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Friday, 19 December 2014

Psycho-Pass 2.

Psycho-Pass 2. 

Ah, I was excited about this. I absolutely adore Psycho-Pass, and although I didn't think it needed a sequel, I was certainly glad to see one. 

Written by Tow Ubukata (something which got many Urobuchi fans riled up - look, I like Urobuchi's writing a lot, but other writers are available) and animated again by Noitamina, the sequel weighs in at eleven episodes to its predecessor's twenty-four, although it does also have a tie in film.

Some months after the death of Makishima and the escape of Kogami, Akane Tsunemori, an 'inspector' in a world where a vast supercomputer, Sibyl, judges its citizens' likelihood of committing crime and pre-emptively punishes them, has acquired a new team of 'enforcers' (latent criminals given the chance to hunt down other latent criminals), including enigmatic Sakuya Togane. Her life is turned upside down once again when she crosses paths with Kirito Kamui, a young man who cannot be perceived by the system, and the leader of a cultlike organisation.

The issue of who would replace Makishima as the villain was probably the biggest one for the series, with many fans speculating that Kogami would take on an antagonistic role to replace him. We had a threefold villain in this series, with Kamui arguably being the main antagonist, and then Sakuya Togane and his mother forming two sub-antagonists. Which works: Kamui is a far more interesting villain than Makishima was. While Makishima was very cookie cutter, carved out of a cliche of 'the urbane, intellectual, philosophical criminal' with no real depth, Kamui is a complex, interesting character who presents a sense of real danger.

He also kind of looks like a goat.

Which is not to say that the handling of the plot is perfect. For starters, this series relies a lot more on gore and squick than its predecessor (which was not precisely gore-free at the best of times). Plot twists like 'Kamui carves off faces, sometimes, and gives them to other people' just come off as a rather childish attempt to make the audience go 'ew.' Sequences like a group of holograms disintegrating in a fire to reveal dead bodies have shades of immature shock tactics about them.

As was the case with Makishima, the writers often seemed unsure how to handle Kamui, too, being unable to decide whether they prefer him as a serene but highly malevolent butcher or tortured fallen hero. The Toganes suffer no such problems as villains, being basically pure evil. 

The protagonists fare, perhaps, less well than the villains. Akane truly shines in this series, having visibly developed as a character from the last series, while still being totally recognisable. She's engaging, sharp, witty, and it's very easy to root for her, which is absolutely a necessary aspect of being the main protagonist. The other stand out star of the protagonists is Saiga. Introduced as Kogami's teacher in the first series, Saiga is brought back this series as an interviewer and analyst (and latent criminal). He has a dry, cynical manner which was very fun to watch, and his character arc of coming to terms with the idea that there's just something about him and the things he knows that raises the crime coefficients of those around him, and what that means for him, was one of the best in the show, even though it wasn't touched upon much. His interactions with Akane particularly stand out as being excellent.

Akane is, in general, pretty great.

There are a few other newish characters, too. Mika, a minor character from the first series, comes back as an inspector who very quickly starts to lose her way, and an adorable enforcer/hologram expert is introduced. They're both fine, although Mika was widely hated by fans for her consistent inability to take any responsibility, but neither of them are particularly striking.

Things which aren't striking stand out a little in this series, because it puts so much effort into being in your face and striking and unforgettable. While the original Psycho-Pass was often content to meander through procedural plots, Psycho-Pass 2 is the meth-taking hard-drinking younger sibling, and takes every episode as a twenty minute opportunity to leave your jaw hanging open. Sometimes this works, such as when a major character was locked in a pharmacy with a madman and a group of hostages, being viciously beaten. Sometimes it doesn't, such as when Kamui was revealed to be a chimera of over a hundred people, a plot twist which was more ridiculous than it was shocking. 

Are you evil, Togane? I can't tell.

With a film shortly coming up, there is a bit of an impression that Ubukata was trying hard not to buck the status quo too much, and the series ends with a philosophical question that falls a little flat: What the result would be of Sibyl judging groups of people, in addition to individuals. Somehow, I think the writers thought that was a more interesting idea than it actually was.

Still, this was a very solid and enjoyable series, and definitely one of my favourites for the year. It's getting beaten out by Nobunaga the Fool, though. I'm sorry, I know, Psycho-Pass 2 was objectively better in a thousand ways, but I really like Nobunaga the Fool, guys. I really do.

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