What They Say:
They’re cute, adorable, and three of the most powerful Espers the world has ever seen: Kaoru, the brash psychokinetic who can move objects with her mind; Shiho, the sarcastic and dark natured psychometric able to pick thoughts from people’s minds and read the pasts of inanimate objects like a book; and Aoi, the most collected and rational of the three, who has the ability to teleport herself and the others at will. So what to do with these potential psychic monsters in the making? Enter B.A.B.E.L., the Base of Backing ESP Laboratory, where hopefully “The Children” and others like them can become part of the answer to an increasing wave of psychic evolution.
It’s a win-win solution… unless you’re Koichi Minamoto, the overworked young man stuck with the unenviable task of field commanding a team of three pre-teen girls! Will Koichi survive the experience? Will the PLANET survive the experience?
Contains episodes 1-13.
The audio presentation for this series is pretty basic as it contains just the original Japanese mix in stereo encoded at 224kbps. The show isn’t one that really stretches things but it has a good forward soundstage mix that has a full feeling to it because of how it plays out. It’s a brash show where there’s a lot going on with the action scenes but it’s just kind of strong in a way without being distinct. The dialogue often feels the same way with the way it has a lot of fast paced moments to it with the three girls chattering on and the guys trying to get in their own fast paced words in order to keep up. It doesn’t have much in the way of depth or directionality and is fairly center channel oriented. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally beginning its broadcast in 2008, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. This collection has thirteen episodes spread across two discs in a six/seven format. The show has a lot of bold, strong colors to it without a lot of detail to much of it when it comes to the character designs but the transfer lets the colors shine through well and it definitely stands out. The series is not one that’s terribly striking or filled with lush animation but the transfer captures what it is and does a decent job with it. The large areas of solid colors tends to look good with little in the way of noise though some of the darker backgrounds shows off more of it.
The packaging presentation for this release is very simple and straightforward as it has the two discs in a single sized keepcase. The front cover makes it clear what the cast and the designs are like as we get the three main girls in their uniforms with big smiles and expressions to them along with very short skirts. They have a good look with a clean approach that has a certain energy to it. The background uses some of the symbols from the show though it’s not all that distinct and just adds a little randomness to it that draws your eye more to the characters. The back cover does similar kinds of designs for the background while the foreground brings in a number of shots from the show that are small but varied while also having a larger shot of Koichi thrusting out his phone. The summary is kind of brief but that works in its favor here since the show isn’t all that deep or complicated itself. The bottom section has the standard material with the production information and the accurate technical grid. No show related is included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for the series is relatively simple but it’s done well enough in theme and tone to work. The static menu is designed with some of the character artwork on the left, such as the main characters for the first volume and some of the supporting cast for the second, while the logo is above them using the English name of Psychic Squad. The right side features the episodes broken down by number and lengthy title with a red star as a cursor. With it being a monolingual release, there isn’t a language submenu but each disc has a special features menu which loads quickly and without problem. The layout does the job and everything works smoothly.
The release has a couple of extras to it such as the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences as well as the sponsor bumpers, which are just red filtered dialogue free 11 second sequences. They’re not exactly what you’d expect and I’m not quite sure why they were worth including.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Psychic Squad is based on the manga by Takashi Shiina called Zettai Karen Children, which translates to Absolute Lovely Children. The manga began in 2005 in Weekly Shonen Sunday and is still going on, having amassed some twenty-nine volumes at least at last count and as of this writing. And frankly, that’s kind of crazy. The manga did well enough in 2008 to spawn a TV series which ran for 51 episodes, the first thirteen of which are in this collection. It’s easy to see why they changed the name of this release since Absolute Lovely Children is kind of wonky but could also be an eyebrow raiser to say the least through the retail chain and elsewhere. And honestly, Psychic Squad at least makes more sense and is more appropriate since I don’t think these children are all that lovely.
The series takes place in a relatively near future environment where ESP is well known and there are a growing number of people that have the abilities that come with it. There are several levels of ESPers out there and quite a few around the world, though the focus is obviously on Japan. And with that focus, it’s drawn down to a place called Base of Backing ESP Laboratory (B.A.B.E.L.). The government backed organization handles a lot of ESPers there in order to make sure people are accepting of them and seeing that they’re not running rampant. And that when they do, there is an organization that can help to take care of it. Unfortunately, BABEL has in its employ three Level 7 psychics that are very powerful but also quite destructive in a lot of ways because they’re ten year old girls.
Yes. Ten year old girls.
The series throws us into them pretty quickly as they’re causing destruction while going after a simple robber, but we see just how far their level of destruction and chaos can go when we see who their new handler is. The arrival of Koichi Minamoto brings some changes into the girls lives and his as well since they keep him busy in many, many ways. Because of their age, they act out a lot, demand things and are lazy and interested in their own things, including one of them that has a fascination for big boobs of all things. The girls all have varied powers, with Kaoru being a force kind of person who can use it for offense and defense while Aoi has the ability to teleport herself and others. Add in Shiho who brings the telepathy aspect to things through touch and you get a fairly well rounded trio who don’t go to normal school because of their abilities and are socially on the outside when it comes to dealing with others because of it.
Because of the way the organization works with a chief that completely adores the girls, they pretty much get away with everything and even Koichi gets caught up in it early on. So much so that the trio end up living with him without him being asked which leads to complications but also some exploration of who Koichi is. Koichi’s past certainly is one that makes him a bit easier to understand with him being similar to them but in a different way. While their powers have kept them on the outside and unable to go to school, Koichi was a gifted young man and was advanced quickly and kept out of a normal life because of it. It certainly makes him more sympathetic and then makes it clear why he bonds with them more.
The series in its first half of this collection runs through the near slapstick wacky series of events that you’d expect in order to show off the characters and how it wants to approach the relationships and get everyone under one roof. At that point I had practically written the show off because of what it was doing and the whole ten year old girl angle. What managed to salvage it some is that it started to introduce a larger storyline involving a young man named Hyobu who is watching them and who turns out to really be a psychic that has stopped his aging process. At eighty years old, he looks like he’s in high school and is intent on being the superior species by taking one of the girls, Kaoru, as his queen when she’s ready to accept how strong her powers are. He’s running a larger game here that we see some mild threads of in these first episodes, but the fun is in watching how much more advanced of a psychic he is and what he’s capable of.
But the main problem I kept running into with the show are the three leads themselves. Precocious children indeed, but they’re just problematic across the board though their personalities do soften as time goes on. Their personalities in the first half grate, but they do settle once things with Koichi progresses and they find each other. Where it really becomes a problem though is that with Kaoru being so blunt with her “adult” interests at times and the jokes they make it gets awkward. There are always kids that are advanced, but it’s just bad with them like this since you know they wouldn’t truly understand what they’re saying. To make it even worse, Hyobu uses hypnosis on Koichi at one point that causes him to have a trigger word that sees (and hears) them being young adult women with all that it entails. It’s not his fault and they’re not really saying it or posing in these ways, but the hyper-sexualization of them is just wrong, wrong wrong.
With this being the first quarter of the series, it’s something that I’m hesitant to completely call out for what it is, especially since things do shift gears a fair bit halfway through here. It does have its problems, some big problems in terms of perception and pandering, The series is also one that doesn’t stretch itself visually and feels like a real throwback to late 80’s and early 90’s shows but with a cleaner palette to it simply because color design is easier to do now with things standing out. Psychic Squad didn’t endear itself to me in the first half here and it started to work a bit better as it went on but it still has its share of problems that bother me a lot.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Sponsor Bumpers
Content Grade: C
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: May 1st, 2012
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.