Psycho Pass: Extendend – Review
I think that’s one of the few times where an anime has handled a somewhat sexual joke quite well.
I’m definitely going to review the second season of Psycho Pass that will soon air, I think (it’s airing in the upcoming Fall-season, right?). And so for that purpose I have been following this Psycho-Pass: Extended version. If you think about it, it’s an intriguing format. Rather than to deliver extra-content as a blu-ray-extra (or even DVD-extra), the series basically aired a second time but with new added scenes. That’s most certainly not something every series should do to promote its second season. I mean, first of all most second seasons nowadays are just a 2-cours-series that has been split in half. I mean, first of all, I’m really curious whether this second airing of Psycho Pass with additional scenes makes any money for the studio. I don’t see how it can. Only the real fans will watch it and those few who are curious. DVD/Blu-ray-sales won’t be really improved because whoever would have wanted that DVD/Blu-ray-set would’ve already bought it at that point. I can only imagine that Psycho Pass is considered a great success. One should note, though, that during Noitamina’s 2014 Noitamina line-up announcement two of Psycho-Pass’ characters ranked really high in the popularity-votes (source). So, I guess that a lot of people think that the second season will be a smash-hit due to the popularity of the second season.
Release-Date: Summer season 2014
Episodes: 11 (each 45 minutes long)
The series takes place in the near future, when it is possible to instantaneously measure and quantify a person’s state of mind and personality. This information is recorded and processed, and the term “Psycho-Pass” in the anime’s title refers to a standard used to measure an individual’s being. The story centers around the “enforcement officer” Shinya Kōgami, who is tasked with managing crime in such a world.
That’s the sort of smart-ass-ery you can expect in every episode of Psycho Pass. If you’re into this then Psycho Pass is really one of the most compelling shows you can watch right now.
Psycho Pass isn’t moe, Psycho Pass is dark, Psycho Pass is mature stuff: That was the consensus you could hear from everyone involved in this series back when it first aired. But the strange thing is that this description is more about what other animes do and less about what Psycho Pass is actually doing. In a way there was something challenging in this message that Psycho Pass isn’t very moe. It was phrased like some sort of virtue that would inherently improve Psycho Pass. And looking at most animes it’s easy to see why a lack of moe could be seen as a good thing. At the same time, though, I’m not sure the anime-industry is ready to demonize moe yet. The sad thing is that moe has become such a central thing for the anime-industry that there’s nothing really that could replace it. Tons of regularly used stereotypes nowadays rely on the notion of moe, the notion that things need to be cute in a very stylized way. But making moe disappear isn’t really something that will improve animes in general. You could make them all gritty, no-nonsense series instead but looking at comics in the 90s you can see how pretentious the need for grittiness can become. Or the recent trend in US-TV for complicated men as anti-hero-protagonists may have produced great series like Breaking Bad and Mad Men but then a series like Low Winter Sun does the same thing and it’s the most obnoxious thing ever. Moe has become a central element of the anime-industry and so if anything a series like Psycho Pass is just the exception that proves the rule.
But what is it actually about? The biggest theme of the series is its setting. The Sybil-system and the whole Psycho-Pass-system are the focus in each episode and they’re discussed over and over again. This is classic sci-fi-stuff where it’s not about Star-Wars-like epic action but more about ideas and a version of the future that tells us something about the present. Although the last part isn’t that prevalent here and the Sybil-system is an idea detached from our own reality. So, the series has a very detached feeling in general as it’s building up this very fictional setting as a concept and then proceeds to discuss and analyze it. And so it’s really important that the audience needs to be interested in the concept and the discussion of it. Rather than lacking depth really, the series lacks relevance. It’s a true genre-story and so if you don’t really give a shit about sci-fi in general then the series doesn’t really offer anything that would make this stuff more interesting.
