Review of Psycho Pass (Season One)

psypass2

Psycho Pass is a sci-fi crime series written by the talented Gen Urobuchi (whose previous credits include the excellent Fate/Zero and Puella Magi Madoka Magica.) The first season was originally intended to come out in the UK across two volumes, but Manga Entertainment has since decided to release all twenty-two episodes in a more economical single DVD collection. Viewers who would prefer to experience this cyberpunk yarn on their Apple devices can also download the series via iTunes. Isn’t Apple wonderful? Convenient digital shopping and all the nude celebrity pics you could ever desire.

OVERVIEW

Set in the distant future, Psycho Pass follows the exploits of the Public Safety Bureau who are tasked with maintaining law and order in Japan. Thanks to advances in technology the nation’s crime figures are exceptionally low, as the Sybil System monitors the mental state of the populace. Sybil’s spying of citizens makes the UK’s excessive use of CCTV seem like amateur voyeurism. The idea is to prevent illegal acts from occurring by detecting individuals who are overly stressed, so they can be prescribed counselling. Should someone’s urges drive them to break the law their “Psycho Pass” rating will shoot up alerting the authorities.

The bureau’s hierarchy is broken down into two tiers. Inspectors are the brains of the outfit and responsible for investigating crimes. Working under them are the Enforcers who are tasked with apprehending culprits. Public Safety agents are armed with special guns dubbed Dominators that are able to scan a target’s Psycho Pass coefficient. If an offender’s Psycho Pass rating is low the Dominator will emit a blast that will stun them. Conversely, criminals with an elevated Psycho Pass score will trigger the weapon’s execution mode, which will cause them to detonate like a cranium in Scanners.

STORY/CHARACTERS

In terms of tone Psycho Pass feels a lot like Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, which is understandable given that both shows deal with futuristic law enforcement. Thematically, the Sybil System’s pre-emptive approach to deterring crime also shares similarities with Minority Report (the sci-fi blockbuster staring a diminutive Scientologist.) The first half of the series deals with the Public Safety Bureau investigating a series of gruesome murders, before moving onto an on going tale were the group is ordered to capture a serial killer named Makashima. Their mission won’t be easy given that Makashima has the ability to maintain a low Psycho Pass, regardless of how violent he gets, rendering the usually dependable Dominators useless.

Shinya Kogami is arguably the coolest character in a show blessed with a strong cast. He’s a brilliant detective who was demoted to Enforcer after the death of his partner took his Psycho Pass over the edge. Equally likable is Shinya’s superior Akane Tsunemori, who is introduced in the premier episode as a fledgling Inspector. Akane starts off as a naive lady, but as the story progresses she develops into a talented agent, who is able to remain optimistic no matter how dire things get. Akane gets props from me for being a rare example of an intelligent woman in a Japanese cartoon. She’s even spared from over sexualisation, as instead of being busty eye candy she is a short statured lass with a questionable haircut.

VERDICT

I can highly recommend Psycho Pass to anime fans everywhere. Production IG’s accomplished artists have once again delivered on the visual front and narratively Gen Urobuchi succeeds in hitting another literary home run. The script is both smartly written and deeply philosophical. When Makashima sets his sights on Sybil’s collapse one cannot help but wonder if he should be branded a terrorist or a freedom fighter. Although the Sybil System has turned Japan into a utopia, its stifling control over the populace is rather unsettling. Equally disturbing are the homicides the Public Safety Bureau investigates, which predominately feature female victims. Such things do not usually faze me, but I must admit that some of the barbaric acts I witnessed in this show did shake me up. If you have the stomach for it Psycho Pass is however worth checking out. I would rank it as one of Manga’s best 2014 releases. My final rating is five stars.

21 thoughts on “Review of Psycho Pass (Season One)

  1. Yay! Glad you liked it. πŸ™‚
    Season 2 is just round the corner in Japan so it is interesting to see where they go now the Sybil System has been exposed.

    • Attack on Titan is the current big thing so it would be a good place to start. It seems to have attracted the attention of people who don’t normally watch anime. Depending on your tastes I would also recommend Death Note (supernatural mystery) and Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood (fantasy like.)

    • My suggestion for start is Ghost in The Shell: Stand Alone Complex 1st & 2nd seasons. Good storyline and solid action with futuristic background. In addition, it has been inspiration for Matrix series and Surrogate movie.

  2. I’ve heard about Psycho Pass and it intrigued me but I had no idea what it was about. Your review made me curious to watch it but you mentioned near the end about it having “barbaric acts”. I tried watching Attack on Titan but couldn’t continue because I couldn’t stomach the gore and violence. Are the “barbaric acts” on the same level as the gore in Attack on Titan?

  3. Pingback: The Top 5 Animes I Watched in 2014 | The Otaku Judge
  4. I liked it a lot!
    I also liked that even though the series will continue, the ending was enough of an ending that the story arc was over in a reasonable way.

    I watched it on Netflix which only has season 1, so for me it was very satisfying.
    (I hate it when anime series end on a cliffhanger that is never resolved.)

    • Glad that you enjoyed it. Yeah, it sucks when a show ends on a cliffhanger (which happens a lot as many animes are adapted from ongoing mangas.) I’m worried that season two is written by someone else, but at least the movie is by the guy who penned season one.

  5. “she is a short statured lass with a questionable haircut”
    And huge eyes – I think she’s got the largest eyes in the cast. Literal wide-eyed idealist, I guess, though less of one by the end.

    I loved this anime. Makishima made for a fun villain; despicable but fascinating. I’m curious about how you feel about s2 though?

    • I haven’t watched it yet. The mixed reviews and news that it was written by someone else scared me off. I’ll have to watch it eventually though, as the movie is getting released in the UK soon.

  6. Well said. I agree on all counts. The series has a strong balance of stand alone and complex episodes, much like it’s predecessor. My only complaint is that like Ghost in the Shell, the second season feels like a new skin on the same pattern, with too little innovation to separate it from season 1.

    • Series one topped one of my annual “top five anime of the year” lists. I recently watched the movie and liked it too. Thus far I have yet to check out season two because everyone seems to bash it.

  7. Hey! I did end up watching this based off of a comment you had made somewhere. I’ve really got to agree with you. This show is solid. Hitting it hard on all fronts, so far.

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