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Psycho-Pass Part 1 Anime DVD/BD Review

8 min read

Psycho-Pass Season 1 Part 1In a world where irrefutable logic rules, what happens when that logic shows fallacy?

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 Society is paralyzed by its deepest, darkest desires, and trial by jury has been replaced by the wrath of the Dominator.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?

Contains episodes 1-11.

The Review:
For this viewing, I took in the English dub, which is offered in 5.1 surround; the Japanese tracks are both offered in 2.0 stereo. The BluRay discs are encoded in Dolby TrueHD audio, and the sound is clean through the whole range. There is a nice mix among the channels for both sound effects and dialogue. The DVD tracks are a little more basic in their mixes, and (obviously) aren’t quite as crisp as the BD, but it sounds perfectly fine too.

This is a gorgeous release. It is dark in nature, and it shows good range through the blacks and other muted colors with no artifacting. There are some really great effects with the Dominator gun, and the few colors on the lighter side of the spectrum contrast really well with the darks. I only did a spot check on the DVDs, but those looked to be well done as well.

The four discs (two DVDs and two BDs) come in a single BD case with two center inserts that each hold two discs. The front cover has an image of Kogami and Tsunemori wielding their Dominators and ready for action. The back has a few screen shots, the series summary, and the technical details. The cover is reversible; the reverse side is almost all black, but has blue line drawings of Makishima (front) and Kogami (back) which looks really cool. There is also a slip cover that looks the same as the main cover.

The main menu for the BD discs are the standard interactive BD discs (in that there’s no transition between menus as submenus just pop up on the main screen). To the right of the screen is a shot of the city that goes through various holographic distortions while some moody music plays in the back ground. The selections are on the left side on a vertical bar and show up well against the rest of the menu. Submenus just popup on the same bar when selected. The DVD menu is far more basic, with just the series logo set against the same green background from the cover image and the selections offered along the bottom. It’s functional, but not as nicely designed as the BD menu (and not just because of the lesser technology—just less effort obviously went into it).

There are a decent amount of extras on this releast. Aside from the standard clean songs and trailers, there are also commentaries for episodes five and eleven from various members of the English dub cast. Also provided is the first part of a piece recorded during Sakura-Con 2013 with the Japanese production staff on hand for a panel and Q&A to promote Psycho-Pass. It’s pretty fun, and I assume that part two of the piece is in the second set.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
This release is a BD/DVD combo pack of the first eleven episodes of Psycho-Pass. Another set was released on the same day that has the second half of the series. I came into this series knowing of a lot of the hype surrounding it, and half way through, I can understand that hype.

The world in 2113 is a very sanitized place. There is not an aspect of daily life that is not ruled by technology, and on the surface it seems like a veritable utopia. Helping this feeling out is the Sibyl System, a computer system that can scan and monitor the Psycho-Pass (psychological state) of any person and judge whether he or she might be a risk to disturb the peace in some way. The idea is to try and prevent crime before it has a chance of happening. A person judged to have a “cloudy” Psycho-Pass is considered a latent criminal and is subject to anything from therapy (for slight agitations) all the way to execution (for extreme cases where rehabilitation is presumed impossible).

In charge of the Sibyl System is the Public Safety Bureau, which has its own Criminal Investigation Division designed to enforce the policies of the System. Within the Division, there are both Investigators and Enforcers: Investigators are normal people who are supposed to make the calm, rational decisions while the Enforcers are themselves latent criminals who are forced to serve under the rationale that their perpetual heightened state allows them to think like the potential criminals they are attempting to catch. Helping both Enforcers and Investigators with their work are their Dominators: guns that act as portable scanners of the Sibyl System and can act as both a stungun and a lethal weapon. Should the Dominator scan a person and not find a threat, the trigger is locked and it cannot be used.

