Remind me to showcase this series next time I get too many shouts of cute in my ear. That is enough to put them off…and why this series is great.
What They Say:
Brace yourself for a hard boiled, sci-fi thriller from the creator of Madoka Magica and the studio that brought you Ghost in the Shell. 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 Society is paralyzed by its deepest, darkest desires, and trial by jury has been replaced by the wrath of the Dominator.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 DVD release has a 5.1 English Dolby Surround Sound release and a 2.0 Japanese stereo track. There are no issues I noticed with the sound quality in either track, with no problem synching in with the subtitles, and an excellent 5.1 track which did require some reduction on my set because of how loud it got in the standard settings. A show like this with a unique soundtrack, futuristic effects and everything voiced and not just the humans needs a good vocal echo and this works perfectly in both languages (the Japanese audio isn’t distracting either and whilst stereo only still is effective).
The video quality of Psycho-Pass is mostly good, with excellent animation and no problems synching with subtitles and audio, transition scenes with no problems and no bad animation when pausing, it is all perfectly clear.
One issue in just one episode (episode 19 in disc 4) when there was slowdown in part of the episode for just a couple of minutes which was very unusual and never happened anywhere else in the release and am hoping this was just because of the test disc, otherwise a very noticeable albeit brief fault in the release, otherwise very superior.
The menu is very technological looking like the series, showcasing clips of the show with technical stuff on the top right, (a robot left, top left, left centre and right centre), with bottom right a folder with the selections, Play All, Episode Selection, Set Up and Bonus. One feature is when you select sub menus in folders, the selection always flows through a clip before it stops at a particular point – looks more interesting but does delay your choices so it depends if you prefer style or wanting to get to the selection itself. Overall, no issues with menu selections from the main menu and from the show itself when returning to the menu or selecting audio/subtitles.
There are a fair few extras on the complete collection. Whilst we have the basic extras of the clean openings and endings throughout, we get a few other things as well.
We get a dub commentary on each disc – first on episode 5, we get a commentary from Lydia Mackey (Shion), Scott Freeman (Shusei) and Lindsay Seidel (Yayoi) – they each showcase their thoughts of the music and show, how different and cool it feels and how the voices suit the characters so well, how intelligent the cast is whilst the villains have their issues…how cool the gadgets are (watches, gun) – have some comedy with their voices, then talk about the trippy animation and the detail of the gore for a bit of mood whiplash, so is a mixture of their roles and just having a bit of fun with it, but nothing too informative.
Commentary number 2 is on episode 11, with Kate Oxley (Akane), Rob McCullom (Kogami), and Alex Organ (Makishima) – as they are commentating on an episode where the show changes completely, you see them actually watching it and how engrossed they are, even saying this was the darkest episode of anime have seen for a while, as well as informative stuff like talking about Alex and his background as is his first main role despite a big theatre background – the depth of Makishimas’ character and his quirks, how ominous the lines are…before shushing up and watching the big scene near the end.
Commentary 3 is on episode 13 involving Zac Bolton (ADR Director), Jason Douglas (Masaoka), Josh Grelle (Ginoza) – this one talks a lot more about the process of making the show and the audition process, as well as with two veteran actors (I liked this one a bit because Jason in particular talks a lot about his past roles, including at ADV – even referencing one of my favourite roles as his, Il Phallazzo from Excel Saga) offering their history and their take in how they’ve changed and how their roles have over the years.
Lastly, episode 19 has Zac return, this time with Stephanie Young (The Dominator) and Lynda Leonard (Kasei) – I like how Lydia talks about how different the role is compared to what she is used to, how the Kasei voice was based on a character from a series (Fringe) and how it would work in real life, they definitely plug the drama and pseudo-realism of the show in comparison to other shows they are used to and have done, which is indeed one of the key sells of Psycho-Pass, so they definitely in the commentaries doing a good job in that.
