Psycho-Pass: Deep and engaging

Posted on June 12, 2013



Psycho-Pass is way below the “mainstream” level. It could be said that it was an accident that I even discovered this anime in the first place. Browsing through pictures in Google, I deduced (well, everyone can, I think) that this must be some sci-fi/suspense/mystery anime, given the bad-ass guns and dark artwork. As an enthusiast of such genres, I watched the series as soon as I could. Fortunately, I made the right choice. Let’s take a look at this relatively obscure show, and why it deserves more attention.

Plot: 9.5/10

Strictly in terms of plot structure, Psycho-Pass is your good ol’ Holmesian mystery series: a bunch of detectives discovering a crime, hunting down the culprit, that sort of thing. The central plot conflict gets bigger later in the series, though the idea is somewhat expected and not exactly new. It’s reminiscent of renowned fictional detective Sherlock Holmes discovering Professor James Moriarty as the head honcho of a huge criminal organization as he dug deeper and deeper; from something relatively shallow to something deep and sinister… you get the idea. Heck, the show actually pays homage to Holmes himself through one of its characters. However, what makes Psycho-Pass very interesting is the plot elements, especially the things the series allude to.

The story is set on a futuristic town governed by the so-called Sibyl System, which is able to maintain peace and order by providing the police with the technology to quantitatively measure a person’s tendency to commit crime (Crime Coefficient) using bad-ass high-tech guns called “Dominators.” Dominators can only be used by Enforcers, who are latent criminals employed by the police to hunt down fellow latent criminals, and Inspectors, who are tasked to keep an eye on Enforcers. The story focuses on greenhorn Inspector Akane Tsunemori and her team as they take on crime, as well as the dark and sinister mysteries surrounding the dubious Sybil System, together with an imminent threat to bring down the stability of the whole system from an elusive criminal. The plot’s pacing is just right to keep up with the questions popping up as the show progresses, making it enjoyable and not stressful to watch. The show also has a healthy dose of action and cool fight scenes to complement the serious nature of the show (the show hardly has comedy elements). While these elements are worth praising by themselves, what takes the cake is the sheer number of sociopolitical and philosophical ideas tackled in the course of the series.

The most notable idea discussed in the series is the concept of justice. How can you tell whether something just? Upon what criteria do you base it? A major theme in the plot is the clash between two brands of justice: Machiavellian (teleological) justice and justice based on the rule of law. Another notable idea is the concept of “compromise.” When you discover something evil, it’s only natural that you’d want to make it known as soon as possible. But what if doing so will bring yet another evil? It’s a moral dilemma the main character (Tsunemori) has to face in this show. The struggle of idealistic principles in society is also highlighted in this anime. Tsunemori, being a fresh graduate, is a strong idealist, believing in the power of the rule of law and the inherent goodness in people. However, her principles are constantly tested as different circumstances seem to go against the very morals she dearly holds. This idea is juxtaposed on the idea of “compromise” I mentioned before, as Akane begins to reconcile her idealistic beliefs with the not-so-nice side of society later in the series. It feels nice being conscious of the fact that such ideas are being employed in the series. Mentions of famous philosophers and political theorists and their works abound in the series, so I guess it’s safe to say that Psycho-Pass was intended to be deep and insightful. Some of the numerous stuff Psycho-Pass alludes to include: issues of utilitarianism, cognitive dissonance, transhumanism, man’s dependence on technology, Platonism, catharsis and anarchism. It’s up to you to spot them in the story itself.

These little details, coupled with a good pacing and fight scenes, give the plot of Psycho-Pass a very pleasing aroma.

Character Setup: 7/10 

The personalities in this anime do not really stand out, with the exception of the main character, Akane Tsunemori. Perhaps this is because the attitudes of the characters are not very different from each other, giving you a sense of monotony, leading to somewhat unremarkable interactions between characters. The relationship between Ginoza and Masaoka is memorable (especially towards the ending), but that’s about it. Nothing much is noteworthy, even the one between Yayoi and Shion, which seems kind of forced, for some reason.

Another problem is that there was a lack of solid character backgrounds, which can make it hard for viewers to sympathize with the characters (with the possible exception of Ginoza and Masaoka). Kagari Shuusei comes to mind; the only thing disclosed is that he became a latent criminal at age 5, and that’s about it. It felt like he was somewhat unnecessary for the story because of this shortcoming. Same goes with Shion Karanomori. The show could also have expounded on Ginoza and Kougami’s past, but failed to do so. It could also have been great if we were provided with ample background on the main character herself, but alas, it didn’t happen. Arguably, this is the least desirable aspect of Psych0-Pass.

Art: 10/10

The art is very impressive. Psycho-Pass combines a little CGI (most notably with the Dominators) with traditional anime artwork, and the product is superb. It really gives the sci-fi/mystery vibes. Like Steins;Gate, Psycho-Pass also makes use of darker colors for its art, conveying an air of uncertainty and suspense. Also, considering the guys in this anime are bishies, I guess this means plus points from the females. In any case, the artists did a splendid job on this. Kudos.

Sound: 9/10

The sound is pretty nice. The background music blends well with the anime. The music during the fight scenes are subtle enough the maintain the mysterious aura of the show. I’m not a big fan of the first opening, but the second one nailed for me. In any case, well done.

Replayable? It could be.

There isn’t much to look back after watching the whole thing, as the essence of the story is strongly tied to the mystery itself, which, obviously, is unraveled when you finish the whole thing. Well, I guess there are the fight scenes, as well as the implicit bed scene (yes), but yeah, there isn’t much.

Overall: 8/10

The apparent lack of a truly memorable cast of characters is offset by the creativity of the plot elements in the story. This should be a treat for those who have a background, or at least an interest, in politics and/or philosophy. If you’re a fan of detective fiction plus cool and realistic fight scenes, then Psycho-Pass is definitely worth a try.

Posted in: Anime