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As I drew near to ending the first draft of my science fiction noir, I recently found renewed interest in a franchise I hadn’t watched in a long time: PSYCHO-PASS.
In short, Japan’s future is governed by the Sybil System, which administers justice based on scanning an individual’s stress levels. Police Inspectors and Enforcers carry Dominators, guns that are networked to the Sybil System and pass judgment on-site. Newbie Inspector Tsunemori and her division hastily work to arrest a ghostly Makishima Shogo, who uses other criminals to wreak chaos upon the enigmatic, all-knowing system.
The first season sits atop a bed of literary references so rich, I was surprised by how much it influenced me in the the years since my first viewing. I read Heart of Darkness and Titus Andronicus because of PSYCHO-PASS. Other books mentioned in the show, such as Neuromancer, and works by Rousseau and Descartes, were works I read as part of a larger study of cyberpunk and animation I was doing for my undergrad thesis. On my old blog, there are posts about how I explored cybernetics and systems theory in relation to PSYCHO-PASS. I think that this corpus is how the series skillfully builds its characters into insightful and relatable critiques on over-dependence on electronics, body enhancement, and medication for stress-free living.
As far as how this relates to the story I’m drafting, adopting from much richer resources like PSYCHO-PASS is something I’d like to do. Anime, especially anything from Production I.G., tends to get longwinded and philosophical, but I love their content. My job as a writer is to channel the same depth into palatable prose. I must create characters with motivations not always spoken, but always present. The philosophy that drives my story-world should ooze from its filthy streets and sweaty people and murky shadows. No one should have to say the name Descartes for readers to understand his philosophy.
There’s a trilogy of films being released this year, PSYCHO-PASS: Sinners of the System. I can’t wait to see those.