophical project. Leave it for the pseudointellectuals and go watch Blade Runner instead.
A clever story hampered by a premise that beggars belief
The art of Psycho-Pass has some good designs but the glossiness and mismatched textures prevent it from feeling real. And the writing does something similar: it has intelligent ideas, but also a deep-running vein of stupidity. The science is nonsense, which hurts for a gritty cyberpunk police procedural. The guns take the time to announce what they're doing before firing, kill in the messiest way possible and if they decide to be lethal there's no way to dial them back. Which leads to the core problem: the Sybil system is not just bad, it makes no sense from any angle. I can believe that an electorate would accept the police monitoring aptitudes to violence and acting on that, for all its inherent risks. But we see agents kill civilians who would be normal after having the time to calm down. The guns and drones follow rules that encourage them to kill anyone who doesn't surrender instantly and the agents have no discretion, which makes it odd that any criminals have been caught alive. There is not even a pretence of fairness, and if this isn't public knowledge, with the free dissemination online it would be so very quickly. The reveal halfway through is framed as the dark secret of the system, but really doesn't make it any more evil, just fallible. This is not a necessary evil or good ideals gone corrupt, it is like water running uphill and there is no reason for the audience to sympathise with people accepting it. It is so bad that making the story into a struggle against it would not have helped, it would be a hollow fight against a strawman regime. For the rest... The protagonists are fine, though only two show any change over the first season. They explore the difficulties of having to work supporting an unjust system. Except there's no good reason why they don't help bring it down. The villain is by far the best thing here. He is sociopathic, sadistic and manipulative, yet lends all this to serve his anarchist cause for the good of society. But it feels like he is restrained from making a full case against this terrible system. If you can swallow this, the show offers some ideas on the individual's relationship to society and the psychology of modern crime. Some of the crimes investigated are quite clever. It is also possible to see Sybil as a satire on Japanese society. But that does not make it any more believable.
A complete mixed bag.
DISCLAIMER: This review talks about the first season. I may watch the second season to see if it's better. Ah yes, Psycho-Pass. Anime fans all over loves this one, often comparing it to the likes of Cowboy Bebop, GITS, and others as potentially one of anime's all time greats. Admittedly, the concept of the show was pretty interesting in of itself, so I sought the show out while traveling through Netflix. Going into this, and knowing how well-liked it is from many fans, I looked forward to seeing it and looked forward to finding what was so good about it. After watching it though, I saw myself unfortunately in multiple levels of indifference towards it. This is in no way putting the anime down. My indifference towards the anime does not take away from the fact that there are positives to the show. In fact, the positives in this show are very positive. The visuals, the story progression, the tone of the series, the themes of the show all melded together in a very well made fashion. On those levels, the show didn't feel like it was a chore to watch, and I enjoyed myself considerably while watching it. However, the biggest thing that dragged my experience down and caused me to be so uncaring to this anime is it's characters. I like my fiction to have good memorable characters that I can remember years down the road even if I forget the series that they came from. Characters perhaps are the most important part of the story for me. If there are no characters, there is no story. Unfortunately for me, the cast of Psycho-Pass in my opinion is the most disappointing thing about Psycho-Pass. I couldn't bring myself to care in anyway about any of the main characters whatsoever. They, for what the type of anime this is set up to be has got to be the most generic hodgepodge of characters that they could create. We got the one who jokes a lot, we got one hardass veteran with a heart of gold, we've got the one Cool Old Guy that introduces the rookie, the list goes on. The only characters in this anime that I gave a crap about were Akane and Makishima. Even then, I'm not sure I could remember them if I ever saw it again. That being said, if you enjoy the type of anime that Psycho-Pass is, you'll enjoy it. Like I said, it's really well made, well paced and well produced. It's a shame to me that the one area that's most important to me just fell so flat.
You want an image of the future. Imagine this dvd sitting in your living room. Forever...
A magnificent, must see series. Don't wait to see this anime. After reading this review, if you haven't started watching yet. Do so immediately. If you consider Cowboy Bebop to be the holy grail of anime, than Psycho Pass has some words for you. If you think Philip K. Dick is the only master of Dystopian sci-fi, Psycho Pass has something to show you. If you think Judge Dredd has the patent on Judge, Jury, and Executioner style future street cops, Psycho Pass has a much bigger gun. If you loved Minority Report. If you loved 1984. Loved Soylent Green. Loved The Dark Knight. This show is for you. All those I just mentioned, Psycho Pass takes a little bit of it all and more. It has an extremely likable cast of characters, who are easy to care for with just few moments of screentime. And lot of the time a few moments of screentime is all they get. So Psycho Pass tends to make it count. The animation is topnotch, with loving detail given to it's setting. Let it be said that this show's fight choreography is among the best around. They're always intense and professional looking. This show will really make you stop and compare how terrible the fightscenes are in shows whose entire point is fighting, when up against Psycho Pass's. The music loves to invoke Classical symphonies against brutal horror and Gives exactly the right atmosphere of noir/psychological thiller. And on the villain of the piece. Shogo Makishima is an Expy of Johan Liebert Done horribly right. An near emotionless monster, who commits acts of cruelty without remorse and sows seeds as an agent of chaos. But he's so charismatic and cultured, you sometimes find yourself rooting for him. The only gripe one can have with it, is it's cliche character designs. From the protagonists to the villains, everybody looks exactly like you'd expect them to look in an anime. It's not breaking the mold and main the cast can't be described as looking memorable in the slightest. But I guess it was that or give everybody blue or pink hair. Now go watch it.
Futuristic psychological thriller that hits some high notes!
Although the premise is a tad cliche (a futuristic metropolis where crime is rare and the government controls virtually every aspect of a person's life to ensure absolute compliance and security at the cost of sacrificing Free Will), Psycho Pass is a rare gem that could easily be considered one of the "greats" of the Winter 2012 anime season. The series starts off with the introduction of the plucky and naive Public Safety Inspector Akane Tsunemori, who has a rose-tinted glasses view of the world and is an all-around optimistic idealist. Inspector Tsunemori is assigned to the Public Safety Unit headed by the hard-ass "protocol first" Ginoza. Akane meets the unique members of her new unit, many of whom are actually either former criminals or consummate specialists in their use and understanding of the Sibyl System. The Sybil System is the government-run "Thought Police" computer system that has the ability to scan a person's psychological outlook to determine whether they need therapy or execution at the hands of the Public Safety Office. Inspector Tsumemori believes that the Sybil System is perfect, but soon her thoughts and ideals are challenged when she is partnered with former inspector-turned-criminal Kogami. The show is deeply engaging, as we watch Akane slowly change and mature from a little girl in her idealistic cocoon, to a young woman enforcing law and order in a world where perfection is too good to be true and easily misleading. Throughout the show, Tsunemori continually questions her ideals and struggles with trying to understand why Kogami is treated as a criminal by Ginoza when he is such an asset as an inspector. Characterization is rich, with brief flash-backs that fill in information on main characters and why they are the way they are. Psycho Pass is NOT for the faint of heart! The show is rife with gore (there are often brutal murders—the first episode is a good indicator), and the "Dominator-esqe" Enforcer gun that the inspectors use frequently blow suspected criminals to bloody pieces. However, for a mature audience this show is not to be missed. Unique characters and thought-provoking issues lay at the heart of Psycho Pass, and those wanting something more than typical Shonen action/drama/comedy should DEFINITELY check this show out.