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Anime Review | Psycho-Pass the Movie

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Sequel movies are somewhat of an oddity, especially if the show/movie it followed from already had a decent ending.

You have to make sure that you either build up from whatever premise you originally had, work with that premise, explain parts of the story that weren’t explored before, END properly or even all of the above, in order to be a rather successful follow-up (generally speaking).  A lot of movies and anime tried this before; some of them succeeded and turned out to be great follow-ups to the pre-existing lore (e.g. Hellboy 2, The Dark Knight, K-On 2,  Ghost in the Shell:  SAC, Tamako Love Story).

Most of the time, however, a lot of them just flop right on the ground (Psycho-Pass 2, Eureka Seven:  AO, the Monogatari Series 2nd Season, Tokyo Ghoul √A, the Star Wars prequels, the Matrix sequels, Exorcist 2).

 

Yeah, I can go on and on about sequels that didn’t work.

 

So when I heard about the existence of the Psycho-Pass movie, I was rather wary going into it. Sure, I was hyped due to the fact that I really loved the show itself, but still, it helps to be a bit more cautious heading into these sorts of things, as I’ve already been let down once before.

Now, after watching said movie, was my cautious behavior towards this sequel warranted?  In the end, was I just being paranoid that this movie could ruin the series?

Let’s find out, shall we?

What’s up everyone, Ken here, and without further ado, let’s head straight into a movie whose social-justice system is built on a foundation of complex algorithms and many, many, MANY brains at work:  Psycho-Pass The Movie.

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Anime Title:  Psycho-Pass:  The Movie

Genre:  Contemporary Fantasy, Thriller, Action, Drama

Aired on:  January 9, 2015 (Japan), March 15, 2016 (U.S)

Directed by:  Katsuyuki Motohiro &
Naoyoshi Shiotani

Written by:  Gen Urobuchi (script and original story) & Makoto Fukami

Studio:  Production I.G

Music by:  Yugo Kanno


Story & Characters:

Psycho-Pass: The Movie follows inspector Akane Tsunemori, set two years after the end of Psycho-Pass 2. After an attempted terrorist attack on Japan by foreigners, Akane learns that the Sibyl system is extending its services to another country to test its effectiveness before instigating it in other major nations.  Another shocking discovery is that the apparent leader of the terrorists is her old partner, Shinya Kogami.

Determined to find out the truth, as well as bring Kogami back into custody, Akane heads to the Asian mainland, known as SEAUN, which is currently in the midst of a civil war. On one side are Kogami and the guerrilla rebels; on the other, a new paradise city built off the coast that is under the control of the Sibyl System run by the military.

Being far from home and having to rely only on her quick wits, Akane must find Kogami and uncover the mystery of the terrorist attacks—as well as Sibyl’s latest plans for its new nation.

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Right off the bat, let me say that the story for the movie is a great follow-up to the original series.

With Urobuchi on the reins again, the writing has a more controlled level of darkness and thematic elements to it, as opposed to the second season.  The plot revolves around how the Sibyl System has upgraded itself to the point where it is able to make more and more decisions for society (an example being Akane’s friend who was able to find a partner through Sibyl’s suggestion) as well as how it can be used to help developing countries.

At the same time, it also shows us the complete downside to having such a powerful system. Although its main purpose is to bring order to socially-challenged nations, only select people are even allowed to participate in such a controlled society, and even then, the system’s control on the present citizens are pretty tight still—so is it really the utopian society that was advertised in the first place?  This parallels the type of deconstruction that we see in the series, and the movie manages to have the same impact almost as effectively.

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The way the setting was established in the span of under two hours was also commendable.  We see how the nation of SEAUN is a war-torn civilization and how the Sibyl System is supposed to bring order to that society, but it’s already so devastated by war and strife that you see how rebuilding it is such a herculean task.  Due to war, poverty, and lack of institutions to manage the civilians’ psycho-pass, everyone who has a high crime coefficient is outfitted with a collar that can either stun them or kill them on the spot should they become a threat; as a result, it creates the irony that the people under Sibyl are both free, but at the same time, restricted and bound to its judgment.

