Psycho-Pass

Tagged: Film | TV

Japanese animated tv series (2012-2013). Production I.G. Directed by Katsuyuki Motohiro and Naoyoshi Shiotani. Written by Makoto Fukami and Gen Urobuchi. Voice cast includes Kana Hanazawa, Kenji Nojima, Takahiro Sakurai and Tomokazu Seki. 22 23-minute episodes. Colour.

Twenty-second-century Japan is stable, prosperous and has created the "greatest happiness for the greatest number of people" (see Utopia). This is done through the Sibyl System, which uses advanced Technology biometrics to measures citizens' mental states and so judge their propensity for criminality – their "psycho-pass". This includes a score, which – if too high – results in therapy and/or imprisonment. The Criminal Investigation Department of the Public Safety Bureau (PSB) is tasked with capturing these potential criminals, their officers carrying Dominators, weapons that measure a person's psycho-pass: above the threshold, it will immobilize them; if their score is high enough to suggest an immediate threat, it will kill them (see Crime and Punishment; Dystopia).

Rookie Inspector Akane Tsunemori (Hanazawa) joins Inspector Ginoza's (Nojima) PSB team; the pair oversee Enforcers, who are convicted latent criminals. Ginoza cautions Akane against befriending their Enforcers: she discovers they include his ex-Detective father and his former partner, Shinya Kougami (Seki) – their psycho-pass numbers having climbed to an unacceptable level, an occupational hazard. She sees the darker side of the Sibyl System when a kidnap victim is so traumatized that their psycho-pass reaches the Dominator's kill level: against protocol, Akane immobilizes Kougami before he can fire and calms the victim, reducing their score.

Shogo Makishima (Sakurai) holds that the Sibyl System has created a nation of sheep. There exists an embittered underclass, those whose prospects are curtailed because of what their psycho-pass says they might do: Makishima plans to discredit the system by providing these malcontents with the tools to bypass it and commit murder. Makishima is "criminally asymptomatic", the Sibyl System's technology not recognizing him as a criminal: Arkane witnesses this, impotent as he murders a friend, her Dominator refusing to fire. Makishima is eventually captured and brought before the Sibyl System itself: a Computer incorporating an "aggregate of human brains" (see Brain in a Box; Hive Mind): specifically, those of the criminally asymptomatic. It is argued that their sociopathy helps offset the system's weaknesses: Makishima is invited to join them, but they have misjudged him; escaping, he is eventually killed by Kougami.

Akane also meets the computer: she believes "the law doesn't protect people, people protect the law", the computer the reverse. Circumstances force her to defend a system she knows to be, at best, profoundly flawed from a man whose arguments for destroying it are sound, but whose methodology is despicable (and who, in his own way, mirrors that system). Despite Makishima's grand declarations, Kougami ponders whether his motivations come from a sense of rejection – the Sibyl System literally does not recognize him for who he is.

In this future Japan, Virtual Reality and Robots are part of everyday life; but the country is also isolated from the rest of the world, whilst the Sibyl System has edited the history available online. Covering the familiar sf dilemma of freedom vs security, this is an intelligent, thoughtful, violent and very entertaining Cyberpunk Anime with good characterization. It's perhaps overeager to prove its intellectual credentials – names dropped include Foucault, Kierkegaard, George Orwell, Pascal, Plato, Proust, Rousseau, Jonathan Swift, Shuji Terayama and Max Weber, as well as William Gibson and Philip K Dick – the latter clearly a major influence on the series, particularly the issue of pre-crime from the latter's "The Minority Report" (January 1956 Fantastic Universe).

This commercially successful and critically praised series was followed by Psycho-Pass 2 (2014) with 11 episodes, and Psycho-Pass 3 (2019) with 8 episodes, along with five films: Psycho-Pass: The Movie (2015, original title Gekijouban Psycho-Pass); Psycho-Pass: Sinners of the System, a 2019 trilogy comprising Case.1 Crime and Punishment, Case.2 First Guardian and Case.3 On the Other Side of Love and Hate (original title Onshuu no Kanata ni); and Psycho-Pass 3: First Inspector (2020). There have also been related Manga, Light Novels and Videogames. [SP]

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