Make no mistake, I love Psycho-Pass, rated Masterpiece. Heck, I even bought the season box set so I could share it with people. However, this installment is just bad. Don’t bother with it. Just pretend it doesn’t exist. Really. It even seems to treat itself as a “throwaway.” Fortunately, there wasn’t really any significant impact on the world.
I would attribute the entirety of the problem to the fact that Gen Urobuchi, the creator of Psycho Pass, was absent from this anime to work on the Psycho Pass movie. In the first Psycho Pass, he wrote the scripts, but this installment had several different writers. The writers were clearly unfamiliar with the way that Psycho-Pass 1 worked.
Purpose: Bad. Gen Urobuchi’s purpose was clearly there in the backdrop – some themes in the beginning, end, and a couple of plot lines in the middle were reminiscent of him. However, all the delicacy and nuance from the first season was lost – this season lacked the intelligence of the first. The effect was to change the anime into more of an action-focused cop-drama show. Roughly the first third of the anime was handled in the cop-drama style, and it was fairly competently done. I started off in the “Good” category, but recognized a definite, constant leak as the elements fell apart. As the anime tried to wade into deeper subjects and discussions, the wheels really came off. In sum, it was clear the writing didn’t really understand how to connect the beginning with the end properly. In turn, this lack of connection probably stemmed from a failure to understand Gen Urobuchi’s original purpose and the world with which they were dealing. Without a clear purpose, many elements seemed to be thrown in there haphazardly. The best way to sum them up is “just because,” and that theme pervades this anime.
Characters: Poor. There were tremendous flaws in character development, both in the characters we knew and the new ones they introduced. Part of the problem stems from the loss of purpose. Without the characters’ depth and personality representing a particular view of the world, they lost a great deal of their place within the story. They defaulted to “cop.” In order to compensate for this, the characters’ personalities were somewhat reset. To be more precise, the complexity of the characters was reset so that the growth that happened in Psycho Pass 1 seemed to be reduced to a particular phrase or tagline instead of a guiding principle of the character’s actions. This problem compounded storytelling problems because characters were then telling us why they were doing something instead of it being shown through the characters’ actions. What’s worse is that for a great many actions, the reasoning behind those actions wasn’t explored – it was “just because.” What this created was a character that was easily reducible to a couple of phrases. Fairly true to cop drama form, the characters remained relatively unchanged and were merely static fixtures reacting to the crazy events going on around them.
Now for the new characters. Aside from the main villain, they didn’t really serve any purpose in the story whatsoever. On the one hand, we have a person that suffers from “small dog syndrome” – constantly yapping and biting at your ankles, but easily intimidated by the slightest attention. The other was a Norman Bates wannabe. If you took those two out of the story, really nothing would change at all. Thus, their purpose wasn’t to drive or affect the overall story. The biggest problem is those characters were used as cheap attempts to artificially create pressure upon the main character – a substitute for proper character development. What it created was a situation for our known characters to react to, rather than as an opportunity for growth or discovery of the world. Again, “little dog” contradicts our main character’s view, but without exposition, reason, or explanation… it was “just because.” In sum, the new characters’ only purpose was to drag our main character down, literally, figuratively, and metaphorically without adding anything to the world.
World: Bad. In comparison to the characters, the world was the real victim of the lack of purpose and storytelling. Since this is a sequel, it used the world developed in Psycho Pass 1 as a foundation to build upon. However, every time the writers wrote themselves into a problem, they undermined the world’s foundation by contradicting world developments in Psycho Pass 1. Everything from hues to the psycho pass, to the Sibyl System itself were misunderstood and used in a manner completely inconsistent with how they were supposed to work. As painful as that was, what is more unforgivable is how they created significant world inconsistencies purely within Psycho-Pass 2.
Plot: Weak. The main plot involving the main villain was very straightforward, almost 2-D in what it was. While amusing, it amounted to little more than a “this statement is false” situation that’s supposed to short-circuit logic. Aside from the main villain, we had two other plotlines that did nothing for our main goal. What is completely incomprehensible is how many plot holes they employed in these simplistic plot lines. Really, it comes from a lack of understanding of the material.
A plot hole can best be described through the animation process. (For an example of making Key and In-Between animation, watch this) Plot works like key animation – the big, more detailed pictures that represent important stages of movement. Storytelling is more like the in-between animations – many more pictures that constitute movement to get from Key animation to Key animation. A plot hole is like a missed key animation or two – it creates a significant “skip” or “jump” that is a little jarring. In that way, a plot hole is a missing step in the logical progression of those plot “pictures.” In this case, they later attempted to “fill in” the plot holes by undermining the world.
Storytelling: Bad. On a broader note, the storytelling really was simplistic and straightforward. However, the biggest problem is that they were mostly telling us things, rather than showing us things. For example, the professor’s role in the anime was to tell us what was going on. It wasn’t through discussion or exploration of how people and events intersect, like Psycho-Pass 1. In many cases, the storytelling was serving as a substitute for proper character, world, and plot development. Think back to the first scene with the main character’s grandmother – it really served no purpose except for her to tell us something about the character. Something that wasn’t even really necessary. Perhaps the best example of this is Norman Bates’ backstory. This was the cheapest and laziest way to tell us about the character – literally killing puppies. This doesn’t count as a “show” because it has no depth or reason behind it – it was a “just because” moment to tell you he’s bad to the bone. And on that note, all that was told was the story of relatively generic cop-show type villains without any real motive behind their action – they were “just because.”
Pace: Good. If you don’t know how you’re getting from A to B, can you really fault how fast you get there? The pacing overall was fine. Taking into account the irrelevant portions, they did manage to get the story worked out in a relatively efficient manner. Perhaps it was because the plot holes served to accelerate the pace where it would stall out due to lack of understanding.