I finished watching the conclusion to Psycho-Pass 3, titled “First Inspector,” just before writing this. After eight 45-minute long episodes, the story concludes with a “film” meant to wrap up the season’s plot threads that had felt unfinished. My thoughts were a mixture of “ok, cool” and “what the fuck even was that?.”
I should address a mistake on my part right out of the gate. Back in the final part of my Psycho-Pass retrospective, I claimed that First Inspector would be a recap film. I was incorrect. Info at the time led publications to believe that was the case but, no, they wrapped up the story in a neat little bow, which I appreciate.
However, I don’t think I’ll be referring to this as a film so much as a delayed finale. For some reason, Amazon divided the story into three episodes, despite it being marketed as a film and even given a limited theatrical run in Japan. Though, if I’m honest, judging by the production quality, I can’t imagine being impressed by the visual quality magnified on a theater screen, save for maybe the final episode.
If the snark was any indication, this may not be the most positive review. Far be it from me to spoil the verdict before you’ve even scrolled down or clicked “read more,” but if you weren’t the biggest fan of season three, the ending probably isn’t going to make you change your perspective. Regardless, here are my thoughts on how the film tied up one of the most ambitious sequels to Psycho-Pass yet.
First Inspector resumes right where the finale left off. In the finale, it was implied that Governor Karina was going to be targeted again. The season ended so suddenly that it’s understandable if you forgot that detail, but this film is essentially one last move on the part of the shay Bifrost group to eliminate the governor.
Koichi Azusawa, the eccentric antagonist of season three wastes no time enacting his plan. He breaks into the Public Safety Bureau headquarters and locks it down, trapping Division 1 and 2 inside and keeping Division 3 locked out. It happens rather easily. So much so that I wish more of the first episode was dedicated to building up to the takeover in a more clever fashion. As it is, however, it wastes little time getting into the thick of things, which I came to appreciate later on.
I understand the desire to turn the conclusion into a film. Many of the new characters already reached the ends of their respective arcs. Todoroki had gotten closure regarding his family, Kisaragi had come clean over her feelings of guilt, and Irie turned out to be generally charming despite his and Todoroki’s misbehavior early on. Only Arata and Kei had arcs that needed finishing.
So most of the first two episodes is a lot of action separating the cast into small groups. Slowly they get in contact and start getting the upper hand once again. In the meantime, there is some sense of finality to certain arcs.
Shion, being one of the few characters remaining from season one who is still heavily active in the plot, gets some very meaningful scenes. It’s far more satisfying than how characters like Kogami and the rest of the SAD are treated. They’re just there to do cool shit and feed fans’ nostalgia, but their previous feuds with the “Peacebreakers,” the mercs witnessed in season three, aren’t explored at all.
Most of, if not all of the threads that began in season three are concluded here, but the stuff with the Foreign Affairs characters is just disappointing, not because it isn’t cool but because there is no story which the audience is privy to. And sometimes the way the stories intersect either leads to butchered characterizations or simply perplexing decisions.
In the latter half, there is a fight between two characters on the same side for no other reason than one person believing that the other will get in the way of the main plot. It’s like Tow Ubukata knew that having all these returning characters would make things more complicated and just needed to find a way to keep them busy.
The conflict doesn’t even matter in the end. Kei gets his ass kicked (spoilers I guess) and the SAD doesn’t even end up being a nuisance the way the plot predicted. The script is almost self-aware of how awkward the end of the fight is. Overall I stand by what I said in my season three review: Kogami, Ginoza, and the rest of the SAD would have been far better utilized as the protagonists in a separate film or OVA.
I’m happy to say that the ending of the main story between Arata, Azusawa, and the Bifrost, was pretty cool. Loose ends were tied up, answers were given, and the final confrontation between Arata and Azusawa, both physically and ideologically, was exactly what I want from a Psycho-Pass story.
