“The law doesn’t protect people. People protect the law. People have always detested evil and sought out a righteous way of living. Their feelings, the accumulation of those people’s feelings are the law. They’re neither the provisions, nor the system. They’re the fragile and irreplaceable feelings that everyone carries in their hearts.” – Tsunemori Akane
The series is set in the 22nd century in which it is possible to instantaneously quantify a person’s state of mind, personality, and probability of committing a crime, all recorded on an individual’s “Psycho-Pass” using the Sibyl System. When their “Crime Coefficient” index becomes too high, they are pursued and apprehended by police officers known as Inspectors, and their ‘hunting dogs’, the Enforcers to maintain order in their seemingly utopian society.
Into this world steps Tsunemori Akane, a young Inspector with an honest desire to uphold justice. However, as she works alongside veteran Enforcer Kougami Shinya, she soon learns that the Sibyl System’s judgments are not perfect as everyone assumes. With everything she has known turned on its head, Akane questions what justice truly is, and whether it can be upheld through the use of a system that may already be corrupt.
To begin, I would like to pose a question: are humans innately good or evil? Do we side by justice because it is our innate nature, or do we do so just to create the façade of appearing as a righteous person? There is nothing more undefined than the lines that separates “good” and “evil”. For example, why do we consider murder a worse offense compared to bank robbery?
While Psycho Pass may not be a realistic representation of today’s societal state, the observation of human morals, psychological concepts, emotion fluctuation can all be applied to our thinking and outlook on life itself. We all know that humans are imperfect and make mistakes. Consequences come with the degree of these mistakes. However, should we be judged based on a system rather than morality? What if there is a flaw in the system and something goes wrong? Psycho Pass portrays and addresses these issues through excellent storytelling and a cast of realistic characters.
The strongest selling point of Psycho Pass is probably its cast of well-developed and complex characters. We have Tsunemori Akane, the new Investigator of the Criminal Investigation Division. She is the representation of the ideal yet naive mind-set that justice is absolute and criminals must be punished. Although she is young and inexperienced, she is an intelligent person and attempts to see the good in people. Through her exposure to the more sinister side of society, we observe if she is able to withstand the challenges to her beliefs and how she changes as an individual.
On the other hand, helping her solve crimes and doing most of the “dirty work” is one of the Enforcers under her, Kougami Shinya. As one that is familiar with the darker side of society and has accumulated a plethora of experience in dealing with criminal minds, he is calculating, intelligent, and physically adept. His outlook on justice and the human nature differs from Akane’s, and this difference is the main dynamic of the show. While he is normally calm and collected, his emotions do cause him to act rashly and puts him in dangerous situations. Through his resolve and skills, we are shown the lengths in which he will go through to reinforce his beliefs, specifically with the series’ main antagonist, Makishima Shougo, a humanist who embraces the idea of cruelty and the dark side of the human mind. Makishima even makes twisted dialogues portraying old culture with his Shakespearean-like monotones. His actions however, are well characterized and his logic and thoughtfulness put into each of them is very intriguing, which serves as a major plot point in the series as the Criminal Investigation Division struggle to solve a series of crimes orchestrated by him.
Lastly, the soundtracks fit perfectly with the series. The lyrics of the opening and ending songs were probably made for this series, and the fast pace of some songs also fits the action of the series, building up even more tension. Needless to say though, the animation is also top notch. The backgrounds were incredibly detailed and the series has a great look, managing to be extremely colourful yet very dark, depicting the fictional 22nd century world well.
Psycho Pass, for me, is considered a masterpiece. With thought-provoking dialogue and plot, drama and tension that is neither excessive nor underwhelming, and a complex group of characters that we can relate to, Psycho Pass delivers an action sci-fi show unlike one we have seen before.