Striking The Right Note: Psycho Pass

One of the things I love about blogging on anime is the great conversations I get to have with people. The other is when some one actually asks my opinion on something. Mostly because I’m one of those folks who just sort of tosses my thoughts into the ether and doesn’t really expect much to come of it. When it does, it feels nice.

This week, I’m tackling my first ever request. Which makes me giddy for a ton of stupid reasons.

A few weeks back, Weekend Otaku asked me if I’d cover the OP of Psycho Pass for Striking The Right Note. This is a series that has been on my radar for a long time, but I’d never watched it, in part because of lack of time, but also because it has a ton of hype around it. Much like with Log Horizon, I’m always leery of the hype leading to disappointment, so I’d avoided it until I was actually asked my thoughts on the OP.

With a good OP, you can’t really discuss it until you’ve seen the show, so instead of doing any actual writing, I watched Psycho Pass. Turns out, this was a pretty fair trade. Unless you happen to be my publisher. Less so then.

Sorry! I’ll have pages soon. They’ll be the best pages. Believe me.

While I realize I’m probably the last anime fan in the world to see this show, let’s go over the basics anyway, just to justify the time I spent not writing. It’s totally tax deductible, or something, I’m sure.

Psycho Pass is a 2012 series from Production I.G. that is notable for not being based on source material, and still being really excellent. Clocking in at 22 episode, or 33 if you count the second season, which apparently nobody does, Psycho Pass is a sci fi series set in a utopian, yet dystopian, future Japan.

Thanks to the development of the Sybil System, an automated computer network that constantly monitors every citizen for signs of latent criminality, there is no longer any crime. Potential criminals are arrested before they can do anything, and the system also makes sure everyone is placed in a job that will bring them maximum happiness, in order to help prevent people from becoming criminals. Everyone has a Psycho Pass rating, a color coded Hue, that more or less decides their place in society, or if they get shot.

Of course, that’s just how it’s sold to people. The reality is that the Sybil System has pretty much completely taken over society and rendered everyone cogs in a mostly efficient social machine. Nor has crime actually stopped existing, which is why there are still cops, operating out of the Ministry of Welfare.

Police officers come in two forms. Inspectors, and Enforcers. Inspectors oversee Enforcers, who are just latent criminals that Sybil has found a use for. The Enforcers are the ones who do the dirty work, so Inspectors can keep their crime coefficient low, and the color coded Psycho Pass rating within acceptable norms.

This also doesn’t work the way it’s suppose to, but hey, at least Sybil is trying.

The story revolves mostly around a new Inspector, Akane Tsunemori, and an Enforcer she is paired with, Shinya Kogami, as they find themselves hunting a criminal who the Sybil System can not rate as a criminal, because his Psycho Pass stays clear even as he commits violent crimes.

There’s a ton I could say about this show, really, but we’ll stay focused on the OP, mostly because that’s what this is about, and also because I’m sure a crap load of people have already said it all better than I could.

The OP itself is pretty damn amazing anyway, and really does sell the world, and the characters, with excellent imagery. This is a real feather in Production I.G.’s cap.

The music used is Abnormalize, by Ling Tosite Sigure, a three person band that has been around since 2002. This song was written specifically for the series, which helps explain why it fits so well in terms of lyrics. This matters, too, because the music and lyrics are a big part of what helps sell this OP.

Not everything, however. The rest is firmly in the animation.

Right away, we are treated to alternating shots of blood vessels and the signature weapon of the cops in Psycho Pass, the Dominator, the most horrible weapon ever designed for any sci fi show. The back and forth plays heavily to the themes the show explores of biology versus technology, and how technology has begun to suppress biology. Both are cast largely against a black background, with the imagery using a changing series of colors, referencing the Hue system that is used to determine a person’s criminality.

This alone is freaking genius, just in how it ties all three of these things together. You don’t really get it until you’ve seen a couple episodes, but once you do, it’s actually kind of chilling.

