Psycho-Pass: The Movie


Reviewed by: Luke Shaw

Psycho-Pass: The Movie
"Doesn’t really pass the bar as anything other than as an indulgence for the fan who has seen the whole of the main story."

The transition from the considered pace of a full length series to the potentially tokenistic length of a one-off film is something that needs a deft touch. Anime franchises tend to wring as much as they can out of a property, and as such their movie translations don’t often fare well. Cowboy Bebop withstood the transition, its freewheeling and episodic plot translating easily into a feature-length film. Sadly director Nayoshi Shiotani and writers Gen Urbouchi and Makoto Fukami, along with studio Production I.G., don’t manage to make Psycho-Pass: The Movie sing as loudly.

For those not in the know, Psycho-Pass is oft regarded as Production I.G.’s spiritual successor to Ghost in the Shell. Written by the famously nihilistic Gen Urobuchi, Psycho-Pass takes Ghost In The Shell’s neo-noir future, and mixes it with Philip K. Dick’s Minority Report, with a dash of dandy villains waxing cod-philosophical, navel gazing anti-heroes, and a dedicated young rookie in the shape of Akane Tsunemori - a particularly fresh take on the boilerplate anime heroes of decades past.

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Set in Japan, year 2116, a pervasive AI known as the Sibyl System controls everything: people’s job allocations, dietary and entertainment intake, even their relationship prospects, by monitoring and evaluating the ‘hue’ of their Psycho-Pass: the summation of their mental state, both conscious and unconscious. Tsunemori heads Public Safety Bureau's Criminal Investigation Division, a mostly human arm of the Sibyl system that arrests criminals, often before they even know they are criminals, and is able to channel Sibyl’s analytical prowess and determine on the spot whether a target is harmless or a target for subjugation or gory, violent execution.

With an over reliance on prior knowledge, the Psycho-Pass film doesn’t really pass the bar as anything other than as an indulgence for the fan who has seen the whole of the main story. Newcomers will be left baffled at the return of characters they knew nothing about, and more importantly will have grand reveals about the core systems and philosophies of the series revealed. It’s nice to see Tsunemori strike out even further on her own as she leaves Japan to act as Sibyl’s arm in the amalgamated state of SEAUn (the South East Asia Union) but the conspiracy and guerilla war she becomes involved in simply aren’t engaging enough to make this feel like anything other than a ripe, overlong mid-season filler episode.

Production I.G. also don’t match the scope and intricacy of the production values for the lavish first few episodes of each series, instead relying on flat, overly busy and ultimately boring CGI backgrounds and frequently stilted animation. Beyond these visual hiccups, there’s also the bizarre choice to have a large part of the film spoken in English, with the Japanese voice actors being forced to struggle through long sections of stiff dialogue that does nothing to help the tone of the film. On the upside, I.G and Urobuchi manage to work in a host of visual nods to other films, and plot elements which build up the world in small but meaningful ways. A character tapping their finger repeatedly on a piece of Sibyl equipment looks like an idle tic, but to fans it takes on a different meaning, hinting at the under the thumb nature of certain characters. Such flourishes are appreciated.

With the core series remaining a modern highlight of the Anime scene, it’s a shame the movie makes all manner of missteps To the uninitiated that may stumble across this movie, treat it as a curio to be watched much later, or as a brief appetiser for a far more compelling main course. For fans of Urobuchi’s deft moralistic and transhuman plottings, save this pleasant, but ultimately inferior take on the Psycho-Pass universe for a rainy day when there is nothing left to do.

Reviewed on: 20 Nov 2015
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In a future world, a young police officer is sent to a war-torn nation in search of a former colleague turned outlaw.

Director: Katsuyuki Motohiro, Naoyoshi Shiotani

Writer: Makoto Fukami, Gen Urobuchi

Starring: Kana Hanazawa, Noriko Hidaka, Unshô Ishizuka, Shizuka Itô, Kenji Nojima, Ayane Sakuru, Takahiro Sakurai

Year: 2015

Runtime: 113 minutes

Country: Japan


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