What They Say:
Spring marks the start of another new school year at a junior high school in Kamakura. A new transfer student, Ryoichi Kyogoku joins the 8th grade. Kyogoku has a very special proficiency in telepathy and has been ordered by his father to use this ability to scan other people’s minds and take over the school.
He instantly gains popularity at school from his good looks and charisma and he sets about taking control of the school. As people begin to fall under Kyogoku’s spell, he covertly manipulates his followers and pushes aside anyone who gets in his way.
With the school almost completely under the control of Kyogoku, only one boy seems unaffected – Seki. Does Seki have what it takes to save everyone from the clutches of mind control?
The audio has a 5.1 release in English and a 2.0 in Japanese – kind of rare for anime movies nowadays which tend to have 5.1 releases in both languages, however, it does also have a 2.0 release in French as well. All tracks are good, as wishing for a 5.1 in Japanese would have been great considering the good acting, didn’t need to adjust my settings on the English release (did have to for the Japanese and when checking out the French dub) – no out of touch with in-synching and overall a quality release.
Video wise, colours were fine and flashy, and no issues in terms of video to audio on a 16:9 – 1.78:1 aspect ratio though set NTSC style with top/bottom wide screen, no problems video wise with subtitles synching, no video freezing or any slack animation when pausing the show and the colours do come out very vividly and look rather good on a Blu-Ray set up – no problems found so overall very strong.
There was no packaging for this test release, however, there is special edition packaging in the Blu-Ray set.
The menu set-up is almost like a window looking in at clips from the movie, very atmospheric with the selections at the bottom being Play, Scenes, Audio, and Credits – Scenes are a usual selection for movie releases (used to be more common in series as well but not so much nowadays) whilst the credits section is the main staff from Japan and the main guys behind the release in the UK via All the Anime. Very nice looking menu and set up is straight forward, no issues (usual pop-up menu in the movie as well) and easy to navigate.
There are no extras in the disc, but if you order the special edition Blu-Ray you get the collectors packaging and a 40-page art/description booklet.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Psychic School Wars, known as Nerawareta Gakuen in Japan, was originally a science fiction novel in 1973 by Taku Mayumura. It has been adapted several times into TV dramas in Japan as well as live action film, but in 2012 Ryosuke Nakamura directed an anime movie – which the heart is actually a friendship/romance story but with the bonus of psychic powers and time travel added. The movie is definitely one of those ones where you will enjoy it for either just the characters, the atmosphere, or both – some might wonder if one or the other is needed though however let’s see if it does work…
The introduction is a great set up – a male who is decorated in fantasy like lights says upon arrival ‘This is the Earth’ just as a young man with a dog passes by – these are our two main male characters, Ryoichi Kyoguku and Kenji Seki – Seki seems to be your average boy whilst Ryoichi is something new, to say the least, but at the moment, it is just surprise – Seki quickly goes on his walk with his dog whilst the young man is in his thoughts, and then bumps into our other two main characters this time on the female side, his clear crush in Kahori Harukawa, and his childhood friend Natsuki Suzuura who is very teasing but almost immediately you can tell she harbours more feelings than just being a childhood friend – anime cliché in full practice here…
The mysterious Ryoichi goes into yet another anime cliché, this time as the mysterious transfer student. This also causes Kahori to have a love in first sight moment with him, just from his good lucks, charming personality and skill on the piano…but we see later there is obviously more to him – as he shows is actually some sort of time traveller from the future, communicating with something on a mission, but unsure what that mission is yet…but in the meantime, Ryoichi seems to enjoy being in the school, and becomes friends with our three other main characters, with potential love triangle/squares being forms, and Natsuki being the resident tsundere character, i.e. clearly likes Seki but is a bit angry with him – borderline abusive at times and whilst it is clear she doesn’t mean what she does, she can’t help it which does give the weak point of the movie as mentioned in terms that there is a lot of predictability to certain characters, making them (initially) less likeable – Natsuki fortunately does improve by the end but here it was very clichéd.
The plot begins to kick in when we see Ryoichi manipulate someone in the student council named Yuriko – a mini plot where the school is banning cell phones as distractions from studying leads to a impetus that drives the council into becoming what Ryoichi wants, which is where he has come from is actually the moon (he mentions how beautiful the moon looks on the outside, hinted before he does reveal) yet knows nothing of the Earth’s pleasures, leading to Seki wondering about him – it turns out Seki might be more unique than expected as well, and when Natsuki actually sees Ryoichi in action, it triggers the remaining events for these four…
Each character gets a brief flashback about their past, which all range from slightly sad to very tragic (especially why Ryoichi has travelled from the future) – all whilst still having very human stories – Seki, for example, is apparently rejected by Kaho because she is in love with Ryoichi whilst Natsuki remains at home after her experience – Ryoichi slowly begins to influence the school but also begins to have feelings for Kaho himself and wondering if it is affecting his mission, whilst Seki’s powers also showcase (we learn that there is a connection with his and Ryoichi’s family which does have a proper twist near the end considering who Ryoichi’s familiar is) – combined with Natsuki now being much more obvious in her feelings for Seki, it is definitely one part plot vs. one part character development and storytelling.
