Psycho-Pass Complete Season 1 Collection (Cert 15)
4 Discs (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 583 minutes approx.
Sci-fi is fast becoming a difficult genre in which to be distinctly original despite the vast amount of possibilities to be explored. It seems for the moment, with technology catching up with the ideas of the past, newer ideas tend to borrow from existing ones and either improve or dilute the original concept.
Production IG’s Psycho-Pass may contain familiar elements but writer Gen Urobuchi (of Madoka Magica fame) has managed to craft a wholly engaging and philosophically challenging story to drive this dark, often shocking but majestic action packed cyberpunk series to show exactly how a keen imagination can build upon and further gild and already glowing lily.
Set in 2113, we find Japan is a now dystopian technologically advanced society overlooked by the Sibyl System. Through security cameras and roving drones, the brain waves and general mental health of the population are constantly monitored in the name of civil peace. This is known as the “Psycho-Pass” which is measured by colour, the hues of which being an indicator of a person’s state of mind. The darker side is called the “crime coefficient” a numeric scale to determine how deviant someone’s thoughts and motives are. If one scores a high number with their crime coefficient they are either locked up or worse, terminated.
Operating on behalf of the Sibyl System is the Criminal Investigation Division of the Public Safety Bureau, men and women who are armed with weapons called Dominators. They are able to read the crime coefficient of a person and the gun will act accordingly, allowing it to be fired if the number is high or it will lock up if the number is low. Superficially this may seem like a fair way to judge if someone is criminally motivated or a threat to society thus can be dealt with in a premeditated strike, but what if there was a way to fool the Dominator into thinking you had a lower crime coefficient than you actually do? You could get away with murder. In fact, that is exactly what one Shogo Makishima plans to do…
While the predictive side of the crime fighters has been used in Hollywood flick Minority Report this is in fact the lesser influence on Psycho-Pass as I am sure many keen anime fans will bethinking Ghost In The Shell – Stand Alone Complex at some point too. Aside from the futuristic setting, the human/technology interactions and the fact both shows were made by Production IG, any similarities between the two should remain purely as a reference point since the comparisons are superficial at best.
Unit One, the team tasked with hunting down and stopping Makishima, are joined by a new recruit fresh out of the academy in Akane Tsunemori who is given the role of Inspector. Working under her are enforcers Shinya Kogami, Tomomi Masaoka, Shusei Kagari and lone female enforcer Yayoi Kunizuka while senior to Akane is fellow Inspector Nobuchika Ginoza. Over the course of the twenty-two episodes in this series, we get to know each of the team members, how they came to be where they are and watch as the group gels, bickers, falls apart and reunites.
Akane is very much a cipher for the audience, joining the team right in the middle of a gruesome sexual assault case on her first night on the job. This young bright eyed idealistic girl makes quite the first impression when she paralyses Kogami to prevent him from killing a female attack victim whose crime coefficient had risen due to the stress of her ordeal. This experience sows the seeds for the series of doubts Akane begins to harbour towards the fairness and judgement of the Sibyl System, something she had hitherto believed in and trusted implicitly.
The pivotal moment to sway Akane’s judgement comes when her friend Yuki is kidnapped and about to be killed by Makishima. Because his crime coefficient is so low, Akane’s Dominator refuses to fire; Makishima throws Akane a rifle with two bullets and tells her to use that instead but she can’t bring herself to kill him. Akane finds herself torn between her loyalty to a friend and her duty as a law enforcer while Yuki’s life hangs in the balance.
Urobuchi’s scripting is often prone to prolix discussions between the team on philosophy and morality while Makishima offers an alternate take on the oppression and judgement of the Sibyl System. This gives the characters a chance to develop and establish their own personalities, with some getting an exclusive backstory episode. Akane’s growth is the most prominent, somewhat exponential but balanced and not rushed to avoid the pitfall of a complete personality change.
The stories are fairly dense affairs, with the first few episodes being stand lone cases with a nascent rumbling of what it so come before the main plot arc takes over in earnest. Discussing the individual plot strands is both spoilerish and frankly futile since none are so straight forward and as ever, there is an undercurrent of political intrigue to support the main thread.
From the very first episode however the agenda is made explicitly clear that there is to be no mollycoddling of the viewer with a regard to violence. This is a very gory show and doesn’t pull any punches so be warned if you are squeamish but also take note that it is befitting the tone of the show and the nature of its central themes. To that end the production values are very high, the neon technology filled world depicted in gloriously bright and detailed visuals which add so much to the experience.
Originally Manga Entertainment were going to release this title in two parts but opted for one complete box set. This is probably for the best as Psycho-Pass is such an intense, compelling and addictive ride that you have to enjoy it in one go.
A superlative example of intelligent cyberpunk sci-fi done right, this is without question a top five release of the year!
English Language 5.1
Japanese Language 2.0
Episode 5 Commentary
Textless Opening Song “abnormalize”
Textless Closing Song “Namae No Nai Kaibutsu”
Episode 11 Commentary
Psycho-Pass at Sakura Con Part 1
Episode 13 Commentary
Textless Opening Song “Out Of Control”
Textless Closing Song “All Alone With You”
Episode 18 Commentary
Psycho-Pass at Sakura Con Part 2
Rating – **** ½
Man In Black