Review for Psycho-Pass The Movie - Collector's Edition
I loved Psycho-Pass Season 1. It was Ghost in the Shell for the 21st Century, a speculative sci-fi series, inspired by the works of Philip K. Dick, and having quite a bit in common with Minority Report. Psycho-Pass posits a future world where someone’s psychological state, their propensity to commit crime can be quantified, and it extrapolated a world from that premise. The results were so good that they made you long for a live action movie, offering complex, rich storytelling and character development, coupled with the hard-hitting uber-violence of the ‘good old days’ of Manga Video. Manga Entertainment released the first season, but it fell to All the Anime to release season 2, where it all fell off the edge of the pier. Gen Urobuchi wrote the first season, but for season 2 the writing duties fell to Tow Ubukata, and what resulted was a rehash that lacked in subtlety and intelligence, relying solely on spectacle and daft plot twists. That’s the kind of thing that can take a shine off a franchise, but All the Anime has one more Psycho-Pass treat for us this year. They’re now releasing the Psycho-Pass movie, and for its feature length outing, Gen Urobuchi once more picks up his pen.
It’s not exactly pre-crime, but the future of law enforcement in Japan is a logical outgrowth of the opinion that crime is committed by those who are psychologically capable of it. When it becomes possible to measure someone’s psychological state by technological means, it also becomes possible to pre-emptively stop crime from even happening, by enforcing mandatory rehabilitation and psychological adjustment, or in the case of those too far gone, immediate removal from society by means of execution. So it is that every citizen has a Psycho-Pass, monitored by the SIBYL system, which assigns a set of colours to indicate a state of mind. You don’t want your Psycho-Pass to get cloudy!
That is the big problem for the crime investigators of the future. To investigate crime, you have to understand crime, understand the mindset of those who would commit crime, and that is a recipe for psychological disaster. Understanding the mindset of a serial killer won’t leave you with happy joy feelings. So the police service of the future is divided into two sections. The Enforcers are those who hunt down and deal with criminals and potential criminals, armed with powerful Dominator guns, which automatically scan a target’s psychological state, and are authorised to deliver disabling or lethal energy bolts by the SIBYL system. The Enforcers are those who are psychologically inclined to crime, who would be in permanent rehabilitation, locked away from society, if they didn’t accept the opportunity to serve as Enforcers. They’re the maniacs sent to catch the maniacs. They are overseen by the Inspectors, those who run the investigations, issue the orders, and keep a leash on the Enforcers to stop them going too far. They also have to do this without letting their own Psycho-Passes get too clouded.
It’s been three years since the events of the first season, three years since Enforcer Shinya Kogami vanished, and in that time the SIBYL system has gained a reputation around the world as a technological civilising influence, despite its flaws. And now its capabilities are starting to be exported around the world. The neighbouring SEAUn nation has been divided by a bitter civil war, but its leader has set up a region of his capital, the Shamballa Float, as a test area for SIBYL, where only those citizens with clear Psycho-Passes are allowed to live, although as yet, the technology only extends as far as assessment and monitoring, not enforcement. But when foreign terrorists infiltrate Tokyo Harbour, Inspector Akane Tsunemori’s attention is drawn to SEAUn. For one of the captured terrorists has in his possession a familiar book, and when his mind is scanned during interrogation, it seems their worst fears are confirmed. Shinya Kogami apparently trained the terrorists, and he’s leading the rebel faction in SEAUn’s civil war against the recognised leader, and against the SIBYL system. Akane will have to step outside her comfort zone and travel to SEAUn to track down her former Enforcer, but she isn’t prepared for what she will find.
All the Anime present Psycho-Pass The Movie in this Collector’s Edition on Blu-ray and DVD, along with a 32-page artbook, although for the purposes of this review I’m looking solely at the Blu-ray disc.
