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Elaborate Burn

Posts from #psychopass

Disconnected thoughts on the Psycho-Pass film

  1. You might remember that the second season of the Psycho-Pass TV series was basically narratively inconsequential. Since 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. EGOIST’s “Nameless Beasts” really is a great song.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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 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.

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 Harmony.

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.

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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 dressing.

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.

Psycho-Pass Website Updated

Lookin’ pretty spiffy. Here’s to hoping that Production I.G can leave Guilty Crown in the past, in favor of another Ghost in the Shell. I’d even go for a repeat of Eden of the East.

“Miyuki Sawashiro is in everything,” part 76.