Update (6/16/16) – With the arrival of Psycho Pass: The Movie on blu-ray, it was a good time to re-visit our previous review of the movie!
It’s finally here! Psycho Pass: The Movie has landed on blu-ray, though it lacks any real bonuses or commentaries. There are a few postcard-sized screenshots in the box, but other than that the blu-ray boasts a whopping 5 minutes of extras. Don’t get too lost in all that bonus material everyone!
Joking aside, while I wasn’t a big fan of the movie, for those looking to round out their Psycho Pass collection, the movie is the inevitable cherry on top. Take a look at some of our pics below of the set, then read through our review. I still stand behind it despite watching it a 2nd time, but invite other fans of the series to ultimately make the judgment themselves.
Taking place 4 years after the conclusion of the series, Psycho Pass: The Movie follows inspector Akane Tsunemori to the country of SEAUn (South Eastern Asian Union), where the Sibyl system is undergoing its first trial outside of Japan in an isolated community known as the “Shambala Float”. Sibyl is a collective A.I. system that assigns every man, woman and child within its purview a “Psycho-Pass” by performing a brain scan. This scan determines their “crime coefficient”, which is then utilized by Inspectors and the Public Safety Bureau to detain or execute latent criminals. Sibyl is heralded as the path to global peace, but inspector Tsunemori has her doubts. Led to SEAUn by a string of terrorist attacks, things take a turn for the worse when Akane encounters an old friend among the rebels. Torn between former alliances and current responsibility, Akane finds herself at the center of a broader conspiracy as she searches for the truth.
Let me start off with the shining beacon of awesomeness that is the animation quality of Psycho Pass. Holy crap it’s gorgeous to look at. Fans of the series are likely aware that the Dominators (primary weapon used by Akane and other members of the Public Safety Bureau) are probably one of the coolest weapons in anime. The mini-transformations, lighting, and detail that goes into them is just one facet of a much larger, futuristic work of art. The echoes of former giants such as Ghost in the Shell and Blade Runner certainly ring true in the landscapes that Psycho Pass brings to life. Rainy cityscapes, bright neon lights…all of the aesthetics are there and are executed brilliantly.
While the animation is beautiful, Psycho Pass suffers from a story that tries to do too much. Despite having nearly 2 hours of runtime, it feels like the team wasn’t sure if they were trying to make the movie capable of being seen without seeing the series, or as a natural continuation. Some basics are rehashed in the opening minutes of the movie, as though they were trying to rebuild the universe from scratch to invite unfamiliar viewers in. Ok, so they want it to be a stand alone. Wait, now they’re making multiple references to encounters that you could only appreciate if you watched the show. Ok, so it’s a continuation. The disconnect can be disorienting, but the bottom line is you’ll be able to appreciate the movie a bit more if you’re familiar with the source material.
While the confusion at the start is somewhat understandable, the way in which Psycho Pass concludes was probably the most frustrating element of the movie. I don’t want to spoil it, because there are still some redeeming qualities to the movie and, well, spoilers suck, but sufficed to say you’ll be scratching your head wondering why Akane had to go through all the trouble in the first place. It also doesn’t really do much to wrap up the Kogami/Tsunemori arc either, which is sure to be a pain point for fans of the pairing.
What probably stood out to me as the most glaring issue for the movie wasn’t the rushed story, however, it was the characters. More specifically: Akane Tsunemori. Akane is a no-nonsense Inspector who has spent the last few years adjusting to her role and becoming a seasoned and respected member of the Public Safety Bureau, but despite her billing as the top-dog, she fails to command the sort of respect that one would expect from such a title. She successfully plans and executes a single mission over the course of the film, while the rest of her plans are ultimately foiled. There’s a great scene near the end of the movie between Akane and Inspector Shimotsuki that aptly summarizes her persona; you’ll know it when you see it. In short, Psycho Pass doesn’t give Akane an opportunity to prove her worth, except when it comes to sniping evildoers from her moral high ground. Even in these moments of righteousness, her speeches seem rather dogmatic, and as a result they lose their edge. When you compare Akane with the other major female lead in a dystopian, tech-laden society, you begin to wonder why they didn’t take a few more pages out of Major Kusanagi’s book.
Then there’s Shinya Kogami. Where Tsunemori has the monopoly on morality, Kogami attempts to trademark waxing philosophic regarding the nature of man and Sibyl’s role in a supposedly perfect society. His contributions wouldn’t be nearly as ridiculous if another chief antagonist of the Psycho Pass movie prescribed to a similar MO. When a fight scene involves two characters exchanging lines from famous philosophers, you know you’ve gone too far into the realm of intellectualism. Not that shows like this one can’t dive deep into these philosophical questions – it’s a matter of the execution.
I was really excited to see this movie. The animation looked amazing, the universe seemed intriguing…there were a number of promising elements that built up the hype for me all the way up until the intro credits started. By the time the movie ended, I couldn’t help but feel a bit disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, the animation was just as beautiful as I expected, and the dystopian universe that Psycho Pass takes place in is executed well. However, with all of the comparisons made to behemoths of the genre such as Ghost in the Shell and Blade Runner, it staggers under the weight of its potential and ultimately falls short.
Interested in hearing more about Akane and Psycho Pass? Check out our interview with voice actress Kate Oxley!