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Psycho-Pass: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray Anime Review

10 min read

PSycho-Pass 2 Complete CoverLife moves on and a new world-threatening event takes shape.

What They Say:
It’s been a little over a year since Inspector Akane Tsunemori chose to put her faith in the Sibyl System and keep its true nature a secret. Assigned to a new division with a few familiar faces, Akane and her team of Inspectors and Enforcers are charged with upholding the law in a society where just thinking about a crime is enough to get you locked away forever — or executed on the spot.

Just as Akane settles into her new routine, a terrorist bombing in the center of the city shakes the System to its core and launches an investigation that uncovers a network of latent criminals who claim their leader has the power to lower their crime coefficients. After Enforcers begin turning up dead with cryptic messages scrawled near their bodies, Akane starts closing in on the answers she’s looking for — completely unaware that an even deadlier threat is lurking closer than she could ever imagine.

Contains episodes 23-33.

The Review:
Audio:
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.

Video:
Originally airing in 2014, the transfer for this eleven 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 two discs with nine on the first and two on the second, which also has a video commentary. Animated by Tatsunoko Production., there’s definitely a great design to the show that carries through on what we had in the first season and adds its own little touches to it. The big thing for me is the way it presents the technological sleekness of the day but also the rundown aspects of the city that the team ends up having to go into. 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.

Packaging:
After the effect of the premium edition for the first season this season will naturally feel a little underwhelming to say the least. But it does everything right as a straightforward edition with a slipcover that presents some of the key characters from the season, though I would have changed it up a bit more, while sticking to the dark tone that dominated the first season. The slipcover replicates the case artwork exactly, just with a little bit of a slicker feeling to it. The back cover goes for a dark green and black science fiction element to its design and is mostly text heavy as it breaks down what the show is about throughout most of it. The right side has some small shots from the show but they’re not going to be what sells it. The remainder fleshes things out with the extras and the technical grid that clearly and cleanly conveys the technical aspects of the set. The case itself has some nice black/green artwork on the reverse side of two of the Enforcers, giving it a properly menacing look. No show related inserts are included with this release.

Menu:
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.

Extras:
The extras for this release are pretty good, especially if you’re a dub fan. While we get the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences, we also get an audio commentary track and a video commentary track. I always like the video commentary ones since it’s a chance to see how the voice actors actually react to things, both in the show and in talking about it, so seeing the four involved here going on about the show and their characters is a lot of fun.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The first season of Psycho-Pass was that kind of original anime series that can catch fans by surprise. I didn’t watch it during its simulcast form and marathoned the whole thing with the premium edition that Funimation brought out. Going through it that way really made for a grand experience as the nature of the show is a twisty and windy one that felt like it was going to be a lot more coherent and engaging when watched in that form. Having enjoyed that, I was really interested in watching the second season but opted to do the same thing so I could just experience it all over the course of a day. While not as strong as the first season, mostly because it didn’t try to do the same thing, I found it to be a really engaging work with what it wanted to do and the challenge it wanted to present to the characters.

Taking place a year after the events of the first season, Akane is now definitely in a stronger and more confident position than she was before and is so completely into the job that she’s like a smooth operater top tier kind of operative but without the cockiness. She’s taken to what she learned before in how to view things with the mysteries that are presented and to question assumptions rather than give them more credit that they might be worth. While we saw the first season through her eyes as a way to understand how this world works, this time around we know the function and nature of it and get a different view of it all because of that. This is more focused on a singular mystery spread over the eleven episodes that weaves its tale but is a bit less character focused than the first season. Whereas that one focused on the Enforcer/Inspector dynamic, this one engages with the nature of Sybil.

Because it’s a mystery for the first half and then explores the nature of it as it progresses with how it works and why, I’m not going to go into a lot of detail about it. But it’s an intriguing piece that takes the nature of how citizens are viewed through their Hue and what it really means. There’s this sense that a lot of people end up really appreciating the society that exists here and its peaceful nature, which includes those that stray from the numbers being taken for “fixing” before being put back into said society. This is not a new concept in science fiction to be sure and they don’t engage deep in it like a novel would, but I like that it’s presented as what feels normal and right in this day and age. The things we do today are nothing like how things were done decades ago, never mind a century ago as this takes place in 2114. How radically different things are through the evolution of society and needs is hard to understand both past and present as sometimes you can only truly grasp the why and acceptability of it by having grown up in it. So seeing how many are very happy with this arrangement is the right way to present it as opposed to a deeply disaffected minority that’s becoming the new norm. In fact, the way this plays out feels like it’s going to cement itself even more in this direction with a firmer grip on society. That leaves you curious as to how so many things change, such as the arts and creativity, but it’s not explored in that context here.

What intrigued me the most here, and it really only works in fiction as the real world would invariably work very differently, is in seeing how the system is circumnavigated. Some of it may be that cultural side of it in accepting how things are over time gradually (and I’m curious as to how the rest of the world reacts to Sybil and what it does), but you have to imagine that there would be some really creative strains of resistance and nonconformity that would exist. The focus on the Kamui character here that has found a way to clear people’s Hue and use them to achieve his goals of challenging Sybil is well done. But it’s a story that works over the entire season and is not quickly revealed. We see the stages of his plan, particularly in capturing and converting an Inspector to his side and then acquiring Dominators for use in his plan, and each of these reveals new things for the MWPSB that they never thought could happen. And it all happens without Sybil offering a challenge to it, which in itself is explored well as it goes on.

The downside to this season for me is that the main cast of characters just feels a little unfocused. Akane is too aloof when you get down to it and there’s nothing engaging about the other characters as they’re all solo acts that are together in one group as the MWPSB. They’re interesting personalities, but there’s no real team function, even amid the Inspector/Enforcer dynamic in any meaningful way. This reduces the strength of the show because you really don’t connect with any of them. That turns it more into a standard procedural through a science fiction angle than anything else. Which isn’t bad but it could be more as we saw with the first season. At the same time, this aloof and cautious world that these characters live in makes it easier to believe that people would be like this as they’re so concerned about their Hue that they would push themselves into this kind of nature willingly in order to survive without realizing what they’re doing.

In Summary:
While I can easily see the criticisms that the show gets, especially from those that were so wholly invested in that strong first season, I really came away enjoying this one because of the things it presents with Sybil and what that whole program does. It’s the kind of concept that I really want to see fleshed out in a deeper and richer way, a global way, in novel form just to see if it can be properly explored. This season explores some good ideas and presents an engaging mystery as it unfolds but is unable to make it connect through the characters simply because of how society has changed them into what they are. There are some really neat moments, some strong violence that comes into play, and some fun twists that kept me guessing as to what the real motives were and what trick would be used to resolve it all. I came away quite pleased by it in the end.

Features:
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode Commentaries, Video Commentary, Textless Songs

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

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: March 8th, 2016
MSRP: $64.98
Running Time: 275 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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