# The Thin Line (Psycho-Pass)
When politics and art meet, both tend to suffer. Turning a show towards political ends means forcing the storyline away from its nature, and ultimately destroys characterization. But without a firm hand, a political storyline can meander - or worse, passively offend many viewers by dismissing their ideas.
*Psycho-Pass*, however, threads the needle with aplomb. The legacy of *Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex* is everywhere, but where that show simply accepted a powerful police force as a necessary response to internet terrorism, *Psycho-Pass* questions everything. A centrally managed state allocates people to the roles most appropriate for them, based on the titular Pass - a single number that expresses a person’s psychological wellbeing, and therefore their place in society - their freedom, which jobs they can apply for - their very value as a person.
The downsides are obvious, and *Psycho-Pass* does not flinch from showing them - the bullying, the despair and hopelessness of those who have a low ranking, the cruelty of a prison that leaves its inhabitants less able to reintegrate than they were when they came in (likely already the case in real life, but seeing it in black and white numbers puts a whole new spin on things). Yet the show retains an admirable evenhandedness, even in the face of totalitarianism. Many people are happy with their assigned role, and crime has apparently fallen to the point where two or three small units seem to constitute the revelant Bureau. With weapons that connect directly to the same psychometric assesment system, our heroes can be highly effective at stopping criminals, often before anyone has come to harm.
Perhaps too effective. Although it has some of the structure and trappings of a detective show - including case arcs centered around a single criminal - *Psycho-Pass* is no such thing; in most of the cases there isn’t even more than one suspect, making matching your wits against the detectives a decidedly dull enterprise. More troublingly, too many cases rely on seemingly-arbitrary flashes of inspiration from (male lead) Kougami. Coupled with a slightly formulaic set of early arcs we’re left feeling that the crimes are solved not through intellect or cunning, but simply because the plot demands them to be.
If the crime solutions are too lightly explained, the literary references have the opposite problem. This show is as culturally aware as *Haruhi* (if more pretentious), but doesn't trust its viewers to catch its allusions, so the characters act like an overzealous sub group: the dialogue is full of the equivalent of "\*TL Note: The Blue Bird is a 1908 play by Maurice Maeterlinck".
And yet. The show is so carefully evenhanded that this starts to look like a well-intentioned effort to bring the viewer into the conversation, as if *Psycho-Pass* genuinely believes that we will pause the show and read the work it’s talking about. There’s an almost unfinished feel to the mysteries, and also to a lot of the characterization - many characters gets a few backstory episodes, but they feel disconnected from the main plot, and don’t quite fit with what we see. Meanwhile the leads, Akane and Kougami, get hardly anything; we meet a couple of Akane’s friends, but learn nothing about her childhood, her hobbies or anything of the sort. Kougami perhaps prefers to remain enigmatic, and I could well believe he’s too devoted to his job to waste time on anything else. But again, leaving this part untold allows the viewer to bring their own interpretation to it. I don’t think any of this is intentional - it seems more likely that the writing simply hasn’t been polished as much as it should - but strangely enough, the result is one of the most thought-provoking shows I can remember.
Production values are high, (as could be expected from Production IG, particularly for a NoitanimA show) - slick animation showing a futuristic world that’s like the happy alternate universe *Blade Runner*. Of several action set-pieces only one really stands out, a knife fight in a warehouse between Kougami and the main villain, right towards the end. It’s worth mentioning that Akane’s character design is somewhat out of place, with big eyes that sit oddly in the realistically-animated world - I found it quite creepy for the first couple of episodes until I adjusted. Opening and ending songs are from the wonderful “Egoist” (I smile to think that a fictional band from *Guilty Crown* seems set to outlast the memory of the series it came from), who are on reasonable form, if not quite up to their *Guilty Crown* standard. Fanservice is virtually nonexistent - I noticed more of Kougami than Akane, though whether that’s just in comparison to what I’m used to I can’t say.
It’s certainly not a bad show (though I maintain *Guilty Crown* wasn’t a bad show - merely overhyped, and approached the wrong way by many viewers). I can’t really say it’s a good show either - the characters aren’t fleshed out or realistic enough, the plot of the early arcs is more or less wasted (the show seems unsure whether it want to be arc-based or a single sweeping narrative), and crucially the characters and plot never quite mesh with each other. But *Psycho-Pass* is the most interesting, thought-provoking show I’ve watched lately; if it serves as nothing more than a springboard for philosophical discussion then there’s value in it. I cautiously recommend it, to those who can stand the rough edges in the writing.
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