The biggest issue I see across all of season three, however, is the Bifrost. All three of the “Congressmen” were manipulating real-world events to suit their personal goals through a system predating Sibyl. The only problem is, I couldn’t honestly tell you anything about the kinds of people the congressmen were. We figure out what Shizuka wanted and- it made the end that much cooler, but as for the others? I don’t have much to say.
Their motive is admittedly explained to some extent, but when the villains’ motivations across essentially 11 episodes aren’t made clear until the 11th hour (literally), that makes for very forgettable antagonists. At least Azusawa had the whole “I’m not killing people I’m just testing them” schtick going for him, and his obtuse personality.
The worst part of First Inspector is that it pushes just enough buttons right at the end to make me go “… AHHH FUCK IT I forgive you.” When they show where all the characters are at, and we finally see what happens to Akane, and characters are given new roles, and we have some genuinely wholesome relationships? I can’t pretend I wasn’t a little bit satisfied.
It cost not getting any meaningful screentime with Kogami or Ginoza but they probably shouldn’t have ever been in this season, to begin with. But characters like Shion, Yayoi, Hinakawa, and Shimotsuki all benefited from their parts this season, the latter three being some of the most underutilized/unlikable characters in the past.
As for the new characters, Arata’s power is still dumb as shit and the worst part of the show, but he and Kei are the buddy cop duo I never knew I needed. As for the rest of the crew, Tow Ubukata successfully wrote a likable new team that wasn’t a rehash of season one’s crew.
Make no mistake, it wasn’t nearly as good as it could have been. This “film” is poorly animated up until the final episode when most of the actual plot closure rears its head. Compare the overall visual quality to the Sinners of the System series from 2019 or the 2015 film and there is no competition.
The choreography is well thought out but the direction and animation lead to fights that look sluggish and slow. At the same time, the fights sound exhilarating thanks to the same quality sound design the series has known since the beginning. It’s just an odd mix. Once again though, the best animation is towards the end.
Psycho-Pass 3: First Inspector achieved all of its goals as a conclusion but places itself on a pedestal of being a cinematic conclusion. It could only breed disappointment in such a context. Even as the end to a TV season, it achieves a passing grade but isn’t quite exciting or compelling enough to make much of an impression for the duration.
This series is at its best when it places the exploration of ethics and justice at the forefront of storytelling. Those themes are what should fuel every character story and confrontation, and the endings typically end leave audiences pondering those same questions. Otherwise, the stories offer a chance to see characters reach their own conclusions and forge new philosophies.
Tow Ubukata certainly put a lot more effort into creating interesting ideas and even more interesting characters to embody them. However, Psycho-Pass 3 never felt like it had a lesson to share or a consistent ethical quandary embodied by the climax. The closest they come in the end is Arata wanting to seek justice without killing the antagonist, which appropriately enough was the most exciting part of the finale.
In the end, Psycho-Pass 3 is likely my favorite work by Tow Ubukata, though that might not be saying much. I’d like to see him go farther and improve as a writer, but I don’t think he is right for this franchise. Give it to Urobuchi, or the writers of the Sinners of the System, but if Psycho-Pass is to continue, it needs to be in better hands. Perhaps Stand Alone Complex‘s Kenji Kamiyama, for instance.
However the series continues, I stand by my statement from my retrospective: It should end soon. Whether it’s another movie (an actual one) or a final season, it should bring the themes to a close in a meaningful way. That requires careful planning, a good budget, and unfortunately, a different writer.
Psycho-Pass 3: First Inspector is available for legal streaming through Amazon Prime Video.
If all things went well over the weekend, this is one of two reviews posted this week. I’m gonna be going on hiatus for April so enjoy a double-feature:
I’m taking a break to work on other projects absent from my blog. I will be doing some writing, as well as turning some of my old essays into videos for my YouTube channel which you can find here.
What do you think of First Inspector? Are you interested, or did season three not vibe with you? Leave a comment and while you’re at it, tell me what you’d like me to review when I come back from hiatus.
I hope you are all staying healthy and safe! Thanks for reading and I’ll see you next time!!!