When someone brings up Psycho-Pass, it is hard to argue that the first season was not only one of the most popular anime this decade, but also a runaway favorite for many. The gritty, futuristic crime drama wowed with prowess in both its writing and animation. There are many reasons fans and critics point towards the second season falling short of the high hurdle its predecessor left, but the shortcomings nosedived interest in the franchise. Despite having a solid effort with Psycho-Pass: The Movie and the under-the-radar Sinners of the System film trilogy, many swore off of the once red-hot franchise.
It should come as no surprise that the third season of Psycho-Pass was not exactly met with a warm reception this season. Couple this with the disaster Amazon Prime Video had in making the show all but impossible to search for with their service for the first few weeks of the season, stock in the third season of the show plummeted. It certainly appeared that this season was all but lost, and commentators in passing shrugged off the junior entry in the franchise.
If I may be blunt- it is their loss for not wanting to enjoy this incredible anime. I have taken a little flak for being so bullish on it, however I wholeheartedly believed on the most recent AniTAY Podcast that the new season of Psycho-Pass was as good as the original ever was for its own reasons. After watching the second-to-last episode today, I felt overwhelmed with excitement and wanted to share just how great this show has been.
Before we even get into the meat of the show itself, I believe that what it excels in technically helps it in a way that I never realized the franchise needed. The first season had 22 standard-length episodes that, when I watched them initially, felt incredibly fast. The second season only had 11 episodes and, for a crime drama, was way too short for the scope of a story it was trying to tell (my primary complaint above all else from that season). This third season, however, elected to have eight, double-length episodes. This helps every single facet of the show flourish as the episode-to-episode pacing feels just right. While I binged both of the original Psycho-Pass seasons, in hindsight I feel that the pacing in the first season could have really done well to have had half as many episodes in twice the length (similar to this third season). It removes some of the usual “binge appeal” by having forty-five minute episodes, but there was not a single episode in the third season that felt like it was leaving an audience short of any explanation or elegant detail in the drama.
Without getting into spoilers of the show itself, this show is nothing short of beautiful. A complaint I had in the first season of Psycho-Pass was that, towards the end of the season, there were some noticeable trips over the complicated lore and one vendetta that created a loss in steam for the story down the stretch. More specifically, the way that the story became about “what is behind the curtain” and one of the main character’s obsession eclipsed the crime-fighting plotlines that the show had been firing off of all cylinders with. The second season, remarkably, felt more interested in being gorey for the sake of being gorey and had lost the charm the cast of characters had in the first season.
The third season learns from what would have made the first season a unanimous win for audiences as well as steer far clear of the character and genre flaws the second season had. Despite having the intricacies of the lore the Psycho-Pass franchise has established, the show elects to roll up its sleeves and focus on what makes crime dramas so fascinating: telling stories of law enforcement solving crimes. Sure, there is still political conspiracy that the franchise will never escape from at this point, but the crimes themselves are the priority of the characters.
The characters are indeed the highlight of this show. Learning from the sins of the second season, this show gives phenomenal characters that I could not help but to feel invested in. The new Public Safety Bureau’s Crime Investigation Department investigators embody the focus on fighting crimes and exposing truth to heinous acts that the new season is so concentrated on exploring. Investigators Arata Shindou and Kei Mikhail Ignatov are remarkably compelling main characters with considerable depth to them. Their pride in their profession is infectious to not only the other characters in the show, but also the overall mood of the show. This duo brings out the best of some familiar faces that audiences would have never anticipated to show much development, such as now police chief Mika Shimotsuki (a bane of many fans in the previous season). Despite wanting to avoid spoilers, I have to cite a particular scene that won me over for this show. Chief Shimotsuki is digging into her investigators for being too nosey in their investigation. When asking them why they were so insistent on pushing buttons, they candidly reply “Because we are investigators, ma’am.” before being excused. She can’t help but to let out an accepting sigh at their efforts and pushes higher ups for more support in the following scenes. These little moments are subtle signs of a character developing- in this case, Shimotsuki shows that she is becoming a more understanding person as she takes on the responsibility of overseeing a full department.
It is little instances like this that make the characters just so likeable this season. Back to the duo of investigators, the deep bond that these two have for one another is something that really nails the importance of having “buddy cops” that care for one another. We see them having dinner together over at Ignatov’s home, along with Ignatov’s blind wife, Maiko. There is depth to the “truth” that this trio seeks and it brings more investment into the characters. No, I did not mispeak when I say “trio” because Maiko is no ordinary police officer’s wife character. Maiko is very involved in Ignatov’s life and, as the drama unfolds, has a shocking development that occurs towards the series’ finale. Regardless, these three and how candid they are through the events of the show are enough to keep me interested...characters like Chief Shimotsuki are written so much better this time around that they feel light-years ahead of what they used to be. I’d love to revisit what I love about the character writing later to give people time to watch this show, but my thoughts can be summed up that the writing feels less focused on complicated philosophical questions and more interested in fleshing out some remarkable characters.
Finally, I would not be doing this show enough justice without showcasing how entertaining the action sequences are. Every episode gives a least one fully done chase/fight sequence and the firefights/martial arts are crisp and satisfying. Accompanied by a good, but not revolutionary score, the fights left me with a smile on my face. There is one towards the end of the first act of the show that has a very clever setting that the combatants must traverse through, with little details cared for in the animation. My apologies if I sound vague, I just want everyone to know how great the fights are here without spoiling much. Really the purpose of this article is to bring attention to this new installment and try to get some folks to check it out. Besides The Promised Neverland and Mob Psycho 100, this has been my favorite anime of the year.
What have been your favorite anime of the year? I’ll be back later next week, but I hope you have a great weekend as we near the holiday season! If you’re interested in following me on social media, I can be found @DilKokoro on Twitter.
EDIT: I want to address a key question I had received after publishing this. You DO NOT need to watch the Sinners of the System or Psycho-Pass: The Movie entries to watch this show. The way it follows new investigators lends itself to a new journey that doesn’t need prerequisites. There are small details, but they explain themselves in time as the show goes on!
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