I have to be honest, I wasn’t really feeling Psycho-Pass at first, but I’m glad I stuck with it. This show is currently being released on Hulu and hasn’t finished the 22 episodes of it’s 1st (and probably only) season. I’m guessing, purely based on subject matter, that this isn’t the kind of show that will run for more than one season. That being said, if you’re OK with dark themes, some intense violence (think Gantz minus the naked women), and a more believable version of some familiar tropes, I believe it’s definitely worth watching.
Psycho-Pass is set in a utopian future where people’s lives are monitored and assisted by the “Sybil System”. Sybil is set up to achieve a world where everyone is happy. It dictates people’s aptitudes for work as well as their mental health levels. However, it’s primary purpose seems to be evaluating whether or not people are criminals. People’s mental health or “Hue” is constantly monitored and if the Hue is clouded (corrupted) they are labeled as latent criminals and brought down by the police (yes, that does kind of sound like Minority Report). The protagonist of the story is Inspector Akane Tsunemori, a recent college graduate who has just joined the police force. She and her senior Inspector (Nobuchika “Gino”za) are in charge of a group of latent criminals called “Enforcers”. The Enforcers seem to be people who have talents that make them valuable to the police as a kind of task force. They are sent in with the Inspectors to arrest or kill criminals based on the judgement of the Sybil System. The story follows Akane and her team starting from her first day on the force.
The set-up of the show allows it to pull from a lot of tropes. It starts off playing like a dark crime procedural, with most of the criminals taking a couple of episodes to catch. It also plays on a lot of elements of a dystopia, as it becomes more and more apparent that the Sybil system also oppresses some members of society and has altered the way that people behave. They also introduce a villain who lurks in the shadows and seems to be intent on overthrowing (or at least exposing) the Sybil system and changing the status quo. The series is also dark and fairly violent. It doesn’t shy away from fully showing the acts of violent criminals or the police. So far I’ve seen several people explode from the inside out, someone set on fire, someone have their throat slashed, and a woman stripped and beaten to death in the streets. I should note that the violence is presented in such a way where it has some necessity and doesn’t feel like it’s just gore for the sake of gore. Even with the violence, the show felt a little boring to me at first, just because I felt like I was watching a lot of familiar pieces coming together to make a show.
Fortunately, the depth of the show has pulled me in. I think, in part, it’s actually due to the severity of the violence in the show. Not because I’m big on graphic violence, but because it adds weight to the character’s responses to the violence. As the show goes along the villain I alluded to earlier is introduced, Makishima. It’s made apparent, early on, that the cases that Akane’s team is dealing with are all directly related to, if not caused by, Makishima. To this point in the story, they haven’t fully revealed everything about Makishima or his plans but, what they have revealed, is that he can perform vicious crimes without the Sybil System detecting him as a criminal (therefore, removing the police’s ability to combat him with weapons). I know that saying that him having a plan to throw the world into chaos sounds cliche, but if you watch this show it doesn’t feel cliche at all.
As I mentioned before, the scenes are pretty dark and can become violent. One other review of the show I read even mentioned that it starts to feel like the entire show takes place at night and in dark alleys and run down buildings. The darkness and the grounded portrayals of the characters, along with the aforementioned violence, remove any feeling of cliche or campy-ness that might threaten this show. Even the characters that fit into archetypes that are usually played over the top (like Karanamaori Shion, the hot, blonde, lazy, flirtatious, tech girl) are unusually grounded in this show. That’s not to say that the show is just heavy all the time or that it doesn’t have its lighter moments. It’s just that, at the end of the day, what I’ve been drawn to is the serious side of Psycho-Pass.