What They Say:
Growing up is hard enough for most girls, but for Class 7 espers Kaoru, Shiho, and Aoi, who have to do it while also protecting the world as part of B.A.B.E.L., it’s even rougher. It’s bad enough that they’re feared by most of the population just for being what they are, but when they also have to act as police against other older and more experienced espers AND still go to school, they’re getting an early education into how unfair the real world can be.
Just to make matters worse, now there’s an esper vigilante to deal with and a new mysterious organization called P.A.N.D.R.A. on the rise. Can the girls’ highly put-upon supervisor and guardian Minamoto keep his charges from losing control in every possible sense?
Contains episodes 14-26.
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 as they strike out in an action moment. 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 Hyobu and Minamoto together back to back. 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)
After the first set and its thirteen episodes of the series, I really wasn’t sure how to feel about the series. It’s a show that feels like it’s at least a decade too late from where it belongs and that if it had appeared in the mid to late nineties, it would have been immensely popular. In 2008? I’m still surprised it managed to nab four seasons worth of episodes. And with a lot of it, I’m still having trouble wrapping my head around the overt sexuality of ten year olds. Well, just Kaoru really, but she’s so over the top with how she does things, especially when she gets on with Oboro, that it just kind of creeps me out a bit.
With this batch of episodes, things kind of mirror the first in a lot of ways and that’s not necessarily bad as you know what it wants to do. The majority of it is self contained episodes that deals with the girls heading off on assignments and getting caught up in the unusual events that come from it. We also get a two part adventure that lets things get a little bigger with the scope of events and also leads to some potential down the line for the larger overall story. The girls are assigned, as the elite team of course, to go and help a pair of Comerican’s that have come to find a missing colonel that has apparent turned double agent. That brings us a disparity of personalities to work with over two episodes as they try to figure out where he’s going to defect and how.
Naturally, the Comerican’s are definitely stereotypes as the young woman, who can’t believe that these ten year olds are the elite team, as she wears a big cowboy hat, shows off a big chest and is full of bravado. As the show focuses on the colonel, we see how he’s manipulating the situation to his own advantage as it turns out he’s a high level esper himself. And unlike the others who have a single focused skill for the most part, he’s able to absorb the abilities of others and use them for his own purposes. He has a grander purpose with things here and though it takes the two episodes to really have it all come out, there’s a good bit of fun with it and an amusing tie to Hyobu as well that comes into play which helps to again cement him as someone who has some decency to him.
Another episode I liked a fair bit involved Momotaro, the esper squirrel. Through circumstances that puts him more into his animal side, he kind of goes crazy and it leads to a lot of silly but fun action as he uses his abilities to blast a whole lot of people. While it’s kind of nonsensical in its own way, especially since he is a squirrel experiment gone wrong years ago, what really works is seeing how Hyobu eventually gets involved and does his best to get his pint sized partner back on his side. The two have a great relationship overall and after seeing this it really makes for watching the two of them together later even more fun.
Some of what’s here is just silly, such as the first episode that shows us someone that’s getting beaten up by some punks and ends up releasing his dormant esper powers. He takes on the role of Masked Justice and… drives around in his car and uses telekinesis from a distance to deal with other punks and thugs he comes across. So while he goes all vigilante, complete with utter dorky costume, The Children are brought in to hunt him down. There’s some quirks to it all and it’s cute watching them, but it also shows the inherent weakness of using ten year olds to deal with adult problems. Sometimes it works but sometimes it just takes a little tweak and you can take advantage of them.
One of the main focuses of this set is the use of the mole within BABEL as Hyobu continues to use Kugutsu to get information. Kugutsu’s not exactly the best spy there is or double agent in general and he’s only lucky that he is surrounded by ten year old girls who don’t know any better and trust those that they’re with regularly. Kugutsu’s an oddball to begin with when it comes to all the puppets and dolls he makes and his spying leads him to doing some unusual things in order to hide what he’s up to, including a full scale replica of Kashiwagi which turns out to be rather creepy for all involved. Things do get a bit resolved along the way, which pushes him more towards PADRA, which in itself is starting to take on a circus like feeling as we get a few looks at what that’s all about as Hyobu starts to expand the group a bit more.
Psychic Squad does really come down to more of the same and that’s a real mixed bag for me. While I do like that it feels like a throwback series in a lot of ways, kind of light and silly and not concerned with a lot of details, it also frustrates since it’s almost too playful considering what’s really going on. This set does start to expand on things a bit with PANDRA and we understand a bit more about the larger world when it comes to Comerica and some of the past. Hyobu continues to be the character I want to know more about as we get some bits about his past here again, but there’s also that almost too light in approach nature to it that’s keeping it from really feeling right. At this point the uncomfortable material is still outweighing things for me here even if it does have something of a kind of nineties simplicity and silliness about it.
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: July 17th, 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.