Psychic Academy Vol. #1 (W/Vol. #9 Manga) - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B-

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Info:

  • 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

Psychic Academy Vol. #1 (W/Vol. #9 Manga)

By Chris Beveridge     August 30, 2005
Release Date: September 13, 2005


Psychic Academy Vol. #1 (W/Vol. #9 Manga)
© TOKYOPOP


What They Say
The Psychic Academy anime was an online anime debuted on Lycos Japan, and each episode has a duration about 10 minutes. This series is noted for being one of the first anime to be released straight to the Internet.

Limited Edition Bundle that includes volume 9 of the Psychic Academy Manga and volume 1 of the never-before-released anime on DVD.

The Review!
Classified as a psychic and sent to the government built school just for such students, Ai Shiomi reunites with a childhood love and a potentially new teenage love.

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 first two "blocks" of episodes which has the first 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 acting as sexy and almost out of character as they can. 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 ninth 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)
The release of Psychic Academy is something of an odd duck for a number of reasons listed above. The lack of a dub, the packaging with a late (and lateste) volume of the manga – the ninth volume of an eleven volume series and the general quiet nature of it all point to something that's just not expected to really do much of anything. The forced-locked subtitles add an additional bit of discomfort to the entire thing as well and while the overall production of the disc is good it really feels like something that TOKYOPOP either didn't really want to do or was unsure how to handle.

The premise of Psychic Academy in the anime is fairly straightforward and goes along a lot of the norms of a romantic comedy set in school with the addition of powered up characters. We're introduced to teenage Ai Shiomi, a young man who has just been transferred to a new school because during a medical check-up during the previous month he was re-classified from a normal human being to someone possessing psychic abilitites, or aura. And not just any old bit of power but supposedly a monstrously high level of it. This is all a surprise to him and he thinks it’s a mistake since he hasn't exhibited any sign of these powers or felt anything related to it.

His parents are good at manipulating him though as they remind him that his childhood friend Orina is attending that school and "she's surely all grown up now" which just works his mind over several ways. He's caught up in these thoughts while rushing there but gets distracted when of all things a baby crawls out of a balcony window and starts falling to the ground. He's amazed as he tries to rush to help that he sees a girl he saw earlier in similar school clothes do a fantastic leap in the air and save the baby, unaware that as he rushed in to help that he had activated his own powers and slowed down the baby's descent. The young woman continues to be standoffish with him but he finds the school ID she dropped and uses it to find her later and return it, knowing her name now is Mew.

Shiomi's school life gets off to a very strange start when he does get there as the first person he truly encounters is a supposedly hyper-violent pink rabbit sporting a green vest that talks to him telepathically but nobody else. Boo has taken to Shiomi due to his power level and is intending to instruct him properly so Shiomi calls him master. Boo then pretty sticks to Shiomi like glue which surprises most of the other students since they only know the rabbit as pure violence. The school side of the show figures in like any other and there aren't too many surprises even with the powers brought into play. Shiomi's got a reputation going for him right from the start due to the rabbit but also because his brother, a famous psychic user, is also a teacher there.

The love triangle aspect is where most of the fun comes in for the most part and it mixes in with the studies and exams. Orina's turned out to be every bit as pretty as he imagined while Mew turns in some surprising changes with the arrival of Shiomi by attending classes that she was skipping and now trying to catch up on her studies. She's still got that rebellious attitude and look but there's something about him that draws her out. Orina sees the competition especially since she's a roommate with Mew and there are some amusing things that happen from that situation. But there's still nothing really radically new or different here that hasn't been seen in a number of other similarly themed series.

The visuals for the show are what's off-putting for a good part of this. It just feels to blatantly and completely digital and not in a good way that it's almost comical. A lot of the time the way scenes look it's like they came out of some of the early adult anime releases with how the designs look or the level of animation. What struck me even worse with this show is just how puffy the girls breasts look in their clothes with the way they designed them. It's like they're beanbags with how many times they're groped or abused or simply look with the school uniforms. It's almost like the show wanted to be an adult series at a couple of turns and then remembered where its audience really was.

In Summary:
Psychic Academy is one of those series that's not bad but is just sort of there. It has a few fun ideas but is held down in the clichés of the genre that it falls within and doesn't really get beyond there. This release is definitely a paired down fan-only kind of thing with a few flaws to it but is overall a huge savings over the $200 it would cost to import the entire series. I really dislike the locked subtitles which is the only thing I'll really consider an out and out flaw in its design. The show has a very near-hentai feel at times before swinging back in the other direction, particularly with the overly bright digital designs. This is a show that's going to fly low under a lot of people's noses for a number of reasons, especially since as of this writing it's not even listed at most retailers. For fans of the anime it's an easy thing to check out and recommended, but for casual fans, your mileage may vary.

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.

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