Ryoichi eventually reveals to Kaho who he is and what he is doing – basically, the fact that humans have been forced to leave the Earth due to its destruction and have to take refuge on the moon and they can’t return. From this, psychics have emerged on the moon via awakenings and he has returned to try and avoid disaster happening by his manipulation – and if he failed, he would bring the worthy ones back to his time. It does lead to Natsuki getting in trouble (back with the whole cell phone thing which seemed minor but becomes a major manipulation point for Ryoichi’s takeover) as she confronts everyone that the fact Ryoichi is bringing out psychic powers for everyone so they know what is going on with everyone actually is potentially worse – cue Seki emerging with his own powers. The history with his family and Ryoichi’s family is very subtly done but is shown slightly throughout so you can make the connection – and it seems like Ryoichi concedes defeat, even having a comical group with the other three at the beach afterward. However, he does have to return and does have to fight Seki – which leads to some sad moments with a hopeful epilogue but the actual bonding of the 4 is showcased brilliantly throughout here as Ryoichi realises that what he is doing is wrong, and manages to work through it with Seki’s help, albeit at a few costs…
The interesting thing about this movie is that you do wonder if the time travel/psychic powers were that necessary – it could have easily been a story about someone manipulative convincing people to change ideologies – however rewatching it, I feel that it was needed because of Natsuki’s speech that the fact everyone can now know anything, yet that can be potentially worse. Ryoichi’s gift doesn’t seem to affect her causing her to be an Achilles’ heel to him, yet you get the feeling he almost wanted her to stop him. The focus is definitely on our four leads rather than the magical/supernatural elements, which are a bonus (and showcase the gorgeous animation and lighting done in it, verging on realistic at times) whilst the love stories are told as best as they can in the time frame, with just enough back-story for them to realise their mindsets.
Ryoichi is a very unique character – the ‘villain’ of the movie yet a very good story and intentions you can definitely sympathize with him – a psychic from the future where humans have evacuated Earth, him returning to awaken psychic powers so they can stop this tragedy or for him to bring back home. He genuinely enjoys taking in Earth culture (not knowing what hamburgers are is both comical but actually plot worthy as Seki discovers more about him) and him falling in love with Kaho tends to fall in star-crossed lovers territory but as the movie doesn’t specifically say how long the timeline is, you could believe it – he is the most developed character by far of the 4, whilst the other three seem to play more for the love triangle.
That said, Seki does develop well – from a joke to Natsuki (seems to always have his fly open whenever he meets Kaho) to pretty much a chew toy, to important to the plot and the one able to stop Ryoichi, whilst also dealing with the two girls both from his feelings to one, and the other girl’s feelings to him. He does suffer a bit in the start from Natsuki being a typical fiery girl character in anime, and he definitely doesn’t deserve most if any of it, but his importance develops as we learn his own psychic origins, and how it is dealt with when he does confront Ryoichi.
The girls fare a little less well – Kaho doesn’t have any major problems as a character, it is more she is there as the love interest for both the main guys. Whilst she does get a background moment, and her friendship with Natsuki stays strong despite the potential clashes with Seki and she does discover more about Ryoichi, the whole love at first sight angle is her only real contribution and causing Ryoichi’s development. Natsuki suffers from being a character we’ve all seen in anime before – violent girl towards guys she likes but becomes nice to him when the feelings are all out there, however, she does improve come to end (though she doesn’t really lose any of her traits, both positive and negative) especially when she calls out the student council for their rules and their reliance on their new psychic powers.
There certainly isn’t anything bad about the movie – it is great visually, the combination of a more magical element with a straight forward love square (well, straight forward that love squares can be) – it just feels there a lot. As mentioned, some elements may not have been needed in a slight retelling but it wouldn’t give it that more of an atmosphere. Being a remake as well as not read the original novel or seen the original series, it is hard to see if it would have worked better a bit longer, as whilst they do tie in everything, it is just from little sequences via flashbacks and small conversations (Seki’s grandfather – a minor character seems to have a little say in everything almost as an exposition character) – Ryoichi’s explanations and hints are throughout, yet is still vague about what actually happened to cause the evacuation to the moon hence why might have wanted this a little longer.
Despite this, it is still a good enough movie to recommend. There is just enough development with the characters to enjoy them for what they are, albeit the ‘villain’ being the best character (the other male lead only getting good development near the end, and the girls not so much) – the combination of gorgeous animation and a mix of typical school drama with the supernatural might not be perfect but it does work – it isn’t groundbreaking as a story or a movie, but it is definitely pleasant enough watching material.
Psychic School Wars sounds like an anime from a fan service fighting anime set in a school – turns out to be a movie long tale of the present and future, which might have suffered from trying to fit what they can in too short a time. There is just enough development for the main group, and the combination of plot, exposition, story and development just about works in the time frame allowed – nothing to put as major watching, but definitely one you can enjoy.
Japanese Language, English Language, English Subtitles
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: N/A
Released By: Anime Lunuted
Release Date: May 30th, 2016
Running Time: 110 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Playstation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.