Guest Post: Psycho-Pass Review

I got my girlfriend to watch Psycho-Pass and write a blog post about it (ikr?!?!). What did she have to say about the show?

Before the actual post itself, I want to say right away that I’ve tried to be as “hands-off” as possible when she was writing this up – the only input from me has been in the form of discussion and commentary, rather than anything stylistic or nit-picky, as well as in adapting the post from Word to WordPress (harhar). As such, these views aren’t mine, but should be taken just as seriously — which I know is stating the obvious but that I just wanted to make clear. Please feel free to comment on any feature of this post, from the writing style to format to the ideas themselves (including this intro!), as this is her first time doing this sort of thing (anime analysis) and she’d appreciate all the feedback she can get.

I’m also going to try throwing in a Further Reading category for some of the future posts here, starting with this one, for material I think would fit in with the topic but might not necessarily be easily hyperlinked throughout the course of a post. This is inspired by Shance’s style on Rainbowsphere (e.g. his post on doujinshi), so let me know what you guys think about it.

On another note, I’m not sure how “guest posts” or anything similar are supposed to work, so if anyone has any experience/advice it’d be greatly appreciated. I also would like this post to serve as a call to anyone else who might be interested in doing this sort of thing (either posting here or having me post elsewhere or doing some sort of colloquium). I’d love to get to know you guys better and do more interactive/collaborative projects!

Now onto the actual post…

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Dear Josh’s Readers,

I’m rebeccableich (Adriana Ivy in the blogosphere) and I must admit that I have zero experience critiquing anime. My blog (look at my shameless advertising) focuses on fantasy novels, but I will give it my best shot. My style, as I’m sure you can tell already, is very different from Josh’s so I will try to hold your interest. I’m definitely more informal and I tend to discuss by category since it helps me get my thoughts straight. The categories I will be using for this post are: Plot, Setting, Fan Service, Characters, and Technicalities. Bear in mind that this is purely my opinion on the show Psycho-Pass so feel free to disagree with me or add anything in the comments. I tried not to include too many spoilers, but I’m not sure if I succeeded in that. Anyway, here goes!

I’ll give a brief synopsis here (courtesy of Wikipedia) for those who haven’t seen the show:

Psycho-Pass is set in a future where it is possible to instantaneously measure a person’s mental state, personality, and the probability that a person will commit crimes, all through a device installed on each citizen’s body called a Psycho-Pass. When this probability, measured by the “Crime Coefficient” index, is too high in an individual, they are pursued and apprehended—with lethal force, if necessary. The plot focuses on a young adult named Akane Tsunemori who is a new police officer known as Inspector within Unit One of the Public Safety Bureau’s Criminal Investigation Division. As an Inspector she hunts criminal alongside a special team of so called latent criminals (people whose crime coefficient is deemed too high, and without chance of recovery) called Enforcers. Both Enforcers and Inspectors use magnum-esque “Dominators”, special weapons designed to fire only on those with a higher-than-acceptable Crime Coefficient. During some of Akane’s first investigations, the group learns of a mastermind behind multiple crimes, Shogo Makishima.

psycho-pass-review-3

Plot:

At the beginning, the show is episodic and the main plotline doesn’t appear until about halfway in. This isn’t a problem since it gives the viewer an opportunity to get used to the unique world portrayed in Psycho-Pass. This show reminded me a little bit of Dexter in terms of the plotline and structure mainly because it followed the kills and tableaus of different murderers—at least in the earlier episodes. Once the central plot took effect, the story progressed at a good pace. However, there was nothing remarkable about the plot—there always has to be a rebel or anarchist in a dystopian society so it’s not an uncommon theme or plot device. Because the plot isn’t anything so novel, the show relies heavily on character development and suspense to give it substance. These devices were effective where the plot was not. In other words, the presence of suspense kept the viewer interested even if the actual storyline wasn’t the most interesting or innovative. Also, the show became very much involved with the three main characters Akane, Kogami, and Makishima. The audience gets to learn a lot about their inner psyches and motivations, but this consumes a large portion of the show. Of course the style isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the plot was not the strongest aspect of Psycho-Pass if only because it didn’t have an overwhelming presence and wasn’t anything so radically different from many other Police-Crime based dramas.