Another thing aside from the moe-thingy that was mentioned in the interview is that this is male series. Men have written it. It’s a weird sexist thing to focus on, especially if it’s considered a good thing as the director Motohiro did. But there certainly is a general sense of detachment present in this series. Psycho Pass isn’t a very emotional series. It’s all about action, values, duty, power and honor. Even though, the series’ main-character Akane is a girl, the series in general favors male characters and the general tone does seem to target a male audience. I mean, it’s not like the series is a total sausage-fest. In fact, the series can only be praised for having a lot of adult-characters and that Akane isn’t moe. It’s more the general tone of the series and what its story, plot and character-moments focus on where it becomes apparent that it wants to chase this idea of what “the male demographic considers cool”.
The actual plot is also far more straightforward than what you may think. Psycho Pass’ rather complex setting not only serves as a focus-point for most of the time in the plot but its presence is so dominating that all the plot-concerns kinda seem secondary. After all, without the excellent world-building you would only have a straightforward cops-who-chase-criminals-story. The series’ plot really doesn’t have any elaborate set-pieces or action-scenes, it’s really more of a way to connect various story-moments. When the MWPSB-Unit solves those murders, the main-concern of the story isn’t to set up action-scenes or to create character-related drama. Instead, it’s all about the discussion of how the crime relates to the flawed nature of the Psycho-Pass-system.
Makishima, the series’ villain really could’ve been a very pompous, pretentious character but Takahiro Sakurai’s voice-performance here really elevates this character. This is one of those examples that really shows just how important voice-acting actually is.
And that discussion usually happens on a very cerebral level. From quoting literature or philosophers to abstract descriptions, those discussions are actually fairly dry. Personally I’ve found the setting to be interesting and that’s basically the reason why those discussions held my attention. And also, the show has good enough writing to make these discussions not too much of a bore. But it can’t be denied that there’s a certain pretentiousness in establishing all these details and to discuss them purely on such a theoretical level. The discussions don’t have personal stakes beyond some characters’ sense of justice from time to time. And with that lack of personal impetus, there isn’t this depth present that would make this setting come alive. I mean, the direction in those discussion-scenes is fine, too, but it’s fairly clear that the series is limiting its scope here for the sake of pragmatism. So, it may be that it was only all about what male viewers are supposed to consider cool or as Gen Urobuchi mentioned in a newer interview, maybe it’s due to him actually not having had that much time to write the script in this case. Really, if the writing hadn’t been that good in general, this series would’ve easily become a top-example of not following the “show, don’t tell”-rule in its world-building.
You need to understand this about this series. For all its intricate concepts, ideas and world-building, the series is very limited in its perspective. We only ever to get to see the perspective of anti-heroes who defend a system which hates them and criminals who want to destroy that system. And all the happy people in the world are kinda viewed as these ignorant sheep who get pushed around by all these characters in this series with their detached opinion of the system. Both the villains and the anti-heroes of this series exist outside the system actually. And when the characters talk about the “sheep”, they talk about abstracts like happiness and freedom for example. All the plot has to offer to this discussion, of course, are all the evils the Sybil-System produces and whatever atrocities Makishima’s schemes produce. So, all in all you get a really dour atmosphere and naturally with Gen Urobuchi’s writing the conclusion basically feels more like the good guys are fighting for a necessary evil than anything else. The series doesn’t end with any sense of salvation but it’s also not really brutal or vicious. Rather than saving the day the series basically ends with a greater evil being thwarted – and nothing more.
Ultimately, if the setting has picked your interest, the series delivers a really entertaining ride. The grotesqueness of the murders, the various types of characters and the interesting, abstract discussions, that’s basically what makes this series so entertaining. I would even say it’s the closest thing anime has had to another Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. Naturally, it’s very different in a lot of ways but sci-fi-wise? Psycho-Pass, just like GitS:SAC, is one of those few series that can make this genre-stuff seem really entertaining and compelling.
- Now, I’ve seen the “extended version”. I’ve watched the anime when it originally aired and so I was curious to see what this “extended edition” would add. Well, turns out… not that much. With having these 45-minutes-episodes there were little scenes in each episode that were new. But due to a lack of money or time none of these scenes were very elaborate or added some new significant element to the story. Instead it really just fleshed out stuff that has been implied by the actual series. So, in that way, I wouldn’t consider it necessary to watch this series with these new scenes. They don’t really add anything but they’re also still good enough to not take away from the flow of the original series.