Akane Tsunemori has just graduated from college with top ranks and has been hired as a new Investigator for Unit One. AS a rookie, she has trouble accepting the harsher realities of her job, and she feels as if the system is too quick to judge a person bad. On her first case, she is forced to use her Dominator on her subordinate Enforcer Kogami before he is able to execute the system’s command to execute the victim of a rape and kidnapping because the trauma from her experience had caused her Psycho-Pass to elevate well into the range deemed too high for rehabilitation. When the girl is successfully rehabilitated through therapy, Tsunemori’s morals are justified, and it causes some in Unit One to begin reevaluating their methods. However, her ethics begin to be put to the test when a series of seemingly random murders begin happening, and it becomes clear that there is some puppet master behind all of them.

I am really fascinated by the world in which Psycho-Pass exists. It borders on cyber-punk but (to this point) doesn’t overwhelm the viewers’ senses with overstimulation, nor does it seem too overly technologized. What I am curious about though is this idea that pretty much everything is some form of holographic image. Akane wakes up in a very nice apartment, living—it would seem—more extravagantly than a girl just out of college would be able to. However, we see very quickly that all the nice stuff it appears she owns is just a holographic projection that masks what is otherwise a very barebones apartment. Her clothes are also mostly a holographic projection: she has a base outfit that she wears, and when she wants to wear something different, a tweak on a little device and her outfit becomes something completely different. To me, it prompts the question: what is real? It makes me wonder if this will become important in the second half.

It does, however, mirror the reality of the case Unit One is investigating. Over the course of this season, the crew find themselves entangled in a number of cases involving multiple gruesome murders. The first has them trying to find a person knocking off the real life people behind some very popular online personae and taking over their avatars. The next has them searching for somebody murdering random girls at a local high school. In each case, they are forced to look beyond the obvious to find the truth behind the attacks. And then, of course, to look more deeply in order to find the cause that ties all the cases together.

The other thing I am really interested in so far is the dystopian concept that Psycho-Pass is playing with. The idea of utopia is almost as old as literature itself, showing up as early as Plato’s writings in ancient Greece. The term utopia comes from the Sir Thomas More’s book, Utopia, which involves a discussion between two people where one is describing the land of Utopia, which he views as being perfect, while the other finds flaws in the concept. That’s a common theme with utopias: regardless of how perfect a society might be, there’s something about it that either goes against nature or is otherwise oppressive to a certain segment of the population. In this way, it is always ultimately revealed that what everybody thought was utopia is really dystopia: the complete opposite of perfect.

Psycho-Pass has given us a world that seems to be utopian. Everybody is guaranteed work, the Sibyl System keeps the world safe, and nobody is left wanting. On the surface, it appears to be a great place to live. The problem with it, though, is that the system suppresses a lot of free-will. People are not allowed to choose their careers; instead, they are given aptitude tests which dictates what path they will follow. Their mobility is completely dictated by where society decides to place them. And, as we learn very late in this set, there is a serious flaw within the Sibyl System that could threaten the entire balance it is trying to achieve. As good as the story is so far, I am actually more interested to see how Akane and the rest of Unit One figure out how to work around the limitations of the system in order to complete their assignment, or whether they just have to destroy the system to do it. Right now, it is just as much their enemy as the person behind all the killings.

In Summary:
Psycho-Pass is an anime I have wanted to see since it first began airing a year-and-a-half ago. It is intelligent and tense, and I have always loved the utopian/dystopian binary. Psycho-Pass sets that up really well. This first half of the series does a really good job setting up the problems that are about to come in the second half, and I look forward to seeing how they are done. It isn’t a happy anime, by any stretch, but when it’s this good, that’s perfectly fine with me. Highly recommended.

Japanese Language, English Language, English Subtitles, Select Episode Commentaries, PSYCHO-PASS at Sakura-Con Part 1, Textless Opening & Closing Videos

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

Released By: Funimation
Release Date: March 11, 2014
MSRP: $64.98
Running Time: 225 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Native HD Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Sony PS3 w/HDMI Connection, Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System

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