Setting:

The world fascinated me because it made me question what constituted a “latent criminal”. Was it people who had violent tendencies or those who were simply emotionally unstable? Would you and I be considered latent criminals because we enjoy playing violent video games and/or watching violent films? By the standards of their society, there are very few people that I know who wouldn’t have a cloudy psycho pass hue. The use of ‘hue’ monitoring devices was an interesting means of controlling the society and ensuring stability—one that I haven’t seen before. Obviously mind control and tracking devices on civilians aren’t foreign concepts, but strictly measuring someone’s psychological state is something that I haven’t seen before. My one gripe with this aspect of the show is that I wish there had been more world building to answer the questions I posed above. I know that wasn’t the point of the series, but it had potential to create a unique and fascinating setting and I wanted a bit more elaboration on the society. The show left a lot of questions unanswered about the function of the Sybil System in the lives of everyday civilians. Instead, it spent a lot of time showing different angles on the arrangement of the society in terms of either criticizing or lauding the system, but at the same time giving little substance to aforementioned system. It was never explained exactly how Sybil worked. The show gave a vague explanation about how it was comprised of the brains of criminals who didn’t fall under Sybil’s jurisdiction, but the show never actually explained how these brains worked together or why they actually agreed to in the first place. Also, who created the Sybil system and how did the idea originate? Also, as I mentioned earlier, it was a heavily character development based show and focused in on the main characters as vehicles to pose questions about the nature of the Sybil System instead of actually addressing it in terms of its effect on the rest of the world.

Fan Service:

There wasn’t too much fan service in this show—it wasn’t one of those stupid harem shows with cleavage and panty shots every other frame, but the stuff that came up was annoying and detracted from my enjoyment of the show. Maybe I just like to complain, but the yuri relationships (Yayoi x Rina and Yayoi x Shion) seemed thrown in there and irrelevant to the plot. It just seemed egregious as if the writer wanted something overtly sexual in the show and then threw in a weird yuri scene at the very end of the final episode. I mean then there was the scene where Akane’s friend was walking around in her underwear—again unnecessary, but what is anime that doesn’t pander to otaku a little bit? Who knows? However, I think the main issue with this was the fact that it was so random and contrived that I noticed its presence. Romantic and sexual elements are fine when they work in the context of the show, but when they feel extremely out of place so much so that they call attention to themselves, that’s when it becomes a problem.

Characters:

It’s rare to see a strong female protagonist in crime drama. Akane was a refreshing lead and the character building done with her was effective. Kogami, Akane’s male counterpart, was not a novel character—he was the standard brooding Edward Cullen type with a serious grudge. Kogami’s most admirable trait was his dogged determination to capture and kill Makishima; a strong motive generally lends itself to a strong character. He played the part of the likeable rogue, but he was rooted enough in his law-abiding background to give his character a sense of balance. In this way, he was used as an effective foil for Makishima because while they shared similar personality traits, Kogami represented the potential for nobility and goodness while Makishima was on the flip side of abusing his intellect and desire for control. Makishima as an antagonist was interesting and I say that with legitimacy because there was a lot of creativity involved in his execution of criminal actions via other characters. If he had continued with this pattern I think I would have found him to be a better villain. However, he was very much a stereotypical sociopath with no real emotions or foibles about his actions and eventually his creativity regressed into him slitting people’s throats—a banal method of murder. He was more a caricature than a character in the sense that he had a lot of unique and interesting traits, but there wasn’t much substance to him. I like a bit more dimension in my antagonists—I prefer them to be a little more human because then it gives the viewer a moral dilemma as to how they should feel about him/her.

Technicalities:

One of the things that Josh and I have discussed in regards to this anime is the heavy-handed usage of literary references and references in general. The audience can understand that Makishima is intelligent without him dropping names like Gibson and Foucault every few scenes. A reference or two is okay, but when it starts being used as a device to develop character it gets annoying. I understand that it can work if used subtly, but the redundancy is noticeable and becomes irritating. Another thing I found strange was that the show devoted an entire episode to giving Yayoi an in depth back-story, but she was the only supporting character who got that much fleshing out. I didn’t understand how her back-story was actually relevant or helpful to the progress of the show. Sure, I guess they wanted to give her more dimension, but why only her? Out of all the supporting characters she wasn’t even a very relevant one. Anyway, those are just some minor qualms I had with the show, but other than that I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it to those who haven’t seen it. Hopefully there weren’t too many spoilers in there, but if so I apologize.

