PSYCHO-PASS: Providence

From what I’ve seen, the PSYCHO-PASS franchise is an excellent example of how animation can be used to tell mature stories. It’s political, it’s got thematic depth, and it’s not afraid to make you think. I was impressed by 2015’s PSYCHO-PASS: The Movie, and I’m even more impressed by PSYCHO-PASS: Providence. The movie builds on ideas previously established in its fictional world, but if you understand the basics - laid out nicely in this video - you can follow the plot regardless of whether you’ve watched the series or, like me, are only coming to it cinematically.

The gist is that there’s a thing called the Sibyl System. It’s an authoritarian system that monitors every citizen’s biological and mental state, then uses its algorithms to determine who will commit crimes. In exchange for this intrusion, people are granted an extra sense of security, knowing criminals will be apprehended swiftly. A young inspector named Akane Tsunemori has long questioned the reliability and ethics of the Sibyl System.

PSYCHO-PASS: Providence finds Akane pulled into a troubling new case. The corpse of an esteemed professor has been found aboard a foreign sailing vessel. She was seemingly murdered by a paramilitary group called “the Peacebreakers” who want to seize control of her work. Those so-called Stronskaya Papers might just reveal something about the Sibyl System that could be devastating to Japan’s government. Akane teams up with Shinya Kogami, a loose cannon and fugitive from the Criminal Investigation Department, in order to get to the bottom of this mystery.

The first thing you notice about the movie is how strikingly it’s animated. There’s tons of detail in the backgrounds and settings. Just as impressive is how the animation creates an atmosphere. This futuristic Japan is sleek, yet gloomy. It feels like a place where a shiny façade hides underlying darkness. Action scenes pack a punch because of that. The effect is reminiscent of Blade Runner. Because the tone and visual style are so in sync, you get sucked into the world being portrayed.

Once you get past what your eyes can see, PSYCHO-PASS: Providence offers up a provocative story. The movie asks what limits there should be on personal data collection and what the ramifications are if that data is misused, intentionally or accidentally. Similarly, motivations of people who might desire such data are given scrutiny. As we learn more about the Peacebreakers’ motives, the film’s ideas click further into focus.

Having an appealing lead character like Akane helps. She’s our entry point into the admittedly complex scenario, and her battle for truth holds our attention. A fascinating dynamic she has with Shinya Kogami is another strength. The two are sometimes at odds, but when they get on the same page, it means something. PSYCHO-PASS: Providence builds up to a finale that contains shocking developments. They, in turn, will lead into the third season of the series. Whether or not you continue watching, the movie itself is intelligent entertainment for viewers who want to see animation that goes beyond the usual kids’ stuff.

out of four

PSYCHO-PASS: Providence is rated R for violence. The running time is 2 hours.