First Impressions – Psycho-Pass

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For a change, a NoitaminA show is the most anticipated series of the season,  Did it deliver?

[HorribleSubs] PSYCHO-PASS - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_00.54_[2012.10.12_22.15.48]There’s an awful lot that stands out in the pedigree for Psycho-Pass.  It’s NotiaminA.  It’s Gen Urobuchi, and it’s Production I;.G.(though that doesn’t mean what it once did).  So there’s really nothing surprising in the fact that it topped the poll here at LiA and at RandomC as well.  And while there’s a lot to like in the opening episode, there are some elements that didn’t really work for me, and that makes the opening ep perhaps a mild disappointment.  It’s true I’m holding Psycho-Pass up to a higher standard than most shows, but it’s one of the few this season that I felt had a legit chance to be great.  And of course, it still might.

[HorribleSubs] PSYCHO-PASS - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_01.53_[2012.10.12_22.16.46]One undeniable fact is that the core of this story – a dystopian future where latent criminal tendency can be predicted with supposedly great accuracy – has been done before.  Phillip K. Dick’s “Minority Report” (later a Spielberg film) is only the most famous of many examples.  Here, instead of psychics the technology called “Dominator” is used to rank everyone by their criminal tendency score, and that same technology is used to power weapons that can disable “Latents” for convenient brainwashing and slavery – or, if necessary, kill them.  Some of these latents are used as “hunting dogs” by the police, to help in the apprehension of rogue potential criminals.

[HorribleSubs] PSYCHO-PASS - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_02.43_[2012.10.12_22.17.37]Well, the flaws in this system are obvious – so obvious in the first episode, in fact, that I hope their eventual reveal isn’t going to be treated as some kind of shocking event.  We’ve seen this exploration of determinism and free will through this conceit many times, but with Urobuchi doing the writing there’s at least the hope that Psycho-Pass will somehow find a fresh way to do so (though it won’t be easy).  It’s plain that there’s a strong element of the self-fulfilling prophecy to all this, and it’s also plain that that the Dominator isn’t able to differentiate real latent criminality from stress-induced “noise” – such as when it targets the hostage of a runaway deviant for elimination, despite the fact that her criminality level is off the charts mainly because she’s just been tortured and raped.

[HorribleSubs] PSYCHO-PASS - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_03.30_[2012.10.12_22.18.41]There are a couple of other things that stuck in my craw as well.  First of all, main heroine Tsunemori Akane (Kana Hanazawa) is – so far at least – a walking cliché.  We’ve seen the more new girl cop (or solider) vamping her adorably inept way through the new assignment while the grizzled men around her gently but firmly keep her in line a million times in anime alone, and I find it a pretty sexist portrayal.  I also really wonder how it is that a cop who supposedly graduated from the academy with one of the highest scores ever should need to have every detail of the actual job explained to her.  Of course, that enables another of my pet peeves – long explanations which grind the narrative to a halt as a way to roll out as much exposition as possible.  Most of this exposition comes at the hands of the oldest of the hunting dogs, Masaoka Tomomi (Arimoto Kinryuu), whose rank cynicism provides the most interesting perspective in the premiere.  Other hunting dog latents are portrayed by Seki Tomokazu and Ishida Akira, while Tsunemori’s partner Nobuchika Ginoza is played Nojima Kenji.

[HorribleSubs] PSYCHO-PASS - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_05.13_[2012.10.12_22.21.50]What did I like?  Well, I’m always up for a good Noir anime, and this one has the vibe down pretty well.  Urobuchi’s dialogue has its signature snappy rhythm to it (especially Kinryuu-san as Masaoka) and unsurprisingly the premières speaks to a show with no intent on pulling its punches when it needs to use violence to makes its point.  And I don’t think there’s any reason to believe the show can’t get better with some of its clumsy exposition out of the way, though I’m still worried about what it’s going to set out to prove with the system at the heart of the new order already so obviously hollow.  It could end up being a simple good vs. evil action series, but that’s not Gen’s style – I’m sure he’s going to try to frame this as a moral debate somehow.  It seems like a tall order, but if I’m to give anyone a chance to try, it might as well be Urobuchi Gen.  It’s always nice when a highly anticipated show blows you away right out of the gate, but with two cours to come it’s far too early to add panic to mild ambivalence. 

