Psycho Pass II – 01 Review
I really hope that the “individual vs. society”-theme will be something the whole season will deal with instead of just this episode – because this episode most definitely didn’t do that topic justice.
Before I even come to the review of this episode, I would like to remind everybody that there’s also a movie in the works which will be released next January. And I don’t wanna frighten anyone or anything but the director Shinotani said about this second season that it had been really tough to make. It’s almost as if Psycho-Pass was never supposed to have a second season actually, but because of its phenomenal success the people who created the series were sort-of pushed to do more with the material. And so now we get this second season AND a movie. Let’s hope the second season didn’t suffer because of this ambitious schedule.
He’s just a dude, well, actually, he’s a smart dude, a REALLY smart dude. To be more specific, a REALLY smart dude with a bit of a problem. And the problem is living in a society that can easily identify nutcases. Spoiler: He IS a nutcase.
And so that’s when two units of the MWPSB appear to deal with him. He has bombs and threatens to do bad shit with them. Inspector Akane immediately takes control of the situation and yeah, she’s the heroine. This time around, though, she has an obnoxious partner called Maki who asks a lot of questions during the proceedings – and none of them are helpful.
Ignoring Akane’s omniscient advice Unit 02 gets some of their people killed and more than that, they are dog enough to just want to kill the culprit. Not so Akane who sees the potential in lowering the Crime-Coefficient of the culprit so that he would get paralyzed by the Dominators instead of eliminated.
After giving the culprit a bit of a pep-talk, she successfully paralyzes him, but Maki makes it clear that she’s SO not okay with this.
Meanwhile, some asshole does some assholish stuff to some MWPSB-people in a park and talks shit about the Sybil-System.
Akane can do NO wrong nowadays apparently!
Something that should be made clear right from the beginning: This series won’t be written by Gen Urobuchi, the guy who wrote Madoka and the first season of Psycho Pass (and a lot of other stuff as well, actually). So, I guess there won’t be an all-encompassing apocalypse that will punish everyone for giving a shit and doing something. Then again, he doesn’t need to. Sure, the setting is still there and a couple characters have survived the first season but the first season was very tightly written. The first Psycho Pass series wasn’t something that begged for a second season. The story had a clear arc and had found a satisfying end. Also, the issue of characterization wasn’t really a big concern for that series. The characters in the first season are good, sure, but most of them were rather un-dramatic and had little personal baggage, if any at all. What that first season always had focused on was the Sibyl-System.
And probably the most obvious departure from the first season is how casually this first episode deals with the world-building. Stuff like the Dominators, Enforcers and Hues: It all just gets thrown around as if it’s the most natural thing. The first season was always very focused on questioning and examining those very things, so the series never really had this casual feel of a serialized format. What happens here, though, is a sequel within an established world.
The first Psycho-Pass was also very philosophical, even if it wasn’t always very deep. Characters quoted philosophers or did intelligent-sounding worldplays, like, non-stop. That tone was always very introspective in terms of the setting while actually sort-of turning away from any sort of personal drama. The conflict between Akane and Shinya was kinda indirect due to that it was more about principles than any kind of personal argument they had with each other.
If we compare that now to the relationship Akane and her new partner Mika are having, then you can definitely see how the tone of the series has changed. Mika is simply hostile. She nearly constantly questions Akane’s decisions or complains about how unorthodox the first MWPSB-Unit’s behavior is. And her character really left a sour taste in my mouth. Well, like I’ve explained, her character and the way she behaves isn’t something that really would’ve been imaginable in the first season of this show. There’s no philosophical principle behind her actions that would give her actions the sort of meaning most character-interactions in the first season had. In the first season the characters were more or less a conduit for an examination of the Sybil-System and its flaws as well as its true nature and the whole police-investigation-thingy was the plot-hook for the whole thing. Mika’s behavior reeks of personal baggage. This isn’t about worldbuilding, this is about HER. It’s simply a clear sign of how this season will be different. That doesn’t mean it has to be worse, though. It’s just, that it needs some getting used to, that’s all.
Akane herself is also a character I’m worried about. She’s simply too flawless in this first episode. Sure, Mika’s questioning her decisions but from an audience’s point of view, she seems like an idiot for doing so and Akane has become some sort of Sherlock-android who’s still trying to do good while serving a not-exactly-good system. The whole way throughout this episode we barely ever hear her change the tone of her voice. She’s just this stoic, all-business-no-nonsense character from start to finish. It’s only at the end when she bows in thanks in front of the Enforcers that a little glimpse of her old personality can be seen. And this is less about her not being emotional enough or something like that. It’s more about the simple range her character shows in this episode. There simply wasn’t enough, especially since with the first season’s events her character does have depth that can be explored.
Maki being an asshole yet again… I really hope this doesn’t become one of her defining character-traits.
In that sense, the actual plot of the episode feels very straightforward and it clearly lacks the metaphorical or symbolical level each case had in the first season. More than that, there always was something theatrical about the cases of the first season. Or if not that, it would at least offer an interesting glimpse into the society living under the rule of the Sybil-System. One big problem is of course that this episode’s plot felt rather rushed. The whole process of investigation focusing on the culprit’s psyche was barely acknowledged by this episode. Sure, it was an actual plot-point but instead of exploring it, the series clearly just wanted to make sure we see Akane trying to spare his life.
Another thing that signifies a change of tone is that there’s an entire different MWPSB-Unit present in this episode’s plot. They don’t have a big role to play but in comparison to the first season this is a big change. In the first season the first Unit was really kinda insular in their activities and you barely got to see what other Units were doing. Theoretically those other Units existed but practically they might as well have not as far as the story was concerned. And once again, just like Mika, the other Unit here serves as a rather straightforward reminder that Unit 1 is doing things differently. And it’s not just that they are doing things differently, no, they are actually doing the right thing. And that’s kinda stupid. Only because Unit 1 has been the focus of the story in the first season, the story shouldn’t act like Unit 01 is now the place where the cool kids are. They are NOT heroes, in fact a big part of Unit 01is new anyway.
And that’s the biggest problem of this episode: It just isn’t poignant enough. Sure, it’s only one episode, roughly fifteen minutes to tell a story, if even that, but that’s all the more reason not to do anything complicated. Let’s list the biggest concerns of this episode: Mika not liking Akane’s style, Akane is always right, though, a guy has figured out to do evil shit while keeping his hue clean, Unit 02 doesn’t like Akane’s style either, Akane is still smarter than Unit 02, though, Akane tries to spare the culprit’s life and succeeds. There’s also all the stuff where the episode goes through a checklist with all the terminology of the Psycho-Pass-universe. That’s just WAY too much for an episodic story that also should serve as an introduction for the second season. You can’t possibly give all those points their due within the timeframe of just one episode!
Also, I really hope that the trajectory of this season won’t be evil people who don’t like the Sybil-System, again. Seriously, the first season did a stellar job exploring that angle. Now it’s time to get crazier, I feel like. Stuff like how would the Sybil-System deal with an actual Jack-The-Ripper who’s just a really creepy serial killer. You know, you go the Batman-route with it. The Sybil-System has made normal crimes impossible and now when crimes happen, it’s freakish stuff. Then there’s a whole Noir-Angle you could introduce since it’s focused on police-work already. There’s a ton of interesting stuff you could do that’s not just about asking the same questions the first season did. Sequels should always strive to be better than their predecessors and if not that, at least they should be different. I guess, this beginning makes it seem like this season does at least do things a little bit differently than the first season.