What’s even more interesting are the people’s split positions about Sibyl System’s authority.  There are some who are completely content with being bound by such a system, because to them anything is better than constant war and violence.  They see the system as a saving grace, something that will improve their lives, and make every decision for the betterment of society. Even if they’re treated like caged animals, as long as they’re given their basic necessities, they can live with Sibyl constantly watching them.

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On the other side of the spectrum, there are the rebels:  people who don’t agree with the current dictatorship and want to take down the system, thinking that it is a completely false idea of freedom.  The existence of these two camps provides an interesting parallel as to society’s thoughts on what a “perfect” society really is, something that Psycho-Pass was always good at presenting.

Speaking of presentation, the overall pace is where I’m a little split.  On the one hand, it did manage to present a setting, create conflict, and then conclude everything by the end of the movie without too much trouble.  On the other hand, however, there is a lot left to be explained and developed more which could’ve been done much better if it was an arc in a series.  A lot of the characters and events seemed rushed, and considering that some of them are prominent to the plot, it’s really a shame that this wasn’t done in a 12 or 24-episode show, as it would’ve been fleshed-out better.

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On the topic of characters, not gonna lie: they were a bit lackluster.  They don’t really get too much screen time or development to warrant a solid place in the plot except for a few exceptions and one “kinda-exception”.

First off:  Akane.

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Her development is one of the strongest character growths I’ve seen in recent anime, and the film further proves just how much she’s grown over the course of two seasons. In a very real way, we see this Akane as everything that a smart investigator is:  she’s cunning, skilled in combat, decisive, and set-in-stone with her ideals.  She takes initiative and prefers to be right in the middle of a fray, taking responsibility and the lead for any situation.  This personality of her’s forms as the greatest antithesis to the Sibyl System’s logic, and that’s what makes her such a compelling character:  she takes it upon herself to be the conscience of a system that has the ability to accurately deduce the mental and emotional status of any individual and judge them mercilessly based on pure algorithms, and that’s something very apparent in this movie.

Another character that’s back in the major role is Kogami.  He was great but I felt that they could’ve done more with his character other than to reiterate his similarities with Makishima.  He served as a sort of figurehead for the rebels, an inspirational character who can lead them to Psycho-Pass-movie-030916victory, much like how Makishima was adept at rallying people for himself.  I will admit, it was a bit odd, seeing Kogami “glorified” like this, and although his inclusion in the movie wasn’t the most fruitful (hence, he’s the “kinda-exception”), he was still a fun character to watch on-screen and his chemistry with Akane hasn’t waned at all.

Finally, the side characters were a bit interesting, but they don’t offer much to the story and are pretty much expendable.  The villains, themselves, were a bit lackluster, especially the head general, who was more or less your stereotypical “hungry for power” government official. Although to be fair, one can argue that the real villain here was the Sibyl System, in which case, it was still represented as a formidable paradox: so what if Sibyl’s judgments lean on the more extremist side if it’s creating a better society? It’s the whole concept of Sibyl not being your usual “black-and-white” villain that is continually represented well in this film.

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Animation & Sound:

Now, this portion of the review is where I am the most split.

The original Psycho-Pass anime’s setting is one of its main strong points.  Thankfully, it’s this movie’s main strong point as well.  There was great atmosphere throughout that clearly contrasted the “utopian” society of Japan with the dystopian and chaotic nature of SEAUN, as well as creative set-pieces that really bring out the authenticity of the world that the movie is set in.  It gives you this feeling of authenticity and style that complements or contrasts whatever scene is on-screen: seeing the ruins of the war zones in muted gray (reflecting the effect of countless battles), the bright and colorful inner city (contrasting its dystopian society), the natural ambiance of the rebel camps (complementing their simpler and more rugged outlook) and the ancientness of the temples (reflecting a more traditional belief system).  Essentially, the movie did a great job expanding its setting, introducing new thematic elements while still remaining true to its original concepts.

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Unfortunately, the execution of that setting is where I have the biggest gripe with the movie as a whole.