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50 comments

  1. D

    Waiting for this, I don't know why i don't like it when Production I.G do this anime….

  2. C

    Theory and real life are different things anyway…

    Reputable writer? Check…
    Made by Production I.G.? Check…
    A character voiced by HanaKana? Check…
    A song by Egoist? Check…

    Has the makings of a train wreck but we'll wait and see…

  3. A

    I also really wonder how it is that a cop who supposedly graduated from the academy with one of the highest scores ever should need to have every detail of the actual job explained to her
    Is the truth always like that? Every details of a job have to be explained?
    I think there is something wrong here especially with the academy, with the job itself or there's a special reason why Akane was is assigned or chose the job
    And don't forget what Masaoka said about the actual field job is really different with the things Akane learned in the academy and how disturbing the job is.
    Not perfect, but definitely a great start

  4. E

    The superior officer said something like, sorry for such a sudden placement, we are always short on staffs here. So, can we assume that she was trained for a different department? Hence why the unprepared behavior.

  5. A

    Yea, I thought that for a second there, "why is he explaining this to a rookie, shouldn't she already know about this stuff? Oh wait, it's for our benefit. Alright." I mean, walking a rookie through everything she already knows is just a good enough of a reason to get the exposition out of the way. As viewers, I think we were expecting exposition anyways, just depends on how well they hide it.

    Anyways, I'm really excited about this series. It has a blend of Minority Report meets Dredd meets Training Day vibes from the first episode. Lol I've been doing Dredd imitations ever since I saw this yesterday. From a humane standpoint, is this system flawed? Abso-freakin-lutely, but on the other hand, it's a computer and it couldn't give a damn about extenuating circumstances…just like Dredd XD

  6. A

    Well, you have to understand that all these explanations are for the audience, for you, not for the girl. Without it, no one can actually understand the settings. Plus, with Urobuchi, you ought not to expect she is that stereotype protagonist. She will possibly be driven mad or killed in few episodes. He loves to put his characters in desperate situations, and he adores psycho-pass, unquestionably.

  7. I understand, but there are ways to do exposition without grinding the narrative to a halt to have a character recite it extraneously. Look at how R;N handled it or, even better, how Shin Sekai Yori has. It's harder to do it that way, but much more effective.

    I admit it – this is a pet peeve for me, like old men playing teenagers. It bothers me to a disproportionate degree.

  8. H

    Knowing Gen, I have a strong feeling that he will subject Akane to harsh psychological treatment as the show progresses. After all, she's the archetypal/stereotypical rookie idealist. And we all know, based on Gen's previous works, like Madoka and Fate/Zero, that Gen always tortures his idealistic characters. He seems to hate idealists.

    And yeah, I agree with you. The cliches are very annoying, especially considering that Gen is a rather sophisticated writer. Like you, I have high hopes for this show. I hope that it doesn't end up turning into middlbrow crap.

  9. A

    lol, i don't really think Gen hates idealists, but I share his sentiment that idealists need to suffer trials and tribulations to ultimately determine the truth of their convictions. It's always a treat to see how these types of stories play out. "You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villan."

  10. K

    Psycho-Pass screamed Minority Report at me, but it also has similar elements to Judge Dredd.

    The presentation, especially the opening sequence with the city, seemed a bit too much like GC. But the similarities end there, thankfully.
    Considering how Madoka turned out, it's almost a guarantee that there will be a deconstruction of the clichés that have appears.

    None of the characters stand out to me, but the intrigue/ potential for plot is definitely strong.

  11. A

    I think I found my new best friend =P

  12. K

    Good observation. I too see a combination of Minority Report and Judge Dredd, though it leans more towards the former for me, and a bit of Blade Runner perhaps. Probably its slick cyberpunk style does it for me.

    Judge Dredd is more apocalyptic dystopian, whereas this is merely dystopian, but not yet "end of world".