The image is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p format, and the Funimation logo alongside the noitaminA one indicates that All the Anime are merely using Funimation’s discs for their release. You needn’t worry, as unlike Season 1, the movie gets a rather stonking transfer, clear and sharp throughout, with excellent detail and an absence of compression artefacts. Digital banding is rare to the point of non-existent, and given the number of smoky and misty scenes, and scenes with large patches of shifting shade, that is an excellent development. The animation is top-notch, with the character design consistent with the television series, but given an extra layer of polish, while the action sequences are truly thrilling. The hand-to-hand combat sequences are choreographed to within an inch of their lives, dynamically directed, and lay down the gauntlet to live action movies to be as good. They are so impactful that you wonder if the animated characters had animated stunt doubles for those scenes. The world design too is complex and detailed, and with all the rich imagination that you’d expect from a cyberpunk film.
The images in this review were kindly supplied by All the Anime.
You get the choice between Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround English and Japanese, with subtitles and signs locked to the appropriate track. It’s an excellent surround track, meaty and immersive, and there’s a whole lot of action to get immersed in. The subwoofer really does get a workout with this film, there are plenty of thunderous explosions to deal with, and they all get the volume that they are due. I’m used to having to push the volume of Funimation discs higher than normal, but this time I was backing off the loudness. The music suits the film well, and drives the action and emotion effortlessly, and subliminally.
I had a bit of a dilemma when it comes to audio choice. I always go for the original Japanese, and I’ve gotten used to Kana Hanazawa, Kenji Nojima, and Tomokazu Seki in the main roles. The problem here is that there is English dialogue in this film, and a whole lot of it, and most of it is performed by non-English speakers. In other words Engrish. When the opening monologue refers to ‘belfries’ as ‘Bell Fries’, then you realise that you’ll have to suspend a whole lot more disbelief than usual to get into this film, and understandably, all of the dialogue, including the English is subtitled. Fortunately, Funimation have given the Psycho-Pass movie an excellent dub, and if your tolerance for bad Engrish is lower than mine, then it’s the natural choice.
The film is presented on a dual layer Blu-ray with an animated menu, following the annoying, and soon to be redundant trailer for Funimation NOW (it will be dub only). I haven’t seen the packaging, the artbook, or the DVD to comment.
The big extra on the disc is the US Staff and Cast commentary, led by ADR director Zach Bolton, and devoting most of the run time to commenting with the main cast, before spending half an hour or so with the mix engineers.
You get two Japanese trailers, the US trailer, and further Funimation trailers for Tokyo Ghoul √A, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Assassination Classroom, Seraph of the End: Vampire Reign, Black Butler – Book of Murder, Yona of the Dawn, Selector Spread WIXOSS, and Yurikuma Arashi.
Now that’s more like it. The Psycho Pass Movie is on a par with the first season, if not even better. On top of that, while some of the season 2 characters make a fleeting appearance in this film, you don’t have to have seen season 2 to enjoy the movie. In terms of the original cast, the film really focuses on Akane Tsunemori and Shinya Kogami, so it doesn’t even matter too much if that first season isn’t fresh in your mind. You get a whole new story, essentially picking up from where the first left off in terms of narrative. It only occasionally refers to that original story, and even then, really only in the broadest sense. In many ways, the Psycho Pass movie is the typical TV to feature film adaptation, rewarding to existing fans, but entirely watchable for someone relatively unfamiliar with the franchise.
Unlike Season 2, which essentially rehashes Season 1, with Gen Urobuchi returning to script writing duties, the film offers something new in the Psycho Pass universe, a story which builds on what has come before, and develops the concept further. And while the series was a commentary on blind obedience to the state, the abrogation of personal responsibility, and the ultimate in authoritarian control, the movie steps outside the domestic arena and takes the SIBYL system overseas. In that respect, The Psycho-Pass movie is an incisive commentary on foreign affairs which is certainly allegorical when compared to our own world, our own governments.
