Philip K Dick meets the more twisted stories of Isaac Asimov
May 26, 2014 2:17 PM   Subscribe

Psycho-Pass is a fantastic anime written by Gen Urobuchi, the man who brought us 2011's brilliant Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Even if you are not an anime fan (I'm iffy on it myself), Psycho-Pass is worth checking out. Set in a "utopian" society where psychological profiles can be analyzed remotely, police carry guns that can only fire at would-be criminals, and aptitude tests determine how to provide "the greatest number of people with the greatest amount of happiness", Psycho-Pass asks intriguing, provocative questions about the relationships between humans and computers, criminals and society, and the responsibilities we owe society, versus the responsibilities said societies owe us in turn. There is also a good deal of people shooting each other, if you're into that sort of thing.

Psycho-Pass can be watched for free, either subbed or dubbed, at Hulu (as can Madoka if "lighthearted" "fantasy" is more your cup of tea).
posted by Rory Marinich (39 comments total) 113 users marked this as a favorite
... Madoka if "lighthearted" "fantasy" is more your cup of tea

You're a cruel person.
posted by clearlydemon at 2:25 PM on May 26, 2014 [14 favorites]

I used quotation marks!
posted by Rory Marinich at 2:25 PM on May 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

Just watched the 1st season trailer and it looks like I have something to do tonight after work!
posted by artof.mulata at 2:43 PM on May 26, 2014

Yeah... "Madoka" is only lighthearted fantasy if your notion of family entertainment is Cthulhu-esque.
posted by ardgedee at 3:01 PM on May 26, 2014

You should see Mado-Magi no matter what your cup of tea is! 2011 was generally a horrible year in Japan but that anime was one the best things that happened that year. And the movie versions were great too, in case you're too busy to see the entire TV series.
posted by misozaki at 3:11 PM on May 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

The third Madoka movie is the single most psychedelic thing I've ever encountered.

The first two are just summaries of the anime but holy shit, the third one is half "kind of mediocre plot continuation" and half "mother of god I can see into forever".
posted by Rory Marinich at 3:15 PM on May 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Urobutcher can also do heartwarming! Chamber was the best mecha / AI ever.

Seems like Urobuchi Gen has been doing mecha sci-fi series of late, including the upcoming Aldnoah.Zero.

(No love for Fate/Zero ?)
posted by needled at 3:19 PM on May 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would like to point people to this utterly fantastic Madoka fanfic:

It's set (I forget) maybe in the 3000's? Like year 3500? Billions of humans, space travel, complex webs of relationships, functional immortality, artificial intelligence, a vivid post-scarcity society, magical girls, awkward romance, and battles on a grand scale. It picks up after the main series. (It was started before the movies.) Canon characters play important roles, and there's plenty of new magical girls. It's one of my favorite things.
posted by zeek321 at 3:25 PM on May 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Somewhat inferior to Psycho-Pass and Madoka, but do check out his Suisei no Gargantia*, too. It starts out as a colorful, curious and lighthearted sci-fi flick, then progressively delves into a serious meditation on the value and quiddity of human life and the various paths its evolution could follow (or something).

* which has been translated into English as "Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet". Apparently verdurous means 'freshly green'. I now know what verdurous means. Thank you, Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet.

posted by procrastinator at 3:30 PM on May 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Ohhhhhh, godammit anime. I keep lighting on interesting-sounding stories and then I remember that of course, the main characters are all going to be children, because target audience.

Madoka was damned good though, so I shall surely check this out.
posted by Drexen at 3:30 PM on May 26, 2014

Of course, TVTropes (DON'T SAY I DIDN'T WARN YOU) has something to say about age in shows: Competence Zone, Adults Are Useless.
posted by Drexen at 3:41 PM on May 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

"There is also a good deal of people shooting each other, if you're into that sort of thing."

I'm not. And right now it would be good if America wasn't. At least for a while.
posted by Decani at 4:06 PM on May 26, 2014

I'm not. And right now it would be good if America wasn't. At least for a while.

Would it help if I said the main character was a woman whose sexuality is almost not a part of her character at all, at least in the 15 episodes that I've seen? Or that the show passes the Bechdel Test with flying colors? Or that it makes it very clear that violence is a disturbing and awful thing that you're not to get your rocks off to?

