Back when I was struggling to look normal while on the verge of a nervous breakdown during college, a friend of mine suggested I give some new anime a shot because he thought it was up my alley, with it being described as MINORITY REPORT: THE ANIME. Two seasons of PSYCHO-PASS later and I can easily say that PSYCHO-PASS is The Shit; it’s not only better than most other anime series I’ve seen in recent memory (especially since the “competition” is mostly made up of Self-Insert Harems Fantasies and Asian Cartoon Porn featuring students or some bullshit) but it’s a unique and cerebral story that utilized the animated medium to its best potential. Sure, there were some pitfalls like how season one tended to be a fucking Animated Philosophy Lecture rather than a Cyberpunk Noir where the author just boasted about how much Foucault books can fit his intellectual butthole but overall, PSYCHO-PASS is an anime series anyone who almost lost faith in the medium (like myself) should give a shot.
Considering how smart PSYCHO-PASS was, it was a downer to find out that the movie was pretty dumb. Now to be clear, PSYCHO-PASS: THE MOVIE is not bad but it was a big fucking letdown after the anime shot my hopes for this cinematic adaptation sky-high. You see, when a television series (animated or otherwise) gets the words THE MOVIE slapped at the end of its title, you’re supposed to be in for something big. It’s a major event that the confines of the television screen (like censors and shitty ads) couldn’t handle and when the end credits of PSYCHO-PASS: THE MOVIE rolled up, it felt more like an extended episode than a major narrative event.
Taking place three years after the events of the first season, PSYCHO-PASS: THE MOVIE follows Inspector Akane Tsunemori (aka The Best Female Lead In An Anime) as she’s tasked to hunt down a terrorist she once knew: Shinya Kogami, the enforcer who went on the run after thankfully killing the fucking annoying Required Murderous Philosopher in Season 1’s end. Reuniting what’s left of the original cast from Season 1, the movie throws them against the backdrop of yet another conspiracy involving everyone’s favorite Big Brother Sytem since the Matrix, SIBYL.
This time around, SIBYL’s trying expands its power by going global through means of Foreign Intervention, in classic George W. Bush Jr. style because invading a country based on your own moral codes without a giving a fuck about the other side always works. How Akane deals with closing old wounds and trying to stop SIBYL’s shenanigans in a land beyond Japan’s borders may sound like a great arching plot for a third season of PSYCHO-PASS and that’s the biggest fucking problem this movie has: it lacks a lot of time.
These two narrative arcs could’ve been good PSYCHO-PASS movies on their own but combining them only fucked things up and a battle for priority ensued. While the fight wasn’t enough to break the entire movie’s pacing, PSYCHO-PASS: THE MOVIE wasn’t sure if it wanted to follow Akane reuniting with Kogami or focus on the Big Conspiracy raging on in the political climate, which at this point has become a mainstay of the series. For a majority of the movie, Akane’s shown trying to reconnect with Kogami while the Big Conspiracy was mentioned off-hand every now and then just to remind you that Big Brother is still watching, goddamn it. Then just when things are about to end, the Big Conspiracy suddenly takes center stage, just in time for Akane to scold the shit out of SIBYL for a whole two minutes in what could be the lamest philosophical confrontation ever seen in the franchise. Thanks to focusing too much energy on the Will They Or Won’t They Moments between Akane and Kogami, PSYCHO-PASS: THE MOVIE completely forgot about things that made the show critically acclaimed in the first place, namely the Big Conspiracy and the Philosophical Jerking Off.
To be fair, there IS a Big Conspiracy going on and all jokes aside, PSYCHO-PASS is one of the few stories I know that handles its take on Philosophy in a mature and human manner (outside of White Haired Asshole from Season 1 but he was deconstructed so that counts) but when compared to what was seen in the series, PSYCHO-PASS: THE MOVIE’s Big Conspiracy is surprisingly basic. While the original series made it an effort to emphasize that there were no clean-cut Good Guys and Bad Guys, it’s pretty fucking obvious in PSYCHO-PASS: THE MOVIE who you’re supposed to root for thanks to a very simplistic STAR WARS level morality tree where the names of the factions give away their motives. You have the Johnny Rebels fighting a Military Government and that’s as far as moralities go with those sides; throw in the fact that the Rebels are fighting an Empire backed by the SIBYL system and you’d be as dumb as a FANT4STIC fan if you still couldn’t differentiate the Saints from the Devils.
SIBYL, though, gets the largest end of the shaft when the system that’s meant to be an All Seeing Benevolent Dictator is for some reason dumber and lazier than usual. In the anime, SIBYL is shown to be some near unbeatable entity that governs all aspects of Japanese life but now, SIBYL is shown to be an incompetent twat whose biggest enemy is laziness. For reasons that are cheaply explained as experiments and tests, SIBYL needlessly complicates plans when its obvious goals should make execution straight-forward because, long story short, SIBYL don’t wanna get its hands dirty. Thanks to this, SIBYL not only gets itself into more compromising situations when facing Akane in a scolding session but it also gives its enemies a chance to fuck shit up. Maybe the justification that SIBYL is imperfect and just wanted to say “It’s all going according to plan” in a haughty manner may hold weight but when compared to its incarnation in the original anime, SIBYL was never this goddamned stupid and predictable. When SIBYL in the series did seriously questionable shit it was all in the name of a fucked up understanding of Society and Human Nature but now it’s basically because of EVIL. Because as you know, all Bad Guys want World Domination and I guess it was SIBYL’s time to follow the lead.
As mentioned earlier, PSYCHO-PASS: THE MOVIE is not bad despite its glaring flaws and obvious step down after what was seen in its impressive predecessors. What it does right, PSYCHO-PASS: THE MOVIE does well. Special mention goes to the continuing growth of Akane as both a person and SIBYL’s Conscience (for a Female Anime Lead, she is basically sexless as seen in her lack of doing Stupid Sexy Shit and she can stand on her own, all of which makes for some Awesomely Badass Shit), the personal interactions of Akane and Kogami that never verge on the melodramatic, the internal conflicts of each character when their motivations come into question and of course, the overall animation quality.
In the smaller and more personal scale of things, PSYCHO-PASS: THE MOVIE does a good job in showing how people would live and react to a fucked up world dominated by Pretentious Philosophy 101 Addicts but it fails to hit the mark when it tries reach certain narrative heights. Instead of balancing the Humanity and the Philosophy, PSYCHO-PASS: THE MOVIE accidentally ignored one half of the equation and made the payoff seem more half-assed and look a lot like an obvious piece of Sequel Bait. As it stands, PSYCHO-PASS: THE MOVIE is no movie event but it’s just an extended episode fans may or may not like but something everyone else won’t really give a fuck about. Since I’m a fan of this franchise, I’m going to have to wait a long fucking time for a proper conclusion to Akane’s character arc because if the movie’s lead is to be followed, the series’ popularity only guarantees a more dragged out story than what’s needed.