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Monday, 27 July 2015

Psycho-Pass: The Movie.

Psycho-Pass: The Movie.

You know, I can sympathise with Gen Urobuchi. In the past year or so, he has had to deal with people going 'MAN, THAT WAS A GREAT ENDING YOU WROTE THERE' at the end of Aldnoah.Zero's first cour - an ending he didn't write and wasn't even a part of his original scenario - and with people going 'MAN, I DON'T LIKE PSYCHO-PASS 2, YOU SCREWED UP THERE' even though he did not, in fact, write that either. 

The man seems understandably annoyed by how people keep attributing things he wasn't involved in to him, going so far as to make several vexed tweets on the subject - tweets which had almost no effect, as shortly afterwards I saw people claiming that his insistence at not being significantly involved in this projects was just a smokescreen to conceal that he was puppetmastering events from behind the scenes.

How refreshing, then, that we actually have something which he did write here, so that people have the opportunity to do that whole pantomime of fan-ery without having to fall back on ridiculous conspiracy theories. 

In this film, set some time after the end of the second series, Akane takes a mission to travel to the country of SEAUn, a country that has imported the Sibyl System into the floating coastal city of Shambala Float as an experiment, and where her old friend and former enforcer with the CID, Kougami, has been sighted aiding guerrilla groups. Quickly becoming embroiled in the area's civil war, Akane becomes targeted by Nicholas Wong, the head of SEAUn's military police. 

Woo, Akane.

Early reviews said that the film was basically a Psycho-Pass episode with more explosions, and I think that's not quite apt - it's essentially a Psycho-Pass series condensed and with more explosions added, having more or less the same major story beats that both of the series had, right down to ending on a note of 'Akane forces Sybil to do something it doesn't want to, but it still pretty much manages to win'. The core of the criticism - that it's more of the same, just with more bombast - rings very true, however: The film is not a significant departure from what the franchise usually does.

Nor is it the definitive end that I think some people were hoping for, instead very much leaving things open for a third series. While I know that was a disappointment for some people, I'm fine with that, having never really expected a definitive end in this film. Besides, I'd quite like to see a third series, and maybe another film, to cap off the franchise.

If anything, the biggest disappointment for me was that most of the main cast weren't actually involved in the film. Akane - who remains an excellent protagonist, don't get me wrong - travels on her own to SEAUn, and about five sixths of the film is the Akane and Kougami show, focusing on them both in equal measure but not really involving anyone else at all.

Pictured: Sirs and Madams Barely-Appearing-In-This-Film.

Which is understandable - the central theme of this film is clearly meant to be Akane and Kougami's paths diverging more and more from each other's, cementing Akane as protagonist while also giving Kougami some kind of send-off (albeit one that leaves him very much in a position to return, either on Akane's side or as an antagonist). We'll talk about that in a moment, but I feel that that kind of laser-focus on just two characters would have been a lot less grating if this wasn't coming after Psycho-Pass 2, a series which also had barely any focus on most of its main cast. Taken on its own, I would have shrugged and given this film a pass for not involving the majority of its cast, but taken with the rest of the franchise, I find myself starting to wonder why they even bothered having a supporting cast in the first place.

(Fan favourite Ginoza does get a small subplot about rejecting Kougami, but that's more or less it as far as supporting cast involvement goes.)

All that having been said, it's a fun film. Not tremendously deep and meaningful, possibly not even a necessary addition to the franchise, but fun, and a very enjoyable watch. It's about eighty percent big silly blowout action film (I have rhapsodised extensively on how much I enjoy those), with explosions and absurd over-the-top action scenes and a very loose plot about a civil war, and about twenty percent bittersweet and surprisingly subtle scenes about how Kougami and his old friends have diverged from each other so much that they can't really relate to each other any more. Which I liked, somewhat: It wasn't tragic, it wasn't Kougami heroically sacrificing himself, and nor was it that they were enemies and Akane had to bring him in (it was established pretty thoroughly that Sibyl didn't care about Kougami) - it was a much quieter realisation that Kougami now occupies a different world to Akane and Ginoza, and that all three of them had changed as people, and that they can never again be friends like they once were.

Which is part of why I said that this film was something of a send-off for Kougami: They could leave his storyline there, and I think that'd be absolutely fine. In many ways, I think that would be better than if they tried to bring him back later in the franchise.

Kougami spends a considerable amount of the film getting beaten up.

On a technical level, the film is pretty astounding: It's beautifully animated, fluid and colourful both in busy action scenes and quieter scenes. Whoever did the art direction was clearly very keen to make good use of the setting (SEAUn is pretty clearly meant to be Thailand, with one of the major locations in the film either being visually based on or actually meant to be Ayutthaya), with lingering shots of ruined temples, busy cityscapes, and tropical islands. The soundtrack, consisting mostly of slightly reworked songs from the series, was nice to listen to. The voice work was - Um.

Okay, the voice work is good when they're speaking Japanese. About forty percent of the dialogue, however, is in technically perfect (if sometimes very flowery and stilted) but horrendous sounding English. I don't want to dwell too much on that, because it's precisely none of the voice cast's first language and the film is not aimed at English speakers, but it was pretty difficult to decipher at times.

This film and how successful it is will probably end up being the deciding factor in whether they make a Psycho-Pass 3, so I'll be interested to see how that pans out. Either way, though, if this is the last entry in the franchise, it's a serviceable one - a fun and very well-made action flick with a tinge of bittersweetness to it.

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