Thursday, 11 October 2012

Psycho-Pass - Episode 1

Against an impressively detailed futuristic backdrop, two men rather helpfully name one another for the viewer's education in the midst of a short but slick action scene - but exactly who are Shinya Kogami and Shogo Makishima?

That question is quickly put on hold, as Psycho-Pass' first episode quickly introduces us to our real protagonist - rookie police inspector Akane Tsunemori, who is fresh out of the academy but thrown into the midst of the short-staffed Public Safety Bureau of the Criminal Justice Department.  In this dystopian future, George Orwell's concept of "thought-crime" is a reality, with the entire region constantly policed by a system on the look-out for so-called "latent criminals" - those anticipated to be more likely than the average person to commit a crime, making them ripe to have justice served upon them whether they've actually committed a crime yet or not.

In the case of this opening episode, Akane and the team of "Enforcers" (latent criminals given positions as "hunting dogs" for those like them who need to be brought to justice) find themselves giving chase to an unexceptional man who has been driven to drastic measures after being picked up by a local scanner as a latent criminal, leading to him deciding that there's nothing for it but to live up to his billing and make the most of his final moments of freedom.  While catching this individual presents its own problems, it's as of nothing to the real issue on-hand here, as the mental state of this latent criminals victim makes for a nightmarish start to Akane's career as an inspector.

I'm really not sure what I can say to sum up Psycho-Pass' opening episode other than - brilliant.  While it's aesthetic is nothing original (we've seen it a million times before post-Blade Runner) it still utterly looks the part in depicting its grimy but technology-fuelled future, its character designs are instantly recognisable once each individual has been introduced, and the show's hook is sold to the viewer in a hugely compelling fashion here.  If anything, it's almost worrying how well this first episode nailed its premise in terms of the moral and ethical dilemmas it presents to the point where you can't help but wonder where the show can go from here.  If it can even come close to matching the energy, pitch-perfect pacing, intelligence and slick production values of this instalment, then we might have just found ourselves the best anime of the year so far.

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