Psycho-Pass is a 2012 show produced by cyberpunk veteran animation studio Production I.G, who have made probably the most know and respected cyberpunk series to date: the Ghost in the Shell franchise. The show was created by Gen Urobuchi who has made the previous year in my opinion one of the best anime’s ever Fate/Zero. This show is a dark take on the cyberpunk genre, and shows what can happen when peoples futures and emotions are to be controlled for the betterment of society.
The story starts female heroine Akane Tsunemori as she starts her journey as a female inspector. The police force in this dystopian futuristic cyberpunk show is different in the way it’s governed. The country in Pyscho-Pass is governed by the Sibyl System, a systematic way of determining the criminal latency of human beings by judging their “hue”. Hue is a way of determining a persons mood and their mental state, and how that will determine if they will commit crimes or not. The inspectors in this world are teamed up with Enforcers: latent criminals that are given a second chance to help society, by working with the police to catch other criminals on the loose. The theory behind this is that “To catch criminals, you’ll need criminals”, the enforcers are suppose to be able to track down the criminals as they are ones themselves and know how criminals operate, as well as handle all the unsavoury sides of police work such as executions to preserve the hue’s of the inspectors.
To eliminate criminals or subdue them, the Sibyl System uses weapons known as: Dominators. These weapons have the power to determine a persons hue and apply the proper judgement; whether it is to subdue them, or if they are beyond repair to eliminate them. The Dominators can only be used by the Inspectors and Enforcers and only can be targeted at people who have a disturbed hue, therefore enforcers can’t use them against ordinary civilians or inspectors, but inspectors can use them against enforcers if they feel that the enforcer is becoming too hard to control.
The story of Psycho-Pass is its strongest part easily, it starts off dramatic in the middle of Akane’s first day on the job and having to deal with a serious hostage situation. The story in the first episode managers to effortlessly introduce the whole cast of characters, establish the premise, as well as show the hole in the Sibyl System’s existence and governing. The story for a majority of the first half follows a case-of-the-week formulae, with Akane her fellow inspector alongside with their group of enforcers being given new tasks and having to deal with the challenges of working within the Sibyl System: from dealing with a girl that murders her fellow students in the name of art, to a man who misses the trill of committing murder so instead hunts his targets like animals. The second part of the story however introduces a villain and the shows main antagonist, and the team now focuses their full attention on taking him down. I appreciated both parts of the story, but preferred the first part more as the case-of-the-week type of narrative fitted the story really well. The inclusion of the main antagonist was necessary to move the story along, as the formulaic narrative from the beginning would have gotten boring to watch.
The characters of Psycho-Pass for the most part are amazing. Akane and the main protagonist her fellow enforcer Shinya Kogami are really fascinating characters to watch as their interactions with each other are witty and insightful as Akane begins to learn more and challenge the Sibyl System more. The only other inspector alongside Akane is Nobuchika Ginoza, he is also really well developed as you can see the toll of being in the police department start to affect him and his hue. He starts off unlikeable, but as the story progresses you see that his demeanour is a result of his profession affecting his hue, and he is actually in his own way trying to look out for Akane. His character shows that no one not even the police are invulnerable to their hue changing due to what they seen, and it really shows that the police are really the people most affected negatively by the Sibyl System, the very system they defend and protect.
The cast of enforcers really range in development, the oldest of them Tomomi Masaoka is the most developed of them besides Kogami. He has the role of an advisor to both inspectors, and they often go to him for guidance and advise. The other however are less developed, they leave a lot to be desired as they only get an episode or maybe 2 which focuses on them and shows us some sort of development from them, and even when they are called on cases the story rather focuses on Akane and Kogami and doesn’t really explore their characters. All of these characters have very interesting background as most of them were born during or lived through the transition into the Sibyl System and have very unique perspectives on the past and present, and I wished that was explored more. If certain characters had gotten much more deserved screen time, maybe this could have been explored.
As stated before this is done by Production I.G, and they have a reputation for producing great looking shows, and this is no exception. Psycho-Pass looks gorgeous, the colours used portray the series so well, the colours are muted enough to show the underbelly and how the society under the system really is, while some of the colours used contradict this notion by being bright at some points showing how society has tried under this new guidance. And this opposition help establish that both of these exist in the system, the bright side of high society accepting their submission under the Sibyl System, whilst also showing the repressive culture that has grown because of this. I really enjoyed the art style as well as I feel that it fits the series really well. Where the animation really shines is during the scenes where the dominator is used. From the way the dominator unlocks and fires, to the beam used and its affect of people. It is all amazing to see and shows how great I.G can really make something look when they mean too.
The sound in this show is equally as great. Both openings are amazing and would easily make my top 50 anime opening of all time, and even scoring really high in the list. Other music used during the series are also great, just not as great as the opening. The sound design is amazing, the sound of the dominator to the sounds made by the Sibyl System are chosen with care and it shows, the sounds fit the scenes to a T. This sound design is really amazing, but considering that the sound director is Yoshikazu Iwanami who has done the sound for other amazingly sounding shows like Baccano! Fate/Zero and ERASED it is expected.
The problem that I really have with Psycho-Pass isn’t so much as a problem but rather a disappointing aspect of it. Psycho-Pass is an amazing series that checks all the boxes that would make it a great anime, but it doesn’t do enough to take it to the next level. Unlike Gen’s other works such as Madoka and Fate/Zero which I feel reinvented how storytelling should be told in their respected genre’s and broke the mould, but Psycho-Pass unfortunately doesn’t do this. It fall short it being more than a great show, it is a great cyberpunk show and is probably in the top 5 of it’s genre. But unlike a show like Ghost in the Shell Stand.Alone.Complex which goes above and beyond in it’s storytelling to be considered as not only the best in the genre, but one of the best in anime. Psycho-Pass does everything amazingly, but does little to leave you thinking that it was near perfection of even close to that level. It is disappointing to see, because I feel that it could have achieved this level if it was 26 episodes instead of 22, and with a little better writing for the main antagonist and with much more screen time of for the underdeveloped supporting characters.
Psycho-Pass is an amazing show, and does everything you want in an anime. A great premise, a dark tone, interesting characters and great animation and sound. Their are currently 2 ways to watch Psycho-Pass S1; you can either watch it the traditional way of 22 episode around 23 minutes each, or you can watch the new-edits version of them which are 11 episode that are around 45 minutes each. Each version has their own pros and cons, but I personally enjoyed the new edits version more since it made the show feel more intense having it be 45 minutes long. This show is amazing, as expected from Gen Urobuchi and Production I.G. Yes it could have been better, but better for it would have meant near perfection, which is something that not many shows can achieve.
[see end of review for weighing]
An alternative anime which I feel that does everything great about Psycho-Pass, and managers to add in more to propel it in the discussion of best ever no matter the genre is Ghost in the Shell Stand.Alone.Complex and its follow up season Stand.Alone.Complex 2nd GIG.
Another show also made by Gen Urobuchi the previous year, that I feel shows the dark complexities of a seeming peaceful society is Puella Magi Madoka Magica. I’ve already put out a review on this show, that speaks on all my feelings on the show.
[story+characters+animation+sound] + [enjoyment]