Anime Review: Psycho Pass Season 1

Psycho Pass was one of the most voted for on my poll, and now I see why. It was exactly what I was looking for! However, this also ranks highly in “worlds I wouldn’t like to live in”. Why? Well, I’m a writer who writes psychological thrillers. To do that, I have to attempt to think like the antagonist. That is highly, highly frowned upon here. Let’s just say I’d be seen as…well…you’ll see.

Summary: Justice, and the enforcement of it, has changed. In the 22nd century, Japan enforces the Sibyl System, an objective means of determining the threat level of each citizen by examining their mental state for signs of criminal intent, known as their Psycho-Pass. Inspectors uphold the law by subjugating, often with lethal force, anyone harboring the slightest ill-will; alongside them are Enforcers, jaded Inspectors that have become latent criminals, granted relative freedom in exchange for carrying out the Inspectors’ dirty work. Into this world steps Akane Tsunemori, a young woman with an honest desire to uphold justice. However, as she works alongside veteran Enforcer Shinya Kougami, she soon learns that the Sibyl System’s judgments are not as perfect as her fellow Inspectors assume. With everything she has known turned on its head, Akane wrestles with the question of what justice truly is, and whether it can be upheld through the use of a system that may already be corrupt.

Story: 4.5/5: This is the only other story by Gen Urobuchi that I’ve seen besides Puella Magi Madoka Magica. He’s someone I’ve decided to look out for, as I find his stories to be really interesting. 

It’s a fact that many people are tiring of the dystopian genre lately, myself included. There are so many clichés running rampant nowadays, that they’re just becoming dull. Psycho Pass avoids this by mixing the dystopian genre with the mystery and psychological thriller genres, two genres I absolutely adore. In fact, it was the mystery element of the early episodes that drew me in. I’ve missed a good mystery series, and that’s what Psycho Pass was at first. However, as it went on, it started to become more and more philosophical and evolved into more of a dystopian story. However, it was the emphasis on crime and mental health that kept it fresh and new, something most YA stories sci-fi can’t seem to do. 


While I was watching, I was heavily reminded of movies like Blade Runner (I even showed the first episode to my mom, and she said she got a Blade Runner vibe), Dark City, and The Matrix, but with a more crime vibe than science fiction. It also reminded me a little of the crime/science fiction TV show Person of Interest. And while I haven’t read it yet, I’ve heard many people compare it to George Orwell’s 1984, (they even reference it in the series). 

As much as I loved the mystery,  I have to admit the dystopian world was fresh in many ways. Unlike many of these worlds, I can actually see this happening, which unnerves me for several reasons. And I like how they blended in some philosophy, especially with the main villain’s ideas, which is part of what made this so interesting. Part of the philosophy is that, in exchange for safety, people have given up their free will and their own ability to make decisions, not only about good and evil,  but their own opinions as well. In a world where everyone is kept safe and away from violence (well, for the most part) people have given up their own opinions, as they only feel what the Sibyl System does is right, no matter what. And I love how this is actually psychological, especially towards the end where they try to figure out the antagonist’s mind.

If I have one mild complaint, it would be that I sort of saw what would be different about the antagonist quickly. It may have been my writer’s instinct or something, but I kept thinking, “What would happen if Johan Liebert from Monster lived in this universe?” And that’s kind of how I guessed it. But it’s still mild, and overall, I thought that this was a fresh dystopia and mystery series.

Characters: 4/5: This part is a little tricky. There are four characters who have true development, and the rest of the supporting characters are rather…underdeveloped. They’re still likable, but they just don’t have much change. However, they still serve a purpose to the story, so I can see past that.

There are two main characters. The one who is shown the most would be Akane Tsunemori, a new inspector. She’s a positive, idealistic person who can be seen as too naive to work for the MWPSB. Despite this, (or maybe because of it) she works considerably better with the Enforcers (people who can be former Inspectors whose Psycho-Passes grew too high, or simply Latent Criminals in general) than with her fellow Inspector, Ginoza. However, while she may be vexingly hopeful and sometimes unrealistic at first, Akane develops into a much more capable, thoughtful Inspector.  She is also just born lucky; she’s clearly intelligent, and she has one of the most clear Psycho-Passes in the whole show. 


