Gen Urobichi is a polarizing name in anime; you either love or hate his work but most importantly, you know his name and his work. His 2012 work, Psycho-Pass (the dystopian police action-drama) was the anime I most recently sat down with and marathoned. While it has some flaws and can be a bit heavy-handed, I really think you should watch it. If you can get passed the gritty feel and over-the-top and almost unnecessary violence, Psycho-Pass holds a truly interesting and discussable world that few anime have recently explored. Urobichi’s influence is ever-present, and Psycho-Pass holds a few topical moments and ideas, but also heart, some strong characters, and a motivation from episode to episode to keep you attentive.
If you’ve never experienced a Gen Urobichi series of film before, here’s what you should know: the man loves nihilistic themes and dark plots. Hell, he has the nickname “Urobutcher,” so that should be an insight to warm you up. His works are not something easily recommended to the common anime viewer, nor introductory viewer, but for those who are looking for something outside of the realm of bright, happy, cheeriness, and look to Urobichi to bring you to this level of anime. Although he’s a relative newcomer to the anime writing scene, he’s been around for years in the visual and light novel genres. His first prominent series you’ll likely recognize? Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Yup, the eerie, artistic, often sad magical girl anime was written by Gen Urobichi. He’s also contributed to the Fate/Zero series, and another of my personal favorites Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom. Of course, there are reviewers out there who don’t care for Urobichi approach, and often take away due to his ways of storytelling. That’s the fun thing about people though, what they make like/hate, you may hate/like; we’re all diverse enough to have our own shared or not shared tastes.
But enough backstory on Urobichi, how’s Psycho-Pass? Well, it’s grandiose, in the best way honestly. Set in 2113 in a dystopian future, every single person in connected to the Sibyl System which is in a constant, active state of measuring every person’s mental state. Everyone has a color, and if that color exceeds a certain limit and changes, it’s more likely they will commit a crime and this must be subdued. Usually they’re simply knocked out and treated, but in extreme cases, some criminals’ indexes are too high and are dealt with lethally. Naturally, if you’ve the least amount of understanding of dichotomy, know that the world’s not that black and white, and the world isn’t as perfect as you would think. That’s where new inspector Akane Tsunomori comes in; she’s essentially us, in this role of trying to make the tough call and decisions. Urobichi does a really good job of making you understand that the Sybil System isn’t perfect, but also can be seen as a ‘good’ thing. Of course, you can argue that’s it’s an evil, bad implementation and should be shut down. There’s a lot here to discuss and take in to account. Not to get too heavy on spoilers or content, the 22-episodes found within present several good areas to explore an interesting idea of what’s considered for the ‘greater good’.
The rest of the cast of characters and are all really interesting and most of them get enough limelight to get their backstories and development, although some more than others. But it’s just enough to where it doesn’t distract from the main plot, nor drag out the story, thus causing a rushed ending. The main antagonist: Shogo Makishima is especially treated with careful development and almost an anti-hero. Again, I won’t divulge too much, because I want you to explore and experience this world yourself, and not have a clouded insight before you do so. Just know, that Psycho-Pass isn’t a series you should watch in the background, there’s enough subtlety and insight to be picked up from those who pay attention. Hardly a wasted minute, Psycho-Pass’ story is a solid romp, and by the end credits, you’ll be wanting more. Luckily, a second season was announced, so look for that come fall 2014.
On the production side, we have a solid team over at Production I.G handling the animation and Yugo Kanno (Birdy the Mighty: Decode) handling the audio composition. Most of the direction and animation is top notch, but it can occasionally get a bit flat and typical or lazy, but it’s forgivable and never too-telling. The audio side is full of perfect, if not representative music of a dystopian society. Hardly many tracks stand out as something that will resonate with you past the series end, but there’s one track in particular that I enjoyed, but perhaps for the wrong reason. “Sono Juukou wa, Seigi o Shihai suru” is undoubtedly the standout track (for me) from Psycho-Pass, but every time I’d listen to it, or hear it in context of a scene, it reminded of another song: Icarus, by Micheal Mccann! Now, I will not say Kanno stole any ideas or copied Mccann, but the similarities in the build and vocalizing is almost too unreal to be dismissed. Eh, regardless, it’s a terrific track, and deserves to be noticed.
Psycho-Pass was a show I initially pushed off to the side in 2012, mainly due to the lack of time it required, but having finally settled down with it, I’m happy I did so. If you have the time and attention to give to it, I highly recommend that you do. You will not regret sitting down with one of Urobichi’s strongest creations to date, and better yet, have a friend watch it alongside you and try and ignite some fun debates or deliberations after some episodes. I assure you, there’s plenty here to provide hours of topics. Psycho-Pass isn’t the first nihilistic creation that I’ve enjoyed, but it’s one of the more recent anime to explore the subject matter that I don’t regret watching or have hated. If you can get passed the requirements for the initial setup, you’ll likely find a series that’s more than just mindless action and clichéd characters; you’ll get a show with ideas, plot, and a brain.