Psycho Pass Boxart 001 - 20140306Holy shit, Psycho-Pass is awesome.

That said, I should offer an explanation on what exactly a Psycho-Pass is. More important, I should explain why my declarations are so enthusiastic. Psycho-Pass is a 2012 sci-fi thriller from Production I.G.. The series features series composition by Gen Urobuchi (Puella Magi Madoka Magica) and character designs by Kyoji Asano (Attack on Titan, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex).

Psycho-Pass is set in an unnamed city in the year 2113. In this city, the streets are clean and crime is at an all-time low. This is made possible by the Sibyl System, which is a centralized computer system that is able to instantly measure anybody’s mental state and personality. The assessment, called a “Psycho-Pass“, also allows for a measurement of a person’s likelihood to commit crimes. Those whose crime potential is deemed too high are taken into custody as “latent criminals.” In more extreme cases, these apprehensions are carried out with lethal force.

It’s in this world that the viewer is introduced to Akane Tsunemori, the newest inspector of the Public Safety Bureau’s Criminal Investigation Division. Unlike the police of our time, investigators command a special team of latent criminals known as Enforcers to handle more dangerous assignments. While they technically work together, Enforcers are more like trained dogs, used as pawns for the higher-ranked Inspectors. Akane has a different outlook on the world, though, and instead favors working with the Enforcers as colleagues. This draws some ire from Ginoza, Akane’s partner, but her unique view on the world may be the one thing that can bring closure to a truly mysterious case. A rash of unusual crimes is gripping the city, and the solution may rest in the past of the very enforcers under Akane’s command!

From the outset, it’s made clear that Psycho-Pass is the type of show that demands the attention of the viewer. The show’s plot, which is itself borrows heavily from popular sci-fi titles like Blade Runner and Minority Report, is a refreshingly dark look at the world of tomorrow. The world is presented as a dark, dangerous place, where isolated pockets of light and hope filter through the playgrounds for criminals and degenerates. It’s a world where the wonders of fantastic inventions and incredible conveniences are dulled by the sheer darkness in those that use them. Brutal murders are a fact of life, and the justice meted out by the police is both vicious and absolute.

The world of Psycho-Pass is brought to life by the charismatic characters that reside within. Akane serves as a truly interesting protagonist, as her naiveté and optimism provide a stark contrast to her colleagues, and to the very situations in which she finds herself. The Enforcers, from the grizzled Masaoka to the troubled, yet earnest Kogami are likeable characters that seem to stand out against the normal rank and file of the police department. They have their own dreams and ambitions, of which they’re painfully aware that they’ll never be able to achieve. The chemistry between the cast members is simply wonderful, as the characters play off one another to grow into vibrant and interesting individuals. Their stories are masterfully woven into the core narrative, which builds into a truly gripping detective tale.

The show’s villains, while generally despicable individuals, tend to beg a degree of pity. They are individuals, driven to their extremes by a pseudo-totalitarian society, who are given the means to break bad. And, while they are irredeemable monsters, one can’t help but pity the circumstances that led to their descent into madness.

Psycho-Pass‘s world is further enhanced by a gorgeous, gritty visual style. The series’ many backdrops are far from the gleaming metropolises found in titles like Appleseed. They’re gritty, lived-in environments that mask their ugliness with cheap holographic projections. Certain crime scenes, like the drone factory in episode 2 are confined and constricting, as if they embody the frustrations of those who work in the drudgery day after day. Others, like the apartment in the first episode, are chaotic and disheveled, much like the shattered psyche of the criminal Akane and company pursue.

Character designs are generally muted, with a preference for the practical. The protagonists are typically clad in dark suits, and use subtle differences in their attire to express their personalities. For example, Kogami’s disheveled, untucked look is a stark contrast to Kagari’s neat black shirt with a striking red tie. So, even within their conformity, the characters find ways to make their quirks rise to the surface. The animation is gorgeous, especially when the action begins to heat up. Fight scenes are often fast, fluid, and fantastically choreographed. These scenes are a joy to watch, from the pursuit, to the satisfying and visceral gun play. Deaths in the field are explosive and satisfyingly gory, with blood sprays and just enough detail to be unsettling.

Psycho-Pass is a series that will grip the viewer, from the opening credits to the final sign-off. The charming cast and techno-grunge settings will pull the viewer into the world, while the legitimately interesting story will ensure that they keep watching for just one more episode. While the show is sometimes a bit too open with its influences, Psycho-Pass is a series that would be a welcome addition for those looking for a slightly darker sci-fi story.

Thanks to FUNimation for providing a review copy!