I’ve seen on many blogs online that Psycho-Pass is high up on the list of must-watch cyberpunk pieces, along with Ghost in the Shell in terms of quality. So I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with Psycho-pass.
What is Psycho-Pass?
Psycho-Pass is a Japanese cyberpunk anime television series from 2012 about a dystopian future society where omnipresent public sensors constantly scan the mental states of citizens in order to determine their threat to society, which determines not only what freedoms they have but also what careers are best suited for them.
The story follows Akane Tsunemori (right) in her first assignment with the Public Safety Bureau’s Criminal Investigation. The series is set in futuristic Japan where a powerful network of psychometrix scanners, called the Sibyl System, actively measure the minds and mentalities of the city’s population using a “cymatic scan” in order to give them their Psycho-Pass. If the coefficient is higher than an acceptable threshold, the individual is pursued, apprehended, and killed if necessary. One of the tools of the PSB’s Criminal Investigation Unit is something called the “Enforcers”, humans (such as Shinya Kogami, left) with higher-than-acceptable crime coefficients who are used as hunting dogs basically to find latent criminals. Both the Enforcers and the Detectives use large handguns called “Dominators” that change their lethality based on the crime coefficients of the targets they are aimed upon, in real time.
A second season was released in October 2014, with an animated film released in January 2015 and a third season is set to come out in October 2019.
A lot of the inspiration for Psycho-Pass came from various Western films, in particular L.A. Confidential but also from Blade Runner, Minority report, and Gattaca, with the director wanting to explore psychological themes in society’s youth using its dystopian storylines. This is clear as there are a LOT of monologues and long discussions between characters in the anime, which I suppose is pretty common among most animes anyways.
I liked Psycho-Pass enough to watch it to the end, but I felt it wasn’t as good as other animes I’ve watched like Ghost in the Shell. I liked that its story was more connected than other animes like Cowboy Bebop, and it had a good amount of Cyberpunk visuals. It had some interesting concepts that it explored, such as ethics and morals of delegating who decides whether a criminal is dangerous, and whether that is just. By using a crime-coefficient to judge a person before he or she commits a crime, it definitely felt reminiscent to Minority Report, but streamlined as that judgement is made in the gun itself. I also liked how the series tackles the question of how people would respond to violent crimes if they are not used to the idea of someone being able to do so in a supposedly utopian future where crime doesn’t really exist. But it doesn’t have that “cool” factor of the streets and high-tech of Ghost in the Shell, or of the devil-may-care attitude that Cowboy Bebop had either.
I felt sometimes that the anime could have used more action. It has a high level of detective work and it also has a healthy amount of time invested into developing the relationship between detectives and enforcers, somewhat mirroring different levels of society today. However, the use of the dominators, and the twists and turns the story took the viewer, was very entertaining. Also, the dialogues between characters on the nature of society were worthwhile and interesting as well.
My favorite random scene
There’s one particular scene that I would love to share with you that jumped out of nowhere on me during a not particularly important interaction between the villain, Makishima, and one of his partners. You can watch it here.
Explained all patronizingly while enjoying some madelines with tea. How sophisticated.
The scene randomly references many different influential works of cyberpunk (which ones? You’ll have to watch it to find out), and the villain’s love for paper books over datapad e-books because of the feel of turning the pages and the smell of the binding. This inconsequential discussion is one of many different philosophical talks that are sprinkled throughout the season.
So if you like philosophical discussions, you’ll like this series.
Overall, I would give this series 8/10. Its discussions, animation quality, detective work and world building were interesting enough, but its lack of action and sometimes slow pacing bogs it down a little. I also would have liked a little more tech-focused cyberpunk visuals, such as bionic implants or other advanced technologies past simply the dominator gun.
What did you think of the series? Did you like Psycho-Pass? Let me know in the comments below!