02nd Aug2023

‘PSYCHO-PASS Providence’ Review

by Jasmine Valentine

Features the voices of: Kana Hanazawa, Tomokazu Seki, Kenji Nojima | Written by Makoto Fukami, Tow Ubukata | Directed by Naoyoshi Shiotani

In 2118, the Japanese government has enforced a mandatory system known as Sibyl, which uses software to analyze the criminal tendencies and capability of the general public. When the chief inspector of the Criminal Investigation Department Akane (Kana Hanazawa) investigates the mysterious death of a professor, she finds research papers that could shake the existing system to the core. Along with some unexpected allies, Akane sets out in search of the truth — even if it means confronting life-threatening obstacles along the way.

Back in 2013, PSYCHO-PASS was merely the latest anime series to gain public traction. Ten years later, a franchise comprised of episodes, films, and sub-series has created a long-standing fanbase that only wants more from its favourite characters. It makes sense then that the anime would mark its tenth anniversary with something that would offer more to the overarching story, and the announcement of PSYCHO-PASS Providence was met with worldwide speculation.

Interestingly, the film chooses to act as a standalone rather than a next chapter, meaning any viewer could approach it and have a full understanding of the PSYCHO-PASS world. As it’s not considered as canon, PSYCHO-PASS Providence essentially retells a version of the original 2013 story, despite taking a few narrative details and putting a heightened twist on them. Placing the two side by side, the film is a fairly disheartened interpretation of what made Akane and the Criminal Investigation Department so intriguing in the first place. For seasoned fans of the anime, there’s arguably little to be desired. No information or plotlines build on the existing format, with Providence possibly opting to rewrite what has come before.

If the film is acting as a substitute rather than an addition, the creative team has potentially missed the mark in this respect as well. Though the big narrative anchor points of Akane’s journey to uncover the truth behind the missing files make logical sense, there aren’t enough details to engage new viewers into a standalone that’s cohesive. While much of the film’s action takes place through long, “standing around talking” scenes that are probably befitting of a police procedural, there’s little room left for characters to establish any personality outside of their immediate work. The English dub particularly adds to Providence’s sense of lifelessness, with the often monotone style of delivery backing up the idea that this Matrix is more superficial than not.

Where PSYCHO-PASS Providence does hold its own is its animation. Co-opting a 3D video game style that seamlessly blends with traditional 2D anime liveliness, the film’s sense of movement is nothing short of absolutely breathtaking. Moments of solitude and slow-motion despair are accentuated by the film’s visual choices, allowing viewers to get lost in artistry even when the narrative doesn’t always make sense. The final few minutes of the film are an exceptional example of this, culminating in the sense of satisfaction that viewers may well have been waiting for.

If PSYCHO-PASS Providence is an entry point to the franchise for an eager anime cinema fan, the magic of what came before will arguably be lost in translation. The original series put in the hard work to make a crime procedural that offered something different to the swathes of competition that exist in the art form, with the film arguably walking back in time to settle on something more generic. If viewers can keep up, the visual stylistics are certainly worth the wait.

** 2/5

PSYCHO-PASS Providence is on limited theatrical release in the UK now.


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