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.
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.
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.
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.