Sunday, January 5, 2014

Anime Review: Psycho-Pass

PSYCHO-PASS: Incredible potential, but not executed perfectly

            In a world where a person’s mental state is easily diagnosed, Tsunemori Akane becomes an Inspector for the police department. She is tasked to arrest or eliminate any person who is mentally unstable for society. While on the job, she discovers a pattern in the crimes, and it turns out that there is a mastermind that manipulates the mental states of individuals that lead them to commit bad deeds.

            I have to admit that I only watched Psycho-Pass because it has been written by Gen Urobuchi, and because people have been saying that it is the new Ghost in the Shell. Well, I’m not disappointed.

            The first half of Psycho-Pass has a writing style that is somewhat episodic. Tsunemori Akane, together with major and supporting characters, just go around and do detective work, like solving mysterious crimes and being in the action firsthand. What I really like about this almost-episodic half is that it has been effective in establishing the world of Psycho-Pass. What I don’t like about it is that the building up of the mini story arcs is very well done but their climaxes and conclusions tend to fall short. The only thing to blame here is the writing.

            But the redeeming factor of this half is the revelation that there is a mastermind behind these seemingly random crimes that they’re solving. It just means that the story is actually not episodic to a full extent. It gives the viewers a singular, overall story.

            The second half of Psycho-Pass is what really carries the series to a different level. This is where it becomes apparent that it has been written by Gen Urobuchi. The decision-making of the characters that could influence the overall story is present, like much of Gen Urobuchi’s works. And also like his other works, this half is also dialogue-heavy and has minimal action, but still sustains the immediate sense of danger and conflict.

            Bu this half is not perfect. Like the first half, there are tendencies where the building tension is effectively made but the climaxes fail to deliver. However, when looking at the second half overall, it is very intense. And one of the primary factors that make it so is the story’s ability to emotionally incorporate the characters to the plot.

            Speaking of the characters, most of them are actually very well-made. All of the Inspectors and the Enforcers have something going on inside their head. How they have been interwoven to the original story gives the viewers emotional investment towards them. I also like the fact that they have contradicting personalities, which is actually a common feature in Gen Urobuchi’s character-writing. This feature adds conflict between the characters, and that is always interesting, especially when two clashing ideologies are either correct.

            But the thing I like best about the characters is how they have developed all throughout the series. All of them have significant changes by the end of the series. And if a writer has been able to pull that off, while stitching that to the overall plot, you know that he’s doing a fine job. Psycho-Pass is basically both character-driven and plot-driven.

            The music and animation is not very good however. The music, even though there are tracks that effectively convey emotions, is not groundbreaking -- just enough to deliver. The animation is the same case.

            Even though Psycho-Pass could have been better if it has had top of the line music and animation, it is not a major flaw. It is a series that doesn’t rely on either. Its juice is in the story and the characters.
            Overall, Psycho-Pass is an above average anime, and the real factor that makes it less than amazing is, as I said earlier, the writing having the tendency to fluctuate in quality. If it has been able to improve its writing, perhaps it could have been the next Ghost in the Shell like what the others say, or, speaking more safely, its influence could have been much more impactful.  I admit, however, that I’m still a fan of Gen Urobuchi’s writing, and I’m looking forward to the next season.

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  1. I have heard a lot about Psycho-Pass on PodTaku and other anime sites, and since Gen Urobuchi wrote the series I am interest enough to watch it at some point because of your review. The concept of the series intrigues as well.


    1. It's very similar to GITS, but the writing could be a little sloppy at times. It's still really good however. And the problems could always be fixed in the next season.

  2. We agree about Psycho-Pass for the most part. The Blu-Ray release, which I found online, fixed the animation flaws, and added more detail, and whereas you watched the original release.

    For whatever reason, I just cannot get into the GITS series. I have tried several times but I can never finish more than an episode, which is odd since I sci-fi/cyberpunk is one of my favorite genres. Psycho-Pass' setting is one of my favorite parts of the series, along with the characters of course. It reminded me of Blade Runner actually (I recommend it if you have not seen), and Shōgo referenced the book the movie was based on, "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?"

    While I enjoyed most of the arcs, episodes 5 through 8 I believe was the arc about the school murdering the other girls, and those were the weakest episodes in my opinion. They seemed out of place, and I just did not care what was happening. Other than that, I enjoyed the different cases, especially the one about the online Avatars.


    1. I can understand your impressions on the GITS series. I have heard the same remarks from others, and I felt the same on several occasions. I dropped Stand Alone Complex in episode 15 or so, but I'm planning to finish it some time but not a priority.

      I enjoyed the arc about the avatars too! It reminds me of Summer Wars and Paprika in a way. And it feels somewhat different compared to the other arcs, because the other arcs have the same feel as the GITS arcs.

      I have heard that the sequel of Psycho Pass is just a 12 or 13 episoder, and I'm not sure whether that's a good thing or not. Either way, I think I'm going to see it because I'm still interested in the franchise despite its flaws.