In the movie, the SIBYL system has been demonstrated as a proof of concept in pacifying and controlling society, in a world that has developed to the point where it seems that humans have apparently abrogated moral responsibility over their lives. Certainly the comment is made early on that Japan under SIBYL is the only peaceful nation in the world, and that others are stricken with violence and conflict. The nation of SEAUn for example is in the middle of a civil war, but its leader has seen the SIBYL system at work, and feels that applying it in his own country will turn the tide of the war in his favour, once his utopian Shamballa enclave is proven to work, and his citizens want in.
But it quickly becomes clear that his version of utopia isn’t the same as that in Japan, and his implementation of SIBYL’s monitoring system (they aren’t exporting Dominator tech) works markedly differently. It’s the arms trade given a twist, in that once you’ve sold your guns, missiles and bombs, you have no control over how your client will use those weapons, and there very much lies the possibility that those same bullets that you sold, will wind up aimed at your citizens. Akane learns as much when she travels to SEAUn, and finds a society where the privileged clear of hue and the authorities are actually exempt from being scanned by SIBYL, and in place of the Dominators, the second class citizens in Shamballa wear poison collars, which incapacitate, or kill according to the Psycho-Pass readings. As you might expect, those exempt can abuse the collared with impunity.
If you recall the series however, you’ll now that the SIBYL system is no simple mechanism, and certainly not a dupe, and the impetus to export the SIBYL system overseas is more a technological imperialism than mere economics. It’s about regime change and social engineering, as becomes clear in the second half of the film. And just like modern armchair generals and first world leaders, SIBYL sees this as a problem to be solved in the abstract, where the cost in lives is just a number on a tally sheet. Naturally that sort of behaviour breeds resentment, and the Psycho Pass movie does begin with an attempted terrorist attack on Japanese soil from SEAUn rebels.
All of this, plus the continuing development of the Psycho-Pass premise is stuff that will get the grey matter working, feed the intellect, but as for the heart, soul, and gut of the film, that comes down to the character arcs and the action. If you recall the first season, central to that story was the relationship between Inspector Akane Tsunemori, and Enforcer Shinya Kogami, and Kogami’s absence from Season 2 certainly raised questions. Those questions only intensify at the start of this film, when it transpires that Kogami vanished three years previously. That must have come as a betrayal for Akane, a betrayal that crystallises when it seems that he’s now helping the SEAUn terrorists, and she becomes motivated into travelling to SEAUn to find him, and if necessary pass judgement.
That intention is tainted from the start, with Akane’s fractious relationship with SIBYL once more invoked, when SIBYL takes the interrogation of one of the terrorists out of her hands to lethal effect, tainting the evidence that implicates Kogami in the result. Ever in the Psycho-Pass story, Akane has an uncomfortable relationship with the technology she represents as an Inspector, and that is raised to a higher level here. Her journey out of her jurisdiction to find Kogami takes her to SEAUn, and into the middle of a civil war, the social inequities of a third world nation, and a whole lot of politicking, machinations and brutality. Her hunt for Kogami is a trigger for those in charge to crack down on the rebels. They just aren’t expecting their Japanese guest to be so independently minded, and typically Akane gets into a whole lot of trouble, outside of her comfort zone, and with no back up from her team or the SIBYL system. That’s all before she even locates Kogami and learns the truth about what he is doing there.
There is a lot to appreciate here if you are invested in the Psycho-Pass characters and their world, but the gut is catered for too by some stunning action sequences. The Psycho-Pass movie has some of the best hand-to-hand combat action I have seen in animation, and you can see just how much effort went into getting it right with the list of martial arts schools referenced in the end credits. The Psycho-Pass Movie has it all, a great story, characters to invest in, brilliant action (including a return to the gory violence of season 1), and it moves the story forward in a way that is fresh and original. The Japanese version also has some of the worst Engrish I have heard in a while, but I guess nothing’s perfect. It’s a small flaw in an otherwise great movie, and even if you avoided season 2, you really should pick this one up.