On discs 2 and 4, we also have Psycho-Pass at Sakuracon, where a number of the Japanese stuff was at Sakuracon, we get shots at the con then to the Psycho-Pass booth with the original creators and interview with Katsuyuki Motohiro (executive director) – talks about the project and then direction with other people, Naoyoshi Shiotani (director) and Jouji Wada (producer) – talk about influences of old school anime (talk about Gen Urobochi’s involvement a lot – famous for Madoka), some cosplayers of the avatars also talk about the show – also get an interview with the Japanese and Funimation staff, as well as a party with the guests (Motohiro, George Wada) and they answer questions about the show (free will vs safety, messages Psycho-pass could say, and for the US fans). Again, a bit different with the anime convention setting but was also an informative interview from most of the original cast.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the recent review of Attack On Titan, another series I can say is quite unique in today’s market, this show is almost like the anime version of Blade Runner (which is even mentioned later in the show!) which should bring some interest. Futuristic sci-fi with order vs. chaos motifs, and how a naïve young woman has to face a lot of choices within a very unique police force. If it wasn’t for the future elements, there is a lot of realism to Psycho-Pass which makes it stand out, but does it stand out in a good way?
We are introduced early to our lead female, Akane – who has just joined Unit One, a group of people who deal with crime but not quite the police…whilst her superior Ginoza is a fellow inspector, he leads a group of people called enforcers. The enforcers are people who are deemed too dangerous because their psyche is over a certain limit according to this world’s all knowing system known as Sybil, but instead of being detained for being a potential menace to society, work as Enforcers to take down similar people to them. The first episode very quickly gives the idea of free will vs. how the system works when a man has kidnapped a woman, and whilst his psyche is over, hers wasn’t until the stress of the kidnapping forced it above the standard rate. The main male protagonist, an Enforcer named Kogami looks set to kill her because it is what they have to do, but Akane stops him by paralyzing him with her weapon, the Dominator, which has settings to paralyze…or kill depending on their psyche – and Inspectors can even use these against Enforcers if they get out of line. However, you can tell there is more to Kogami as he almost wants Akane to shoot him…which sets up a lot of the main storytelling and tension as the series builds.
We get all the enforcers introduced gradually, we have the older ex-cop type of character Masaoka who is almost like a dad to Akane (and to at least one other person in more than you’d expected), Kagari – the young guy who is very fun loving and jokey, Shion, a vamp like doctor who seems to like the ladies (including Akane) and Yayoi, a quiet stern type of woman who nevertheless seems to have a fondness for the rookie. Interestingly, despite all three being quite pleasant overall, they have high psyches making them potential dangers, and Ginoza basically tells Akane not to listen to them as they are her tools, which makes Akane a bit off put because she definitely feels that they need to be equals, as they are all highly skilled. For the first part of the series, it is a sporadic show of some sort of crime, and the Enforcers/Inspectors dealing with it, with a lot of potential arguments between order and chaos, hunches vs. evidence, etc, and Akane suffering in the middle of it.
However, during these apparent one-off episodes, we get a character’s name, Makishima, which seems to link to a case of Kogamis’ past, when Kogami was an inspector before his psyche went up. It seems a lot of the crimes are being organised by this Makishima, whose modus seems just to be clever words and to convince people the Sybil system is flawed in judging who is considered dangerous and who isn’t. This leads to a scary mini-arc where one of Kogamis’ old partners Sasayama had a case similar to one that is happening – involving an artist using human corpses as art, linking in with a deceased painter…with her daughter continuing the ‘tradition’ at a school under Makishimas’ tutoring. With Kogami figuring things out, it leads to Makishima disposing of those he doesn’t need but developing an interest in Kogami, which leads to the big switch in tone and the plot in full force, when Makishima confronts Akane holding one of her friends as hostage and when she scans this ruthless killers’ psyche…it is below standard and her Dominator doesn’t activate…and with the mindset that Sybil is absolute, Makishima kills her friend in front of her, with his psyche at 0…bringing in the whole question is the order Sybil brings actually good for the public, because if you fool it, then you can practically get away with anything….
From there, things heat up. We get a lot of exposition from Makishima and his goals, we get the full throttle of the force having to realise that they have to go through people when a group has created helmets to protect them from Sybils’ eyes (literally one scene has someone with a helmet beating up a woman in the street, and a robot comes over diagnosing the dying woman as ‘suffering from too much stress’ whilst no one bats an eye because the guy attacking has no psyche issues) whilst realising Akane is a bit weapon in the unit because she is able to keep her Psycho-Pass from being clouded. Relationships are discovered as Akane begins to grow from a nervous rookie to knowing what to do after seeing that scene of her friend getting killed. We have some fight scenes with Makishima vs. Kogami being a more personal war (the very first clip in episode 1 is in fact a flash forward to their fight), the discovery of what the Sybil system really is, the corruption behind the police force and how Makishima is linked with it, what Makishima really wants and how he will figure it out, and some more brutal tragedies with certain characters which I won’t spoil but there are some surprises out there.
