Psycho-Pass サイコパス – a second look

My favourite scene from Episode 13

Previously I uploaded a post about the newest opening theme to Psycho-Pass. While I said that this blog would have anything and everything about Japan that I like, one look at the viewer stats made me realise that anime is still king. So on my part, I’ve decided that I shall post my thoughts on this series based on the 13 episodes aired thus far.

I’m not sure how many spoilers this will contain, but if you prefer to be left in suspense and watch all 26 episodes that are expected to be released, then you may turn around and go somewhere else.

I’m quite fussy when it comes to anime, although I consider myself to be fairly open-minded. I’ve watched Bleach, Inuyasha, Sket Dance!, Ouran High School Host Club,and Nurarihyon no Mago (both seasons). I’ve also picked up more obscure ones like 5 centimetres per second, Ano Hana: The Flower We Saw That Day and Samurai Champloo. I’ve seen all the movies directed by Mamoru Hosoda (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Summer Wars, Wolf Children Yuki and Ame) and I’m not oblivious to the Ghibli studio archives. But if I’m really hankering for a good plot, suspense and crime subgenres hit the spot. And with Psycho-Pass, there’s nothing quite like watching a technologically advanced future in anime with references to George Orwell, Plato, Shakespeare and Shuuji Terayama. To me, this is an unrealised literary dream come true.

Most of the reviews I’ve read so far observed that Psycho-Pass is not a groundbreaking anime. And I agree with this. There is some resemblance to Ghost In The Shell, which to me still reigns supreme in this category. The difference between the two, in my opinion, is that Psycho-Pass hits closer to home. It is now mandatory for owners to microchip their pets for accountability, and I have no doubt that we’re not that far off to do the same for humans. In the context of crime, this seems like a good idea. Technology can measure your criminal tendencies even before you commit them (sounds familiar?). You are put in a rehabilitation facility of sorts to ensure that these tendencies don’t get worse, but you’re not sure where to draw the fine line between effective rehabilitation and borderline insanity for getting cooped up in the room like a mental patient. Law enforcement will also carry smarter guns that will determine if a person ought to be paralysed for further questioning, or killed on the spot – an immediate death sentence if you will. Ironically, while the execution is carried out by the people who carry the gun (the good people of law enforcement), it is determined by the technology that’s supposed to make society a safer place. Although the setting is 100 years into the future, I won’t be surprised if something close to this pops up in reality.

If there’s a superficial reason to watch Psycho-Pass, I propose one word that sums it all up: beefcakes. It’s not just the protagonist – who has had his shirt off on at least 3 occasions. The men of Unit One – consisting of one inspector and two other enforcers, one of whom is a senior veteran – are all real good lookers. Even the primary antagonist resembles a charismatic messenger from God in spite of his disturbing, animalistic personality. Law enforcement makes people undoubtedly tough on the outside, and in anime you can get away with the thought of wanting to marry one of them (or fulfill whatever your heart desires).

Superficiality aside, each character brings something unique to the table, and I applaud the crew for how they’ve managed to tastefully manage and progress their development so far. It is by no means complete yet – as of Episode 13 I think we’re just about to witness a turnaround in our heroine’s journey as she learns, in her words, “why I was born here and now”. Obviously this puzzles most people since their fate is supposedly determined by the Sibyl System, and not everyone takes to this kindly – anyone flagged by a Psycho Pass test at 5 years of age clearly does not have this luxury. And to work in such a highly stressful environment, it’s impossible to go through the muckiest of muck and still make it out with a clear conscience and a good opinion of the world. Or is it?

As far as criminal activity goes, Psycho-Pass is not to be taken lightly. While some are quite straightforward – stalking ex-girlfriends, for example – most of it are just downright grotesque, and it goes to show the darkest, most evil and twisted forms of perversion we can think of. There are at least two episodes that I couldn’t bring myself to watch in completion; at the very least, I could only listen to the dialogue, because of the visually graphic, violent nature of those scenes. If rape, strangulation, and dismemberment don’t get to you by the latest episode, you need help. Honest to honesty, I really do wonder whether the screenwriters get regular checks for putting out such content – and the poor animators that have to visually present this scene by scene, page by page.

And yet, every week I look forward to the latest episode to see what happens next, because in spite of its cruel, spiritually unsettling flaws, it is a show that is simply just too good to pass. So I reinforce my earlier advice: this show is not for children, and unless you have the stomach to enter the dark world of crime in a technologically advanced dystopia, you are free to look elsewhere.

From left to right:
唐之杜 志恩 Karanomori Shion
縢 秀星 Kagari Shūsei
六合塚 弥生 Kunizuka Yayoi
狡噛 慎也 Kōgami Shin’ya
常守 朱 Tsunemori Akane
宜野座 伸元 Ginoza Nobuchika
征陸 智己 Masaoka Tomomi

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