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Psycho-Pass PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 01 May 2013 00:00
'Urobutcher' fans, rejoice - the man behind Madoka Magica and Phantom (we'll not mention Blassreiter further) is back with another dystopian nightmare. Welcome to a world where your mental state is under 24-hour surveillance, and where a temporary bad mood could be enough to get you summarily executed. Unless you know how to game the system...

The Sybil System: a computerised, failsafe (allegedly) system that can, with just a momentart scan of a suitable device, determine your mental state, producing your 'hue' (an indicator of your general mood and attitude - white is good, straying towards darker colours can land you in a re-education facility) and your 'crime coefficient' (your likelihood of committing a crime at any given moment - over 100 merits a stungun and immediate arrest, while higher numbers lead to summary, and very messy, execution). The use of the system has been enough to almost eliminate crime, as those with an semblance of criminal tendencies are soon removed from society, in one way or another. Some of them are even put to good use as Enforcers, the workhorses of the police, whose lives are tightly controlled by their assigned Inspectors. Akane Tsunemori has just started work as an Inspector - young, idealistic, just out of the academy with all the enthusiasm of a new recruit. Shinya Kogami is one of the Enforcers on her team - streetsmart, with a nose for investigating and tackling things from unusual angles. Along with the other members of their team, they're about to come face to face with someone that Sybil seems incapable of dealing with: mass murderer Shogo Makishima, who Kogami has had dealings with before...

So. Gen Urobuchi. He's a man with a well-deserved reputation for making life as miserable as possible for the characters he writes, and from the moment you're first dropped into Psychopass's world it's fairly clear that this will be no exception. From the 'dispassionate observer' viewpoint that we get as a viewer, the show's world isn't one you'd want to live in. Sure, the citizenry seem to appreciate the way their lives are neatly controlled and their safety is (mostly) assured - Sybil doesn't just deal with criminal tendencies, but also with such things as determining aptitude for jobs and placing people in careers they're most likely to excel at and enjoy. But from a distance, it's positively Orwellian, with those whose hue gets too dark spirited away to 'therapy' facilities (glorified prisons) or worse. The needs of the many, and so on. Enforcers are essentially slaves - living inside controlled facilties, not allowed out without supervision of their Inspector in connection with an investigation, the only way out of the 'job' is to return to 'therapy' - which doesn't appeal to many.

Enter Makishima. He's an anomaly, a one-in-a-million person who Sybil can't classify - he can be in the middle of committing a gruesome murder, and yet rate a white hue and crime coefficient of zero. And with the weapons used by Enforcers and Inspectors linked to Sybil and only unlocked to fire if the system doesn't like you, that presents a problem when it comes to catching him.

There's quite a bit going on in the series, but it's the trio of Akane, Kogami and Makishima that are clearly at the core of it. Akane's seeming resistance to anything that would normally darker your hue is impressive, and she quickly moves from clueless rookie to determined investigator - forced by events that no-one should have to witness. Kogami is on the trail of revenge, having been caught up in one of Makishima's previous killing sprees. Makishima, for all that he's a complete and utter bastard, has as his ultimate aim the unveiling of Sybil's true for and the destruction of the society that the system has created - a society that he sees as being built on illusion and deceit. He has a point, too - the more you see of him, the less you like him; but the more that's uncovered about the running of the show's world, the more you begin to believe that, as far as hims aims go, the ends may ultimately outweigh the means. There's a definite moral balancing act there, one which Akane ends up having to deal with herself when the truth is revealed to her, playing out the pros & cons that were also running through my mind at the time.

Psychopass is a slow-burner, though - there's a lot of time spent scene-setting in the early part of the series, setting up how Inspectors and Enforcers work together and showing the impact that Sybil has on the dily lives of the people it oversees. This is done through a few stand-alone investigations - while Makishima is mentioned in passing a few times through this phase, he doesn't really come to the fore until later in the season. A lot of the earlier stuff could have been safely jettisoned to make a tighter, more focussed story. But that's really picking holes just for the sake of it - taken as a whole, it's an impressive work, and as it reaches its climax you'll often wonder where the time when when an episode ends. There are hooks left at the end of the series that could potentially be used for a sequel, and I'd have no problem with that. As for this season, an easy recommendation.

Rating - *****