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Psycho-Pass: The Complete First Season Premium Blu-ray Box Set Anime Review

13 min read

When the world becomes truly civilized, it’s lost something. But there’s still crime to be dealt with, which is where this particular group comes in…

What They Say:
Welcome to a world where just thinking about a crime is enough to enough to make you guilty. Bad intentions can no longer be hidden, and the police know exactly which tainted minds are about to cross over to the wrong side of the law. The great equalizer in the war on thugs is the Dominator, a futuristic weapon that can read minds and assess the risk that a citizen will turn criminal.

Cops work in teams made up of Enforcers and Inspectors. Enforcers take out the bad guys, Inspectors stop their partners from going rogue, and the all-powerful Sibyl System keeps a watchful eye on us all. Society is paralyzed by its deepest, darkest desires, and trial by jury has been replaced by the wrath of the Dominator. Welcome to the future. How guilty are you?

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release is pretty good overall as we get the original Japanese language track in stereo as well as the new English language adaptation, which gets the 5.1 treatment, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The show is one that focuses largely on dialogue and mood for a lot of it and that means some solid forward soundstage material, especially with the sound effects from the digital devices and the weapons. There’s something of a solid somber feeling to it that works well to it and a kind of restrained aspect that helps. The 5.1 side of it works the action a bit bigger, which helps when it comes to the sounds of it as well as the dialogue, but overall it’s not a series that for the most part is about being big or bombastic in its sound design. The encoding works well here as the end result is something that is definitely clean and clear throughout and really showcases the strengths of the series.

Originally airing in 2012 and 2013, the transfer for this twenty-two episode TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The series is spread across four discs in an eight/three/eight/three format since it’s also being sold in two halves in regular edition form. Animated by Production I.G., there’s definitely a great design to the show that brings us the technological sleekness of the day but also the rundown aspects of the city that the team ends up having to go into. In a lot of ways, it hits the familiar marks of a police procedural in its design and the transfer definitely captures it very well. There’s a darker atmosphere to it and it’s wholly appropriate as it’s punctuated by these bursts of light from technology and people. The transfer has a pretty good feeling about it as a whole as the numerous dark areas maintain a properly solid feeling but also having that run down feeling within a lot of it. The vibrant areas definitely stand out and some aspects of it are striking but other times it blends in really well with the design. The look of the show is familiar yet distinctive overall and what we get here is a clean and largely problem free transfer as outside of some minor noisy areas, there’s not much to complain about during regular playback.

This premium edition release is definitely a really good set overall that has a lot of neat items to it, though I’m just glad to see a full season set put out like this in one sku. The box is done with a really good black with green tinge to it that has Kogami on one side and Akane on the other, both of which are done in outlines with the green. The series logo is laid out across them with a silver foil aspect that gives it a whole lot of pop. it’s a fairly subdued box design overall but it completely fits the show itself and its atmosphere. Inside the box we get two Blu-ray cases and a spacer box. The first Blu-ray case holds the four discs that make up the high definition release and it has a great team shot that’s definitely moody and appropriate with the cast standing there and the good shades of green behind it. The back of the cover works the same approach with the logo while giving us the two leads as well.

The second case does the same kind of approach as well though it uses a different layout for the cast that has them walking forward, weapons in hand. Since this case has the two original soundtracks in it, the back of the cover provides a breakdown of what tracks are on each disc. Similar to the other case, the reverse side is done like the box in that it has the illustration outlines of some of the characters which looks really good, though you have to reverse it to truly get the proper effect for it.

The spacer box replicates the box to some degree with different designs as well, though this is done with black and white. It’s what’s inside it that makes this the premium edition though. We get the police logo design as a decal and we also get a badge/ID case that’s pretty nice with the logo as well. There’s also a card case that just begs to b used as a business card holder, though I would have wanted the FUNimation logo on the back of it along with some of the other text just to give it a sleeker feel. Inside it we also get the keychain which has the same logo as the decal, making it all quite easy to keep this organization in your daily life. There’s a lot to like here with what’s included which certainly fits with the show and has a nice bit of heft to it overall.

