Rain splashes down on pavement as police lights flash red. A section of a busy urban area in Japan has been crossed off by unmistakable yellow crime scene tape. A lone young woman approaches a stern-looking officer in front of the scene, who informs her bluntly that they’re short on officers and she’ll have to learn on the job. It’s the classic set up for rookie Akane Tsunemori’s first day on the job as an inspector for the Public Safety Bureau’s Criminal Investigation Division and the beginning of a gritty futuristic crime drama called Psycho-Pass.
Set in a relatively realistic setting of Japan in the future, people have created something called the Sibyl System, an omnipotent and all-knowing computer system capable of reading people’s inner workings like their mental states and personalities–their psychology. (Interestingly, the system reads these things off a device in each person’s body called a Psycho-Pass, a play on the the Japanese word for “psychopath.”) In order to create a peaceful and efficient society, the Sibyl System can determine things like what jobs they would be best suited for and, more disturbingly, if they are a liability to society, someone who has the potential to commit crime. The latter is called a person’s Crime Coefficient.
Female protagonist Akane Tsunemori is blessed with an incredibly stable Psycho-Pass and when the system determines that she is capable of taking on some of the top jobs in society, Akane decides to take the one job only she was determined suited for in her graduating class: an inspector. It’s a job few can handle given the intense and rough nature of it, which puts investigators in contact with some of the worst of society.
That leads us to the male protagonist of this series, Shinya Kogami. Like Akane, he joined the Division as a promising inspector some years ago. However, somewhere along the line, he become unstable after he became obsessed with a certain case he had been working on and his Crime Coefficient rose to a point where the system deemed him as someone who could potentially commit a crime. As a result, he had two choices: sit in a mental hospital the rest of his life or become an “Enforcer,” someone with a high Crime Coefficient who works under the supervision of an inspector like Akane.
Together he and Akane Tsunemori, along with the other Inspectors and Enforcers as well as some pretty screwy criminals, show the audience the two sides of the Sibyl System: those who are accepted and must work to keep order and remain good citizens and those who are seen as dangers to society, potentially or already. In the world of Psucho-Pass, there is no magic or pink-haired and ditzy heroines, nor are there romantic messages about friendship and true love. While it may be futuristic, it is firmly grounded in harsh reality, exploring the human mind. Can a system truly be relied on to tell us if we are mentally stable or a danger to society and is it right to condemn those who may or may not become a harm to society just based on their potential mental instability? Are humans the master of their own will if they are so reliant on this system? It’s questions like these that are raised from the beginning by the characters in this world.
As for the female characters in this series, it’s hard to deny that Akane Tsunemori is a strong female character, both mentally and physically. She starts as the newbie in the group and Shinya Kogami, being her senior, acts as a kind of mentor. At times I felt like Kogami overshadowed her, but given that he is more experienced, I suppose it’s natural. Yet while Kogami may have more experience, it is interesting to watch as Akane transforms over the course of the series’ 22 episodes from an inexperienced, somewhat idealist rookie into a sharp and hardened inspector. Also intriguing is the interactions between the two protagonists, Akane Tsunemori and Shinya Kogami, as the two struggle to solve problems in extremely different ways. Tsunemori has faith in the system and believes in creating a peaceful society while Kogami has fallen to the position of Enforcer and walks a darker path. After one run through of the series, I was overall pretty happy with Akane Tsunemori’s portrayal.
If moody and gritty isn’t your thing, this probably isn’t the series for you. I also want to warn readers that the show does have a lot of graphic violence and can be pretty brutal. (It’s certainly not a show for kids.) However, if you’re okay with that and you’re in the mood for a stylish anime that tells a more mature story with two equally interesting protagonists and a dark, deep, and twisting plot revolving around crime and human psychology, you might want to check Psycho-Pass out. It’s streaming on Hulu.com for free.