The other lead would be Shinya Kogami, a former Inspector turned Enforcer after he became obsessed with catching a villain whom others don’t believe exists. (Guess who’s right, though.)  He’s an interesting, complex character; behind his obsessiveness, cold demeanor, and somewhat sociopathic behavior, he’s surprisingly…well, not nice, per se. But it takes an awful lot to forgive someone after they shoot you in the spine with a Dominator, paralyzing you for a bit. While he’s a great Enforcer, he’s at his best when figuring out the minds of criminals and analyzing their motives. He’s an anti-hero, as he’s cynical, but ultimately well meaning, but with a vicious side that comes out, especially when it concerns the antagonist.


Inspector Ginoza also has an interesting story, even if it was kind of easy to figure out. When he first appears, he seems to be overly strict and set in his ways, and constantly demeaned Akane. Granted, she was inexperienced and made mistakes, but sometimes his constructive criticism went too far. But when you consider that both his best friend and father were demoted to Enforcer and that he himself has a high capacity for a high crime coefficient, his harsh behavior actually makes a lot of sense. He mainly doesn’t want to see Akane demoted to an Enforcer like the others he’s seen.


One of the most interesting cast members, if not the most interesting, would be the antagonist, Shogo Makishima. Due to spoilers, I can’t talk too much about him. Let’s say this; he’s trying to take down the Sybil System and nearly succeeds. He’s the main source of philosophy in the show, and in some ways, he becomes less of a villain as the series goes on. But he is, there is no doubt; while his intentions may be understandable and even sympathetic, he has committed horrific acts for his cause. Oh, and did I mention that he is also a bookworm? Yeah, he references 1984. He makes me feel so uncultured with my book choices. He’s not only smart, but an amazing fighter who’s quite frightening with a razor. Yikes.

Animation: 4.5/5: There may have been some minor glitches for me, but for the most part, the animation was amazing! (This was also made by the studio that made Attack on Titan…the more you know, I guess) The backgrounds were so unique, and the coloring and shading helped increase suspense and even helped with some minor foreshadowing. The fight scenes (especially the two between Kogami and Makishima) were amazingly choreographed and looked nothing short of a stunning fight sequence in a live action movie.


I really liked the backgrounds though. They were so unique and matched a dystopia quite nicely, making it appear colorful, but giving a dark undertone, quite like the Sybil Sustem.


Sound: 4/5: The two OPs were incredibly different from each other. Abnormalize was written by Ling Tosite Sigure and sung by TK. If it sounds familiar to you, if probably is; TK also sang Unravel, the OP for Tokyo Ghoul. Abnormalize is a cool song, with strong vocals and music, even if it becomes a little messy for me at times. However, the visuals (with its lack of color and heavy black and white imagery) was a little chaotic and hard for me to follow. However, it was very eye catching and artistic. The second OP, Cause I Feel, had the opposite problem for me; it was really, really colorful, kind of abstract. But the visuals were pretty cool. But I didn’t really like  the song; while the lyrics were good, I didn’t care for the vocals or the tune. It just wasn’t my type of song, but I can see why other people like it.


The first ED was actually my favorite song of the season. It’s called, Monster Without a Name (Look me in the eyes and tell me that wasn’t a reference to Monster, another amazing psychological thriller where the phrase, The Nameless Monster, or Monster Without a Name is a big plot point. Come to think of it, Makishima kind of gave me a Johan Liebert vibe…) Anyway, besides the name, the lyrics were cool and matched the story, the vocals were great, and the visuals were stunning yet easy to follow. The second ED, All Alone With You, was a good song, but the visuals weren’t as interesting to me as the previous.

The OST in general was really good, matching electronic music with more dramatic sounds to create a dystopian mystery vibe. Sadly, I haven’t been able to listen to it much independently, so I can’t recommend tracks that I liked.

I also had troubles with deciding between the sub or the dub with this one. It seems like with psychological thriller anime, I want to stay with the dub for the sake of just one voice. For Death Note it was L’s, for Monster it was Johan Liebert’s, and for this, it was Makishima’s. The actor voicing him in English was great. I liked his subbed voice, but I just preferred the English voice. Anyway, Akane’s voice I preferred in Japanese; Kate Oxley did a good job, but I just felt like the subbed voice was better suited for her. Kogami’s voice was a bit trickier; I like both, and think that both English and Japanese voice actors did amazingly. Same goes with characters like Gino and Masaoka. 