  13. A

    It has that Dredd vibe in that extenuating circumstances bear no weight in the face of absolute justice. Oh, and the gun is essentially the same =P

  14. K

    First of all, I need to get this off my chest: Enzo, having read your blog for months, me doth think you tend to complain too much by nitpicking on every minor flaw you can find.

    If you want to tear a series apart because of poor directing, terrible adaptation or unimpressive style after about 10 episodes in or as an overall series review, be my guest, but to pick on the clichedness of characters in what is otherwise a rather solid pilot episode of a promising premise is just demanding too much.

    It's not like the first time we've seen a Butch Gen series, the real Butch Gen does not appear in episode 1 – hence why it looks cliched and all.

    Maybe all my years of anime watching have taught me to always lower expectation and just enjoy the ride for what it is, hence my flexible mileage compared to yours.

    It doesn't mean I'll put up with utter crap (to this day, Gundam Seed Destiny represents my lowest point), but I'm willing to tolerate. I come here to escape from the stress of reality and discuss with fellow anime lovers about what we enjoy, not get stressed out by having water poured over my head for a blogger moaning about every minor "mistake" EVERY episode.

    Oops, there goes my stress levels. Guess I'm now classified as a "Latent Criminal" by the Dominator System.

    Apologies if I've offended you.

  15. I don't know what you expect me to do, to be honest. Be a cheerleader? Then what's the point of bothering in the first place?

  16. D

    Hey, Kinny Riddle, stop bothering Enzo!! If you want cheerleader squats who conjure up a lynching mob and neg down every single post of any hint of criticism, go to RC, my friend. There you can enjoy universal praise of their respective shows with golden one-liner comments like "OMG, I love this show" or "I love this character!!" or similar sort.

    Now, let us enjoy healthy dose of trashing, I mean, ahem, criticism in peace here when and if a show deserves one, m'okay??

  17. K

    I wouldn't go so far as to say cheerleading, but the way you guys put it as though I'm trying to stifle your opinion is just way off the mark here.

    As for the downvoting system in RC, I have been quite vocal about calling for it to be scrapped as I believe it just gets in the way of quality debate. Sure it takes out trolls, but in the past, trolls would simply have their posts nuked by the admins.

    Criticism is fine, but when I see criticism that isn't fair, I speak up. And lately you do tend to do it a lot. Simple as that.

  18. L

    Something I've noticed is that Enzo gives likes to give greater weighting to emotional depth. Series like this tend to fare less better as a result. It presents a certain content bias, but it's how he does it.

  19. How is it unfair, Kinny? Details. I have opinions and express them, then give my reasons. Where did I cross the line?

  20. K

    Gotta chuckle at the title, as in Japanese, both "psychopath" and Psycho-Pass are pronounced "saikopasu".

    It takes a psychopath to hunt psychopaths, this gets me curious about the backgrounds of these "hounds".

    While Kagari (Ishida Akira in another Butch Gen "psychopathic" role, sort of) looks and feels like a psychopath on a leash, the same cannot be said of the rather affable Masaoka, who acted as a sort of mentor to Akane this episode.

    From how the Sybil System could arbitrarily determine innocent victims as latent criminals or even as undesirables to be exterminated due to their stress levels being contaminated by being in close proxy to other psychopaths, it's most likely people like Masaoka were probably senior detectives dealing with so much murder, especially the serial ones, that their mental state gets muddied over time.

  21. H

    The thing about the exposition which bothered me here was that one of the guys "I'm sure you already know about the guns," Akane says yes, and then he proceeds to explain anyway. Sure it was for the audience benefit but man was that a clunky way to do it and it didn't make either character look good in the process.

  22. A

    This anime is screaming Guilty Crown! But I like it. In a good way. I mean it.

  23. A

    At it's core, this is nothing like GC. GC goes for the cool, while completely ignoring human logic (why would Inori be the one to go steal the bio weapo…you know what, f*** it. crazy explosions!). Psycho-Pass understands that people think and questions it outright (wait, we can't shoot her; she's the victim. this isn't right)

  24. A

    The impression I had while watching the first episode of GC and Psyco-pass are the same though. But I think I like the GC plot better. And I mean plot, the setting, not the anime.