The menu design for this release set the mood decently enough here as we get the standard split where the left third features the navigation while the rest has clips from the show playing. The navigation uses the green colors from the theme of the show along the left with white text that’s nicely stylized to give it a near future kind of feeling. The layout is the usual submenus so there’s no surprises there. The clips are pretty decent overall as well as it’s pretty much the familiar types we get with locations, bits of action and character shots that flow across it. Submenus load quickly and the extras are accessed easily enough, though only when you’re not in regular playback of the disc. The languages are easy to access though they’re locked so you can’t change anything on the fly during regular playback. It’s not the most engaging of menus overall but it serves the material well enough and is definitely functional.

The release comes with some pretty good on-disc extras that certainly appeal to fans of both sides of the language equation. We get the usual things here in the clean opening and closing sequences and that’s a good thing considering how appealing they all are. We also get a number of new commentary tracks from the English language production team across some of the key episodes. That makes for some fun material for fans of the dubs as the actors go into their various roles and the quirks of working on the show. We also get two pieces that were recorded from the Sakura-con convention where the Japanese production team had shown up there to promote the series and there’s some great sit-downs with them that has them going into a decent bit of detail about their feelings of the show and its meanings.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
While the larger percentage of series that get made each year are based on existing works, either in manga, novel or game origin, there’s a lot to be said for the original works that come out. Those tend to be structured a little differently, not quite as open ended, and the flow of the narrative allows it to be built around the episode and the overall storyline in a lot of ways. With Psycho-Pass, we get a series from Gen Urobuchi who has quite a slate of credits behind him in the last ten years, with animation by Production I.G. that gives it the kind of class and quality it needs. What makes it work even better in a way is that it’s lightly referential in the proper way, especially with Western works, that explores what the world of the future could be like. To make matters even better, FUNimation has put out the whole first season in this premium form, so we get to just barrel right through it all in a marathon session.

Taking place in 2113, Psycho-Pass is a fairly straightforward police procedural in a very different country. Japan has become isolated by choice with the outside world as it’s focused on taking its citizenry to the next level. In an effort to have a truly civilized country, several decades earlier a system was put into place called the Sybil system. Through this, people are shown what their potential and talents are at a young age and directed towards that since it will make them the happiest in life. Most everything is set for folks in a general sense as a large, stable and mellow middle class has been built. With this kind of happiness about them, there’s been exploration of how to see if someone is going to go down the wrong path as there are devices throughout the country that can tell what a persons Psycho-Pass is by seeing their hue, which when used with specific devices used by officers of the law, can provide a number that’s their Criminal Coefficient. When people go above a certain level, they can be brought in for counseling and help, but if it’s higher then more intense methods are used to correct them so they can be productive members of society.

Over the course of the series, we get a lot of exploration of how the world works as there’s a lot to it with how they manage to be self sufficient and keep away from the chaos of the rest of the world. The social order itself is definitely fascinating, though part of it feels like it’s something that can only be done in Japan with how society willingly becomes subservient to a greater system in order to achieve peace. We get to see the way stress can affect peoples numbers as well, from individual incidents that can turn people to criminals to larger stress areas that have to have it pacified by the police service. Naturally, there’s a whole lot of missing details about how it would all really work, but it’s the kind of series where have to accept that with a hundred years difference, technology has definitely made leaps and there are some radical differences, similar in some ways to how different things were a hundred years ago from now.

With the world being similar but complex in a different way, the anchor the viewer gets for the series from the start is with the introduction of Akane Tsunemori, a new inspector in the limited police force that exists to handle things for Sybil. She’s one of those rare types of people in this world that is suited to pretty much any high level job among the ministries, but whereas others that are like this never get the Public Safety Bureau listed among it, she had that in addition to all the others. And since that was unique, she ended up taking that job of becoming an inspector. The setup of the police is interesting as it largely works with those that are Inspectors and those that are Enforcers. Enforcers in particular are different beasts as they have a criminal coefficient that’s higher than your average citizen but it’s useful for the job since they can do the things others can’t. That leads us to meet Shinya Kogami, a former Inspector who ended up as an Enforcer after his own Enforcer got killed and he became single minded in his desire to solve that crime.

