Psycho Busters Novel Vol. #01 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, July 04, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, April 08, 2008
Translated by:Rando Ayamine
Adapted by:Kathy Bridges
What They Say
This novel delves deeper into the story of Kakeru, the young boy whose life is turned upside-down when he meets a group of super-powered teenagers on the run from a shadowy government agency.
With his family off in Hawaii for a week, fourteen-year-old Kakeru is looking forward to a little peace and quiet--until he discovers a strange, beautiful girl in his room. Her name is Ayano, and she's in big trouble. Gifted with extraordinary psychic powers, Ayano is on the run from a shadow organization that wants to explot her talents for its own dark ends.
But how can a short, skinny, hopelessly ordinary junior high school student help Ayano and her equally talented friends? With a gang of ruthless henchmen and dangerous psychics closing in fast, Kakeru is about to discover a few surrises about himself: Maybe he's not so ordinary after all; perhaps he's even the hero of his own dreams. He can only hope, since the biggest, baddest psychic-hunter of all is coming after him for a life-or-death showdown.
Considering how much I usually like Del Rey's manga releases, the packaging on this light novel leaves a lot to be desired. The cover is overly-busy, with too many similarly bland colors for my tastes. The art is all decent, if not particularly eye-catching. The logo is plain, and seems rather strangely placed to me. The back cover fares even worse, featuring a plain white background, a summary in black text, and then a few more illustrations below that. There's nothing exactly wrong with it; it just looks lazy and rather minimalist.
Psycho Busters is a thin novel, coming in at about 170 pages, so the book itself feels flimsy when being held. Paper quality seems just a tick below a normal pocket-sized paperback, which strikes me as odd when considering the ten-dollar price tag. If I'm going to pay that much for such a short book, I want something that is sturdier and will hold up to repeated reads. Print quality was standard for a mass market paperback, and consistent throughout.
On the whole, the grammatical side of this translation is pretty solid. Typos are minimal, but there are some awkwardly worded sentences. One illustration contains either a sound effect or title of some sort in Japanese, which has not been translated. Considering Del Rey's usual translation of sound effects in their manga, this is disappointing. There are no translation notes anywhere in the novel, either. This won't be a real hindrance for those who are familiar with Japanese culture or have read some amount of manga, as the "problem" areas are fairly small. Generally, they included attempts of characters to describe what kanji they use to spell their names, the presence of the "san" suffix, and a reference to yakuza. None of these cultural references are enough to confuse the narrative, but they could discourage average customers who pick up the volume off the shelf at a bookstore.
The actual writing also falls a little short of what I'd like. The point of view switches back and forth between first person, courtesy of Kakeru, and third person, which is used when he is not in the scene. At one point, the narrative style switches over without any sort of page break, which is slightly confusing. The writing itself is bland, but that seems to be due to the source material rather than any shortcoming on the part of the translator. I think this blandness stems from the author's habit of telling rather than showing. Sometimes, entire conversations are skipped over with sentences such as "We talked about [insert major plot point here]." It just seems to try too hard to be a novel that appeals to young teens.
Kakeru is your typical junior-high student. In other words, he's a little whiny, doesn't get along with his mother or his two older sisters, and wishes that something exciting would happen to him. When his family goes on vacation to Hawaii and leaves him at the chance alone, he's sure that the only thing ahead of him is a week off from school. Instead, he gets what he thinks is a naked ghost in his room--one that just happens to be a cute girl his own age who knows his name and seems to be looking for him. It also just so happens that this girl is not a ghost, but the out-of-body projection of a teenage girl named Ayano who escaped the evil, psychic-cultivating Greenhouse. Thrown together with a quartet of psychic teenagers, Kakeru finds himself caught up in battles with the Farmers, those who work for the Greenhouse, as well as other psychics who have been brainwashed by the evil organization. Will they be able to prevail?
Well, of course they will. Yuya Aoki admits in the afterword that she tried to make this novel as manga-like as possible. So the fact that our main characters will be able to survive multiple battles with gun-wielding adults and mentally unstable psychic teenagers is unsurprising to say the least. Equally expected is that Joi will wake up from his "psychic sleep" and put his premonition to immediate good use, giving a slightly menacing tone to the later chapters. The most obvious development, though, is Kakeru's slow realization of his own power, which is (of course) at a higher level than even Joi's ability to discern parts of the future. Just about every cliché imaginable is present here, and when you can foresee almost all of the plot, it's hard to truly enjoy the read.
Every once in a while, you come across something that is so mediocre that you have to wonder how much effort was put into it. The first volume of Psycho Busters is one of those things that just feels lazy all the way around. As often is the case with teen novels, there is an almost utter lack of characterization; why should anyone need a personality if the author can just make them do whatever they need to push the plot along? Joi is the only one who seems to have a deeper personality, but given that he is asleep for the majority of the book, he could also just end up as another weak character. Good action scenes could have been the novel's saving grace, but Yuya Aoki doesn't even manage to pull that off. The only excuse that I can come up with is that this is intended to be a teen or young reader series. In addition to making this novel very "manga-like," Aoki also says that she wanted to make it easy to read for young readers who don't really care for books. Unfortunately, the clichéd storyline, combined with lackluster packaging and a lack of translation notes, makes this a less than stellar installment in Del Rey's light novel lineup.
Mania Grade: C
Art Rating: N/A
Packaging Rating: C+
Text/Translatin Rating: B-
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Released By: Del Rey
Orientation: Right to Left
Series: Psycho Busters