It ends with the idea that a sequel is in place (with an echo to Akanes’ introduction to Ginoza for the new rookie, ironically a girl showcased in the art murder case) with the organisation looking set to change, and considering what happens to Kogami at the end, it certainly raises a lot of questions ready for the sequel.
I love how this show basically at first seems to be a crime of the day show, but with hints of character development with the young rookie asking the Enforcers about Kogami, whilst her boss doesn’t want her to treat them as equals, rather as dogs bodies, with the Enforcers practically trapped in their work unless they want to be jailed or worse, the mindset seems to be ‘ah, could be worse.’ The catch is the character Kogami, and in particular his relationship with both Akane as a developing team/friendship whilst his relationship with Ginoza is one of a mild respect but a lot of trauma for both of them in the past where things appear to not change. Ginoza himself becomes a character who sees things gradually differently, particularly when you establish what his relationships are with both Kogami, and the older Enforcer Masaoka. And then when the main villain enters the scene, how the dynamic quickly shifts.
The character of Makishima is one of my favourite villains of all time – he quickly rose up to how much of a magnificent bastard he was…but like all good villains, his motives are because he believes he is right. It doesn’t matter how out there his thoughts are, he has to believe it. And ironically by the end of the series, he pretty much is. There is no good or bad in any of the mentalities, it is indeed shades of grey. The idea is Sybil good is one challenged and well demonstrated when Makishima shows that he is a cold ruthless killer, but because of his calm mindset, high intelligence (he quotes from several famous works ranging from Shakespeare to Phillip K. Dick which all seem relevant to his crimes). He takes an interest in Kogami, believing him to be the same as him which of course leads to a final confrontation – combined with how Akane develops after an infamous scene at the half way point (Akane at first seems rather annoying because of her rookie cop status, but she develops well, gains intelligence and by the end of the series is probably their strongest officer…) and the relationships developing as they get smarter, (both heroes and villains, though it is hard to tell which is which depending on whose side you are on) and the confrontation between Akane and Sybil itself cemented this as one of the rare series that hits all the buttons for me in terms of a well written story, good animation, voices, characters and development.
Sadly, it isn’t perfect. The one sad issue I will have is the fact that the focus is great except for the fact that two of the characters might as well as not be there. Kagari is the young guy who seems to have a thing for the ladies in his first scene, but after that he only has two major impacts in the story, one to tell Akane about Kogami, and one when Kogami works out Makishimas’ plan and he seperates to deal with one of the problems. The other character, Yayoi, all she gets is a one episode flashback to showcase who she was and how she came to join the team. And even there we didn’t know much about her, instead she seems to be used as a potential girls love fanservice with Shion (and even she isn’t used that much despite being the hacker and tech expert). Indeed, many of the side characters are far more memorable such as Gu-Sung, Makishimas’ right hand man, Rikako, the daughter of the artist who uses human beings as ‘art’ and Senguji, the creepy cyborg who ‘hunts’ human beings because they stood out when they were introduced with their interaction, far less overall seen on screen yet have more character development than two of the main Enforcers. The second season may change that, but here, it was a bit glaring – which whilst helped out by the excellent storytelling and development of the rest of the cast, was still a mild issue.
Still, that doesn’t distract the fact the series is a mind-screw of the most positive kind. There is plenty of action, intelligent writing and storytelling, some great character development on the whole and a well played and thought out finale once Makishima gets introduced, tying in some of the past histories of Kogami and Ginoza, as well as developing Akane as she discovers the truth behind Sybil. Another story where it is hard to tell what is good and what is evil, and how it is defined. It is a real treat and certainly one I will watch again.
Psycho-Pass is the term for the devices that define their psyche, and if the cast is a danger to society. Much like them, the show is unpredictable and can catch you off guard when you least suspect it. The growth of the lead female combined with the history of the main leads with an excellent antagonist and several side stories involving his peers culminates in a final ending…but also sets up a sequel with the main conflict not over at least mentally. There is so much potential with this series and hope more is on the way – a definite recommendation for a surprisingly realistic series despite set in the future, but a good mix of everything done right.
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: B-
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: A
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: September 1st, 2014
Running Time: 528 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Review Equipment: Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.