Review

by Richard Eisenbeis,

Psycho-Pass: Sinners of the System

Case.2 First Guardian

Synopsis:
Psycho-Pass: Sinners of the System - Case.2 First Guardian
In a future where an autonomous system tracks everyone's mental state at all times and crime has all but been eliminated, a squad of police investigates the terrorist attacks of a soldier thought to have been killed in action.
Review:

Case.2 First Guardian is the second film in the Psycho-Pass: Sinners of the System trilogy of films. Like Case.1 Crime and Punishment, it's a standalone cyberpunk mystery that features the further adventures of characters from the Psycho-Pass TV anime. Unlike Crime and Punishment, however, First Guardian is not a sequel, but a prequel to the story fans know and love.

This review contains spoilers for Psycho-Pass' first and second seasons as well as the first theatrical film.

Psycho-Pass is set almost a century into the future where crime has almost been eliminated thanks to the computerized “Sybil System” which automatically tracks the mental health of each person in Japan. Everyone has a “crime coefficient” when scanned. Under 100 and you're considered a model citizen. Between 100 and 300, you have the potential capacity to commit criminal acts--and will thus be detained. Over 300 and you're considered an irrational criminal subject to immediate execution by the MWPSB, a small active police force. Of course, as the police have crime coefficients under 100, being constantly exposed to the darker side of humanity and the associated mental stress has the tendency to drive those numbers up. Thus the investigators are paired with “enforcers”—officers with criminal coefficients over 100 but who have unique skills or insight—to act as a buffer between the inspectors and the crimes.

While its framing device is set between Psycho-Pass: The Movie and Crime and Punishment, the majority of First Guardian's story is set in the months before the first season of Psycho-Pass and centers largely on Teppei Sugo, a military drone pilot. Now this is not the first time we've met Teppei. We learned a little about him during the second season, but his backstory was left largely unexplored. First Guardian details the events that led him from being a respected military officer to a latent criminal and eventually an enforcer for the MWPSB. First Guardian's story seeks to answer the question: what would the military be like in such a world?

Teppei is a promising young drone pilot. He acts as the eye-in-the-sky and air support for a ground squad of marines alongside another pilot and a communications officer. Together, they form a tight military family—even more literally in the case of the squad's ground commander and the communications officer as a married couple. To lessen the mental stress of killing, they constantly practice against human-looking robots and take a high dosage of drugs in combat to keep them calm and focused. All this goes well until the squad is sent out on a military strike outside of Japan. When things go bad, Teppei is ordered to retreat after dropping a set of emergency supplies for his retreating squad. Unfortunately, the squad is never heard from again, listed MIA although it's openly assumed they have been killed.

Teppei, while devastated by this loss and tortured over why he was ordered to abandon his squad mates, does his best to keep it together—until the day he's summoned to the general's office and confronted by MWPSB officers Aoyanagi and Masaoka. They inform him that he is a suspect in a terrorist attack that's apparently been performed by his MIA squad commander. From there, the two cops and the soldier begin uncovering the mystery of what exactly happened on that ill-fated mission, and why Teppei's supposedly dead friend is carrying out a series of attacks on military targets across Japan.

Aside from Teppei and his story, First Guardian also spends a fair amount of its runtime on the two detectives. Like Teppei, Aoyanagi is a prominent supporting character in Psycho-Pass 2 and likewise lacking in character development before now. In Psycho-Pass 2, we see her broken down and ultimately killed in a test by the villain Kamui to see if the MWPSB's Dominator weapon can be used on fellow officers. It's a tragic and brutal death made all the moreso by this film. In First Guardian, we see what kind of person Aoyanagi was outside of such a dire situation. She's intelligent and kind, treating her enforcer, the aged former detective Masaoka, with great respect and reverence. Her attitude and ethics help lead Teppei to become an enforcer and eventually join her squad in the MWPSB. But in a horrible twist of fate, this is also what gets her killed as Teppei (without knowing her identity) fatally shoots her in Psycho-Pass 2.

On the lighter side of things, we get to see more of Masaoka in the months before he met Akane. Instead of playing the role of wise old mentor, we see him working with someone he sees as an equal: Aoyanagi. We also learn more about his family, namely the condition of his wife and the interactions he has with his son. The film even contains a teaser in the framing device, when a member of the DOD comes to recruit Teppei with the promise of unobstructed freedom if he joins her new unit. Of course, given when Crime and Punishment takes place, we already know his answer, but it's all too clear she doesn't intend to take no for an answer, possibly hinting at the plot of the third Sinners of the System film. Visually, First Guardian looks great, especially the drone piloting scenes and the ones involving holographic technology. The music is likewise on par with anything in the TV anime or movies, and the opening and ending of the film are bookended with entertaining remixes of past Psycho-Pass theme songs.

Ultimately, First Guardian is an excellent little cyberpunk mystery. Not only does it stand on its own as a film, but it actually makes both seasons of Psycho-Pass better in hindsight. The added familiarity with Teppei, Aoyanagi, and Masaoka greatly adds to the tragedy of their respective stories by making them characters we identify with after already knowing their tragic fates. I would wholeheartedly recommend watching this film between seasons one and two for maximum heartbreaking impact.

Grade:
Production Info:
Overall : A-
Story : A-
Animation : A
Art : A
Music : A-

+ Striking story that only makes the TV anime more tragic
Striking story that only makes the TV anime more tragic

Director: Naoyoshi Shiotani
Script:
Makoto Fukami
Ryō Yoshigami
Music: Yuugo Kanno
Original Concept: Gen Urobuchi
Original Character Design: Akira Amano
Character Design:
Hisashi Abe
Yasuhiro Aoki
Kyoji Asano
Naoyuki Onda
Art Director: Shūichi Kusamori
Chief Animation Director:
Hisashi Abe
Satoru Nakamura
Naoyuki Onda
Animation Director:
Hisashi Abe
Hisaki Furukawa
Ryōta Furukawa
Miho Ichikawa
Kazuchika Kise
Fumi Morita
Tetsurō Moronuki
Miyuki Nakamura
Satoru Nakamura
Ryota Niino
Shunji Suzuki
Chikai Takeuchi
Sound Director: Yoshikazu Iwanami
Director of Photography: Eiji Arai

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