Tuesday, January 20, 2015


Psycho-Pass; animated science-fiction crime series, Japan, 2012; D: Katsuyuki Motohiro, Naoyoshi Shiotani, S: Kana Hanazawa, Tomokazu Seki, Akira Ishida, Kenji Nojima
In the 22nd century, the crime in society became extinct thanks to the Sibyl system, a programme that scans the brains of citizens and measures their Psycho-Pass, i.e. the level of their aggressive mood at a certain time point. If a person has a score of over 130, he or she is traquillized by police officers and brought to a correction facility. If the Psyco-Pass is over 300, the person is killed. That way, most crimes don't even happen. The new inspector, Akane, and her partner, Kogami, are assigned to capture a serial killer, Makashima, whose Psycho-Pass, as it turns out, is registered as normal even though he is seen killing Akane's friend in front of her. Akane finds out Sibyl is hiding the information that there are criminally asymptomatic persons in the world. Makashima plans to bring down the Sibyl system in order to free people from it. Akane finds out Sibyl is also composed out of brains from asymptomatic persons combined to a hardware. Kogami manages to stop and kill Makashima.

Even though it may not seem like it at first, at a better look "Psycho-Pass" is one of the more intelligent and philosophical Sci-Fi anime series of the 21st century, an achievement that could have been even more philosophical, but its author, screenwriter Gen Urobuchi, probably actually intended to make the viewers think more for themselves. Set in a futuristic world that seems to be a restructuring of "Minority Report", it is a story in which the crime is prevented from even happening by having the central computer programme, the Sibyl, scan the brains of citizens in order to determine if their aggressive moods reach criminal levels, upon which the cops react and arrest - or kill - them. However, the fundamental contradiction of such a system is revealed to the new inspector Akane already in the first episode, in which the cops kill a man who was torturing and raping a woman - but then also scan the brain of the woman, and conclude her Psycho-Pass is "too high" and she needs to be enforced as well, even though she is a victim! Akane serves as the voice of reason in the storyline, as opposed to police officers who always obey Sibyl's judgements regardless that they actually feel someone is innocent or not. The story unravels finely and offers three "plot twists", and even though there is some harsh violence (criminals are killed by being hit with the laser gun which causes their bodies to explode) it is proportionally done with a measure, as to leave enough room for characters and dramaturgy. The main tangle is the discovery of the master-mind behind all the crimes, Makashima, whose Psycho-Pass is always - paradoxically - registered as normal, even when he kills a girl in front of Akane. This poses some serious questions about free will: if your government or any other kind of authority tells you that something is wrong or right, even though you disagree completely, would you agree anyway?

Makashima is a truly fascinating villain. At first, it is easy to hate him for his evil plans, yet as the viewers get the bigger picture, that he wants to fight the Sibyl system which he considers Totalitarian, the impression is suddenly far more complex and it is never quite sure if the right choice would be for Akane to arrest him or to join his fight. Makashima is also surprisingly literate and quotes from a wide range of sources, from "Blade Runner" through Blaise Pascal ("Justice is subject to dispute, might is easily recognized and not disputed. So we cannot give might to justice", which - in a follow up even more staggering - causes cop Kogami to reply with Jose Ortega y Gasset's quote: "I have long since learned, as a measure of elementary hygiene, to be on guard when anyone quotes Pascal") to Swift's "Gulliver's Travels" ("A doctor in Balnibarbi comes up with a way to get politicians with bipartisan, conflicting opinions to reconcile with one another. It was a surgery in which they'd cut each of their brains in half and then have the two half brains put together. That way, they could produce that moderation as well as regularity of thinking"), which is a real treat. The final plot twist, as to the true secret of the Sibyl system, is great and causes a great contradiction to dwell on: even at the highest level of mechanized cyberpunk, where humans became machines, it all still cannot work without humans. A few complaints should be aimed at a couple of "dead" CGI scenes, several "grey" scenes, a lack of character development of some of the cops and the impression that the authors "shot out" all they had by episode 20, which makes the finale in the last two episodes "flat" and standard. Overall, though, a very interesting thriller anime.


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