  25. e

    What's with rape lately? Well, at least here it makes sense in the context and it's not just brushed off in-universe. As such, it's not a deal breaker for me here.
    I quite agree with your assessment of the potential minus(es?) Enzo. And I don't think you're being too nitpicky here or elsewhere, for the record. You're just being prudent and quite honest. Just because you're not ecstatic with every aspect of a production doesn't mean you're being overcritical or biased or wrong ;).
    I'm no Urobuchi fangirl, my first encounter with him was through Madoka and I had no prior knowledge about his work, I've skipped Garden of Sinners and Fate as those didn't tickle my fancy. As such, my expectations on the writing quality for Psycho-Pass are quite in check I think. I liked the ending of Madoka and found it quite consistent, while some of the plot twists in the middle worked better than others. Let's see here if and how much Urobuchi can make both the travel and destination worth it.

  26. A

    Good review, It's nice to find a blogger who thinks mostly the same stuff you do about a series but writes about it eloquently. On a side-note I thought the cityscape and little details of this world were beautifully done. Also I loved the feel of this series but I think I'm watching a few too many dark-toned series these days. Looking forward to more psycho-pass :)

  27. e

    P.S.: one negative detail for me is Akane's face design. Her nose placement is totally off (aligned with the bottom of her eyes while being miles away from her mouth) and gives every facial expression of hers a dumb flavour. Intentional as I think it is – to drill home the point of her naive rookie POV home vs the rest of the cast, yadda yada we totally wouldn't see that otherwise now would we – it's still bugging me a lot nonetheless…

  28. A

    I think I know what you mean. It's that expression that looks like she's in a state of constant surprise, doesn't it? Either that, or it was to hammer home that she isn't the typical pretty face to look at unlike a certain other useless character by the same production company *coughInoricough*

  29. L

    She's fine leave her alone. At least she isn't another out of place moeblob design.

  30. A

    Nitpicking aside (which really didnt take much away from me in this episode as it apparently did for other people hahahaha), i still think this anime has what it takes to bring something fresh to the "computer-runned dystopian" storyline this show is going for. I did groan a little myself at the forced exposition; i like when shows just give you enough hints to piece stuff together on your own and only later confirm your deductions as true or false, but it wasnt really distracting for me.

    Shows dont break new ground in just one ep and i wasnt expecting this show to either; think about it, i bet the many people commenting on this page right now have a favorite anime of all time that they didn't know would be their favorite anime or be groundbreaking after just one episode; good works take time. I do expect this show to eventually bring something new to the table as it continues its run so here's hoping that it wont let me down

  31. S

    Simply amazing, the long wait was more than worth it! I’ve been looking forward to Psycho-Pass ever since I've heard UroGen’s involvement and his stamp certainly keeps the expectations high. Without skipping a single beat, the fluid action scenes, the thought-provoking dialogues and the morally ambiguous characters are classic UroGen that I've come to know and love. I like how young and inexperienced the depiction of Tsunemori contrasts with all the grizzled veterans, but as you pointed out, it did seem odd that she needed every detail of the actual job explained. Similar to Fate/Zero, it looks like UroGen is staging a grand showdown, pitting two morally opposite characters against each other and I’m probably going to question my personal ideologies again as this unadulterated despair unfolds.

  32. A

    I enjoyed the impressions, but… sexist? Really? Would you have said the same thing if Akane was male? The naive rookie cop angle has been played dozens of times in various media with the character being male at least as much – if not more.

  33. I found Akane to embody pretty much every stereotype of females in male-dominated fields embedded in the 1970's mindset. So yeah – sexist.

  34. D

    Surprisingly that I am the only dude who see some good old Cowboy Bebop ripoffs here with Minority Report mixed in. Lemme see,

    Main dude: "Spike" minus material art capability – Cold, anti-social, loner type with messy dark hair who wields a gun.
    Bad guy: Vicious – long white hair. I eagerly expect him to whip out his samurai sword soon.
    Old guy (aka a friend of main dude): Jet – cyborg left arm+his mannerism is dead-on. The only difference is that he's not balding and is clean shaved.

