I'm a science fiction fan who really enjoys a good future dystopia story. That's why even without fellow reviewer Kyle Mills' recommendation (you can read his reviews of this series too: part one, part two) I was hoping to check out Pycho-Pass. So when FUNimation released the entire first season in a pretty cool limited edition set, I made sure to snag it. The show is a dark, intelligent, program about a future where crimes (and stress) have been nearly eliminated due to advances in psychology. Criminals can now be identified before they commit a crime (they're locked away to protect society) but what happens when someone discovers a way to game the system? It's a very good show, that's only kept from the top ranks of anime by a couple of flaws.
Akane Tsunemori is the newest member of the Ministry of Welfare's Public Safety Bureau, specifically Unit One of the Criminal Investigation Division. It's the hardest division to join, the requirements are incredibly high, but Akane didn't have a problem... she every test in the battery that high school graduates are given. The results of the test determine a person's future occupation, and since Akane did so well she (unlike nearly everyone else) had a pick of professions. She decided to become a cop.
In this society a person's mental state can be instantly read and everyone is required to carry a Pycho-Pass that tells how mentally stable they are. If your Crime Coefficient ever gets too high, you are arrested. Not because you've done anything wrong, but because you could; these people are classified as 'latent criminals'. Someone with a Crime Coefficient slightly over the limit will have to undergo treatment before they can be let back into society, but in extreme cases the individual is locked in solitary confinement for life, or even killed.
Investigators like Akane have a couple of things on their side. The first is their weapon, called a Dominator. This gun reads a person's Crime Coefficient automatically and will only unlock the trigger if the person it is pointing has a level that's too high. In mild cases it paralyses, but when it reads someone with a high level, it morphs into 'lethal mode' and kills them. That's because once a Crime Coefficient gets too high, it can never be brought back down.
The other assets that an Investigator has are Enforcers. These are latent criminals who agree to work for the Ministry. Since exposure to crime and violence can make a person's Crime Coefficient increase, the Enforcers are sent in to protect the psyche of the Investigators.
Akane isn't sure she made the right decision on her first day on the job when she has to deal with a hostage situation. She sees a side of life that virtually everyone is protected from: violence, death, and misery. She has problems with her boss (who chastises her for being friendly with the Enforcers and advises her not to think of them as human beings) as well as with some of the Enforcers. What's more, she's not sure that her boss' by-the-book methods are the best way to solve their cases. She wants to start profiling the criminals, but in order to do that, she has to think like a criminal, and that will endanger her Psycho-Pass.
After a couple of grisly murders crop up, and are solved, all of Unit One starts to realize that the crimes are connected... that there is someone pulling the strings of the murderers. But in this day and age, how is that even possible?
There is a lot to like about this show. First off, it's smart. They set up a fleshed out society that asks some tough questions: how much freedom should individuals give up in order to be safe? If the police can stop a person before he commits a crime, shouldn't they do that? What if they can stop him before he even thinks about it? These are interesting concepts that the series probes, and it does a good job of looking at them.
The characters are enjoyable too. They all have interesting back stories that are revealed as the show goes on and while some of them are flawed, they all come across as real people. The stories are engrossing, and it's easy to binge-watch this show.
Having said that, there are a couple of flaws that are hard to ignore. The first, and the more minor one, is the idea that there is no stress in this society. A couple of times over the course of the show it's stated that people have a hard time adjusting to new situations because they have no stress in their lives. I just didn't buy that at all. If a cop asked to see my Psycho-Pass and I knew that he could lock me up forever if he didn't like what he saw, I'd be stressed.
The bigger flaw that really bothered me is that the whole concept that the society is based on is disproven in the first episode but no one seems to care. After a criminal rapes and tortures a girl, her Crime Coefficient jumps so high that she's targeted for execution. Akane's boss explains that she's been tainted by her experience (since there was no stress in her life) and that once a CC gets so high, there's no chance of it ever going down again. Akane (with more than a little justification) freaks out that the Enforcers are going to kill a rape victim, and sets out to stop them. In the end she calms the victim down, and her numbers drop down so much that she's no longer scheduled for execution. Yet no one seems to question that, even though it supposed to be impossible. In another episode a worker who has regular CC checks commits multiple murders. Why doesn't anyone question whether the system is working?
If you can overlook those inconsistencies, this is a great show.
This limited edition collecting is quite the package. The four Blu-ray discs arrive in a double-width case. There are also two CDs that contain the soundtracks to season one in a separate single-width Blu-ray case. These, along with some nifty bonus items, are housed in a think-board slipcase. The whole thing is very attractive.
The AVC 1080p encoded 1.78:1 image looks really, really good. In the brightly lit scenes the colors are full and bright and the lines are razor sharp. The show is intentionally dark through much of the running time, and it can be hard to make out details in these night and underground scenes, but that is an intentional choice from the creators. There really isn't anything that I can complain about.
The show arrives with an English dub in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and the original Japanese language track in stereo Dolby TrueHD. I viewed episodes with both tracks, and while I prefer the original language slightly, the 5.1 on the English dub is excellent. The room fills with sound and the sub-woofer gets a good workout in some of the action scenes. The high-pitched techno-whirling sound of a Dominator activating is accompanied by a very low rumble that shakes windows and makes for a very impressive moment. Like the video, the audio it top-notch.
The on-disc extras are pretty minimal. There are commentary tracks created by members of the English team accompanying four episodes, and a 2-part featurette that profiles the promotion done on behalf of the show at Sakura-Con which runs about 40 minutes altogether. There's also textless opening and closings.
The real reason to fork over the cash for this set is the packed-in bonus items. I'm a sucker for cool trinkets and this set had some neat things, though not anything too special. There is a plastic ID holder, a Ministry of Welfare window sticker, and a thin metal business card holder that has the ministry logo as well as Funimation's printed on the front. It would have been much cooler if the FUNimation logo had been on the reverse or inside. My favorite item is a metal key-chain bearing the ministry logo. It's a solid piece that looks good and would stand up to some wear.
There were a couple of inconsistencies within the story that bothered me a bit, but if you can overlook that this is an excellent show. A smart and extremely well crafted show with an incredibly engrossing plot, it gets a very strong recommendation.