What They Say:
There are “problem children,” there are children with issues, and then there are children whose very existence is such a concern that keeping an eye on their development is a matter of international security. Pre-teen psychics Kaoru, Aoi, and Shiho definitely fall into the latter category, and the odds that they will eventually turn to evil and use their abilities against the world have continued to grow ever since B.A.B.E.L. first recruited them to help fight other psychics who’d already succumbed to the dark side.
That’s a problem that’s been weighing heavily on the mind of Minamoto, their assigned guardian, and it’s going to get even worse once one of them actually gets IN his mind! Still, with Black Phantom, P.A.N.D.R.A. and their teams of rogue espers still causing chaos, there’s no choice except to fight fire with fire. But will limiting the squad’s abilities with artificial means be enough to keep them from going over the edge?
Contains episodes 40-52.
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 gives us the primary trio once again but similar to the third volume, it uses older versions of them. This time it plays up the middle/high school style uniforms with them looking over their shoulders and wearing tighter material. 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 Comerica that’s kind of dark. 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)
With the fourth and final volume of the series, it’s definitely a good time to be a fan of this franchise. With the show having ended in 2009, the manga is still ongoing with over thirty volumes out there now and a new TV spinoff is set for 2013 which will be animated by manglobe and, as of now, focus on Hyobu and other adult characters from the franchise. I’m sure the younger set will make an appearance as well, but it definitely makes it for a good time now to be acquainted with the world of that series through this one. After having mixed feelings on the show for three sets, I do have to say that I largely still have the same feelings now, but they have started to advance things bit by bit here which has culminated in a fun show that doesn’t take itself ever that seriously, though it tries.
With the final twelve episodes (plus pointless special episode, which is essentially just a full on recap of the characters and larger plot ideas), the series does want to advance the notion that Hyobu is getting more serious about obtaining Kaoru for his needs and having her blossom into the Queen of the espers. Through some decent flashbacks, including one to when he was a young esper in World War II that fought for his country, we see that the prophecy/precognition about Kaoru has been long in coming and that both he and she have a destiny to fulfill based off of it. With what he goes through then, especially when you consider the nationalistic pride that he had and the losses that they suffered, the view that he would turn into a monster of sorts that the precogs foresaw makes sense. And it’s a path that, once learned, he simply embraces. Which is what’s taken him to where he is now.
Not surprisingly, a lot of this volume is still fluff, even with that as the background motivating force. But even the fluff can be fun. There’s a good piece towards the end where, through circumstances best left unexamined, Minato has a hypnosis cast on him that affects others in which he looks to be ten years old. Hyobu also makes it so that his memories only last up to that age as well, so while a cure is looked for, he lives a normal kids life with them at school. It gives us a view of him in a different light but also puts the dangerous challenge before him as to whether to go back to normal or not. If he stays young and essentially reboots his life, he has a chance at psychic powers and can grow up “normally” with Kaoru and the others. It’s a good problem to be put before ten year old him, but you know exactly how it will go in the end.
A lot of the focus continues to be on Kaoru because of her role as the future Queen and that makes a certain sense. Aoi and Shiho do get some time to shine, but it feels like the episodes earlier in the series are the ones that let them really show who they are. Here, they’re key members of things as the girls most definitely fight as a trio (and are shown to be weaker when there’s one or two less of them, situation depending), but there’s less of that in this particular block of episodes. It makes a certain sense, but there are enough times where it ends up pushing them to secondary status in a way that’s detrimental to the show. It’s really about the four of them with Minamoto, and he ends up getting humanized even more in this set, especially with a flashback sequence that comes into the present that deals with an earlier interaction with an unstable esper.
The series does spend its time doing various physical comedy gags, smutty gags and other things of a similar nature. I do like when they age up the girls and show us their future selves and we do get to see them move out of elementary school and into middle school, not that they doesn’t change their nature overall as they try to become more mature. Some of the parodies work better than others, the Transformers style one with the fire truck made me cringe, but I loved the time spent with the Death Note episode as the kids get a hold of a psychically enhanced notebook that will make what you write down come true. The rules are comical and the way the girls try to use it to their advantage is great. And even the good doctor, Sakaki, does some of his best material here as he takes on the role of L from the show with his clothes and his movements. It’s one of those bits that just hit ever so right.
The final chunk of Psychic Squad brings things to a close and ends the elementary school years for our principal trio of characters. The series is one that from the start was one that I felt belonged to a different time but still had its charms that worked here and there. I continue to take issue with the oversexualized ten year old girls personalities, but there are some reasons for it (and having a ten year old myself, I can see elements of that in there and some of her friends as well). It doesn’t make me like it, but it’s at least somewhat plausible. The show runs with a lot of slapstick, repetitive gags and concepts that are reused rather frequently, but it’s all to build the foundation of the elementary school years for these characters. I can see this in manga form being something that can really grow and change as it evolves through the middle and high school levels in order to tell the tale that it wants to. But I also felt that it was just stretched too thin and would have been more enjoyable in half of what’s here, or maybe a bit more. It’s not a show for everyone but it hits some good marks along the way and left me genuinely curious to see where this new series in 2013 is going to go.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Sponsor Bumpers
Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: November 6th, 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.