    And there threw in aforementioned trope girl as main FMC like Enzo said, plus other trope characters like the easygoing friendly guy, megane-kun, quite/cold/deadly secondary girl…

    I am also a bit dismayed at josei/shoujou-like character designs of main dude/bad guy. What the hell? Is this Clamp? …but the background/overall drawing is very very good.

  35. A

    Yeah, but you completely ignored my point. They could have made Akane male, not changed a thing about her personality or actions, and everything would have been exactly the same. I don't think you would have been crying sexist in that case. I was just saying that her character type has been done as a male countless times as well so to call it sexist is really, really flimsy to me.

  36. L

    To be honest I didn't see it so much as sexist either, rather inter generational differences. Some older people will take a condescending tone regardless of what information the newbie gives them.

  37. S

    I've called it a mix of Minority Report (which I just watched yesterday, weird coincidence) and Equilibrium. Interesting enough, Urobuchi wrote a fanfic of Equilibrium some years back, so this is a type of world he really likes.

    As for Akane, I was really harsh on her over at the AnimeSuki forums. I think the7 wrote her that way was quite intentionally (given how well controlled much of the rest of the episode was), so I don't think it was a sexist portrayal. I think she was there to highlight a lot of the stupidity with dropping an unprepared (and likely incapable of handling the stresses) person into an insanely stressful environment. So she comes off as an annoying cliche, but I think that's the point. She should never have been assigned there, and she doesn't have the emotional make up to handle the stresses she's going to be put under. (Quite a lot of people really lack the ability to handle that, so that's not a character defect in Akane, it's a character defect in the idiots that assigned her there)

    Granted, if the series goes off the rails, then my point will fall apart, but from where I sit at the moment, it seems more like a way to highlight those cliches. Especially since you can make an argument for Akane already showing signs of PTSD before the end of the mission.

  38. A

    This is interesting because while I agree she wasn't prepared in that slightest to this assignment, she was indeed the only one to do the right thing, that was to subdue the bystander through non-aggressive means. Lol in that sense, I find her to be the better character in the entire cast so far, for her to go "wait, we can talk to her to calm her down," while everyone else is going "…talking? hm… interesting…"

  39. L

    Whenever I hear the term PTSD I automatically think of 19.

  40. L

    I enjoyed this more than I expected. Presentation/atmosphere wise, based on first ep, it was right up there with Shinsekai Yori. The way it built up everything towards the end of the ep was pretty good too. Still early days though, and two-cour series tend to trip over themselves quite a bit, so lets hope IG keep it tight.

    Does have the makings of a trainwreck though (Judge Dred + Equilibrium?), but I doubt anyone could really do worse than Guilty Crown. It's just not humanly possible to be that bad again.

  41. B

    That was a lot more rapey than I'm used to from NoitaminA shows. But other than that qualm (I literally physically cringe every time rape is used in a show) the first episode was… still not great. Promising, maybe? I think there's something here but it's Urobuchi Gen so there isn't any way to predict whether it will live up to the promise. Maybe it will, and maybe it will get lost in a sea of psuedo-intellectual babble about morality and/or human nature. I'll just have to keep watching it to find out.

  42. A

    last rapey show was Guilty Crown. In fact, the second half onwards, that seems like the only threat the nameless guys use against the girls, so I really don't see how you can say it's more than you're used to on a NoitaminA show. It's been done…by the same production company too, now that I think about it! Hm…makes you wonder doesn't it? What is it with Production I.G. and rape? =P

  43. L

    Are modern anime viewers more sensitive? I'm not advocating rape as acceptable by any means (RL rape cases are extremely traumatic) but this sort of thing wasn't uncommon in older anime aimed at older audiences. Think Akira etc.

  44. S

    2 things:

    1) it goes in waves of "serious" series. When there's a bunch around, it's a more common topic. (Though much of the issue was due to Tonari, which wasn't a rape topic so much as a threat from a character that didn't know what it meant)

    2) The rise of "moe" characters puts it in much higher contrast. Moe & the "averted rape" trope are built off an instinctual level "protect females you care about" response in men. Moe is the positive side; "averted rape" is the negative side. Though moe really isn't, normally, exploitative.

