Review

Psycho-Pass surprised me. There are a few anime YouTubers who I subscribe to and all of them gave this show glowing reviews. After putting it off for months and months, well let’s say that I regret having put it off for months. Psycho-Pass is an expertly crafted anime from the animation to the characters and setting and with the second season coming out in October, now is as good a time as any to get you caught up.

The story of Psycho-Pass takes place in near future Japan where society is governed by an entity known as the Sibyl System. This places people into jobs they are qualified for, allows people to design their homes however they want with holograms and determine who is and isn’t a criminal, but it goes one step further. The Ministry of Welfare Public Safety Bureau, or MWPSB, is in charge of keeping the peace, but they do so as proxies of the Sibyl System with their specialized weapons. Traditional firearms are not in use anymore and instead guns called Dominators are used. These guns can measure the Psycho-Pass of anyone to see how their psyche is doing at any given time. If their “hue” is cloudy, they are more likely inclined to commit criminal activity which is determined by stress and other physical indicators. The Dominators also show a person’s Crime Coefficient which is calculated by the Sibyl System then distilled to a number. This shows the likelihood someone is to commit a crime which has different tiers of punishment. If someone’s Crime Coefficient is under 100, they do not require any action and the trigger of the Dominator is locked. If it is between 100-300, the suspect is categorized as a latent criminal and the Dominator trigger is unlocked and set to paralyzer mode which will knock out the criminal to be taken in. However, if the number is above 300, the suspect is seen as a major threat to the well-being of society and the Dominator will transform into the Lethal Eliminator and therefore making the target explode into a bloody mess but only if it surpasses that number. If someone’s number is below 100, the Dominator becomes nothing more than a toy and is effectively useless.

Don't let your Crime Coefficient get over 300 or else...

Don’t let your Crime Coefficient get over 300 or else…boom.

So yes the intricacies of the workings of this world seem complicated when listed one after another, however, the show does a fantastic job of not introducing these too fast. Those who can wield these Dominators fall into two categories: Inspectors and Enforcers. Inspectors are traditional detectives while Enforcers are latent criminals who show a propensity to be able to carry out the job of assisting Inspectors and taking out other criminals. These two groups are where our cast resides. The protagonist is rookie Inspector Akane Tsunemori. She is initially presented as a nervous and weak young woman completely overwhelmed by her surroundings but has an incredibly satisfying character arc throughout the series. Next up is Shinya Kōgami, an Enforcer that reminds me of Spike Spiegel when confronted with thinking about Sid Vicious: fierce, driven and persistent until he accomplishes what he needs to do. Beyond these two there is a fair amount of side characters, none of whom are throwaway at all. Akane’s partner Ginoza, the grizzled and fatherly Enforcer Masaoki and Shūsei  Kagari are just a few of the stellar supporting cast that, not only are developed themselves (some more than others) but help develop each other exponentially.

However, the character who steals the show at points is the primary antagonist, Shōgo Makashima. He is unhappy with how automated and streamlined society has become and feels the need to remind people that they are capable of thinking for themselves. Makashima is a fantastic villain who you are always on the fence about as to whether or not he might actually be doing the right thing. However, that is all that will be said to avoid spoilers about his character, but he is one of the best anime villains in recent memory.

Kogomi and his Dominator is a match made in heaven.

Kōgami and his Dominator is a match made in heaven.

Most of the soundtrack in Psycho-Pass is relatively ambient and never took my focus away from what was going on at the time. There are some great sound effects such as when the Dominator transforms, but the greatness here lies within Psycho-Pass’ cast. There is not a single character who has an annoying or flat out bad voice (which is nice after watching Soul Eater recently) who was in the dub. The seriousness of the setting does not allow for any over the top personalities that would have taken me out of the experience. My top three performances out of the stellar cast would have to be Robert McCollum as Kōgami, Kate Oxley as Akane and Alex Organ as Makishima. They are all so good that it is difficult to think of anyone who underperformed. Lastly are the openings and closings. While the first opening and closings were serviceable, the latter two were great and served the purpose of pumping me up for the episode.

The final area to address is the animation and…well…yeah. This is the same studio responsible for Attack on Titan, Kuroko no Basket and Ghost in the Shell: SAC to name a few. Regardless of what you think about the plot lines or characters of those shows, it is tough to dispute that all of them have superb animation, and Psycho-Pass is no exception. Everything is silky smooth from the Inspectors driving their cars down the highway to the realistic fight scenes between characters to the tastefully used CGI throughout the series (especially on the Dominators). From episodes 1-22 there was never a time where I thought the animation quality dipped.

Enforcer Masaoka, Inspector Tsunemori and Enforcer Kogomi; my favorite squad.

Enforcer Masaoka, Inspector Tsunemori and Enforcer Kogami; my favorite squad.

This review has been fairly positive so far, but what are its faults? The first handful of episodes seem semi-episodic but they all tie into the larger narrative. Some might say that a few episodes after the first move slowly, but that is subjective as I thought they were fine. Even the ending was satisfying and provided enough closure but left enough open to let your mind wonder what might happen next. I really have nothing bad to say about this anime. The setting, characters, story, and animation grabbed me from episode one and never let go. Also the complex themes of free will, challenging an Orwellian authority and emotional repression are just a few that make this a much more intellectual series that cannot just be put on in the background. After finishing the series and thinking about it, Psycho-Pass might be in my top five anime of all time. Take that as you will, but you owe it to yourself to watch it. As of right now you can watch the entire series either dubbed or subbed on FUNimation’s website for free.

 

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About the Author

Ross
A recent college grad who just loves playing games. Hopefully I can help you save some money (and possibly spend more than you would like).