They follow this with more stark images of Akane sinking into dark water, tying into the idea of a person’s Psycho Pass getting clouded, and turning dark. As stress mounts, we often refer to it as feeling as if we are drowning, so that whole bit of the OP is set up to convey that perfectly.

Then comes the almost crazed face of Kogomi, leading to an intense fight with another image of himself, building on the dual nature he himself has. Once an Inspector, and now an Enforcer, Kogomi is constantly at war with himself between being a detective, and being a killer.

Probably my favorite part follows this, as Kogomi sinks deeper into dark waters, he sees Akane swimming towards him. At first it appears as if she is his salvation, but then she pulls a Dominator and shoots, revealing herself as his killer. This explains their entire relationship, throughout the series, so beautifully. As an Inspector, Akane may be able to save Kogomi, and actively tries, but she must also be ready to kill him at any time, simply because he is an Enforcer.

This gets flipped in the final moments as we see Akane lifting a Dominator, and Kogomi racing to place himself between her and whatever she was pointing at. She may have to kill him someday, but he absolutely will die to save her from becoming like him. To keep her Hue clear, to protect her from the horrors of the world, Kogomi is ready to do anything, even die.

The best part of every moment either of these characters are on screen, however, is that they are always depicted in black and white, reflecting the absolute terms they are forced to see the world in. Either you are a healthy, productive citizen, or you are a threat to society. There is no in between, and no exception made. That these two completely different people live in that world, where a color determines your value, is such a powerful and stark statement.

Really, this is an amazing piece of work. I checked it out before I watched a single episode, and it drew me in, making me want to watch the show. I wanted to know what lay behind this powerful imagery, haunting lyrics, and strong vocals.

Turns out, it was a story every bit as powerful, and haunting, with characters who were equally strong. That, my friends, definitely strikes the right note.


6 thoughts on “Striking The Right Note: Psycho Pass

  1. It’s always great when two things you really enjoy come together. For me, today, it was Psycho Pass and Striking the Right Note.

    What you came up with here was even better than I expected. I’m a bit of an amateur when it comes to picking apart OPs, maybe because the imagery usually goes too quickly for me to absorb, and I need to think more critically about the themes of the series before I can really understand it. I wish I was better at music theory too. Everything about this song feels right, but I can’t place why from a technical standpoint.

    But you did a really masterful job here of picking up on a lot of things I missed, like technology taking over biology, and the colors representing the psycho pass system. Other things like the relationship between Akane and Kogami, and the absolute nature of the black and white coloring I did catch, and I was eager to see what you thought of it.

    I need to catch up on a number of your posts, but I wanted to thank you ASAP for doing this one. I’m even more pleased that you liked this show, as I know how wary you are about hype. Great job, as always.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As you already know, I’m glad you gave me the nudge to check it out. I really enjoyed watching it, and it left me with a ton of things to think about.

      Not to mention, I ended up really loving this OP. It may be one of my top favorites at this point, just for the depth and complexity they worked into it. Just amazing.

      So, thank you. Feel free to suggest something any time. I’d love this segment especially to be more interactive.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved this show and its music. While I preferred the ED Monster Without a Name to Abnormalize, the latter song is also pretty great. And damn, that’s an impressive analysis you’ve done of the visuals. I liked the ordered chaos of it but I never looked to deeply into how it all ties into the story.

    In short; Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. 🙂

      My favorite types of OP’s are the ones that not just help sell the show, but really have something important to say about it as well. Psycho Pass definitely tops the charts on that front. They put a ton of thought into it.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is definitely an amazing OP to watch and I loved how much detail you’ve pulled out of it. Everytime I watch this anime I find something new in the opening that I hadn’t noticed before. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Always a pleasure.

      Honestly, I think the depth present in the OP is another reflection on the depth of the show itself. I’m still mulling over all the things Psycho Pass brought up, how I feel about what it had to say, and constantly find myself in awe of the staggering complexity in it all. When I get a chance, I plan to rewatch it, and see what I missed on the first pass. Cause, I know I did.

      Liked by 1 person

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