Psycho-Pass belongs to the camp of shows that things that violence should not be the answer to anything, and that when it is, it's because society is not what it ought to be.
posted by Rory Marinich at 4:10 PM on May 26, 2014

Psycho Pass is an interesting serious in that the society has two failure modes: a unique type of oppression based on defending the society as a whole, and specific flaws based on the limitation of the system. The two combine in horrific ways. It's interesting in that I can't quite call the society depicted ad dystopian, but damn is it flawed.

Gargantia on the other hand, is sorry and delightful, and unexpectedly becomes Scott transhumanism, especially rhythm you star Chamber's perspective on things.

Madoka...really is a comment on the magical girl genre, in the same way that Evangelion was regarding mecha shows. It really requires some initiatives of the genre to see where it breaks.
posted by happyroach at 4:14 PM on May 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm not. And right now it would be good if America wasn't. At least for a while.

This seems like a slightly odd comment, since as far as I can see, neither the series nor this post has much to do with America.
posted by teraflop at 4:20 PM on May 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

I keep lighting on interesting-sounding stories and then I remember that of course, the main characters are all going to be children, because target audience.

If you want to watch an anime where the main characters are adults, Tiger and Bunny. Superheroes fight criminals on a reality TV show in an AU version of New York.
posted by betweenthebars at 4:22 PM on May 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Madoka...really is a comment on the magical girl genre, in the same way that Evangelion was regarding mecha shows. It really requires some initiatives of the genre to see where it breaks.

I'm not a huge anime person (as I said in the FPP) and I should add that Madoka can be enjoyed even without the metacommentary on magical girl shows. One of its neatest tricks, actually, is how it uses the genre you think it is as a way of masking a show of a completely different, second genre that you don't notice is staring at you in the face, because you're so willing to suspend your disbelief for Genre A that you miss all the cues that Genre B is setting up for you anyway.

It's not until something like the 10th or 11th episode that the former completely gives way to the latter, and suddenly you're staring a completely different show in the face. And then you go back to rewatch it, and it turns out that B was happening all along, and that an entirely third story is told in the way that A and B kind of miss each other in passing. Not to spoil what the secondary genre is because it's really quite a treat, but the show ends up being an incredibly bittersweet story about friendship and affection on its third level, which is a crazy-cool trick to pull off and is why I now watch new Gen Urobuchi shows without question.
posted by Rory Marinich at 4:30 PM on May 26, 2014 [9 favorites]

Madoka is simply the best thing ever! I am excited to watch this other thing! Thank you! This is my excited face!
posted by prefpara at 4:49 PM on May 26, 2014

The trailer looks great.

Question: Does Hulu intersperse it with commercials? That would be a deal breaker for me (I'd just order the DVDs, everybody wins).
posted by sidereal at 5:07 PM on May 26, 2014

I liked Suisei no Gargantia - some of it is quite clever. It just isn't as good as anime like Puella, though. Its ideas were too big for it, I think. The big reveals feel cursory, and only the main character gets much development. It's also hampered a lot by the amount of fanservice, which is made worse by the fact that the major female character is just a bog standard manic pixie dream anime moe. It's probably not worse than a lot of anime, but after something like Madoka, the treatment of female characters is pretty jarring.

I'd recommend it as a decent show overall, but don't go into it expecting something like Madoka.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 5:27 PM on May 26, 2014

Welcome back, Rory.

And F Zero totally* is a huge franchise.

*In our hearts.

posted by ersatz at 6:00 PM on May 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Gen didn't direct the animated adaptation of Fate/Zero but he did write the novels they adapted from. Watching Fate/Zero on its own before encountering the rest of the series would be interesting because it's technically a prequel. While it's visually stunning I don't know if it's the best place to start. It might be the one of the better offerings non-visual novel readers have outside of Japan for the Fate franchise.

Personally I watched the entirety of Madoka during a deep funk and mid-series I realised I shouldn't be watching this right now. I made it to the bittersweet end and am not not grateful I ever watched the series at all. Had I been in a less melancholic state of mind I might have enjoyed it more. Can't not appreciate the masterful way it unfolded, however.

