Set in the 22nd century, “Psycho-Pass” posits a dystopic future in which the nations of the world are bedevilled by social anarchy and barely function in a state of near-collapse. All, that is, except Japan, which through a policy of renewed isolationism and the development of the Sybil System, has managed to keep its social cohesion intact. The Sybil System, a psychometric AI that enables authorities to qualitatively measure every citizen’s “crime co-efficient”, and thus determine their risk to public safety, articulates the ultimate Faustian bargain: total safety at the cost of total surveillance. Responsible for maintaining this balance are the Inspectors of the all-powerful Public Safety Bureau, who work hand-in-hand with Enforcers: latent criminals who do the dirty work of capturing – and eliminating – actual criminals.

But what if the system isn’t as omniscient as it seems? What if there are blind spots that can be exploited – whether for criminal purposes, or to effect social change? And what if Sybil isn’t a “system” under human control, but is in effect a sentient entity acting for its own purposes? Drawing on philosophical concepts from Socrates to Kant, from Hume to Derrida, “Psycho-Pass” is a neo-noir crime thriller that unfolds as a reflection on what it means to be a human being existing in relationship with other human beings. Covering topics such as the relationship between the individual and the State, whether ends justify means, and the nature of justice, “Psycho-Pass” is rendered in a compelling techno-noir style that gives us dizzying futuristic vistas combined with gritty urban reality. Deep, intelligent, and complex, it is thoughtful, yet action-packed, anime at its very best.

© Text Copyright Brendan E Byrne 2019. All rights reserved.