Afranchise takes a disturbing and exciting look into the heads of potential criminals. By Charles Solomon.
lthough Japan produces some of the most sophisticated electronic devices in the world, a profound mistrust of technology and its potential for abuse runs through many anime series and features, from Tetsujin 28 and Akira to Fullmetal Alchemist, Harmony and Steins;Gate.
In Psycho-Pass, which began as a TV series from Production I.G in 2012, sensors throughout Japan linked to the all-knowing Sybil System monitor the mental state of everyone who passes by, gauging each individual’s psychological condition and their likelihood of committing a violent crime. If that rating — the person’s “Psycho-Pass” — reaches a potentially dangerous level, the system alerts the authorities, which dispatch armed investigators and enforcers. It’s totalitarianism on the most intimate level, but with a smiley face.
The series focuses on Investigator Akane Tsunemori (Kate Oxley) and Enforcer Shinya Kogami (Robert McCollum), who work in the Public Safety Bureau’s Criminal Investigation Division. Akane begins as an eager newbie in the tradition of N oa Izumi in Patlabor. Kogami is hardened and intense: he’s at home on the mean streets of dystopic neighborhoods that echo Blade Runner and Ghost in the Shell.
Under the icy direction of Nobuchika Ginoza (Josh Grelle), who despises Kogami and the other Enforcers as so many hunting dogs, Akane fights crime in the real world and in bi- zarre cyber realms. The setting and tone of the series often recalls Ghost in the Shell — both Oshii’s original film and the broadcast spinoffs — as well as some American noir films.
In Psycho-Pass: The Movie (2015), Akane is more experienced and assured; Kogami has left the bureau and Japan. As Akane and her old boss sift through the evidence gathered at the site of an abortive terrorist raid, they find a possible link between Kogami and the would-be attackers, who came to Japan from the SEAUn superstate (Southeast Asia Union). But they’re reluctant to believe their former colleague would be fomenting revolution in a region already torn by civil war.
Working with the Japanese Public Safety Bureau, Chuan Han (Daniel Penz), the ruler of SEAUn, has recently established a Sybil-controled haven: the floating city of Shambhala. This system provides Akane with a reason to do some on-site investigating under the watchful eye of Han’s thuggish officer Nicholas Wong (Jason Liebrecht). Ignoring instructions from the home office and Wong, Akane ditches her armed escort and enters the no-man’sland outside of Shambhala.
Akane finds that Kogami is not a terrorist but a charismatic freedom fighter who loathes Han as a warlord who exploited his alliance with Japan to establish a brutal dictatorship. But as she plunges deeper into the morass, Akane learns that she, Kogami and even Han are pawns in a larger, darker plot than she could have imagined. The filmmakers use a quote from Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time as a sort of MacGuffin, much the way writer/director Kenji Kamiyama used lines from J.D. Salinger in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and Eden of the East.
Below the Surface At times, Katsuyuki Motohiro and Naoyoshi Shiotani, who directed both the feature and the TV series, rely a bit too heavily on the standard tropes of anime action features: cyborgs, mercenaries, battle robots, sinister bureaucrats and nick-of-time rescues. But they use them well, and never lose sight of the compelling ideas beneath the violent storyline.
Some otaku will take the shoot-’em-up excitement of Psycho-Pass: The Movie at face value and enjoy it as an escapist adventure. More thoughtful viewers will recognize a warning against the threat posed by what Motoshima Hitoshi, the late outspoken mayor of Nagasaki, called “the industrial-academicbureaucratic complex.” Japanese viewers have good reason to be distrustful: Businesses and government ministries have a long history of attempting to cover up medical, scientific and technical disasters, from the industrial mercury poisoning that caused the crippling “Minamata disease” in the 1950s to disinformation about the meltdown at Fukushima.
After the recent revelations of collusion among industry, academia and government on issues that range from climate change denial to the health effects of sugar to the exposure of armed service members to Agent Orange and atomic radiation, American viewers may wish they had Akane, Kogami and Ginoza working for them. [
Gone Fishing, Voice of the Islands, Things You Didn’t Know About… (Q&A with cast and crew), Island Fashion, They Know the Way: Making the Music of Moana, Fishing for Easter Eggs, The Elements of … (Mini-Maui, Water, Lava, and Hair), deleted song “Warrior Face,” seven deleted scenes, and a multi-language reel of “How Far I’ll Go.”
Big adventures can come in small plastic packages, after all!
[Release date: March 7] cial Edition sets glitz it up with The Making of Sing, Finding the Rhythm: Editing Sing, Making a Music Video with Kelly, “Faith” music and lyric videos, “Set It All Free” lyric video, Sing & Dance, and The Making of the Mini-Movies.
The best part of the home video experience? You can caterwaul along to the all the songs without someone calling an usher. Not that I know what that’s like ...
[Release date: March 21] the Section 9 security team. Her quarry is the mysterious “Puppet Master,” an elusive hacker gaining access to bodies and minds.
The original Ghost in the Shell is one of the most critically acclaimed and influential films in cinematic history, and deserves an honored spot on any animation or sci-fi fan’s shelf.
[Release date: March 14]
The two-disc Blu-ray combo pack ($29.98) includes an exclusive behindthe-scenes bonus feature: The Making of Miss Hokusai, which follows director Hara and the Production I.G team along their creative journey. The DVD release offers an excerpt featurette from the “Making of.” Pick it up now and you’ll be even more excited when GKIDS brings it to the big screen!
[Release date: March 7]