I haven't checked out Psycho-Pass yet.
posted by aroweofshale at 7:43 PM on May 26, 2014

Madoka is basically Sailor Moon as retold by Grant Morrison, and if that idea doesn't make you sit up in your chair, I don't know what else to say to you. It streams free on Crunchyroll if you don't have Hulu (though they don't seem to have Psycho-Pass, sadly).
posted by rifflesby at 7:43 PM on May 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

Re: Fate/Zero, I watched that before encountering any of the rest of it, and enjoyed it quite a bit. I've watched Fate/Stay Night more recently, and that was okay, but F/Z is better imo.

F/Z is a prequel after all, so if you watch that one first you are effectively watching them in chronological order, right?
posted by rifflesby at 7:46 PM on May 26, 2014

Agreed. F/Z was done better, which is why I'm looking forward to the same animation studio trying their hand at adapting Fate/Stay Night later this year.
posted by aroweofshale at 7:58 PM on May 26, 2014

Madoka is also on Netflix if you want to pass up the Hulu commercials.
posted by zengargoyle at 8:26 PM on May 26, 2014

^ Yes (and so is Fate/Zero if anyone is curious). Psycho-Pass doesn't appear to be.

I watched Madoka Magica on YouTube when Funimation still had it on their account -- I don't think they have it there anymore.

Also, rifflesby, it's interesting to know that you watched Fate/Zero first!
posted by aroweofshale at 10:56 PM on May 26, 2014

Yeah, a nearby comic shop ran a weekly anime-watching thing for a while, streaming Crunchyroll through a Roku box.

I really recommend Crunchyroll, by the way. They get new series regularly, often with the episodes translated and available immediately after they air in Japan, plus they have a huge collection of previously-released stuff. Streams to all manner of devices, and is even free if you don't mind being a week behind on new episodes and watching a commercial before each one.

Caught a ton of great stuff there that I'd never heard of, like House of Five Leaves, Akagi, Humanity Has Declined, Phi Brain, Night Raid 1931...
posted by rifflesby at 1:24 AM on May 27, 2014

The TV series Puella Magi Madoka Magica actually closed with a different final two episodes than originally drawn. It went on hiatus for three weeks following 3/11 and the original atom bomb ending was deemed too close to the real world with Fukushima. So modifications were made, major advertising in both print and visual media let the public know of the new air dates, and it went on to kinda close the door on any other mahou shoujo anime releases for a bit, and certainly none as ambitious PMMM. Groundbreaking stuff.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 10:58 PM on May 27, 2014

I also really like what Crunchyroll has done, enough to pay for the non-commercial version. It had series ranging from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, to Log Horizon, to Tonari no Seki-kun, to Seirei no Morbito. There's definitely some really good stuff on that site.
posted by happyroach at 11:29 PM on May 27, 2014 [4 favorites]

Purposeful Grimace: really? I knew that the last two episodes were delayed, but I had no idea that they were rewritten.

Do you have any sources for that, or do you know whether any information about the original ending exists? Since there was only a week to go before it would have aired, I assume it was mostly complete.
posted by teraflop at 8:14 AM on May 28, 2014

Yes, I would love to know what the original episodes would have been like. The final episode in particular felt ingenious to me — both in its managing to be simultaneously big-picture profound the way that a lot of anime shows seem to try and conclude while remaining bittersweet about the entire thing, and in its establishment of the most hilarious and fucked-up narrative franchise I can imagine.


The use of multiple universes to tell stories between the start and the finish of the series, with the same cast of characters but an infinite number of variations between stories, and where literally any of the main cast can die, up to and including Madoka, at any point... just perversely brilliant. Like a commedia dell'arte performance, only not at all lighthearted and slapstick. Since the implication is that Homura saw hundreds if not tens of thousands of iterations of this world, you can pretty much tell every story you can imagine in between — and from what I've read of the mangas, that seems to be exactly what they're doing.

posted by Rory Marinich at 2:15 PM on May 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

They are really intent on milking that animation of a ceiling fan for all it's worth.
posted by XMLicious at 7:05 PM on May 28, 2014

posted by XMLicious at 7:14 PM on May 28, 2014

Based on this post I'm now over halfway done with Pyscho Pass. Good post Rory, really enjoying it.
posted by bswinburn at 1:40 PM on May 30, 2014

Finished Psycho-Pass this morning. On balance, amazing.
posted by zeek321 at 3:45 PM on May 30, 2014

Also: Johnny Mnemonic
posted by gregr at 9:15 AM on June 2, 2014

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