Psycho-Pass Is Your Summer Binge-Watching Crime Anime – Look! It Moves! By Adi Tantimedh

Adi Tantimedh writes:


With all the talk about adult edgy series that invite binge-watching like The Wire or Breaking Bad, there are very few anime series that fit in that like Psycho-Pass does.

Psycho-Pass is a hard Science Fiction police thriller that's aimed at adults, not kids or teenagers, so it doesn't have any cutesy, big-eyed teenagers, goofy slapstick humour or high school melodrama.  The setting is 2113, at a time when Japan looks mostly like it does not, except society is now regulated by a computerised system that measures every citizen's personality and psychological state to determine their lives and careers. However, people are so regimented that if their psychological assessment, called a Psycho-Pass, exceed the accepted level, they're deemed latent criminals, and have to undergo therapy to bring down their crime co-efficiency. If their count becomes too high, they have to be either incarcerated or even executed.  Citizens' Psycho-Passes are assessed instantly with guns called Dominators, which are carried by the police, who can issue instant judgements without a trial. There are no more beat cops. That job now falls to mechanised, networked drones, while serious crimes are investigated by human Inspectors who supervise teams of enforcers, the latter being latent criminals recruited into the police. Enforcers are considered second-class citizens, closely watched to prevent them from committing crimes, going vigilante or even escaping. Enforcers can be judged and even shot by their supervising inspectors.


So this is a cyberpunk police procedural where the stakes are even higher than if it was a cop show set in the present day. The main characters are Akane Tsunemori, an inspector fresh out of the academy partnered with the maverick enforcer Shinya Kogami, one of the last old school cops whose brilliant detective skills and ability to think like criminals places his Psycho-Pass dangerously high. Their investigation of a series of murders leads them to Shogo Makashima, a pure sociopath who has managed to escape detection of his criminal profile and is intent on destroying the entire system that has maintained social stability in Japan. Kogami also wants to kill Makashima for the murder of his former partner.

Kogami is a great detective but a rogue cop, and in this society that puts his life at risk from the system, where he's always on the verge of going vigilante, which would instantly prompt an execution order on him.  And he doesn't seem to care. All he wants is to catch and kill Makashima. Tsunemori is then in a race to save not just her partner's soul but also his life. But Kogami is not interested in being saved. He's the doomed noir antihero transplanted to a dystopian cyberpunk world that wants him dead.


Psycho-Pass is an intense police procedural that uses the future crime genre to explore the moral and ethical question of crime and punishment, free will and oppression in the policing of society. The characters dramatise and directly quote ideas and questions by the likes of Foucault, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Philip K. Dick to explore the flaws in a future society that controls the entire lives of their citizens. It's very much about how stratified and tightly-controlled Japan is, and how a system that instantly assesses and judges its citizens' mental states would make it even more repressed than it already is, and finds no easy answers. It reflects the Japanese fear of loss of control and the collapse of social order into chaos. It asks ideological and political questions as directly and unflinchingly as The Wire does. It doesn't have the juvenile coyness of anime shows aimed at horny teenagers. It is, in every sense, a show for adults.

I know I'm a bit late to the party in recommending this show. It's from last year and the entire first season can be watched on Hulu now and a newly recut version with new footage can now be streamed on Funimation in advance of a second season premiering in October.

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Look! It Moves! © Adisakdi Tantimedh

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Hannah Means ShannonAbout Hannah Means Shannon

Editor-in-Chief at Bleeding Cool. Independent comics scholar and former English Professor. Writing books on magic in the works of Alan Moore and the early works of Neil Gaiman.
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