    In most cases (like BTOOM ep 2 this week), it's really just used as a cheap story telling technique. But here in Psycho-Pass, it's actually paired with a guy going completely off the deep end. Which really hasn't been commented on is that our villain in ep 1 actually was still in the process of torturing his victim and that's where we ran into the situation. Which just makes it worse to think about, which probably explains the lack of comment about it.

  45. A

    For a man who will defend Eureka Seven AO to the brinks of hell you sure managed to pick this show apart in one episode.

  46. A

    @Anon:
    for a nameless troll (or are you the 'emotional depth' smartass?) you sure are picking a blogger apart for having his own opinions and his own way of analyzing things in his own blog.
    Different strokes for different folks, live and let live, can't please anyone… if you must please at least bring better arguments to the platter.
    Au revoir.

    Eli

  47. g

    Visuals reminded me of Blade Runner and the first Ghost in the Shell, both of which tend to be good things in terms of detail and atmosphere.

    Akane's character seems like a case of bad writing. She could very well have been the lead in Revolution, with moment being cringeworthy.

  48. D

    Main oddity: The guns are supposed to have directional speakers, so only the user can hear them. How come suddenly at the end, where it's highlighting the victim's changing status, everyone can hear?

    Akane seemed very, very, very out of place. The sort of bright-eyed naivety that could only come from someone whose greatest ambition after graduating was to become an office secretary, and had never had a day of field training more stressful than rescuing kittens and being nice to the shop owners.

    The explanation that Enzo complains about barely even registered as noteworthy to me; it was a minor bit of exposition that's as bog-standard as they come. What bugged me was the horrible hesitance Akane had for even touching the guns. This isn't something that's just a little out of her depth; this is something she's never even imagined dealing with before.

    Basically, Akane Should Not Be There. Period. She's a new graduate, lacking experience. She seems to lack any significant field training. She lacks any but the most superficial training in the guns. She lacks an understanding of the process, and use of the prisoners.

    This is well beyond just the stereotypical rookie-thrown-in-the-deep-end scenario. This is putting someone completely unsuited for the job in an unwanted position.

    The CIO is also "always short on manpower". Why would that be? Either the work that they're being given is growing beyond the ability of the department to manage naturally (which implies that the system itself is leading to a higher crime problem (or that the problem itself is being defined more and more broadly)); or they're regularly losing the people that are normally assigned (eg: stress levels pushing the cops beyond the criminal limit mark? in fact, I wouldn't be surprised if Masaoka himself is a 'retired' cop; note his practiced use of hand signals that you would normally associate with the military or police), and are trying to find -some- psychological profile that can withstand the pressures.

  49. C

    Having seen the second episode to this show I have to admit that I'm rooting more and more for this series.

    I get the complaints. I've heard people whine about the character designs, how dark the first episode got right away, why we should care about the characters and the exposition that people encounter. However, I find it somewhat petty to bash a show right away.

    That said, I started watching this show due to its similarities to witch hunter robin and texhnolyze and the promise of a fresh story. I thought the first episode's introduction to Shinya and the first case was definitely a joy to watch. It was a lot of action and that was great. The infodump and naive newcomer routine is a tried and tested method of explaining the plot and even if it's not realistic to let the characters act this way, it is unavoidable. How else are you going to explain the dominator? You could do it in a flashback of course, but these break flow just as well.

    The second episode characterised the cast and gave us a more detailed view of their world and added some fine motivations and conflicts. This show really needed an hour length episode to fully convey what it's about. I hope everyone else had this patience, for I at least feel rewarded.

    Also, I don't find Akane to be a huge cliché, especially in light of the second episode. You're thinking this because she's used as an audience surrogate for the first episode.

  50. I know that probably didn't come off as you intended, but it's a total non-starter when someone tells me what I'm thinking. I say what I'm thinking in my posts – what you're saying is, "I think you're wrong, so your thinking must be flawed."

    I found Akane to be a huge cliché because, in my opinion, she was. If you disagree, fine – but don't tell me why I believe what I believe. Also, for the record, clumsy exposition by soliloquy isn't remotely "unavoidable". It's only unavoidable if the writing is too lazy or incompetent to do it right.

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