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Out there Anime Review: Psycho-pass Season One

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Psycho-pass is an excellent cutting-edge genre blend, but this should come as no surprise as it is part of the late-night innovative Noitamina slot of original and creative anime in Japan.

This is a world where just thinking about a crime is enough to enough to make you guilty. Bad intentions are the evidence and the police know exactly when and where people go ‘bad’. The tool they all blindly rely on is the Dominator, a futuristic weapon that can read minds and assess the risk that a citizen will turn criminal, powered by the mysterious Sibyl system. The complexity of the system seems to know no bounds as Police work in teams made up of Enforcers and Inspectors. Enforcers, who are controlled criminals, take out the bad guys; Inspectors stop their partners from going rogue. Society is paralysed by its deepest, darkest desires, and trial by jury has been replaced by the wrath of the Dominator.

In the midst of this controlled chaos is Akane, a rookie cop way out of here league in the Welfare Public Safety Bureau – every citizen’s ID is branded with numbers and colours that determine their path in life: what career they will grow into, interests and traits and the aforementioned “crime coefficient,” a number based on the chance a person will go ‘postal’ or something far less problematic. There are levels of criminal activity that the system monitors, filing humans away like paperwork. It is not long before Akane is thrown into a bizarre serial murder that puts the faultless system to question, and makes her reassess life as she knows it and the meaning of un-objective justice from a calculated machine.

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A completely original IP, Psycho-pass is in many ways a successor to the cyberpunk Ghost in the Shell procedural series. The show takes its time, perhaps a tad long as filler episodes pad out the 22 episodes, but each episode is smart in its exposition that fleshes out the world and the characters in it, each with their own deviously interesting secrets and pasts. Akane grates at times as the young and cute investigator, in fact her character is not particularly well developed, but she is our eyes into this bizarre future, and it is what she sees that matters most. The supporting cast are mostly excellent with each enforcer in particular providing much more interesting narrative than the investigators.

Ultimately once enough information is gleaned from the first few episodes the real meat of the story begins and the focus turns to the actual system that is running this alternate Japan. Without spoiling the plot it is a shame that we’ll have to wait for season two because huge things happen near the series end.

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The animation it is fantastic, a definite improvement over most sci-fi fare, but it is not entirely original or interesting, which is surprising given the stamp of innovation that comes with Noitamina. Still it wears its influences proudly – neo-apartments with computer-based backgrounds and instant apparel recall Minority Report and The Fifth Element, while the darker underbelly of the city, slums and all, recalls Blade Runner to a T. Psycho-pass is also surprisingly violent so be prepared for some awesome dismemberments and other gory fun. CGI is used to minimal but excellent effect, particularly on the Dominator weapon which later takes on a new meaning and form entirely.

All of these elements benefit greatly from the Blu-ray transfer which pops the low contrast into action. There are some truly gorgeous moments in the series that rival some of the best visual work in most anime today. The sound does not disappoint either, with an excellent pulsing electro score and insanely catchy opening and ending songs. As usual, skip the passable English dub track.

All of these elements come together brilliantly to tell an excellent noir influenced murder mystery with a definitive sci-fi spectrum that bleeds into a fully realized world. Psycho-pass may have been slightly buried under the incredible release of Attack on Titan here, but it too is another key release from Madman Entertainment and a must-own on Blu-ray.

[rating=4] and a half

Kwenton Bellette  follow Kwenton on Twitter here: @Kwenton

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