Let me explain. The original PSYCHO-PASS is the first Star Wars trilogy. Both of them are science fiction stories that take almost all of their elements from older popular works and then combine them into new if somewhat formulaic story. They both have some major flaws and plot holes but if your will to suspend your disbelief a bit they are highly entertaining and maybe even a bit enlightening. Neither of them is for everyone but they are easy to recommend for a general audience and probably worth watching just so you can talk about them. Also while there are some major and vocal detractors for both of them then both generally got universal praise.
The second season of PSYCHO-PASS is the prequel trilogy. It is just a train wreck that eats away any good will that the original had earned. They really seem to miss what made their predecessor popular and totally botch a good deal of the world building, character development, and thematic resonance from the original. They both started off and the fans tried to convince themselves they were good but by the end most people just hated everything about them. Finally they both turned off a lot of fans who would have otherwise stuck with the series.
So PSYCHO-PASS: The Movie and The Force Awakens had a heavy burden placed upon them. They had to convince everyone who had been burned by what came became before them to give their respective series another chance. The Force Awakens succeeded in that mission amazingly well. Does Psycho-Pass: The Movie do the same?
The PSYCHO-PASS movie sees the return of Shinya Kogami, co-protagonist of season one who left before the dust had even settled. Akane grew a lot during that time and when they encounter each other again, it is more as equals.
Four years after Akane learned the terrible truth about the Sibyl System it seems that other parts of the world wish to implement the system in the countries as well. The recent success story of implementation of system in the SEAUn has taken a dark turn when a team of terrorists infiltrates Japan but is stopped by the Public Safety Bureau before they can do too much harm. Soon it is discovered that former Enforcer and Shinya Kogami maybe have been behind the attack. Akane heads to South East Asia to confront Kogami and uncover the truth behind this new iteration of the Psycho-Pass system.
If anyone does anime related web comics I have a free idea for you. With a little bit of work you have a pretty easy comic.
Setting: Public Safety Bureau Headquarters
Mika Shimotsuki: Remember when I was an utterly useless tool that worshiped a psychopath and had nervous breakdown?
Akane Tsunemori: No. No one does. Never talk about imaginary events ever again.
I feel that generally sums up my attitude towards PSYCHO-PASS 2 and PSYCHO-PASS: The Movie seems to have the same attitude. Now I don’t necessarily think this is because they decided that PSYCHO-PASS 2 was so bad that it got written out of cannon. Shimotsuki is still in the series and seems to fill the same role. It is just more likely that since they started making the movie and the same time as the second season they just coordinated what new characters they would both use. The movie did not include anything from PSYCHO-PASS 2 because it was not anything close to done when they were in the planning stage of the script. The fact that they avoid the dumpster fire that is the elements introduced by PSYCHO-PASS 2 (other than Sho Hinakawa) is just a happy accident.
While I doubt anyone going into the movie would believe that Kogami had turned villain, it is more complex than a bit of misdirection on the part of the government or a case of mistaken identity. Kogami spends a good portion of the movie questioning whether he is falling into the steps of Makishima.
(This isn’t all Kogami does in the movie though, he also gets beat up a lot and finds super tight shirts to wear.)
Akane has come into her own so much so that I don’t feel like Kogami usurps her in this movie. No longer was I wishing for it to focus on him. Don’t get me wrong, I was glad to see him but I was happy to find myself completely engaged by Akane.
I did not look too deeply into the PSYCHO-PASS movie before we saw it so it was a little surprising to see an Angkor Wat styled temple in the background of the movie poster when we went to buy tickets. I was even more surprised that they went outside of Japan for the movie. After some reflection that makes sense. The first season delved into the ideas of security vs. freedom, the reach of law enforcement, and who watches the watchmen in equal measure. While there is still a good deal to say about all of those topics as well as other concepts that can be explored with the Sibyl System in Japan they are all at least explored in more than a cursory fashion. Taking the concepts and placing them on an international stage lets the franchise delve into the ideas of colonialism and globalism. The setup of a Banana Republic via the Sibyl System in the SEAUn keeps all the original ideas of the TV expands them to a global level. This also kept the movie from stepping on the toes of anything happening in the second season.
PSYCHO-PASS has a lot of philosophy and discussion about society in its story and the movie wears that fact like a neon sign. Everything is turned up louder in this movie with the super corrupt government of South East Asia Union with their super evil plans and their super crazy mercenaries that get hired on.
It isn’t subtle for sure, the series never really has been, but that doesn’t prevent it from bringing up some very current topics on security, modernism, and a widening gap between the haves and have-nots. Especially visual realized is a country trying to show a forward face to the world, create a city of the future, but just below the surface is a population starving.
I have been watching a good deal of very low-level videos on film theory like Every Frame a Painting. At this point even a first year film student knows 1000 times more than I do but it has primed my brain to start looking for certain factors. If you pay attention you will notice that three colors are extremely important when they pop up. Blue is order, control, and callousness. Joushuu Kasei is always bathed in pure blue. Chuan Han having the same effect is a big clue about him. Red is chaos, anger and violence. While the rebels have the lion’s share of red you will notice that the SEAUn forces will have splashes on red on them. All the tanks and robots will start to glow red when they go into kill mode. Nicholas Wong’s red and blue outfit shows both this control of the system in SEAUn but also his tendency towards violence. Green is neutrality and reason. While the rebels are dominated by red they do have a decent amount of green associated with them and Kogami is almost always in green. Akane tends to be bathed in the light of the scene as she takes in and processes other people’s colors.
But really when push comes to shove that is more an interesting piece of trivia or something to look at when you watch the film a second time because it is more good framing more than anything necessary. I say that because nothing in the movie is anything close to subtle. If you consider this color coding a relatively subtle symbolic vase in the background than all the other symbolism and theming is a 7 foot clown juggling flaming chainsaws in the foreground. There can be a fine line between being too subtle with your themes and not being subtle enough. PSYCHO-PASS: The Movie has decided subtly is for chumps. At one point Akane’s Dominator reveals that along with Paralyzer and Lethal Eliminator Mode it has secret setting. This hidden function seems to be Exposition Mode because her gun gives her a long monologue about the themes of the film just in case anyone missed them.
The first season was hardly hiding its themes behind layer of complexity and misdirection but it also did not always feel like it was screaming its message at you either. There were some clunky scenes of people bantering philosophical points back and forth like a Mamoru Oshii film but there was a good amount of action, detective work, and plain character development between them. The tighter narrative of the movie format means they stand out and bump up against each other a little more than they should. It does make it feel like your trapped with a relative at a family reunion as they drill their latest political screed at you. Even if you agree with them it can feel more than a bit tedious due to the delivery method.
This movie might have an advantage if you are coming off of S2 which was, quite frankly, terrible. You might find the movie more than a little ham-fisted with its ideas like I did but it is still builds well on concepts from the TV series.
(No, but seriously let’s pretend S2 never occurred.)
In the end the analogy hold true for the most part. PSYCHO-PASS: The Movie helped wash a lot of the bad taste left in my mouth by the horrible experience I had during Psycho-Pass 2. Like the The Force Awakens it is hardly flawless, a bit derivative and blatant, and sometimes just has fanservice for fanservice’s sake but it actually is good. I liked The Force Awakens more but that is besides the point. PSYCHO-PASS: The Movie makes me actual look forward to another story in the universe as long as it is written by Gen Urobuchi and animated by Production I.G. That is no small feat but there is little more praise I could give than that.