Natsumi TakamoriUnshou IshizukaNoriko HidakaPsycho-Pass
Psycho-Pass: The Movie
Medium: film
Year: 2015
Director: Katsuyuki Motohiro, Naoyoshi Shiotani
Writer: Gen Urobuchi, Makoto Fukami
Keywords: Psycho-Pass, anime, SF, dystopia, noitaminA
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Actor: Kana Hanazawa, Hiroshi Kamiya, Kenji Nojima, Miyuki Sawashiro, Noriko Hidaka, Takahiro Sakurai, Tomokazu Seki, Unshou Ishizuka, Ayane Sakura, Hiroki Touchi, Kanehira Yamamoto, Katsuhiko Sasaki, Kazuhiro Yamaji, Kentarou Tone, Kiyomitsu Mizuuchi, Kozue Harashima, Misa Kobayashi, Natsumi Takamori, Shizuka Itou, Shunsuke Sakuya, Subaru Kimura, Sumire Morohoshi
Format: 113 minutes
Website category: Anime 2015
Review date: 17 February 2016
psycho pass
It's not quite a waste of time, but I'm really starting to dislike Gen Urobuchi's writing style. (Yes, I realise it's not just him. He's co-writing with Makoto Fukami, just like Psycho-Pass Season One.) This film has a great idea for a story. It's just that no one fleshed it out into an actual story.
As we know from two seasons (2012-2014) and 33 episodes of the TV series, Psycho-Pass is set in a dystopian Japan of a hundred years in the future. Unhappiness has effectively been criminalised. The rationale is that criminals are unhappy people who think bad thoughts, ergo unhappiness makes you a potential criminal and a target for pre-emptive action. Fill your head with happy fluffy emptiness and you'll think the world is great. Get a bit depressed and you'll have the Public Safety Bureau coming to visit you. Get angry and they'll shoot you with a Dominator gun and make your body explode like a water balloon.
Anyway, the innovation of this movie is that Japan is so proud of its brain-scanning Sybil System that it's started exporting it. This being a Gen Urobuchi series, everything's hopeless in a rather dull, interest-killing way. (I exaggerate. Hope won't necessarily be completely dead, but it'll be a long slog to get there and it won't necessarily be worth the wait.) Japan is the only peaceful country in a war-torn world. Every country everywhere has gone to hell. However the South East Asia Union (SEAUn) has managed to impose a certain amount of peace with the help of Japan's Sybil System, even if regrettably this has strengthened the grip on power of a jumped-up junta general whose soldiers hang people in the streets.
This raises all kinds of intriguing questions. As with this dystopian Japan itself, is it right to oppose an evil regime that's doing good? SEAUn's people might occasionally be getting shot or hanged by the regime, but at least they're no longer living in a warzone. Everyone thinks the Sybil System's fantastic. Ordinary people think it's a miracle.
There are philosophical discussions of, say, the privatisation of the state's monopoly on organised violence. All this is great. I'd love to see a story that explored this world, which is nearly what I got here.
Unfortunately they forgot the "story" part. The protagonist, as always, is Akane Tsunemori. Her involvement in the story is to be basically a walking viewpoint. She sees terrorists infiltrate Japan. She goes to SEAUn and sees government bully boys using strong-arm tactics. She meets an old friend, although they're no longer quite so friendly, and sees what he's up to these days. The things she actually does in the film are:
(a) Lead a small team at the beginning to take down those terrorists, thus providing some audience-pleasing action. In fairness this is one occasion when she's not completely passive, but it's also not dramatic, if one defines the latter as "a character making difficult choices". She's a cop. They're criminals. She's doing her job. She does it by the book and it doesn't take too long.
(b) Talk to people. This is actually quite cool at the end when she's telling the Sybil System that it's wrong, but for the most part she's just asking questions and observing.
(c) Follow a lead, i.e. going to SEAUn or getting out of a car to follow SPOILER.
...and that's it. I'm honestly not sure what the point of including her in the film was. She just watches stuff happen. She's not involved in anything, except by being a walking McGuffin. All her problems end up resolving themselves in violently cynical ways, although admittedly this can be quite funny. A plot synopsis of this film would go "government does bad things, people run around, violence is committed, government miscalculated."
What it absolutely wouldn't include would be anything like "the heroine does Y, which has the following effect..."
Should this film have dumped its heroes entirely and instead focused on villain protagonists? (I realise that the Psycho-Pass fans would have cried blue murder, but I'm speaking theoretically here.) The villains are more interesting than the heroes, after all, being murderers who'll kill you at the drop of a hat and are actually doing stuff. Mind you, I could make not dissimilar suggestions about the TV seasons too.
There's lots of English dialogue, annoyingly. That's not a complaint about the accents, which as it happens are fine except for the efforts of one unfortunately amusing voice actor. I just don't tend to get along with gratuitous English in anime. It's distracting.
An old favourite character returns, which provides a certain level of interest, I suppose. He and Akane have a lot of old ground to go over, at least. I was quite interested by by some of the philosophical musings about him and by the comparisons with Shogo Makishima, but at the end of the day he's still a character from Psycho-Pass. One's not really inclined to care a whole bunch.
You'll have noticed that I don't like this film, but I wasn't bored. It's set in a horrifying world where complete and utter bastards are using mind-reading technology (and bullets) to control the populace. It's full of politics and cool ideas. The discussions are thoughtful, as they often are from Gen Urobuchi. Meanwhile the governments' plans are so cynical and brazenly callous that it's actually quite fun to explore them, including the post-credits bit that subtly undermines the apparently positive ending. Not only is this in keeping with everything else, but it's also an unusually clear-headed view of the outlook in that kind of situation (c.f. what happened after most of the uprisings in the Arab Spring).
Just don't expect the film to give any kind of closure to the TV series (it doesn't) or for the heroes to matter (they don't).