If you happen to enjoy murder mysteries, futuristic tech, complex characters and/or stylized action sequences, then you’ll likely appreciate what “Psycho-Pass” has to offer.
An anime originally airing in Japan two years prior, the series was picked up and licensed by North American production company FUNimation, which has proceeded to release an English-dubbed version of the program as of March 11.
Given the relatively recent date of this release, chances are you probably haven’t seen nor heard of this series yet (unless you were aware of the original in Japanese), but if this review is any indication, this is a series you should definitely sample, as it is hands down one of the best in its class.
Set about 100 years in the future, the show takes place in a dystopian, cyberpunk-themed version of Japan where social order is completely regulated and maintained by a government organization known as the Sibyl System, a cryptic collective responsible for analyzing the individual mental states of the country’s populace. The resulting assessment comprises what is otherwise known as an individual’s “psycho-pass” and determines the likelihood of that individual committing a crime through a numerical measurement referred to as a “Crime Coefficient Index;” if that figure exceeds a certain level, the individual is deemed a criminal and subsequently apprehended.
The series narrative focuses on a young, fresh recruit to the police unit of the Public Safety Bureau’s Criminal Investigation Division. As a field official known as an inspector, this recruit works alongside a special team of associates known as enforcers, unique individuals whose psycho-passes have degraded to a criminal level but remain clean enough to allow those individuals to work cooperatively with the bureau. Throughout the series, this inspector and her unit investigate a string of seemingly unrelated murderers and mysterious instances that slowly but surely come together all the while attempting to reconcile their own personal biases and opinions of Sybil’s almighty social justice system.
This intense storyline and futuristic framework coalesce beautifully within the series, working collaboratively to evoke a sense of insuppressible tension as well as provide a definitive sense of momentum throughout.
Parallel to its pace, the program’s sense of artistry and finesse is also augmented through its supporting elements: From the sleek animation to the driving and emotive sound design to the spot-on voice performances by the entire ensemble, the show glistens with polish from top to bottom. The crisp visuals provide a nice contrast to some of its more visceral content. Yes, those with a weak constitution be forewarned: The show’s dark themes are usually accompanied with gratuitous violence, the extent of which may disconcert those new to this specific brand of entertainment.
Despite the high level of quality this creative work achieves, it is not completely devoid of blemishes. There are brief occasions when more intricate items and processes of the future are haphazardly explained away with technical jargon, along with some uneven character development and a couple unfortunate instances of deus ex machina. On the other hand, the show mostly does a good job covering all its bases in terms of plot and relational development, and none of its weaknesses really detract from the overall quality of the program.
Above all else, this series accomplishes a singular feat more effectively than most any other show (anime or otherwise) in recent years: It makes you think. At a glance, the series is quite easily a cautionary tale – a glimpse of society pushed to extremity in the same vein as 1984. But at its core, rife with literary references and conflicting philosophical perspectives, this is a psychological thriller that critically examines the concepts of free will, morality and justice.
It is a series that could likely make you re-evaluate how you perceive concepts of “good” and “evil” and question what constitutes true justice, which I imagine to be near perfect material for most college audiences.