Oh, the title’s a pun! – Anime Critique: Psycho Pass 2

PsychoPassvol1Title: Psycho Pass 2 (Psycho Pass 2nd season)
Format: TV series
Genre: sci-fi, dystopian, cyberpunk
Series Director: Naoyoshi Shiotani
Studio: Production I.G
Series length: 11 episodes
Original Airing dates: October 10 – December 18, 2014
Reviewed format: High def download with fansubs


Synopsis:

Little time has passed since the Shogo Incident & Enforcer Kogami’s disappearance before a new incident has Unit 1 of the Public Safety Bureau’s Criminal Investigation Division scrambling for answers. Criminals are able to commit the most brutal crimes without affecting their Psycho Pass -the measurement for judging everything. Inspector Akame Tsunemori, now head of Unit 1, must guide her rookie detective, Mika Shimotsuki, and two new enforcers to find the criminal mastermind that no one, not even the ever present Sybil System, believes exists.


Critique:

To begin with: this series should’ve been much longer. It never had the time to develop & play with it’s new ideas & characters. If it was allowed to be a run of 24 episodes, it wouldn’t feel so much like Season 1.5 than a fresh 2nd season, despite the new things that it brings.

The original season of Psycho Pass appeared pretty much out of nowhere & took many people by surprise with its interesting take on a dystopian future where Thought Crimes are the Evil of the Day.

The conceit of the series is in the year 2113, in the unnamed city (which is pretty much Tokyo) citizens’ psychological levels are routinely & constantly cymatically scanned to measure their base stress, stability & “Crime Coefficient” levels -also referred to as a Psycho Pass (oh, what a clever pun!). If anyone goes above the thresholds for these is deemed a criminal & arrested for rehabilitation or, if their numbers are too high to return to normal, routinely executed by other an Investigator or an Enforcer -who is a criminal who can’t be rehabilitated but has skills useful to the system. The rub being that such a conforming system itself is a constant generator of stress & instability, so much of the population is either seriously medicated or practising various forms of Cognitive Dissonance in order not to notice the horrible things in front of them. This creates a world that, upon the surface, seems like a twisted mix of Ghost in the Shell and Brave New World.

Central to this narrative dystopia is Tsunemori Akane, an Inspector for Public Safety Bureau. She’s matured greatly since the events of the 1st season, now able to delegate tasks to her unit’s Enforcer’s based upon their personal talents as well as be able to understand the minds & motivations of criminals without being affected by them. This is the true conceit of Akane, in that she always maintains a clear Psycho Pass no matter what she is exposed to but still doesn’t let her judgement become clouded. She is also the only person to know the secret of the Sybil System, in that it is a collection of the greatest criminal minds the city has ever known who are sustain to judge the rest of the city because they are the only ones who can understand the criminal mentality.
Akane2
Akane is one of my favourite female characters in a long time, because she is not only given her own sense of agency within the narrative but she is never portrayed as or treated like a victim. It was a conscious effort on the part of the series creators not to sexualise or victimise her in any fashion as part of their Anti-Moe agenda (which is why there are more half naked men in the series than women). Of course, bad things happen to Akane over the course of both seasons but they are used as points of development to make her stronger, better, more competent. & she’s not just a Mary Sue either. She has her faults, lacks confidence to mack difficult choices, is still emotionally dependant on the memory of Kogami to help her make difficult choices (she lights his brand of cigarettes in her room so she can remember his scent) & is prone to moments of weakness. Yet all this serves to make her a more rounded & realistic character in a fantastical narrative.

Unfortunately, this development isn’t extended to the new characters, especially the antagonists.
kamui-shisui-psycho-pass
The main antagonist is Kamui Kirato, a strange figure whom the Sybil System is unable to recognise. At first, you may think that this is just a rehash of Makishima Shogo character from the 1st season, who couldn’t be judged by Sybil or the Dominators (the weapons that the Public Safety Bureau use to incapacitate or kill criminals) but they actually, & smartly, make the two characters completely different. Kirato can’t be recognised by the Sybil System at all, his existence is anathema to it, thus he cannot be judged because he cannot be seen. The reasons for this & for his attacks on the Sybil System as well as the Public Safety Bureau (who are the hands of the Sybil System) are very interesting & pretty original but ultimately underdeveloped.

Likewise is the other antagonist, Togane Sakuya, an Enforcer assigned to Unit 1 with a dark history. Rated as having the highest Crime Coefficient every recorded & is known for tainting the Hue (how Psycho Passes are rated) of every Inspector he’s ever worked with. He has an obsession with Akane & her near absolute purity of Hue &, again, the reasons why are fascinating but wasted because of the brevity of the series.

& that becomes the crux of the entire series: amazing, fairly original ideas ultimately hampered but the lack of space to develop & mature. I don’t know the reasons why they went with an 11 episode season & I’m far too lazy to bother trawling through forums, websites & Tumblr to find out why. It’s exceptionally vexing to see so many cool ideas stunted because they just don’t have the room to grow.
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On the positive side, the series is still exceptionally beautifully animated. The glowing neons of this future-scape shine through, as does how the holographic technologies acting as shields from reality. The visual-scapes of Psycho Pass have always been incredibly interesting, rich & filled with a wealth of details. The series producers said that they were heavily inspired by films such as Blade Runner & Minority Report, which shines through in the neon-billboard heavy design. The way that holograms are integrated into everyday life is also interesting. Allowing people to turn their tiny apartments into anything that they can imagine, as well as changing their clothing (when at home) & cars almost at will (for the Investigators activating the police mode on their vehicles).

Another brilliant aspect of the series is the opening theme Enigmatic Feeling by alt-rock group Ling Tosite Sigure (the lead singer of which performed the opening track from Tokyo Ghoul). This track alone will surely put the band on international music radars, with it’s complex layering & tortured multi-singer vocals.

In the end, unfortunate, this season just isn’t really developed enough to fully enjoy -despite all the brilliant ideas, plot twists & designs.

What I would recommend though is binge watching both series together, so you see how ideas & characters develop together. This way you can truly appreciate the intentions & ideas within.

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3 thoughts on “Oh, the title’s a pun! – Anime Critique: Psycho Pass 2

  1. The Otaku Judge 02/01/2015 / 11:17 PM

    I loved season one of Psycho Pass. It was thought provoking, disturbing at times and had a female lead who wasn’t your typical anime eye candy. Some people love season 2 and some people hate it. I have yet to watch it, but I am nervous as they changed writer and studio. Hopefully the upcoming movie will be good.

    Liked by 1 person

    • andthegeekshall 03/01/2015 / 12:20 AM

      I hadn’t heard anything about a movie but if you liked the 1st season, you’ll like the 2nd -even if it is short & rushed.
      all the good things are there & Akane has much more presence.

      Like

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