[A review/ ramble on Psycho Pass (Season 1)]
This year, I watched two anime series centered on the theme of dystopia. The first was No.6. The second would be Psycho Pass. The dystopian elements in Psycho Pass were rather well done – an authoritarian state run by a system with almost absolute control over the citizens’ minds. That the people were so obsessed with the state of their minds was completely believable and it was what made this dystopia a truly alarming one.
That being said, there are other elements of this dystopia which were not believable at all. The first and foremost was the true nature of the Sybil system. I don’t intend to go into details so I will say only this: I cannot fathom how a system like that could even function. And to what end, really? Even after locking away every “criminal” whose mental state is deemed undesirable, heinous crimes still exist and there is nothing remotely safe about their society.
I know that that is where the dystopia comes in – layers and layers of deception that does not serve the people. But in this case, I cannot help but wonder: who does it serve? Not the everyday civilians and not the people at the top either, who implement the system – they lost their freedom along with their lives so what do they stand to gain? And who even put them there, giving away that much control so willingly?
When I put aside these questions however, the show is quite satisfying. The first season (I didn’t watch the second) had many distinct and decent characters who all contributed really well to the plot. It was surprisingly easy to relate to them and understand their motives.
While I didn’t really care about the primary protagonist, Tsunemori Akane, she was a necessary character, there to balance out the darkness in the Enforcers who surrounded her. Kogami Shinya, her subordinate was somewhat more interesting – I initially thought he was the brawns over brains sort, with a large ego and a disdain for authority. I was clearly wrong about the brawns over brains, though I’m not too sure about his disdain for authority. Kogami is sharper than he looks, and he pieces puzzles together faster than almost everyone else in the show. It was good to watch a character who could not just beat the crap out of his adversaries but also think a few steps ahead of them (well, most of them, anyway).
I say most because there is Makishima Shogo, the baddie, who is obsessed with witnessing the darker elements of people’s will. For someone who is violent and cruel Makishima is surprisingly charismatic, so much so that there were times (brief ones) that I was actually rooting for him. The mastermind behind many of the city’s savage crimes, Makishima has intelligence in spades and that tends to add an edge to the scenes he pops up in. Also, his hand-to-hand combat skills are quite lethal and a sheer delight to watch.
The characters alone do not make a good show; the larger factor would be the story itself. In term of technicality, Psycho Pass is well-paced and it introduces new characters, concepts and twists at appropriate moments, making it easy to follow and engage in. It also has a good, steady plot, and while it didn’t keep me hooked, I wasn’t bored either. One of the things I found refreshing about the story was the ambiguity surrounding the baddies.
On one hand, we have Makishima, a tangible, concrete criminal – someone who is easy to blame for all the bad things that happen; on the other hand, we have the system itself which perpetuates a more elusive and inconspicuous evil. It’s quite obvious, which is more sinister.
Altogether, I would say that Psycho Pass was a good show. Freaking out over our sanity and being fixated on protecting our mental health doesn’t sound far-fetched with the way it’s portrayed in the show. At its core, this seemed to be a story that explored the motivations that drive people and seemed to ask how much of what we feel and do is our own will. I wouldn’t say it’s among the best I’ve seen but it’s definitely not the worst and fares far better than mediocre.