You might remember that the second season of the Psycho-Pass TV
series was basically narratively
its release schedule suggests that it was being worked on in
parallel with this movie, I’ve long suspected that this was a
deliberate decision by the writers to keep plot contradictions from
popping up. The film does nothing to disabuse me of this notion,
since it seems content to proceed as if virtually all of PP2 never
happened. Which is perfectly fine by me, since the behavior of the
Sibyl System is core to the movie’s plot, and PP2 made it too
subject to the whims of individuals to be truly menacing.
Speaking of which, fansubbers, it’s spelled S-i-b-y-l. As in, you
know, the Sibyls of Greek
myth. Not S-y-b-i-l. The correct spelling is onscreen more than
once, for crying out loud.
There is a lot of badly-pronounced English in the movie, which isn’t
really necessary. I suppose it’s a reasonable choice of language for
a multinational union of Southeast Asian countries, but it’s still a
little hard to sit through the Japanese voice actors’ middling
inflections. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for an official version
that splices together the Japanese and English dubs, though even
then they’ll all sound like Americans and not real Cambodians or
Thais or Malaysians or what have you. Oh, well.
EGOIST’s “Nameless Beasts” really is a great song.
Mika, Akane’s junior colleague as Inspector, still has her air of
superiority about her, but given that she only has a handful of
lines in the movie, I’m willing to forgive the lack of development.
If it hadn’t been for the awful way she was handled in PP2, I
doubt many people would give her behavior here a second thought. The
rest of the characters introduced by the previous season basically
only exist as extras, which isn’t much of a change from before, come
to think of it. Maybe a third TV series would do them some good.
There’s a lot packed into the film’s 114-minute runtime, and as a
result some major plot threads are resolved only hurriedly in the
end, perhaps a consequence of the definite tilt towards explosive
action sequences and visceral hand-to-hand fights. This is nowhere
near the triumph that Gen Urobuchi’s earlier work on Madoka:
Rebellion was. Still,
though, the movie manages to do what PP2 couldn’t and extend the
world to a new setting, new characters, and new conflict. We learn
much more about what the Sibyl System was designed to protect its
citizens against. We realize that systems, like humans, seek their
own survival. And we feel that slight allegorical twinge, as if the
contradiction of violence for peace were an important question on
the minds of Japanese viewers right this very moment.
Seven is a great number to end on, don’t you think?
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
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.
noitaminA announced their upcoming lineup just a few hours ago, and boy,
am I excited. This spring’s shows
Ping-Pong (directed by Masaaki Yuasa
of Tatami Galaxy renown) and Ryuugajou Nanana no
Maizoukin were already announced some months
ago; joining them in the summer will be Zankyou no
Terror, a show about a terrorist attack
in Tokyo. Direction will be by Shinichirou Watanabe, with music by Yoko
Kanno, pairing up again after Kids on the Slope. The fall will see the
long-awaited sequel to Psycho-Pass, leading
into a feature film in the winter, as well as an adaptation of
Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso, which received Best
Shounen at the Kodansha Manga Awards last year. 2015 will open with an
anime version of the Saenai Heroine no
Sodatekata light novel series, along with
adaptations of Project Itoh’s
multi-award-winning science fiction novels Genocidal Organ and
There’s a lot to look forward to here. And they say noitaminA is dead.
Psycho-Pass as the anti-Madoka, and why an anticlimactic ending
isn’t necessarily a bad one, after the break.
Gen Urobuchi, lest you forget where he got the nickname “Urobutcher,”
established his name as an anime screenwriter by grinding a cast of
largely innocent teenage girls into despair between the cogs of a cruel,
unfeeling magical world. Ultimately, Madoka’s title character found a
way to destroy that system once and for all, but the deus ex machina
nature of the resolution never sat well with me. Madoka’s wish may have
been born out of the suffering that she had watched her friends endure,
but it also pointed to a lack of imagination on the part of everyone
that had contracted before her. The fact that there was nothing keeping
another prospective magical girl from making the same wish that Madoka
had essentially cheapened the hardship that the characters underwent
throughout the series, reducing it to nothing more than emotional window
Urobuchi’s latest work on Psycho-Pass is by no means flawless, but it
does at the very least avoid repeating this mistake of Madoka’s. At
first glance, in fact, it seems to commit the opposite error: The Sibyl
System that runs Psycho-Pass’ conception of 22nd-century Japan is
quite literally built on criminal minds, and yet the series ends with
its main characters trying to keep it from being overthrown. The
important difference? The Sibyl System, for all its obvious faults, is
also more or less the only thing keeping social order, whereas
Madoka’s system of magic had no obvious upsides. This nuance gives the
internal conflict of Psycho-Pass’ main character, Akane, necessary
weight – she knows on the one hand that Sibyl’s micromanagement of
citizens’ lives is untenable, but at the same time knows that those
selfsame lives would likely be forfeit should it be allowed to fall.
Instead of Madoka’s revolutionary ending, then, Psycho-Pass gives us
an evolutionary one; as Akane puts it, standing in Sibyl’s central
chamber in the final episode, “We’re always aiming for a better society.
One day, someone will come to this room to turn off the power. We will
find a new path. You can count on it,” and indeed Akane’s progression as
a character over the course of the series shows that perhaps she’s ready
to do just that. Psycho-Pass recognizes that dystopia cannot simply be
waved away, and it is for this reason that its conclusion, understated
as it is, sits better with me than Madoka’s finale ever did.