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Further Reading

Relating Psycho-Pass to things:
Psycho-Pass and Japanese perceptions of mental disorders

Some reviews:
A mixed but ultimately positive review
A review and some thoughts on Gen Urobuchi
A highly positive review
Strengths, Weaknesses, and Hoping for a Sequel

On writer Gen Urobuchi:
Interview #1 (Sakura-Con 2012)
Interview #2 (Otakon 2012)
Interview #3 (translated on Otakumode)
Why Urobuchi is popular

4 responses to “Guest Post: Psycho-Pass Review

  1. I only skimmed it ‘cuz I haven’t yet finished watching Psycho-Pass (prolly will today or tomorrow), but one thing did catch my eye nonetheless: it is indeed a shame that they only seem to give Yayoi a backstory episode, but I’ve got a couple of guesses for why they might’ve thought the episode necessary: 1) she shows (to my eyes, at least!) the least distinctive personality in the general goings-on of the show, and so would arguably most benefit from a dedicated episode; and 2) the episode does a pretty good job of fleshing out Sibyl (and Kogami’s backstory as well—seems he was always a bit of a manipulative dick): it plants the seeds for the discontent with the system that become more prominent in the second half, makes Makishima’s goals and views (at least as of where I am in the series) a bit more sympathetic (he seems to have a bit of a Brave New World/Nietzsche’s Last Man problem with the society, which the suppression of the city’s rock bands would seem to confirm), and demonstrates how accidentally effective the system is in general at ruining lives.

    We’ve seen a bit of this earlier—episode 3 is particularly obvious about it, I’d say—but the point of view of the ordinary person who becomes a latent criminal is much more fleshed out in episode 12. Funny how fear of Sibyl often creates the problems the system is meant to solve—the parallels with Shin Sekai Yori are fascinating.

    • I think you definitely have some good points here. I do agree that Yayoi is probably the least fleshed out of the supporting cast, so devoting an episode to her can be defended from that angle, but then where’s the scoop on Kagari or Shion? Both of them also play decently prominent roles and I think would’ve benefited from some additional screen time, but their stories are only told in tidbits. Your second point resonates a lot more with me – I think this does give insight into Kogami’s personality and, more importantly, the effects and perception of Sibyl from the lives of (somewhat ordinary) people. So I’ll definitely give you that, especially in light of episode 3, this works. My main problem with it is still that this type of development could’ve been handled better, since the sole episode devoted to fleshing out a supporting character’s backstory sticks out like a sore thumb, even if the results and motivation are justified.

      It is definitely quite ironic how oftentimes the solutions – both in Psycho-Pass and Shin Sekai Yori – tend to be their own worst enemies. I might even see some of this vein of thought in Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, so maybe these shows are trying to tell us something…

      As to the comparisons between the two shows, the parallels are fascinating – I think you’ve hit just the tip of the iceberg here! At least for me, the more I think about the two shows, the more interesting stuff I seem to discover – comparing themes, protagonists, characterization, concepts of humanity… the list goes on :D.

  2. I agree with Josh and The Kenosha Kid on most of their points. However, I felt that while episode 3 did give some insight, it only focused on a minute and highly specified portion of the population. These people didn’t represent the vast majority of society, they represented a section of the working class, but I would have liked to see more in terms of the Sybil System’s effect on a wider range of people. If any of the episodes show the impact I thought episode 14 might be a good place to look as it emphasized a bystander effect that is even worse than the one that exists in our society–which clearly says something about Sybil’s impact on the mentality of the society both literally and figuratively. Also in terms of the episode with Yayoi and emphasizing her character, I thought that The Kenosha Kid made a good point about how it was good character development for Kogami and showing that “he was always a bit of a manipulative dick”. That being said, I think that the episode should have been dedicated entirely to developing Kogami and excluded Yayoi as a vehicle for his character development. Either that or it should have been omitted and details about Kogami’s past should have been delivered in a different manner.
    In terms of the point about Makishima being a ‘John the Savage (Brave New World)’-esque character, I’m not sure if I concur with that point. John’s reaction to the World State was much more powerful because he was an outsider in the most literal sense of the word. The transition was so disgusting to him because of his upbringing and because of his self-instilled moral values. Makishima is almost the exact opposite–he is an outsider, but not in a literal sense. He chooses to be at odds with his world even though it is fully within his power to integrate himself. Makishima is intelligent and his psycho-pass is always low; he has the potential to be very successful within the Sybil System whereas John would have had a much more difficult time learning how to function within the World State. I can understand the comparison between the two and how they both rail against a heavily controlled society, but at the same time, their contention with their environments stem from completely different sources.

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