Another set of two weeks, another series I need to plow through near the end in order to get a review up. And yet another series that I’ll open up by saying that I would have normally dropped it if I was doing this for fun. But I have my reasons for disliking this show, in the form of five pages of typed notes,but I managed to condense them, because that is kinda the point of this blog.
Set one hundred years in the future, Psycho-Pass begins with the story of a handful of detectives who are a third of the human law enforcement for a city that remains unnamed, but I choose to assume it is Neo-Tokyo. Where criminals are determined by a loosely defined mental reading, which I believe is the Psycho-Pass the show is named after. I say believe due to how the show throws around a dozen or so terms that I believe are intended to be vague. Perhaps to create mystery and confusion, but it quickly reached the point where I tried to look up definitions from third parties because they kept on changing.
It is weird enough how one’s capacity for committing an act of crime can be mentally measured and calibrated into a number that sometimes acknowledges how it has a decimal, and sometimes not. Which, even when explained, is hard to swallow, not that it is helped by how the creators decided that they would make the manner of saying what was going on as roundabout as possible. Sure, I can mostly follow the idea that: “The Sibyl System uses a person’s Psycho-Pass to obtain their Criminal Coefficient to see if they are a Latent Criminal, and can be given a non lethal blast of electricity from the Dominator guns that the MWPSB has access to. Which is made up of Inspectors and Enforcers, the later of whom are Latent Criminals because there’s one officer for every 50,000 or so people.” But that doesn’t mean it is good lore to shove down people’s throats.
For an example of the word terminology mishaps, early on they establish that Latent Criminals are people who are criminals now, and forever. However, there is a small chance they could recover. But during the first episode, we see someone registered as a Latent Criminal, because she was raped, cut with a hot knife, and thrown down the stairs into a puddle of gasoline. There, she is declared to be such a Latent Criminal that she should be exploded by electricity, at least for a few seconds before she calms down after all that wack crap happened to her. Oh, and we see many of these Latent Criminals acting pretty reasonable and even just at points, so the name is deceiving as well.
Now, one can argue that definition makes sense when there is a big revelation about the society the show takes place in. The problem is that said revelation about the SIbyl System, which basically controls the society, makes the show pretty much irredeemable. I will not say what it is, but it was something that Hideo “I Made a Flaming Alicorn” Kojima would likely dismiss as being too destructive of one’s suspension of disbelief. And even then, the fact that the society is the way it is baffles me.
Being the far future, there are naturally very sci-fi things going on. Such as rooms that are mostly unfurnished but given an appearance based on holograms. Watches that bring up holographic screens, and virtual reality wells that I can’t help but look at and think of Ripper, an FMV game from 1995. Most of which seems to be thrown around in the earlier episodes with not much carrying over through the series aside from the one gentleman who is a robot aside from a human brain. Which does more harm than good as he begins to talk about immortality through augmentation, a topic never really touched again.
However, there are plenty of ideas that fall flat. From the VR adjusted clothing that can apparently be given enough physical form to be removed. How nearly every issue could be fixed if everyone had some trackers inside of them, which would absolutely be possible in a hundred years. Food originally being processed lumps for the most efficient calorie intake, before changing into something normal looking, before that is declared to be fake food, before they introduce Hyper-oats. No, I’m not just being silly with my terminology, they seriously used the term Hyper-oats in the climax of the story. And plenty of things that seem overly contrived from the all controlling Sibyl System, like how occupations are decided. And that is before they establish that there are people who are abandoned by the system and placed in a very slummy section of the city. In a move that, for a society that is very much based on complete control and minimizing potential Latent Criminals, it is a really massive oversight.
At the halfway point of the story, before the means the society is controlled are established, the sheer incompetence of it makes the prospect of it getting destroyed seem like a positive. But that could perhaps just me wanting to see more people being lighten on fire and see if the show can talk about philosophers, the human condition, the beauty found in a painting of a dismembered woman, old science fiction authors, and the living dead. Or whatever “deep” message the antagonist was attempting to pull from his overpowered mix of high intellect, excellent physical form, resourcefulness, and ability to nearly destroy an entire country by himself.
How did he get robotic death dogs in a country with next to no guns and closed docks from the rest of the world? Same reason why one of the main characters smokes cigarettes, I suppose. Or why the show bothers to have an old fashioned school setting for a few episodes, right down to the blasted sailor uniforms. Or why there is a flashback at the halfway point to explain the backstory of a character not important enough for me to have ever learned her name beforehand.
Speaking of which, focusing on a team of detectives called Inspectors and people who have the knack for being one despite being considered Latent Criminals, called Enforcers. Naturally leaves a sizable focus on the characters. The general problem with it in this instance is that there really is not enough time to properly develop them, that there are so many other things going on in the show with the main plot and lore taking priory in all but a few episodes. Not helped by how the translation between languages resulted in dialog that is not very enjoyable to read through. It is a preference thing, but along with the cultural difference of a monotone being respectable, when trying to make eloquent debates about philosophical ideals, the translation needs to be more than simply digestible.
It is fairly sad to say all of this, because the show does look cool. With the best manner to describe it being that it is kinda like Project K and BTOOOM! mixed together. A fairly “realistic” looking show, with some interesting scenery and fluent animations. Although, sometimes the visual direction can get a bit off putting, like during the two episodes where virtual reality is a thing. And the final episodes where a government building is coated in rust as it is still in operation. Something that would make sense if it was a dystopia, when I can’t help but feel as if the show is more reminiscent of a utopia, despite the very ill fitting slums. Which still make about as much sense as the few scenes where they throw in CG on things that only are there for ten seconds.
Even though I genuinely want to like Psycho-Pass, the show is a mess. Taking a bucket full of sci fi concepts and trying to meld it into the best show it can, doesn’t stop it from being a very confusing show that seems full of itself more often than not. As always, there was a lot that could have been done, but with only 22 episodes, it decided to tackle everything it could and then some, and then some, and then a wee bit more. And while I suppose there could be a nice deal of fun if you do not think too much about it or have second hand knowledge about what exactly it is trying to do or say, I’d recommend everyone to Pass on this Psycho.
Subpar (6/20) There are a few high point, yet the entire experience is hampered by issues that outnumber the good. Not the worst, but not all that good.
Har har, aren’t I clever? No, I’m not. Or maybe I am. You think either way, or are feeling a thing about how I conduct my reviews, then leave a comment! I really love getting those.