Psycho-Pass is a 22 episode series produced by Production I.G. The story is set in a futuristic Japan controlled by the Sibyl System, which monitors and guides peoples’ lives. The Sibyl System also identifies individuals that pose a threat to society, those with a tainted Psycho-Pass (a measure of a person’s state of mind) and high crime coefficient, known as latent criminals. These people usually have not committed a crime, but the system believes they will in the future. Akane Tsunemori, a young prodigy with an uncorruptable Psycho-Pass is assigned as an inspector in Unit 1 with the Ministry of Welfare where she meets fellow inspector Nobuchika Ginoza, and their underlings, known as enforcers: Shinya Kogami, Shuusei Kagari, Tomomi Masaoka, and Yayoi Kunizuka. Enforcers are people who have been identified as latent criminals but have agreed to help the Ministry of Welfare for limited freedom. Together, the members of Unit 1 hunt down and remove latent criminals from society.
If I had to describe Psycho-Pass in one word, it would be “disappointing”. Now before people jump straight to the comments to start bashing, just because I found Psycho Pass disappointing does not make it bad and I’ll explain why.
Before the series aired, director Motohiro Katsuyuki joked that he wanted to traumatize any kids that watched it and with Gen Urobuchi as writer, that was certainly possible. With that in mind, I expected some serious mind-f***ery and trolling surpassing that of Saya no Uta and headless Mami. Psycho-Pass certainly delivered in some respect; exploding bodies? awesomely shocking, predicting crimes? scarily logical, the Sibyl “system”? I don’t want to spoil. The setting for Psycho-Pass was by far the series’ strongest point; it instills a sense of awe and fear. Here is a society that is near perfect, everyone gets a job that is suited to them and life is peaceful and largely without worry. On the flip side, there is always this underlying fear that you could be labeled a latent criminal, someone who will commit a crime in the future. A person could just be living their life and suddenly get locked up (or blown up) just because a machine says their crime coefficient is too high. The writers for Psycho-Pass did create a scary setting, but unfortunately, a movie called Minority Report has already done something similar so a bit of the novelty was lost there.
Considering how good the setting was, I thought the creators of Psycho-Pass would’ve put in as much effort into creating the characters, but their personalities and development were horrendous and are the main sources of my disappointment with the series. Most of the characters are pretty much dead inside and show very little emotion. Even when the dialogue was focused on something personal and emotional, it was hard to gauge how emotionally distraught the character were. Maybe there wasn’t enough build-up or the acting just wasn’t right or perhaps the animation style just limits the range of facial expressions, but I just could not relate to what any of the characters were feeling.
Character development was better, but could have been improved. Starting with the good: we do see Akane develop her own sense of justice, Ginoza does face his family issues, and Kogami continues to fall into darkness. What could’ve been improved: Masaoka, Kagari, and Yayoi. All we really know about these three is who Masaoka really is, what Kagari thinks about Sibyl, and how Yayoi became and enforcer. What was puzzling to me was why an entire episode was devoted to the character that only gets maybe a dozen more lines for the rest of the series and a few episodes later they kill off a different character. It was like the writers forgot who they were originally going to kill, leaving viewers (or at least me) feeling rather apathetic when it happened. With Gen Urobuchi on the Psycho-Pass team, I expected him to develop a stronger connection between the characters and the viewers.
In terms of overall execution, it does a good job of keeping you hooked, but the ending leaves you feeling a bit empty. Every arc leaves you wondering what the big secret is for several episodes before revealing it and allowing time for the implications to society of such a secret were revealed. One would think that a series with so many secrets would end with some sort of revelation or revolution, but Psycho-Pass ends exactly the way it begins (literally) and makes the whole adventure seem almost fruitless.
Psycho-Pass was enjoyable; the setting was frightening, action was eye-popping, and the suspense kept you coming back for more. It was disappointing because I had very high expectations for it and it was by no means perfect. I think it could have been improved by perhaps cutting out some characters entirely and making a stronger point in the last episode, but otherwise it was a good action mystery.