Psychic Academy Vol. #2 (W/Manga) (of 2) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Saturday, November 26, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, November 15, 2005



What They Say
Limited Edition Bundle that includes volume 2 of the Psychic Academy Manga and volume 2 of the never-before-released anime on DVD.

The Review!
The second half of the series covers a bit of action, new characters and an idea of the bigger picture before simply ending.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this series in its original language of Japanese. For whatever reason, TOKYOPOP has taken the cheap way out with this release by not producing a dub for it. The Japanese track is a fairly standard stereo mix that's decent but not terribly immersive but it is problem free. The baffling part, and the part that should not have been done in addition to dropping the dub, is that they made the subtitles mandatory. You cannot change these on the fly and there is no menu setup for subtitles. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt that it was some sort of license restriction based on the acquisition of the title but either way it is what I consider a serious flaw in the release. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2002, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The transfer for this series is one that showcases just how much of a digital show it is due to the overly bright colors and the way it feels so layered with the character artwork and the background artwork. The transfer itself is relatively clean and problem free and other than the changing of the credits from Japanese to English it looks to be pretty much a port of the Japanese release. The Japanese release was done as six episodes combined into one episode with an opening and closing sequence but retaining the episode number cards so you can tell where each one starts and ends. This volume contains the second two "blocks" of episodes which has the second half, or twelve, episode total.

Packaging:
Using the same character artwork as the Japanese release but rearranging and zooming in on it a bit to provide an English language logo and slightly different background, we get shots of the two lead characters dress up as women in black, or mostly in that kind of attire. The designs are definitely attractive – much more so than the overly digital versions in the show – and it looks quite good. The back cover has several shots from the show and a basic summary of the premise. The discs features are clearly listed and are followed by the dual production credits and basic technical grid. It may be related to the copy I got but there is no UPC code for this release. With it being a box+disc+manga release, the UPC is presumably on the box itself. With the box containing the 2econd volume of the manga and this packaging not really giving in to the idea of individual release, I really get the feeling that this is a really limited release and may not be available for long.

Menu:
The main layout for this is almost painfully simple with it being a series of two pyramid screens that has the scene selections available for each episode. There's a pair of shadowed character shots on each side against a blue sky background while the pyramid is very pink in its nature and has the screenshots for each episode and the button to move to the next page. Due to the nature of the audio/subtitle setup here, our players' presets are pretty much meaningless.

Extras:
None.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Psychic Academy comes to a close with its second volume as it has the twelve episodes that are broken out into two "full" episodes that run about fifty minutes or so each. The series layout and design, being an online show, really works against it in the long run and in this context as by the time an episode really seems like it's going to go somewhere it sort of ends and picks up again without the same kind of energy.

The episodes on this volume cover a few different areas as it goes towards an incomplete ending since the manga was still running at that point and some of it is interesting. Shiomi finds that his time in the Academy is going to get worse for a few reasons, one of them is the arrival of his brother, the incredibly powerful world famous psychic known as Zerodyme. He's been a temporary teacher at the Academy for a long time but he's taking up a full time position there now and uses it at every opportunity to tease and torment his younger brother while trying to seduce fellow Chioro. During a party he throws to welcome himself to the Academy, he shows off great amusing pictures of his brother when he was a child and how he used to torment him.

Shiomi also finds himself facing something a bit more challenging in the realm of Ren wanting to attack him some more and show him whose really more powerful. Shiomi doesn't want to fight of course but things get nasty along the way and it turns even worse when Fafa returns to the picture and simply wants Shiomi for herself. The trio is obviously more than meets the eye as we learn the reasoning behind how both Ren and Fafa are linked together and that leads to a few challenges. Fafa's a high energy character so she brings in some emotional unbalance to the show while Ren's time on screen has the neo-rival kind of feel to him as he has a lot to prove.

Psychic Academy plays up the fan service angle pretty heavily with this volume as well with the second main "episode" being focused around an adventure at the beach and on an island. There's lots of swimsuits, skin and near naughty moments as Shiomi goes through his pursuit of Orina since he's convinced he loves her but there's also Mew that seems to enter the picture as well. Things are developed more fully into a triangle relationship of sorts here and even though Shiomi seemingly makes a choice to go in a particular direction there is enough wiggle room left open for things to change in that regard easily enough. A lot of this is done by making Mew much more approachable as the show moves on while also giving Shiomi a bit more of a backbone as he works on his own training and trying to master his powers.

This series continues to have an odd feel and flow to it and a good portion of that stems from the awkward animation itself. While it has a distinction of being the first web based Internet distributed series, it has the issues of some really poorly animated sequences throughout it. The characters movements are decent most of the time but some of them look like really old visual novel style or even things that go back to old MS Paint leanings. If you didn't know it was distributed this way you'd be able to just assume a very cheap budget and leave it at that.

In Summary:
Psychic Academy's anime release is something that the fans of the manga will probably like but it doesn't quite reach up to mainstream interest I think. The plot is fairly weak as there isn't anything long term brought into it other than dealing with the lead characters relationships and even then it feels fairly forced at times. A lot of OVAs were done over the years that were essentially gifts to fans of the manga and this has that kind of feel to it. In watching the twenty-four episodes it's not interested me in picking up the manga in the slightest or even cracking open the two volumes of it that I ended up getting along with the DVDs and in the end that tells me the most about how I feel about the entire franchise.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: C
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: C
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: TOKYOPOP
MSRP: 24.99
Running time: 105
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Psychic Academy