Head/heart

Being an anime fan at the moment is fun. The Autumn season has really upped the ante, with two series in Shin Sekai Yori (From the New World) and Psycho-Pass proving fascinating in different ways.

I’ve already written about Shin Sekai Yori. It’s a series that stole my heart almost as soon as it appeared, through its dark narrative and shifting visuals. A few years ago, I wrote a couple of emotive posts about Casshern Sins: the director of that series, Shigeyasu Yamauchi, has a very distinctive and surreal style, and he’s now directing episodes (5 & 10) of Shin Sekai Yori. While many may have been disappointed by his efforts, personally, I love them.

Yamauchi’s presence best emphasises what’s so exciting about Shin Sekai Yori: be it a huge twist in the story, or a strange piece of animation, I never know what’s coming next, but can rely on it being good. It’s a rare sense of confidence one only discovers in the very best of anime.

The other series I mentioned above was, of course, Psycho-Pass. This was something of a slow starter. The first anime to be written by Gen Urobuchi post Madoka, expectations were always going to be stupidly high, but after its first episode rode out something of a collective back-slash, it’s become an ever-dependable watch. A rare thing indeed: a serious, adult, disturbing science-fiction story with top-tier TV animation. It’s the spiritual successor to Stand Alone Complex, and given how many people (and count me amongst them!) would love a third season of that, we’re honestly getting it already with Psycho-Pass.

This post is itself is being written before the afterimage of episode 9 fades, in which we meet a (murderous) man on the brink of immortality and contemplating what it means to be human in a world dominated by technology: he’s 90% cybernetic, only his brain remains of his old, flesh body. Later on in the same episode, we meet a retired crime lecturer who quit his old job because his classes were deemed too dangerous for his students’ state of mind: Psycho-Pass is set within a world where even the thought of violence could condemn one to execution.

It’s a series with a cold, calculating, almost metallic, style, the polar opposite to Shin Sekai Yori’s desperate appeal to the heart, yet they complement each other beautifully. I’m hard pressed to choose a favourite between them, but what I can say, though, is that alongside Hyouka, they represent the very best of anime in 2012. I hope you’re watching them, too.

Author: bateszi

A huge bloody nerd. I apologise in advance. I live in Cambridge, England. That's not an excuse, by the way.

6 thoughts on “Head/heart”

  1. For me Shinsekai yori is THE series of the season. Even after having read the novel I think the anime is doing a great job so far(everything considered), and while I’m not a fan of randomly changing animation/character design in a series (artistic purposes are cool but I enjoy consistency), the atmosphere of the two Yamauchi eps, especially ep 10, were great and added a lot to the show’s overall mood.

    As for Psycho-Pass, though… has it really become that good? I watched three episodes but I felt it was more “grimdark and edgy” than actually dark and disturbing, it was swimming in clichés that it wasn’t doing anything interesting with, the basic setting is demands me to suspend my disbelief until it suffocates, and really, most of the time it just made want to roll my eye. (To be honest my impressions were further brought down by the pretentiousness oozing from an interview/interviews – the infamous “there will be no moe and other otaku pandering here, this show will be TRAUMATIC” claim.)

    So based on those three eps I certainly wouldn’t call it the spiritual successor of GITS:SAC. Has the show changed since then?

    1. I am also enjoying both these series very much. I wish I could say something more then I agree though.

      Although I also agree about Shigeyasu Yamauchi. I thought episode 5 and 10 while maybe a bit different in style from other episodes were visually stunning. I personally didn’t see anything to complain about.

    2. The above was actually supposed to be a reply to the post as a whole.

      But Kuromitsu I think you should definitely give Pyscho Pass a try. It’s actually become really compelling.

      Urobuchi series tend to have a slow start but as the series goes on you tend to see the philosophy & themes of his series start to come out and that is when things start to get interesting.

  2. >Kim
    It’s not the slow start that turned me off (I don’t mind slow starts!), it’s how it comes off as, frankly, very pretentious with very little to make up for it.

    I’m more than OK with dark and disturbing as long as it’s done skillfully and tastefully, but as I wrote above, I found what I’ve seen so far in Psycho-Pass more “grimdark and edgy” than genuinely shady and disturbing. (Unlike, say, GITS:SAC, which rarely goes really “dark” but there’s an uneasiness always lurking in the background.) I felt like it was trying too hard to get reactions out of me. And even outside of the show itself, there are things like that ad where a character reads Orwell’s “1984” which is just about the most clichéd thing one can do in this genre. ^^;;

  3. >kuromitsu
    You read the Shinsekai Yori novel? Was it in English? I’d love to read it.

    A lot of the hype/noise surrounding Psycho-Pass was to its detriment, but I really think it’s improved a lot over the last 2-3 episodes. The writing has settled down and we’re coming to feel the characters and where they’re coming from. We’ve also seen the introduction of an overarching narrative, which has added a greater sense of danger. Just like in SAC, there’s questions of morality, of paranoia, of what it means to be human in a world of seamless technology. Ultimately, though, I suppose Psycho-Pass is just a lot more pulpy than SAC. From the character designs to the violence, it feels more of a “cartoon,” less concerned with SAC-style hard-boiled realism. Gen Urobuchi works with genre caricature and sub-formula: Madoka, Blassreiter, Phantom and Fate/Zero all seem embedded within some niche genre. Psycho-Pass is no different, really. It’s full of tropes, but it’s interesting to see what a guy like Urobuchi can do with them. It’s just starting to heat up.

    >Kim
    Thanks for the comment.
    It’s always nice to hear from readers! :)

  4. >bateszi
    I’m afraid it was in Japanese. I don’t know if it’s available in English. (It’s close to 1000 pages so I imagine a fan-translation would need the sort of very dedicated fan and audience that this series is unlikely to get…) It’s definitely no Tolstoy and it’s a bit frustrating at times for various reasons, but it has an interesting setting and interesting ideas and philosophy behind it that it plays with.

    As for Psycho-Pass, I think it’s the pulpy/cartoony aspect that I didn’t like about it. Not that I’m into hardcore realism, of course, it’s just that I found those 3 eps of Psycho-Pass that I watched difficult to take seriously, with all the clichés, lack of subtlety and so on, which is a problem with shows of this type. I guess this is subjective, though. :D Since so many people praise Psycho-Pass I think I’ll give it a second chance when it’s over.

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