Any fan of Psycho Pass, the anime series, will know the disappointment in finding that Shinya Kogami (our leading and most handsome man), did not make an appearance in season 2 of Psycho Pass … or maybe he did and I just didn’t notice, because I was too busy mourning his loss to pay attention. Anyhow, I think the powers at be realised this and felt sorry for us enough to bring us the spin-off manga series dedicated entirely to – dum dum duuummm – Shinya Kogami (*Squeal*) ! Naturally, as soon as I was aware of this (late as always), I ordered a copy of the first volume prompto.
Let’s begin with the basics – what is Psycho Pass about (in general, based mostly on the anime) ? Well, it’s a very dark and gritty story based in a world where the legal system has been replaced by “Sibyl”. The Sibyl system is the ultimate judge and, using devices which look like futuristic guns (AKA, the “Dominators”), once the user points this at an individual, the system can assess what is known as the psycho pass of that person. The psycho pass reading (which is done in digits) will tell you how likely a person is to commit a crime. If the number is above a certain value (I think 100), then that person is branded as a “latent criminal”, which means that they are likely to commit a crime. Once they are a latent criminal, regardless of whether they have committed a crime or not, they will be taken in and put in confinement. If, however, their digit reading is exceptionally high, then the Dominator will exterminate them. In other words, if Sibyl brands you a latent criminal, your life in this world as a free person is over. This is very different to our world where you are only punished if you have actually committed a crime. Naturally, the purpose behind the system is to create a perfect world free of crime … Yeeeeee, I’m sure there’s nothing wrong with this system at all !
Anyhow, so these latent criminals will be confined and given therapy to clear their “hue”. Their hue is a colour which corresponds with their psycho pass digit reading; some colours being better than others, which makes sense, because some numbers are better than others. While most of our poor latent criminals will be confined for life, some of them get a free pass by taking on the role of an enforcer. Within the legal system, we have our inspectors and enforcers. The inspectors have a clear hue and are pretty much the police of the Psycho Pass world … except they’re actually competent … so really, they’re more like the police slash the exceptionally intelligent MI5 agents. Being people of clear hue, however, they will want to maintain that clarity and that’s where the latent criminal, enforcers come in. As latent criminals already have murky hues, they will do the dirty work for the inspectors (killing with the Dominator, etc) so that the inspectors’ hues don’t get clouded from the job. As you can imagine, the enforcers are under the control of the inspectors.
Phew, what a long explanation; but I think what we can gather from the above information is that there is a lot of complicated details within this anime that makes it a very intelligent watch. It also means that the viewer needs to be paying attention to make certain they don’t miss information which will help them understand the story. In the anime, it is more than possible to follow the story, because all the nitty gritty details are explained to the rookie inspector and, at the same time, to the viewer. With the manga, on the other hand, I can completely see that it could be difficult to understand the story, at least on the first read, because the details are not explained in the same way. Sure, there are explanations on how the Sibyl system works, but there’s a part of me that wonders if I would have been able to follow the information/story as easily if I wasn’t already familiar with the anime. That’s the biggest negative of the manga and now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s move onto the positives.
Firstly, the artwork is exceptional. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Natsuo Sai is an incredibly skilled artist (not perfect, but incredibly skilled). His (I’m assuming a gender here, as I can’t find anything to confirm the actual sex of this artist) art style is on the more realistic side of manga with anatomy and proportions being drawn to perfection (minus a couple of exceptions). His perspective shots are second to none and his inking is just truly beautiful. There were times, however, that I felt like it was just too perfect. I know, what a strange thing to say, but seriously, there were times where the intense moments of the story could have been helped by, for example, inking in a scruffier style. Not too scruffy (because that wouldn’t fit with the rest of the art) but just a little bit less perfect to enhance the tension in the scenes. The other issue that I have is that, despite the perfection in the execution of the art, it’s almost as though I can see that Sai has followed strict rules on what makes an aesthetically pleasing piece of art – like when a student in art school ticks boxes on what to include in their art to get the grade, rather than letting loose and allowing their individuality to shine. This makes for a pretty picture, but it almost lacks personality, which tends to show greatly when rules are broken; or when what is regarded as technically pleasing to the eye is taken as guidance, rather than strict rules. Regardless of this though, and bearing in mind that, that is only my opinion, I can honestly say that the artwork is some of the most stunning that I have ever seen in mangas; and it’s actually pretty rare to come across an artist who is technically sound in almost all aspects of drawing. Most artists have weaknesses which show up easily, such as not being able to draw hands well. Sai, on the other hand, only seems to have issues with getting his proportions right when doing a close-up of the face (where most of the face is not visible in the panel). Not sure why that is the case, but it’s really just the smallest mistake in an otherwise perfect book of art. … I’d like to also say, though it’s not entirely relevant, but I can’t get enough of how this artist draws hands. It’s perfection at its finest !
The story, on the other hand, is just slightly above average. It’s worth a read, but I’m not sure if I would re-read it. This story takes place before the anime, and whilst Shinya Kogami is still an inspector (fans will know that he is an enforcer in the anime). The plot here is that a branded organ was found which leads to discovering that patients are regularly dying in one hospital, and not from natural causes. It’s a case of organ smuggling, or so it seems. I like the way that Kogami and co. put together the pieces to attempt to solve the mystery. Unlike some stories I have read, I feel like the story doesn’t skip details and make the reader assume how a piece of solving happened. For example, characters aren’t conveniently introduced to provide detailed information in the case, which would prevent the need for Kogami to do some detective work. He actually has been made to do the problem solving. That’s one of the unique aspects of the Psycho Pass stories – they don’t cut corners in the figuring out, but rather showcase the rather intelligent thinking processes of their inspectors and enforcers. Despite this, I just don’t think the story lives up to the intense story-lines of both seasons of the anime. It almost just feels like a regular cop story. I am disappointed, but I have given mangas which I have actually disliked a chance to grip me by reading beyond the first volume, and I want to give this manga the same chance. I will, therefore, be reading the second volume soon and I will update you on my views on that as well.
PS – the next review will also include spoilers on the story, which I don’t want to include here, because of how long the post already is.