Psycho-Pass 2 takes place in the 22nd century, when humankind is governed by a machine known as Sibyl. Sibyl is capable of judging the chances of a person committing a crime before they do so, and assigns a quantifiable value to every individual. By arresting those with a high 'crime coefficient', the police are able to not just halt crime but prevent it from happening in the first place, in theory. But what if someone can't be recognized by the system?
(Warning: spoilers for the first season of Psycho-Pass to follow, naturally)
Damn straight. In order to set the mood, I recommend playing the above song while reading the rest of the review. While the OST for Psycho-Pass 2 has little in the way of standout pieces, Egoist, a branch of the Japanese band Supercell which performed the endings for the first season, gives a performance for the ending that is once again on point.
A More Focused Story
I think one of my biggest nitpick-y complaints about the first season was that it felt like the first half was shooting for a mystery-of-the-week type of drama, but then shifted to a more focused (and more entertaining) plotline in the second half. Psycho-Pass 2 takes a no bullshit approach and jumps right into the main conflict. In fact, this new focus actually is what made me very hopeful during the first half of the season. That's not to say that a mystery-of-the-week approach would necessarily be bad, but in the case of Psycho-Pass it hindered the story much more than it actually helped it.I felt a bit like "alright, when are we getting to the good stuff?" during that first portion.
The Suspense Returns
Psycho-Pass 2 maintains the awesome tension-filled moments present in the first season, and its more focused plotline helps condense them for an even stronger experience. It was during these times that the show really shined, and that was when I was able to overlook some glaring flaws found in the story for a limited amount of time. Officers and enforcers from other divisions play a more prominent role this season, and while they are rarely if ever developed, they do serve as some excellent punching bags for the villains and make for some solid action scenes.
It Doesn't Matter
Perhaps one of the most frustrating but relatively minor complaints about Psycho-Pass 2 would be that in its final moments it works pretty hard to set things up so that the events of the second season don't really hold much relevance moving forward. This makes me suspect the entire point of this season was to make some quick and relatively easy money by capitalizing on a big name. Without going into spoiler-y details, loose ends are eliminated, consequences are minimized, and things basically are set up to return to 'normal'. Darn.
What Show Is This, Again?
One of the greatest dangers an anime can run into is forgetting its purpose. Since shows aren't usually intended to have a sequel, oftentimes things are wrapped up in a nice little bow by the time the end-season credits roll. Psycho-Pass 2, unfortunately, takes this fear to a whole new level.
The primary writer for the first season, Gen Urobuchi, has always had a knack for world-building, and his direction for Psycho-Pass was originally to discuss societal issues. The second season changes writers and is led by Tow Ubukata, who shifts gears. Originally, Psycho-Pass focused on the moral dilemma of arresting someone who hasn't yet committed a crime, and the idea of humankind being ruled by calculating machines. This changes to... something, that's for sure. Truthfully, it's very challenging to see anything significant that Psycho-Pass 2 attempts to substitute in for these missing elements, which is unfortunate to say the least.
Rules Are For Losers
Not only does Ubukata forget the original purpose of the story, but he also forgets the rules put in place. In the first season, it is revealed that Sibyl is made up of criminally asymptomatic peoples' brains, which helps lower the amount of inaccuracies by integrating those inaccuracies to prevent future slippage.
"Not only does Ubukata forget the original purpose of the story, but he also forgets the rules put in place."
The goal of the main villain, however, is to turn Sibyl's judgement upon itself and find out exactly What Color (patent pending) Sibyl is. If we followed the first season's rules, Sibyl would be criminally asymptomatic, making this entire plot more stupid than <insert really stupid thing here>.
Characters Are For Squares
I have frequently heard complaints about character development in Urobuchi's shows. Psycho-Pass 2 manages to slap those complainers in the face by making everything worse. And when I say slap, I mean hard. We're talking like high school cafeteria bread hard, here.
I WAS entertained by Sakuya Tokane, who was moderately compelling because of his mysteriousness and his scheming, but he was the exception. The first season had it's fair share of flat characters (read: characters with minimal characteristics), but not only was every new character introduced one dimensional, all previous characters were reduced to the same status. Really, the only development present is just when characters' pasts are revealed. Case in point:
Shimotsuki is the perfect citizen of Sibyl. She follows the rules as much as possible, rats out anyone else who doesn't, and whines more than a five year old asking their parent "are we there yet?". This naturally puts her on thin ice with Tsunemori, or rather puts Tsunemori on thin ice with Shimotsuki.
Every single time Tsunemori doesn't completely follow regulations, Shimotsuki files a report complaining, and then proceeds to complain vigorously to anyone that will listen (read: no one). Her only redeeming quality is the regret she feels later when she realizes the consequences of her actions. The biggest problem I have with her is not necessarily that she is unlikable, but rather that she is a very basic, straightforward character that is unlikable. Boo! You suck!
The most important elements of the story are mired in issues and suspension of disbelief breaking explanations.
* Spoilers in the rest of this section*
While I was at first intrigued by the new villain, Kirito Kamui, the explanation behind him unfortunately did not pan out like I hoped. When he was a child, a plane he was on with over a hundred other children crashed and he was the only survivor, so they performed surgery and replaced parts of his body with parts of the other children. Wait, what? I don't even... but it gets better. Because of this exchange in parts, over time Sibyl identifies Kamui as a person less and less, until eventually the sensors no longer pick him up at all. This misfortune leads Kamui to the decision that he must judge Sibyl. This entire explanation is one of the most contrived, stupid explanations for what could otherwise have been an amazing premise. It's really too bad because before the big reveal, the new villain seemed very compelling.
Overall, Psycho-Pass 2 was a huge mess as a sequel of what is arguably a strong first outing. I think that it was greatly harmed by changing head writers, as we lost part of what made Psycho-Pass... well... Psycho-Pass. The new characters lacked depth in general, and although I did enjoy Sakuya Tokane, many of them also fell flat. Due to these shortcomings, the story overall took a hit. Add on the strange reasons for the events of the season and the lack of permanent effect from these events, you have a literal recipe for disaster. That's not to say that watching the show doesn't have its merit, however. If you are a fan of Psycho-Pass already I still would say to watch this, although you are likely in for a disappointment.
Psycho-Pass 2 is available for free and legal streaming on FUNimation.
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Also, a special thanks to Rockmandash12 as always for looking over everything.
For my review of the first season, click here.
This was one in a series of reviews I will be posting from the Fall 2014 season. I will hyperlink the others as they release on every review. Confirmed list of future/complete reviews (list not final):