Pyscho-Pass is the best anime I have seen.
Its greatest strength is that all characters are reasonable. Characters that are shown have their reasoning and personality fleshed out at least to the degree that their screentime and plot importance would warrant. All characters, even the ones which are not part of the previous set, exhibit behaviors and use argumentation that would fit their position and desires. There are zero exceptions to this rule. No one, due to a new piece of evidence or turn of events, suddenly changes character. If anything, Psycho-Pass uses these crises as opportunities to illustrate more on who exactly each person is.
Generally speaking, a cast of multiple strong characters does not appear, and when they do, they are not so numerous, and not in a plot-driven story. In Psycho-Pass, characters are defined by their goals. Neither character nor plot are simply decoration. Even if one views it as simply plot or character-driven, the anime still operates just fine. It was constructed both to satisfy casual consumption and to withstand intellectual scrutiny – though if you attempt the former it will push you towards the latter.
If we ignore a few scenes with poor animation, it is my opinion that Psycho-Pass has no weak points. The anime has at least a reasonably strong showing in every area.
There are only two things that do not make sense: The holo’s source and function limitations, and the Dominator’s power source and output. Neither of these pose a problem in the end because the story isn’t about the technology, it’s about the people who use the technology. This is admittedly a fairly common goal in science fiction, but most stories in my experience do end up getting lost in the baubles. Psycho-Pass gives constant reminders about how the world, with all its changes, doesn’t really change. Perhaps the best example is the office’s cooling system. These days we expect a central HVAC basically everywhere we go, but the office shown in Psycho-Pass is clearly only using three wall-mounted fans. They aren’t built into the wall, they don’t have fancy blades, and they don’t even have a filter or grill for safety. This simpler, rougher aesthetic pervades the entire series, and when it doesn’t appear visually, it reminds you that the environment is only a holo depiction.
Even then it does not attempt to simply beat you over the head with it. In every conflict, the audience is always presented with a choice: which side do you believe, which do you support? It does not attempt to pass judgement with the results. Instead it accepts things as they are, and in every situation draws out actions from the set of most reasonable possibilities at that point in time. Most stories either shoehorn morals afterwards, or do it so poorly that it looks like an invocation of chance / deus ex machina. Neither of these are descriptions of the events in Psycho-Pass.
I should also note my appreciation for the production’s attention to detail. There are many things they did to alleviate inconsistencies and concerns that would regularly be considered as irrelevant. In one of the early opening CGs flying over the city, I thought it was weird that the tallest tower was at the edge of the city, and at the time I passed it off as lack of resources to complete the rest of the city “behind it” – this stemmmed from the common depiction of skylines in anime and elsewhere; the tallest building is always in “the center”. In later ED sequences, Psycho-Pass assured me that the emptiness was not a mistake – it depicted a shoreline of the city, with that very tower right next to it. Another instance is when a character practices quickly reloading a revolver. The character had no training with it beforehand and was going to rely on it, and I like that the project team behind this spent the minute or two of screentime to show the character just drilling something that was important in their thought process.
Of all the dystopian futures written across multiple mediums, I think Psycho-Pass is the closest to the path that we will take. This is largely because it depicts events similar to the ones we have already had in our world, and shows how it is also part of the story’s “Sibyl System”. In America the most common comparisons for dystopias are Orwell’s “1984” and Huxley’s “Brave New World”, but neither of these draw too many comparisons to how the world existed at the time. “This could happen”, the books proclaimed, and readers everywhere responded “Well something else could happen too!”, and so most people just enjoyed them as stories. Psycho-Pass however takes events that have already happened / have been happening and incorporates them. This is the way most change occurs (i.e. not wholly revolutionary). The changes to society in Psycho-Pass, while based on a very specific kind of computer system that operates in a very specific way, do not really change people. There are still people happy with the way things are and in a believable way, not like Orwell where everyone uses words like “doubleplusgood”. In bad situations people are also still relatable. The events in episode 14 have played out in real life multiple times in multiple places; the only difference is that there are no robots with happy mascot costumes, which really doesn’t change anything. The events with the helmets are also believable: people ran when the situation was not favorable, and retailiated when it was. As mentioned earlier, Psycho-Pass does not get lost in its technology.
Technology is just a tool. Having and not having the tool may change the user, and the user may change their strategy and tactics based on what tool they have and what situation they’re in. It does explicitly say multiple times that “in the end it’s just about the users”, but what it finally expresses is not that either, because it’s not as if everything other than ideology and willpower are negligible either. They are important to be sure. But when it comes time to the real thing,
“Isn’t using the net just like using knives for cooking or using paper to write things down? It has nothing to do with good or bad. It’s like, it’s there, so we accept and use it.”
It’s about doing what you can with what you have, and more importantly, that before you can do that, you have to know what you can do and are willing to do.
Story(10): There are some things that probably could’ve been done better. I’m told that basically everything was foreshadowed, but I couldn’t see it at the time so I don’t find them to be relevant arguments. That being said everything that it posited it executed well, so any complaints about how it got there are pretty irrelevant.
My favorite episode was the pilot. I think it did its job well in accurately reflecting the entire series.
Art(9): Akane could’ve been cuter? All around it’s definitely up to Production IG standards, no complaints.
My favorite piece of art… would have to be the Dominator. It too ends up taking its place in the story, theme, and message though, which only makes me appreciate it even more.
Sound(9): I didn’t like the first OP/ED set, the second set was enjoyable – but these are hard to control the outcome of, at least as far as I can tell. The sound effects otherwise though show the same attention to detail as in the story and in the art. When Kogami is speaking to Akane in the elevator, his voice echos a little – these things are rare to see. One would think that an anime with people talking half the time and in suits almost all the time can’t really do much to do in the sound department, but the people on sound behind Psycho-Pass definitely caught my attention and earned their pay.
I will definitely remember the second ED.
Character(10): Largely talked about this in the main review. I see amazing characters here and there all the time, but they’re always surrounded by only one, maximum two, other full characters – and when it is three characters, it’s usually a love triangle story and everything revolves around that. Infinite Ryvius succeeded at having a lot of characters you could remember, but didn’t really make them full characters – it seemed that they were just representatives of ideas or archetypes. Psycho-Pass did basically everything I could hope to see. Every time a new situation came up, I wondered if this time the writers would get lazy? They never did. It always felt like it would be possible, maybe, someday, to meet the agents of the MWPSB. In this, the scenes of Akane in her home and meeting up with her friends were definitely not wasted in building both her character and the Psycho-Pass world.
I like all of the characters by the simple fact that they’re all developed. I think I like Masaoki, Akane, Kogami, and Mika the most though, in that order.
Enjoyment(10): I did marathon it, but I didn’t feel that I had to watch the next episode right then. For most of the series I could simply pause and attend to important matters – but not so much that I could simply forget about it. I can see how both of those have their strengths, and they lend themselves to particular kinds of anime – Steins;Gate needs the marathon feel, and Aria needs the any-time-you-please feel. For the pacing, style, and purpose of Psycho-Pass, this sort of middle ground, or third ground, was where it needed to be. This was where GITSSAC tried to be, I think. Production IG definitely learned from their experience.
Overall(10): I believe Psycho-Pass has a clarity and depth of message and a skillfullness and care of its execution that is unparalleled in this medium.