As of last night, I have now watched both series of Psycho-Pass, and what can I say: the writing was great, the characters were great, the story was unbelievably interesting and drew the characters into realistic moral dilemmas, the animation quality was superb, and even the voice cast (in both the Japanese and English language dub) was freaking superb!
Now, the story of the show focuses around rookie detective Akane Tsunemori, pictured below, and it's set in a world where the police carry devices called Dominators, which read the mental states of individuals and put this into a number called a "Psycho-Pass". Generally speaking, the higher the Psycho-Pass Crime Coefficient read by the dominator, the more likely a person is to commit a crime, and those with a Crime Coefficient of over 100 are labelled "Latent Criminals".
I will say that Akane is one of the most likable and relatable protagonists of the series, watching the way she thinks and works off her colleagues in the police force is a true highlight of the show, and when the Sibyl System (which I'll talk about later) prompts/forces her to make decisions between what is morally right and what's societally essential, she makes choices very consistent with her character. Her relationships with her colleagues, particularly Kogami in season 1 (who is also a really interesting character with a great backstory, who's really well developed), and Ginzoa in both seasons, though particularly season 2 (another highlight in my opinion is the tragic relationship between Ginzoa and his father, and the tragedy of how his own gradually rising psycho-pass sends Ginzoa down the same path as his father. It leads to some very touching dialogue, and a lot of this character's remorse and conflict is perfectly portrayed with very little dialogue, but just through the way his face is animated, though the way he's drawn.)
Interestingly, Tsunemori's Psycho-Pass is shown to never rise above about 37, and I can't help but wonder if she's actually a criminally asymptomatic individual, but that Sibyl simply didn't realise because she's never commited a crime.
WOAH, WOAH, BACK UP THERE DAN - What's Sibyl? And what's "criminally asymptomatic"???
I am so glad you asked, (not that you did, I asked myself). Sibyl is the computer system that is in charge of Japan's legal operations during the show and which monitors the psycho-passes, but really [spoiler warning], it's a bunch of brains in jars, taken from criminally asymptomatic people.
Criminally asymptomatic people are people whose psycho-pass never reaches 100 no matter what they do, and thus they actually contradict Sibyl's system for analysing brains.
On that topic, the main antagonist of season 1, Shogo Makishima, (pictured below) is one of these Criminally Asymptomatic people, and he's on a quest to destroy the Sibyl System for some pretty valid reasons, including the fact that he's always felt alone and invisible to society because the system just didn't recognise him.
So, does that mean that he's a tragic villain? HELL NO! This guy is freaking evil, on the level of Dietrich from Trinity Blood or Johan from Monster. He plays a philosophical game while manipulating people into commiting murders for him, and while his goals could be seen as noble, he is probably one of the most cruel and horrific individuals in anime history.
There's even a story arc in which he encourages a schoolgirl to go on a killing spree in her highschool, and we get some real Hannibal-esque moments with this, it gets messed up, and Makishima just loves it. His other sidekicks, a cyborg and a psychopathic hacker are also freaking fantastic villains, and could easily have been main villains in their own shows.
So, is season 2 any better than the awesomeness you've just described?
Well, if I'm honest... No.
And it's all the fault of one ridiculously annoying new character Inspector Shimotsuki, pictured below:
Shimotsuki is a self-righteous, argumentative, irritating, and whiny individual whose style of investigation clashes with Akane, which leads to animosity between them.
It's weird, because when they first introduce her at the end of season 1, you get the sense, due to some near identical dialogue to Akane's in the first episode, that her and Akane's relationship will be similar to Akane's and Ginzoa's in season 1, and BOY is it not.
Instead of an initial dislike gradually developing into a mutual respect and slowly into a close friendship, we get Shimotsuki persistently disagreeing, being rude to her boss, and using whatever she can find to discredit Akane and get her fired for no real reason other than spite, and while it can be said that these actions have their repercussions and a serious effect on her, it can also be said that she probably should have been killed off, because her whining was insufferable.
She's exactly like freaking Anakin Skywalker in Attack of the Clones, only WORSE. Also, her refusal to acknowledge the blatant obviousness of Kamui's existence was just as annoying as Inspector Lunge's refusal to acknowledge Johan's existence in Monster.
But don't worry, season 2 does have some new characters who I'm sure can save it, right?
Well, there's this hacker dude who kinda looks and acts exactly like L from Death Note:
Fortunately, the story of season 2, which focuses on the mystery of many latent criminals suddenly developing "clear hues" (very low psycho-passes), and commiting murders before writing the letters "WC?" on the walls.
Needless to say, the entire arc is very interesting, and it all revolves around the mysterious villain Kirito Kamui [NOTHING TO DO WITH KIRITO FROM SWORD ART ONLINE], a child plane-crash survivor who's using holograms to trick the police and drugs to control people, and who can't be detected by the Sibyl System. This guy and his history are so interesting that they have to be watched, and he is such a different character to Makishima as well. They could have easily just rehashed the "outright villain" stereotype and created another psychopath like Makishima, but what they dd instead was create a very interesting and unique character like none I have ever seen before.
In fact, season 2 has two main villains, the second of whom is a manipulative psychopathic member of the enforcers who influences his (or her, I don't want to spoil the surprise identity here) into gradually raising their superior's psycho-pass until it "turns black", so that this villain can kill them for shear pleasure.
The villains wiki calls this character a "Tragic Villain", which makes me wonder if the guy who added that category was high, because this surprise villain character is pretty much just as much a Complete Monster as Shogo Makishima, and the things this character does to Akane's life and one of her relatives are so twisted that they have to be watched to be believed.
So, yeah, this review has taken way too long to write, so I should probably sign off now, but first I'm going to leave you with my final thoughts:
Psycho-pass is a gripping and excellent character drama with a fascinating plotline, great villains, likable and relatable characters, genius planning and ideas, fantastic animation and astounding action scenes which is only really let down by one character who, while not as annoying as Saya from Highschool of the Dead is sure up there in my top 10 most annoying anime characters.
If you haven't seen it, I'd highly recommend it, I promise you won't regret it.