Room 208

Elaborate Burn

Silver linings: 'Psycho-Pass 2'

I’m no stranger to writing about disappointing (or just outright poor) anime, so I thought I’d shake things up a bit by pausing to look on the bright side… after taking a moment to vent about all the bad parts.

The gray cloud

I don’t often find myself wishing a sequel were just a retread of the original, but such is the case with me and Psycho-Pass 2. After a promisingly suspense-filled start, the new series proceeds to descend straight into a philosophical and narrative mishmash, reducing the elaborately constructed setting into little more than set pieces for a poorly-thought-out revenge story.

The plot is much the same as the first time around: In a slightly dystopian sci-fi Tokyo, law enforcement decisions are made on the basis of an on-the-spot psychological evaluation, and our protagonist, Public Safety Bureau Inspector Akane Tsunemori, must contend with a threat that somehow evades this system’s judgment, blah blah, you know the drill. In fact, the second season utterly fails to escape from the territory already well worn by its predecessor. What few new elements it does bring to the table often contradict the series’ established logic, sometimes even common sense. Try to forget, for instance, the fact that the PSB’s weapons, dependent as they are on cloud-computed assessments of mental state, should logically have a remote kill switch that can be activated when lost.

But even these lapses of thought would be forgivable if Psycho-Pass 2 hadn’t completely forgotten to bring along some of the character development that made the first season so memorable. None of the new characters have any surprises in store for the viewer; a glance at the first few episodes gives you all the information you need to guess where each one ultimately ends up, assuming they’re not unceremoniously killed off halfway through. Akane herself is reduced from calm and level-headed – a hard-earned badge after all she went through as a rookie – to distressingly unemotive. It’s almost too easy to lay this at the feet of writer Tow Ubukata, who replaced Gen Urobuchi for the sequel, especially when Psycho-Pass 2 tries to cover its shortcomings with the same pointlessly gory action and intimations of body horror that his earlier Mardock Scramble did. Not even the direction of Naoyoshi Shintani, who stayed on for the second season, can save the show from Ubukata’s most over-the-top excesses.

The silver lining

I could say that the best part of this whole ordeal is that Urobuchi is back in the driver’s seat for the upcoming Psycho-Pass film, which will hopefully be a more proper follow-up along the lines of his earlier sequels, but that wouldn’t really be fair. While Psycho-Pass 2’s plot is a mess, though, its presentation is as slick as ever, especially when it comes to its theme songs. Ling Tosite Sigure’s blisteringly unhinged rock has always been a perfect fit for the franchise, and their new opening “Enigmatic Feeling” is no exception. It’s hard for any ending to compete, but EGOIST, everyone’s favorite semi-fictional refugee from the Guilty Crown universe, turns in an admirable if somewhat disjointed effort with “Fallen.” It wouldn’t be too far off the mark to say that the music was the sole reason I kept tuning in week after week once the content of Psycho-Pass 2 itself went south.

Well, in any case, onwards to the movie! It hits theaters in Japan three weeks from now, which of course means that I won’t get a chance to see it until 2027.