Perhaps one of the most beloved science-fiction stories of our generation, Gen Urobuchi’s Psycho-Pass devastated audiences with it’s bleak vision of a technologically-flooded future ruled by a system that can determine the possibility of individuals committing crimes by reading their invisible brain waves.
These individuals, be they criminally-minded or otherwise, are impartially judged by the Sibyl System, not focusing on age, race, background, or any of the issues we have found in modern times to sway the assessment of law enforcers in regard to individuals in their respective communities. It is a story, much like George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, that revolves around the issues which arise when a system of this kind is placed in a position to monitor masses of people on an individual basis.
With realistic character development, and a mass of story layers to keep audiences interested, Psycho-Pass has been deemed an “instant classic“, being placed upon the same metaphorical shelf as films like Akira, and Anime series’ like Cowboy Bebop, and Fullmetal Alchemist as gateways into the medium.
Unfortunately, for anything as celebrated as Psycho-Pass, there will come a point wherein which it will be extended indefinitely simply because of it’s sure-fire money-making ability. This is why it’s second season was created despite the fact that original creator Gen Urobuchi is no longer attached to it as anything more than a supervisor. In fact, he openly apologised for the story contents of season two and, after watching through it, I can see why.
Despite the stigma around this infamous second season, I felt as though it was only right that I experience it as a whole for myself before continuing to judge it based upon the words of others alone. As much as I had heard regarding the fine details of it’s lacklustre experience, I disregarded as much of that information I could muster and went at this with as clear a mind as I could, unclouded by prior judgements of the series’ second season. Thank you, once again, to Madman Entertainment for sending us a review copy, and for their constant support of us here at SnapThirty.
It’s been a little over a year since Inspector Akane Tsunemori chose to put her faith in the Sibyl System and keep its true nature a secret. Assigned to a new division with a few familiar faces, Akane and her team of Inspectors and Enforcers are charged with upholding the law in a society where just thinking about a crime is enough to get you locked away forever — or executed on the spot.
Just as Akane settles into her new routine, a terrorist bombing in the center of the city shakes the System to its core and launches an investigation that uncovers a network of latent criminals who claim their leader has the power to lower their crime coefficients. After Enforcers begin turning up dead with cryptic messages scrawled near their bodies, Akane starts closing in on the answers she’s looking for — completely unaware that an even deadlier threat is lurking closer than she could ever imagine. – Madman Entertainment
Perhaps the most startling feature of this season of Psycho-Pass is it’s high level of blood and gore, unlike that of the first season that used the implication of a violent death to scare audiences rather than to simply show it in it’s rawest form. This season, much like the first, starts off in more or less the same way, which I found to be an interesting throwback to Akane’s first assignment as an Inspector under the guidance of Ginnosuke, who is now an Enforcer under her command. This featured the same anxiety-inducing ambience of the first season, and surprisingly it continued along the same path all the way up until the final episodes wherein which the story took an interesting but ultimately detrimental turn.
The true issue behind the story of Psycho-Pass II was, above all, it’s obvious and incessant need to outdo the first season which, in turn, lead it on a path that ended in utter failure. Despite the unnecessary carnage, most of the episodes of this season felt as though they could have been from the first, but it’s convoluted ending and distinct plot holes was a disservice not only to this season but also to that of the first. At times, it felt as though Psycho-Pass II was alluding to something great, but within the next step of story development it was either rescinded or completely ignored, making me believe that, well…none of what was developed actually mattered.
Most characters not present in the second season that were featured in the first were replaced with personalities similar to that of those now absent. The most obtuse of them is the character of Sakuya Togane who was similar not only in name to Shinya Kogami but also in the character that he played which became exceedingly more malevolent as the series went on, only for it to be justified with an explanation I found to be far too basic for the likes of a Psycho-Pass character. Regardless, for the most part he played the role of the right-hand man well-enough, it was unfortunately the story that surrounds his character that shook the season’s seemingly sturdy foundation. While it wasn’t the only story feature to do so, it was one of the more prevalent.
For the most part, the visual quality of the season was that of a fairly high one, but when compared to the visual experience of the first it mostly fell flat. In many other situations this wouldn’t have been too big of a deal, but when it comes to a string of episodes like this that are clearly trying to match, if not better, the season that came before it, it becomes fairly obvious that it simply isn’t a possibility. Unlike the original season of Psycho-Pass, II cut a lot of corners when it came to seemingly unimportant scenes, choosing to walk the route of basic animation in an attempt to save funds for when more pivotal scenes are to be animated. That would have been fine if that were the case, but instead, most cinematic scenes were not well-animated at all with developers of the series relying heavily on computer generated models to carry climactic visuals.
In saying that though, there were indeed times wherein which the detail on a character’s face made the tension of particular scenes incredibly intense, which I found to be this season’s strong point considering it happens multiple times. The true travesty is not only the fact that season two insisted on high-octane action to keep their audience engaged, but that they didn’t put enough animation effort into it to make the escalation of violence worth it. Once again, much like the story of the series, it’s visual quality was noticeably higher during the first eight episodes, but then saw a steep decline alongside the story as it travelled closer to it’s end.
Psycho-Pass II’s soundtrack is essentially the exact same as the first season’s. Some people will argue that, with a new season, comes drastic change not only to that of the story but to the other elements that make up the series, I happen to think that certain elements should remain the same, for the sake of continuity both within the series and for those partaking in it. The inclusion of many tracks from the first season made Psycho-Pass II a wonderful multi-sense experience. Not only are the tracks well-composed, but their placement and use within this second season was, for lack of a better word; masterful. The way in which track placement intensified a scene, and the use of orchestral pieces throughout this season I felt to be wonderfully suited to the almost celestial rule of the Sibyl System that is, many times throughout, referred to as something akin to a God.
Another great element of this season, much like that of the first, is it’s voice acting cast which did an excellent job, once again, at portraying their respective characters, squeezing as much raw emotion out of every given scene as humanly possible. Even new-comers to the Psycho-Pass realm like Christopher Sabat continued to prove to be incredible artists despite the fact that their characters lead to the downfall of the series. Regardless of how they were written, the voice actors and actresses put an incredible amount of effort into their performances and made the series highly enjoyable despite the obvious.
Psycho-Pass II is a dismal sequel to such an incredible series, but not just because of the way in which it’s story concluded. Psycho-Pass II began it’s tale with something wonderfully reminiscent of the first season, not just in the way it’s story was told but the way in which the Anime was executed as a whole. For the first eight or so episodes, I was perplexed as to why so many people across the world despised this season because, for the most part, it came across in much the same way as the first. To a certain degree, even the excessive violence found a home amidst the psychological torture, but just over halfway through something terrible happened; Psycho-Pass II tried to be better than itself. The season tried to challenge the depth of it’s own story, asking questions of itself that had no justification, and in doing so…it was destroyed.
If it weren’t for the great soundtrack, wondrous voice talents, and mostly good visual quality, this series would have been impossible to have enjoyed. I would love to suggest watching through the first, let’s say, ten episodes and then come to a conclusion for yourself, but that’s an insane thing to ask of an individual to do for the sake of enjoying an Anime series that should be enjoyed of it’s own merits alone. Before any of you out there decide to judge it though, on my word or the words of your friends, I suggest you watch this for yourself, so that you’re able to experience first hand just how good this series could have been and the incredible way in which the enjoyment of it can be snatched away from you within a course of four or so episodes. Truly a sign to behold.
To experience Psycho-Pass II for yourself by purchasing it from Madman Entertainment’s online store: Click Here