Imagine if it were possible to detect not only crimes, but the urge to commit crimes? If there was a way to tell if someone had the capability of lawbreaking, enabling them to be treated, imprisoned or even executed before any harm actually takes place? Such is the world of Psycho-Pass.
The 22-episode anime series is set in Tokyo 70 years in the future. It is a near-utopia for most of its residents as the Sibyl online system enables police to detect ‘latent criminals’ by the colour of their ‘psycho-pass’. This personality measurement system is also used to determine which job a person is suited to and establishes the boundaries by which the populace are to live their lives.
Into this environment steps fresh new inspector Akane Tsunemori. She joins a police force where inspectors are in charge of enforcers. These are themselves latent criminals charged with doing the ‘dirty work’, as exposure to too much criminal activity and dark thoughts can potentially cloud an inspector’s psycho-pass and make them also latent criminals.
The early episodes set up the environment. Akane’s world is a glossy one of ease and luxury. When getting dressed, she simply clicks buttons and different outfits appear on her until she is satisfied with the right one. Holographic fountains and high-tech conveniences are everywhere. With crime effectively a thing of the past and ambition pointless, people are happy and peaceful.
But as Akane explores deeper into her new job and associates she finds all is not what it seems. Under the virtuous veneer lies a brutal and possibly dangerously flawed system. A succession of strange crimes reveals the possibility that someone is influencing others to commit terrible acts while somehow ensuring their own ‘crime coefficient’ does not change, rendering the police completely unable to deal with the situation with any tools they have to hand. It is up to Akane and her renegade enforcer Kogomi to try and stop the crimes whilst also uncovering the truth behind the Sibyl system.
Psycho-Pass is a quality series, without a doubt. The pacing over the course of the episodes is exquisite, as Akane’s quest becomes darker even as the scale increases. The bursts of violence are gory and sudden, but the shocks are always tethered to the main thrust of the show – social commentary.
As a projection of many facets of modern life, the setting means the show casts a questioning eye not only on morality and the judicial system, but individual episodes also examine online identity, the search for self and responsibility to others. It is layered and complex, allowing viewers to either just enjoy the action and cool gadgets, or engage with the ideas at a deeper level.
There are certainly flaws, though. Akane’s character frequently takes a back seat to the ‘cooler’ Kogomi, but he is such a cliche of the bad boy cop willing to break the rules to get his man that he is much less interesting than almost the entire supporting cast. Similarly, Akane herself is so wide-eyed and naive that at times it stretches credibility that her background is as a class-topping scholarly genius.
These are minor criticisms of a stellar series that plays plot twists and surprises with deft ease amongst character moments and some terrific set pieces. A second series is apparently on its way and, on the strength of this, will be something worth waiting for.
Plot commentaries are provided for several episodes, but these are by the English-language voice actors, who quickly reveal themselves to have been very much hired guns on the series. It is interesting to hear their interpretations of events and characters, but ultimately, these are no better informed than any other viewer.
The other key extra is a convention Q&A with the series’ Japanese creators and it is much more insightful as they discuss everything from character design to the philosophy behind the show and the world it depicts.
DIRECTOR(S): Various | COUNTRY: Japan | YEAR: 2012- | DISTRIBUTOR(S): Madman | RUNNING TIME: 550 minutes | ASPECT RATIO: 16:9| REGION: 4/PAL| DISCS: 4