The actual animation was REALLY hit/miss, and considering that this was from Production I.G, it’s pretty disappointing., especially their use of CG.  I mean, there were moments where the CG was used nicely and were used to highlight a certain feature of one of the set pieces (e.g. the temple). But pretty much everything else was so jarringly shoehorned in that you wonder why they don’t just hand-drawn some of the animation instead of opting for CG.  There were so many CG moments that were just so horribly done in conjunction with normal animation that they were literally distracting, and that’s saying something, considering that I generally am more lenient towards animation and usually I don’t let it get to my enjoyment of a show/movie.psycho-pass-movie-2015-crf24-10bit-notcommie-sub-mkv-00005-e1444075907238

But in this case, it sadly does.  I must say that I am rather melancholic that Production I.G would skimp around with the animation FOR A FEATURE FILM.

Also, a lot of cinematography odd jobs as well were hit-and-miss.  There were some great imagery and representations throughout, but the movie does blackout-cuts A LOT, which reduces the impact of certain scenes as the jumps were a lot more sudden, as well as some questionable edits as well though nothing of key importance that devalues anything as a whole.

On the plus side, there were a lot of points in the action sequences where the animation runs fluidly, so that’s at least, a silver lining.

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The dub, in my opinion, wasn’t bad, but there were some awkward lip-flap syncs here and there. Watch it in either sub/dub, whatever your preference was for the show.  Soundtrack-wise, it still had the same kind of techno-classical mix that was used in the original series, so no complaints there as that soundtrack was already fine on its own.

I do wanna point out one thing about the movie’s soundtrack, and that’s the inclusion of the first ending theme of the first season, “Namae no Nai Kaibutsu (Monster Without a Name)“, by EGOIST. They could’ve changed the ED theme for this movie like what they did with the opening theme by Ling Tosite Sigure (which was pretty good), but I’m so glad that they kept one of the classic ending themes as a sort of callback to “the good ol’ days”.  It was a great move on their part, and I very much appreciated hearing it again.

Afterword:

I might be a bit biased seeing as how I loved the original series, but I really do think that it was a good movie, story-wise.  All in all, I enjoyed the movie, but not as much as I expected to. The story was solid and the characters were interesting for the most part.  It felt like an episode of S1 again, with all the morality and political issues that they brought up, which were displayed clear enough as to not be too confusing or preachy, but thought-provoking enough to be substantial.  It did have a solid ending that paved the way for a potential third season, which I would naturally be hyped for.

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Akane was undoubtedly one of the best parts of the movie, proving once again how much of a badass she has grown to be over the course of the series. The rest of the characters, while not being as impactful to the plot as they could’ve been, were nice to see on the big screen and were never intrusive.

The settings were all intriguing and well-designed, making it another big star for the film—showing how much worse the Psycho-Pass dystopia could become is a great reminder of the overall stakes of its actions, and how it would potential affect other societies.

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The animation was fairly well-done, with some nicely-done choreography to complement the action, as well as the highlighting of various set-pieces in the film.  However, there were noticeable changes in quality and a lot of the CGI-usage were just so shockingly placed at certain points that I couldn’t help but think of how silly it looked.

Like, the CG was so bad that it actually affected my enjoyment of the whole movie.  It was that bad.

Overall, I did enjoy the movie, but questionable direction and hit/miss animation can take away from the experience.  Despite its problems, I couldn’t ask for a better story to continue and build upon the world of Psycho-Pass as with this movie.  It’s not a definitive conclusion to the series, as it is more of a little side story that follows the continuity of the show, but it’s still a good film and a nice little follow-up that leaves the possibility for more.

And, Urobuchi or no Urobuchi, I would look forward to a potential continuation.  Whenever that may be.

I hereby award Psycho-Pass: The Movie with an overall score of 75 out of 100, brought to you by Ginoza’s sexy ponytail.

Look at it, and be amazed.

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It’s not a horrible movie in any sense of the imagination, and it does follow through on the premise and the themes from the original Psycho-Pass anime.  However, dodgy direction and inconsistencies in the animation affected my overall enjoyment of it, as well as some points that could definitely have been expanded on. As a result, the whole movie seemed rushed to an extent and left some plot holes to be filled, though nothing too major.

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As per usual, leave a comment down below pertaining to your thoughts on this review, on the movie itself, or if you would like me to review anything.

And, with that, I bid you all adieu.  This has been Ken, and I’ll see you guys in the future-
-whenever that may be.

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