Is Psycho-Pass good or great?
(MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD)
NOTE: This review does not meet my standards any longer and will be updated sometime in the future.
Dystopian, psychological, sci-fi, police, cyberpunk, thriller and more, Psycho-Pass embodies these qualities into a form that is exciting even if it may have flaws riddled here and there. Still, excitement doesn’t make an anime. We have review each aspect of the presentation of the themes, characters, setting, storytelling, and so on to see whether Psycho-Pass is great or if it’s really just pretentious.
From the onset of the first episode, one can already tell that this is a dystopian society based on a system that is “unjust,” or, so we like to assume at first. However, things are not so black and white when the antagonist, Makishima Shougo, decides to come into the fray and start causing havoc in the stable society. This being a Urobutcher anime, it contains quite a bit of violence that some may enjoy. And the good thing is, none of it is really pointless as each has a story to tell in this society, although most of it is negative. Along with the antagonist are Inspectors and Enforcers who keep order in society. The former being free and the latter being nothing more than a “dog.” So, how does everything play out?
Firstly, a clear depiction of the dystopian society must first be established before criticizing how the anime goes about portraying different morals and themes. The Sibyl System is the “mind” that drives the research into people’s minds and assesses their future, likelihood of committing crime, and basically everything that a certain individual can be. One can say that the system is playing the role of God and it wouldn’t be too far from the truth. From this, one may already understand just how amoral such a society can be. In fact, the whole anime surrounds the one concept of whether building a stable society like this one is worth the freedom that people sacrifice. The Sibyl System creates the dystopian society, and Makishima tries to dismantle it due to him wanting to explore human potential.
There are three main characters in this anime, Tsunemori Akane, a new and naive Inspector that goes through some decent change, Kougami Shinya, a Enforcer that cannot move on from his past and basically lives to kill Makishima, and Makishima himself who is arguably the most important character in the entire story. Akane goes through ordeals that changes her viewpoint on the society and what it means for her to work for it. Her development is adequate and is done fairly well. However, Kougami is stuck in the past and his only intent is to kill Makishima. While there is no character growth, it might have been the point for him to be stuck in his past. However, at the same time, it’s tough to say if he really played a vital role in the story as he’s a flat detective character that gets things done without contributing to the overall theme of the story. Being given plenty of screentime, he should have made more of an impact at what the whole anime is trying to portray in the first place which is whether a society like this is worth it or not. The rest of the cast is not really worth reviewing because their role in the overall story is fairly irrelevant and they serve more as a backdrop of other smaller and more personal problems rather than contributing to the overall conflict of law and order versus freedom.
Makishima is the main character that drives the story as well as telling the faults that lie in a society structured by the Sibyl System. One can assume that he is the writer’s viewpoint, but we can never really be sure as both sides have their own fair arguments. Makishima represents freedom and the Sibyl System is law and order. Actually, the lesser antagonists are actually more interesting than the more prominent side characters as they have unique tastes from their experiences in the different society. The antagonist is interesting, and the main protagonist, Akane, gets interesting after quite some time, and even the smaller antagonists are, so what’s the problem I am going to pose with this review? The storytelling.
While I don’t have a problem with the first part of the anime being broken up into cases, it feels dragged out after some time even if the lesser antagonists are intriguing. It starts with a peculiarity and becomes something that ultimately let’s us know how badass Makishima really is as an antagonist. I just think that the episodes in the beginning could have been better used to develop the story later on when things get more serious.
Another problem I have with this anime is the substitution of proper storytelling with quotes. Look, I don’t have a problem with a few quotes here and there, but it seems that every time the anime can, it will quote from someone in real life to speak for them. It may sound “cool” to quote some sayings that sound wise, but reviewing it with a more critical stance, it’s just lazy storytelling. Granted, if used properly, quotes can be extremely helpful, but at times, it just feels like quotes that seem relevant are plugged in and makes the anime more pretentious and lackluster as a result.
That being said, the point a bit beyond the middle part of the anime does a fantastic job portraying the problems with society and some of the quotes meshed nicely together to give us a better understanding of what is happening and why it is happening. The parts nearing the end also have a nice side of the conflict as well, but the very last episode may not live up to some people’s expectations as it may be less of a climax and more of an anticlimax. Still, the main struggle of law and order versus freedom is still there, but it may not have the impact or the twist that many hoped would happen.
There’s one thing that’s always stuck in my mind when watching this anime. The main message has been the same throughout the twenty two episodes, but it feels like it could have been done in a lot less. Taking time restraints into consideration and how most anime are either 1 or 2 cours and not anything in between, I understand the need to drag it out a bit more as 12 episodes are too short to expand on the main theme. However, with the episodes that the anime has, it feels like they could have done more with the characters, storytelling, or something. We even had an episode that had absolutely no worth whatsoever in the overall story as a filler. But maybe I shouldn’t be so harsh with the review, as for what it does try to portray it well enough. It’s just that I think it should have been better especially considering all the positivity surrounding it.
The sound in this anime is phenomenal. The soundtrack, by Kanno Yuugo is just perfect for this anime, and the main theme is one of my favorite OSTs this season. Both endings are performed by Supercell and that alone should be indicative of how awesome they are. They rank on top of my list of endings this season and maybe even this year. Frankly, I dislike the first opening and I think the second is alright. For the second opening, however, I think the visuals and the way its presented is the best I’ve seen this season. The animation is spot on except for one episode where the director apologized for the lack of animation quality. As a whole, Psycho-Pass’ visual and audio aesthetics are definitely great.
If you’re someone that likes to watch thrilling episodes with a fairly good antagonist, this may be for you. Or, maybe you would like to challenge the moral boundaries of such a society. Either way, you would probably enjoy what Psycho-Pass has to offer. With all that I’ve said in my review, I would say try at least the first episode and see if you’re interested. Even if you’re not too keen on the premise, this isn’t something that you should pass up without seeing a little bit of what Psycho-Pass has to offer.
Psycho-Pass Review Conclusion
Now, I have been a bit more on the negative side with this review. But hey, that’s what happens when the anime gets some great ratings overall. I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea and say that I dislike the anime. I actually enjoy watching it every Thursday even if sometimes it feels like Psycho-Pass could have done better. I would say that overall, Psycho-Pass is fairly good, but it doesn’t challenge boundaries and isn’t something truly marvelous or astounding. It’s good at what it tries to do, that is, to question the societal state in Psycho-Pass, but it doesn’t quite make it to greatness. That shouldn’t put you off from trying it though. Give it a shot, you may like it.