PSYCHO PASS Review — B

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In the future, the Sibyl System rules Japan and determines everyone’s future. Scanners measure people’s “Psycho Pass” readings to determine if they are likely to commit a crime. Those with undesirable readings are treated as criminals and put in jail or killed. Our story follows a group of detectives who enforce the will of the system.

PSYCHO PASS is written by Urobuchi Gen, and it’s a fairly dark story as we’ve come to expect from him. Fortunately, the darkness is interspersed with lighter moments that are certainly not moe.

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So the not-moe thing is a joke. Clearly, PSYCHO PASS is moe. But this whole moe controversy reflects the broader problem with PSYCHO PASS. The show faced self-denial about its identity. In my opinion, in its essence the show is a sequence of action-packed detective cases, and a character study of the enforcers. These portions of the show were superb.

But PSYCHO PASS wasn’t satisfied with that. It wanted to be an intellectual critique of modern society. So it spent a great portion of the show, particularly the latter half, discussing philosophy. Unfortunately the ideas here basically amounted to name dropping of books, and we got nothing out of it. There were so many fascinating ideas about law, justice and what it means to be human that could have been explored through the lens of the Sibyl system. I tried to discuss some of these in my posts on the series. Unfortunately, PSYCHO PASS never took the bait with any of these ideas. It spent plenty of time talking philosophy, but conscientiously avoided the heart of the matter. I would speculate that the problem here was over-ambition.

Another issue is that later on, the show throws a bit of its logic down the tubes. The true identity of the Sibyl system is particularly stupid, as is the villain’s final evil plan. These problems weren’t too hard to look past though.

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Regardless, the characters, the cases and the action are great. So I still recommend giving this show a chance. Just don’t expect a brilliant treatise on law and government.

  • Storytelling – B – Best when it isn’t philosophizing.
  • Voice – B – Dark and NOT moe.
  • Characters – B – Great work on the enforcers, somehow Akane was never that interesting though.
  • Attention Grab – A – Didn’t lose interest. Philosophizing was more pointless than boring.
  • Production – A – Looks great (except that one episode which they forgot to finish)
  • Overall – B

Recommendations – Phantom, Mouryou no Hako

19 thoughts on “PSYCHO PASS Review — B

    1. I think the system itself would have been more interesting if it were a) non-human, and non-sentient b) actually impartial, doing what it was designed to do, not acting in self-preservation, and c) always correct or almost-always correct about whether or not a person would commit a crime. Without these properties, I found it nearly impossible to justify the use of the Sibyl system.

  1. I admit the second half was quite bloated with philosophical references. But I think those were quite in context to what was going on with characterisation of the cast and little to do with the Sibyl System itself. I’m not disappointed the philosophy could have been seen through the eyes of the Sibyl system itself since it seemed omnipotent enough with all those precogs that no one could argue against it.

    Plus, if PSYCHO-PASS wanted to go in depth with the philosophy on law or justice etc… I’m pretty sure the dialogue would spell extravagant exposition like it’s older cousin Fate/Zero. Which there was plenty of, perhaps too much in F/Z. PSYCHO-PASS was just about on par with it give or take. I think it was interesting enough
    to let us think more about it ourselves rather than have it be spoonfed to viewers.

    1. Plus, if PSYCHO-PASS wanted to go in depth with the philosophy on law or justice etc… I’m pretty sure the dialogue would spell extravagant exposition like it’s older cousin Fate/Zero.

      It probably would have ended up like that, but it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s possible to explore these issues without solely talking about them. For example, show some of what happens to criminals after they are arrested. Show why the system is unjust. You can explore these ideas without quoting a single philosopher, or even without explicitly saying a single word about them.

  2. Despite some of the flaws in this show, I’d say it has been one hell of a ride. I dunno why, I really like this show. My biggest gripe with it is the opposite of what you said about the characters though. The Enforcers had not enough development, if any at all. The scenes where the 2 Enforcers in Div.1 die didn’t really have a strong emotional effect as say Makishima getting shot in the end. I’d have given the show a B+ or an A- but that might be me being bias :P.

    And the second opening for the show, absolutely loved the song and sequence. Then again, might probably be just me.

    1. Ok, I’d agree that the first guy who died didn’t have that much development. I wasn’t particularly upset when he died. But the father and son pairing— I thought they were done pretty well.

      I thought the second OP was great too.

  3. As you say, the series would have been better as a “sequence of action-packed detective cases, and a character study of the enforcers”. I quite liked the dark atmosphere and I must admit also the quite high (sometimes overdone) level of violence in the first episodes. The artwork and the soundtrack were excellent. Also, I liked how different (and sometimes cynical) aspects of Sibyl System were examined, much like in Jingoku Shoujo or in Railgun the result of a case quite often contradicts what would appear just to me.

    I particularly liked Episode 12, which was just a character study of Yayoi’s without furthering the plot. This added a lot to the feeling of depth in the PP world!

    After ep. 15 things went somewhat downhill for me when the hilarious nature of Sibyl System was revealed and the plot boiled down to hunting Makishima. He never became more than a whiny stock character for me.

    The main reason why I could enjoy the second half, as well, has been Akane. Agreed, she could have become even more interesting still, but I just loved how she developed from moeblob to badass, e.g. when she trolled Sibyl System or during the final showdown.

    1. If they just took their time to examine the world like Jingoku Shoujo I think it might have been a stronger series. Of course then I would have complained about the lack of an overarching thrust though…

      The episode with Yayoi was one of the better ones, I agree. It was a bit similar to Akane’s transformation from moeblob to badass. Something about showing people changing is always fascinating.

      1. “Something about showing people changing is always fascinating.”

        Its *cough*character development*cough*, something I notice missing a lot in many anime series, such as Sword Art Online -sorry fanboys, don’t kill me!- which could have been a lot better if the characters were more fleshed out and showed some sort of significant changes.

        1. Yeah the only things fleshed out in Sword Art Online were Kirito’s massive sword and Asuna and Imouto’s chests.

  4. I dropped it after one episode. Here’s the thing about being dark and edgy: Try as hard as this show and you end up looking stupid.

    1. Psycho-Pass is a dystopian thriller so of course it’s going to be dark, but it never crosses the line into unfathomable malevolence. Also, while the characters could have been portrayed as far more cynical, the director took and different approach and gave each one an understandable goal and motivation. The series isn’t particularly optimistic about the future, but it’s far from hopeless.

      I’m not trying to convince you that it was a great anime (I don’t think it was), but it did bring about some interesting discussions regarding modern legal systems and the possible repercussions of a state-sponsored morality. Of course you have to watch more than one episode to begin picking up on these themes.

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