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Psycho-Pass Episode #01 Anime Review

4 min read

Even police dramas with exciting sci-fi concepts must, apparently, have rookie’s first day on the job episodes.

What They Say
In the future, people’s minds are analyzed to determine their criminal potential. On her first day on the job, Inspector Akane Tsunemori, along with two Enforcers, must track down a man who was flagged as a potential criminal and ran, taking a hostage.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Psycho-pass takes all its inspiration from the right places: The studio is Ghost in the Shell’s Production IG, and the writer is Madoka Magica’s Gen Urobuchi. The rainy city set is inspired by Blade Runner, the pre-emptive justice system is reminiscent of Minority Report, and best of all, we have a spunky new girl out of training in the mold of Patlabor’s Noa Izumi. However, for much of the first episode, Psycho-pass is very much in the mold of every cop show ever.

That said, the potential here is great. Rookie Inspector Akane Tsunemori was a whiz at the academy, so she’s added to the Enforcers, a group of police who go around and locate and detain expected criminals. In this world, everyone has a “psycho pass” which contains a criminal coefficient. There’s not a lot of detail given on how exactly it’s calculated, but it seems to be based on impulsiveness and aggression. The system that makes these judgement is named Sybil (a name that just screams psychological health, no?), and its eyes are guns called Dominators. The Enforcer points the Dominator at a person, it calculates the criminal coefficient, and if it reaches a certain level, the gun will activate and shoot a stun blast. If the coefficient is dangerously high, it will send out a deadly blast that explodes the target into a nasty mess.

An interesting twist that remains unexplained is that Tsunemori has at her disposal a group of men, “Hounds”, at her disposal to help dispatch criminals, and these men have high criminal coefficients themselves. It’s said that it takes a criminal to catch a criminal, but this doesn’t make much sense. Judging from Madoka Magica, Urobuchi has fun with his sadistic games and their rules, so we’re bound to find out the real reason after a few episodes.

As is common with these gritty cop dramas, Tsunemori is a naive waif who gets over her head with her first case, which is that of a man who apparently snapped after being told his criminal coefficient was sufficient to get him arrested. He decides to go completely over the edge, and kidnaps a woman to rape and mutilate, suggesting that the Psycho-pass system was right in fingering him in the first place. Paradox aside, it makes for a nasty scene, restricting the audience for this show to adults only.

The man is pursued and dispatched by the Hounds, but the criminal coefficient of the attacked woman has risen as well. Is this due to the trauma awakening her fight or flight responses? Is it Sybil just deciding to go overboard and clean up any unpleasantness that may occur in her town? Or is it that even in the distant future, women are still being held accountable for being attacked? As with all of the other questions, there are as yet no answers given.

The order comes down through the Dominators to kill the woman, but Akane refuses to do so. When one of her Hounds attempts to kill the hostage, Akane fires at him, and since all of her Hounds count as criminals, she’s able to stun him. For unknown reasons, the hostage’s psycho-pass then decreases to levels where she’s just to be taken into custody. She’s knocked out by Akane’s supervisor, who demands she report on why she didn’t follow the Dominator’s orders.

In Summary
This first episode is in the typical “rookie cop gets in on a nasty case where brutal things happen” mold, and the brutality is played up with some gratuitous violence and sexual abuse. However, it looks like the system of rules is being set up to be the star of the show, rather than any of the characters. Psycho-pass still has a lot of potential, but it has yet to materialize in this first episode. I’m eager to see where the show is heading, however.

Grade: B-

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Review Equipment:
Sony VAIO 17″ HD screen