With this and the other members of the team, which have a good bit of standard archetypes to it, we get to explore the jobs that they face, the way society is structured and the kinds of quirks that people have fallen into in order to survive in it. What’s interesting is how, though their connection to Sybil, can determine the criminal level of people. The weapons they use, which are authorized to just them through Sybil, shows the coefficient of people and determines that level of lethality that should be used against them. The numbers we get early on are fairly low, which makes the more dangerous numbers we see later on all the more impressive. But these numbers and their meaning are also important when it comes to the larger story that plays out because this aspect of society has a certain firmness to it that if proven there are ways out of it, it could upset the balance of society. Akane provides a good voice for this, since she’s new to it all and wants to bring nuance to the numbers and the situations, but we see how experience plays out against her at times, but also that she does have something to offer with it.

Thankfully, even though we get a couple of seemingly standalone stories early on that explores how the Public Safety Bureau works, it all figures into the larger narrative. One that goes back to the loss of Kogami’s partner, as he had gone up against a man that eluded him to this day. His story draws in Akane, though her natural interest in others and what motivates them, and it plays well as we get more of what’s truly going on with the man named Shogo Makishima that’s operating out there. While there’s a lot of seemingly standard terrorism style events going on in a limited form by him, he’s really working a larger story about how Japan has changed, giving over true free will to Sybil in order to achieve the kind of false happiness that people have. It may not explore it hugely in-depth – how many series truly do this anyway – but it covers it well as numerous events unfold that puts the officers in pursuit as they try and understand what it is that he’s after. These are familiar themes in anime to be sure, but it approaches it in a rather personal way here with not just Akane, but several of those involved and with Makishima himself as we learn more of his past and why he’s acting like this. Though most people are happy, there’s a sense of isolation about it that makes it complicated to deal with. But there’s also the disturbing layer that we get as well, especially with some of those that have sub-menial jobs that has others abusing them in a way.

While there’s admittedly a good bit of familiarity with the show here, it tells a really good story that covers the whole season with almost everything being connected to the events rather than a lot of filler mixed in that detracts from it. What also helps is that it has a really strong visual design to it that lets it stand out in a great way. That’s to be expected from Production I.G. to be sure, but there’s something about it that just feels like it’s a bit grittier and intense that helps to elevate it a bit more than the rest. Its color design is definitely great wit what it does, the character designs are really well done and the fluidity of the animation breathes a great bit of life into it. I also came away from it really liking the futuristic aspects as it does a good job of being anchored in the present of today in a lot of ways but taking it in a fairly natural future approach. There doesn’t feel like there’s anything outlandish, especially since you could imagine it going even further in a hundred years than it is now. But there’s also some expectation of restraint based on the way Sybil operates in trying to maintain the society. Simply, the look and design of the show is fantastic and comes across beautifully here.

In Summary:
As a first-time experience with Psycho-Pass, it’s a series that makes it quite clear why it has an ardent and vocal following. One that is definitely very enthused by the fact that the original work has not only been well received, but has garnered support for a theatrical movie and a second season that’s in production. The advantage of the show for me is that it takes this season of twenty two episodes and does spend its time introducing us to the world, but it makes everything count towards the story that encompasses the entire season. While there’s a beautiful but of symmetry between the beginning and the ending, change happens throughout and the cast are not who they are at the start. The face quite an ordeal, one that challenges them and their beliefs and about the way their society works, and how it may or may not play out as time goes on. There’s some very black and white aspects to the show with how the latent criminal aspect works, but it’s the gray side of life itself and how characters like Akane try to grapple with the big picture that makes it so engaging. More cannot come soon enough.

Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Select Episode Commentaries, PSYCHO-PASS at Sakura-Con, Textless Opening & Closing Videos

Content Grade: A+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: March 11th, 2014
MSRP: $159.99
Running Time: 550 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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