World Building: 4.5/5: I wanted to give this a 5, but aside from the Sybil System, Psycho Passes and Dominators, we weren’t given a lot of information on the technology of this world. Like, I can understand the whole house redecoration, A.Is, and online world, but I was sometimes curious about the holograms (how did they become so solid?) and the clothes (honestly, the clothes thing seems more like magic to me). However, the world itself was built incredibly realistically, the laws and way of life were fleshed out, and unlike most dystopias, I can see this happening. That’s impressive; they rooted the world and character behaviors well enough to make this seem like an actual possibility for the real world to fall into. 

Pros:

  • Realistic Dystopia: My greatest complaint with dystopias nowadays is how unrealistic they feel. Try as I might, I cannot see the world becoming like that. This on the other hand, with its focus on crime, psychology, and mental health, I could honestly visualize. The way the world was laid out (with its roles, laws, and societal expectations) just added a ring of truth to it.
  • Perfect Genre Blend: This successfully blended the mystery, crime, psychological thriller, and science fiction genres (and added splashes of philosophy) together without feeling forced or over the top. It also helps that those four genres are some of my personal favorites.
  • Makes You Think: This is definitely a thinking series. When a show is rooted in enough fact that you can see it happening, you’re bound to ponder about things you typically don’t think about. As the series goes on, you begin to wonder about which views are right, or at least, the best option; is it Akane’s idealistic, against the Sybil System but ultimately law abiding view, is it Kogami’s bending the law, anti heroic view, or even Makishima’s anti-Sybil, independent thinking view? In the end, it’s the viewers choice to choose a viewpoint or disagree with all of the above, and to figure things out amidst the moral gray. 

Cons:

  • Underdeveloped Side Characters: Even though this could be a little frustrating, this is my mildest complaint, as even the underdeveloped characters were likable and were important to the story. Even Yayoi’s (an Enforcer) oddly placed backstory makes some sense when you think about it; it isn’t just about her. It’s also to see what kind of Inspector Kogami was. At the same time, it’s placed right after episode 11, right after that huge reveal. Like, I don’t know, that kind of disrupted the flow a little. 
  • Unexplained Technology: It may have helped the world building if they had explained some more technology besides The Sybil System, the Psycho-Passes, and the Dominators. Some of the technology was a little confusing (like the holograms) and just didn’t feel real, and more like magic. 
  • Some Easy To Deduce Plot Points: Some of the plot points I found all too easy to figure out. Like Gino’s story was particularly easy, but I was also able to figure out what Makishima’s deal was, and what made him different. However, this is likely because I approach crime stories with the thought process of, “Okay, how would I write this?” I should really stop doing that…That’s how I figured out the plot twist to the movie The Usual Suspects too…So it’s not the show’s fault, it’s mainly mine.

Grade: 4.5/5: I think it’s truly my love of mysteries that gives this such a high grade. But I’ve seen a lot of hate for this recently (not just for season 2; from what I’ve heard season 2 takes an unfortunate nosedive), but I’ve seen a lot of dislike for season 1 as well that I find unwarranted. While I may like other anime more than this, I still found Psycho Pass to be an amazing series that was precisely what I’d been looking for for a while now.

I’m rather on the fence about Season 2. Despite all the negative comments I’ve heard, I was willing to try it out…until I found out that not only did they switch animation studios, they didn’t even have the same author writing it. That doesn’t sit right with me. What do you guys think?

The next anime that I’ll watch will be My Little Monster, which is considerably lighter than this. (Such a juxtaposition)…

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9 thoughts on “Anime Review: Psycho Pass Season 1

  1. I also really enjoyed this anime and it kept me on the edge of my seat. I heard that the 2nd season wasn’t as good so I didn’t watch it. But enjoy My Little Monster! I also enjoyed that show too and I hope you do a review on it

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A couple of the side characters do get more development in the Second season and a tiny bit more in the film. However, the overall plot and written quality of the second season was nearly as good as the first season. I’m glad you enjoyed this season! It’s one of my favourite cyberpunk shows. It’s quite brilliant in many, many ways. Thanks for a wonderful review! ♥

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Huh, that’s interesting to know. I take it you enjoyed the second season? (Or was the “was” supposed to be a “wasn’t”? I’m just guessing from the “however” in the sentence). I really did like this, I’m only sad I’ll never be able to re-experience it for the first time again. It was intelligently written, and actually felt real, like a genuine possibility for the future. I hope you enjoy more of my reviews in the future!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Her development is quite brilliant. The show adds a whole new layer of depth to her, which actually does add some dimension to the world-building as well. The plot itself just wasn’t all great.

        Liked by 1 person

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