First Impressions: Psycho-Pass

Original by Production IG
Simulcast on FUNimation

Premise: In the future, a citywide system allows law enforcement to instantly read the latent criminal level of any citizen and act accordingly. They employ a squad of Enforcers who are themselves latent criminals to catch the most dangerous of the lot. As a fresh face on the force, Akane Tsunemori must adjust to the brutal and indifferent methods the city uses to deal with its seedy underbelly.

Iro’s Verdict: Passing Grade

The first episode here did what a first episode should do: established the setting, characters, and the main concepts the show is going to run on. The city can measure a person’s Psycho Pass to determine their crime level, the guns only shoot depending on the crime level, the society has lost sight of justice, yadda yadda yadda. They’re interesting concepts, if somewhat cliche, it’s just that the show would ideally set it up in a slightly more engaging way – apparently a lot of people were bored.

The real question is how the show is going to develop from here. We got an in medias res prologue involving some white-haired guy (built up to be the Kotomine to Shinya Kogami’s Kiritsugu, as it were – Urobuchi ought to diversify his characters) to drag us along with the mystery, but it doesn’t seem as important when the focus shifts to the new girl on the squad. The only thing I can say at this point is that we’ll see how it goes – the ever-infamous Puella Magi Madoka Magica had a slow start too, after all.

Lifesong’s Verdict: Minority Report in a Gun

Dark, edgy and dry are the words I would use to describe this first episode. I can sense some potential here, but the dark moody atmosphere created by this first impression feels more on the level of gothic teens who dress up in all black than the futuristic dystopia we are supposed to believe this takes place in.

Queue up a bunch of criminals hunting criminals with magic violence detection guns that only shoot bad guys, and you have an interesting setup for moral dilemma in a badly realized setting. I’m not sure if I want to like this or not, but I didn’t think the first episode was very good.

We are dropped right into the middle of a chase scene following the eyes of a naive police woman who serves as our only anchor in this unknown world; Kana Hanazawa’s voice acting fits the role well, but the role itself is quite boring, and not particularly relatable Instead of feeling a sense of intrigue as this woman is thrown into a world of fighting crime; I was left with a broken suspension of disbelief that questions the silly edge this cast of characters carry about them.

Urobuchi has become a big name in anime lately, and understandably so. His work in writing both the script for Madoka, and the light novel for Fate/Zero has earned him due praise; however, there is a dark edge to both of these works that continually escalates beyond the themes he establishes early in his plots: darkness for the sake of darkness, and cruelty for the sake of being cruel.

Now I am not going to critique these elements on their own, but creating a sense of doom that never comes up for air can easily encourage a stiflingly atmosphere for the viewers who disconnect from the dark broody nature of the work. Madoka got around this by throwing cute little girls at us, Fate/Zero had an intriguing world that played off the philosophy of kings, servants and chivalry. This first episode of Psycho-Pass had self-indulgent gun porn, and generic broody criminals which instead of contrasting with the stifling atmosphere actually encouraged it. Can you see my disconnect?

Now I’m all for show and don’t tell, but when I am thrown into what appears to be a deep setting things need to be established before we start brooding about how awful this new worlds criminology is. Minority Report comes to mind. Imagine Minority Report starting after Tom Cruise’s character is already on the run as a fugitive; skipping all the back-story, and development that made Minority Report the intelligent piece of science fiction that it was. That’s how I felt by this attempt to anchor me into the world nothing but a newbie cop shtick. It’s not even like Psycho-Pass was without exposition; it actually had plenty, just it managed to establish little of value.

In this anime we have a world where we can clearly gauge that criminology has become a fucked up thing, but we have no knowledge of why or any logic to justify the actions of well.. anyone. For a futuristic piece of science fiction that is simply unacceptable, and for the record it’s not like this episode spent a lot of time on the chase scene. Most of it was spent just being broody, and not bothering to establish much aside from the guns; which frankly have more personality than the entire combined cast at this point.

Perhaps I am being rather harsh on this first episode, but I can honestly say if not for the high production values, and all the big names in the credits I wouldn’t be willing to give this anime a second shot. I know better than to write this anime off at it’s first impression, but I can’t stress enough that these names are the only reason I do. On a more positive note I see that IG is keeping the Egoist brand alive, and I loved the ED more than the entire episode in fact.

Dragonzigg’s Verdict: Future Imperfect

The involvement of Urobuchi is one of the major reasons everyone has been excited about this but, ironically, it’s failures of writing that drag this first episode down. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I’m having real trouble with the entire concept that you can instinctively tell somebody’s criminality from their mental state.  Your mentality is not something that’s fixed but something that’s always shifting, and to pretend that a system can determine with 100% accuracy the signs of a psychopath requires pretty stiff suspension of disbelief to say the least.  Of course, the whole point of the system is that it’s corrupt and foolable, but it’s so obviously so that one has to wonder how it was ever instigated in the first place.

Elsewhere, the show makes baffling use of it’s running time and characters. The entire ‘rookie female cop’ thing needs to die right now – Akane is a ludicrously incompetent character who appears to have no idea what the hell anything is about. The idea that she graduated top of her class yet is entirely oblivious to the way the system works is laughable, and she’s nothing more than a weak, ineffectual shell of a character throughout this episode. Urobuchi also indulges some of his less savoury habits here, such as nasty brutal violence against women, and the kill shot on the target is so ridiculously gory it had me laughing at the stupidity of it all.  Meanwhile, too much time is wasted on fetishizing the guns, which I’d almost mistake as a toy plug if this weren’t outside that demographic.

If I sound disappointed it’s only because there’s also a great deal of potential here that I’d like to see tapped.  It’s incredibly refreshing to see an anime that actually stars adults, that takes place somewhere other than a school, and there’s a certain intrigue to the roughly realistic, rain drenched world they’re portraying, even if it’s doing the cyberpunk 101 thing of lifting straight from Blade Runner. Psycho-Pass clearly needs time to develop, but amid all its high-minded ideas one has to hope it doesn’t lose sight of the basic foundations of what makes a story interesting.

Gee’s Verdict: Sets the foundation of something hopefully interesting

I’m a big fan of cyberpunk and police procedurals so a story like this is right up my alley. As a first episode, it does its job perfectly, setting up the mood, establishing the world, and introducing us to the characters and the systems of the world they follow. Admittedly, while I love the design of the rookie cop, I’m not a big fan of that plot device and I find it hard to believe she graduated at the top of her class. If she’s the best the police academy has to offer, I fear for the future of competent law enforcement.

Still, the moody oppressive setting works perfectly and it’s obvious that the Psycho Pass system that exists in their world is going to play a large part. I can already see now that inevitably issues will arise from it. From our standpoint, it’s clearly flawed and it should be interesting to see how society ended up needing to rely on such an ethically questionable system. It’s been done before in fiction but I look forward to seeing how Gen executes it.

Also, there’s a cool old cop with a robot hand. That’s awesome!

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