The year is 2113, and society is far from what one might know it as today. Technology has developed to the level that makes possible the Sibyl System- an overarching machine that measures each individual's Psycho-Pass to determine the probability that they will commit a crime in the future. Viewers follow Akane Tsunemori, a new inspector for the police force that carries out Sibyl's will, and through her experiences witness the dystopia that is 2113. It is often lauded as a fantastic example of anime, but how accurate is that?
As a show that often focuses on the catching of ruthless serial killers, Psycho-Pass is able to excellently capture the essence of suspense, much to the pleasure of those watching. Oftentimes, you will be unsure and very concerned over what an event might result in. Even the relatively frequent villain-of-the-week episodes will have a large amount of risk and interesting action involved. The action scenes themselves are also well executed, and provide an excellent example of such intensity.
In a world governed by machines with the absolute power to decide each individual's fate, obviously ethics would be something that might come to mind. Should those with a disposition to commit crime be arrested without actually doing anything? In fact, this can result, on the occasion, to be the cause of some criminal activity, since fear of having a 'cloudy' Psycho-Pass... can result in a cloudy Psycho-Pass!
"Do the ends justify the means?"
The moral dilemma that has puzzled humanity for as long as we can remember also frequently occurs in Psycho-Pass (especially towards the end): do the ends justify the means? In the world of 2113, crimes that are committed are sometimes done for a cause that sounds just, and on the flip side justice is sometimes dispensed in questionable ways.
The soundtrack for Psycho-Pass is well done. It matches the futuristic setting, and manages to not only help set the mood but also aid in the build-up of tense moments. A mixture of a variety of types of sounds, from electronic jazz to acoustic tunes, are within the album. It does not have too many tracks that would blow listeners out of the water, but the goal for the soundtrack was to provide background noise for the show, and to this effect it manages quite well and deserves respect.
The animation for the show is top-notch. While it would not be called "the most amazing animation since so-and-so show!" it is executed well. From combat scenes to fields of wheat read to harvest, Psycho-Pass's animation shows an attention to detail that is much appreciated by those who watch it. The studio responsible, Production I.G., is also an excellent choice considering its background in futuristic anime such as Ghost in the Shell.
As many might be aware, the head writer for Psycho-Pass was Gen Urobuchi, also known as "The Urobucher". While he is often said to excel at exploring morality and deeper themes, he frequently is found lacking in skill at character development. This holds partially true in Psycho-Pass. A couple characters get excellent development, but unfortunately it comes at the expense of others. The protagonist Inspector Tsunemori herself is very well developed throughout the show, and is entertaining to watch as she progresses in her knowledge of her job and her beliefs on how society should function. Her senior officer, Inspector Ginoza, is also handled well. He struggles with his Psycho-Pass and a legacy of relatives and friends who have faced a similar issue. Most of the enforcers have very little development, and it causes some of their fates to be less interesting because viewers simply don't care.
One of the main characters is Kogami, and he is the focus in the fight against the main antagonist, Shogo Makishima. Makishima himself is an archetypal villain who just wants to see the world burn, and Kogami... is a detective bent on revenge. There's really nothing else to him, and this is a major weakness in Psycho-Pass, since he is such an integral character.
The biggest issue with world building is that there isn't very much of it. However, what is present is very interesting. Elements of society such as how careers are chosen or what video games look like are shown, but elements that are present are often under-explained: yes, there are video game worlds, but how do they work outside of chat rooms?
The psychological effects of the Sibyl System on humans is the strong point however, as many of the criminals are driven to crime just by the thought of being arrested for their crime coefficients on their Psycho-Passes. This creates a culture that greatly changes how the world of 2113 works, and is thoroughly explored.
The pacing in Psycho-Pass isn't necessarily bad... it's just strange. Non-spoiler summary: the show is linear while trying to appear not to be, and on one occasion is quite baffling.
At first the show attempts to go with what appears to be a villain of the week. However, it turns out that all of these events are orchestrated by one man, which is discovered halfway through. From this point on, the plot is extremely linear, focusing intently on the fight to defeat Makishima and the twists that occur. This switch is somewhat odd considering that it happens midway through instead of towards the end. There is also an episode in the middle that goes back in time, something that would sound like an interesting idea. Unfortunately, it is used as a characterization for one of the enforcers, Yayoi Kunizuka, that turns out to be completely unnecessary since it is never mentioned again and just ignored entirely. It never even shows Kunizuka playing the guitar she was so obsessed with!
Special Mention: Deus Ex Machina
A common complaint with Psycho-Pass is that it uses a Deus Ex Machina: The main villain's Psycho-Pass is always clear. I do not consider this the major issue it is sometimes painted as. As said by the Sibyl system, there are going to be irregularities. Police truth tests can be fooled, can they not?
For those not wanting to have the story ruined, the ending doesn't really resolve anything, it more so just concludes a part of the plot in the same way a western show might end a seasonal arc. The problem is that anime do not usually get second seasons, so this could have potentially been an issue. Good thing season 2 starts in a few weeks. Additionally, while a couple of the characters receive decent concluding development, just as many have unnecessary changes tacked on last minute.
I very much enjoyed my viewing of Psycho-Pass. It managed to keep me on the edge of my seat while I also pondered the implications of the societal rules put in place within 2113. While I noticed a few glaring flaws, they did not inhibit my interest in the show.
Psycho-Pass is an interesting anime that thoughtfully but narrowly explores the dystopian world of 2113 in an action-packed mystery thriller adventure that is sure to entertain as long as one can look past its minor issues.
Big thanks to Rockmandash12 for proof-reading and helping me out with this, couldn't do it without you!