If you were to have one super power, which would you choose? This question, I feel, is one that continues to be asked long into our lives. It, like many other ice breakers, is a great way to loosen tension between strangers, and learn a little more about the person to which the question is directed.
I, personally, have answered this question more times than I care to remember, and my answer is always the same; I would love to be a Psychic. Since a young age, I’ve always had this strange love affair with Psychic Abilities. There’s just something about the possibility of lifting something with nothing but your mind, or being able to control fire with your thoughts, or being able to understand another persons mentality without any verbal interaction that just deeply interests me.
It’s my longing for this that draws me to certain things. Often, I am unable to control my action when it comes to the opportunity to experience something related to Extrasensory Perception, almost as if I am the recipient of some level of mind control…my own, I suppose. My favorite film: Akira. My favorite video game: Earthbound. My favorite Pokemon: Mewtwo. It’s hard for me to escape this obsession, but the truth behind it is that I simply don’t want to.
When Madman Entertainment offered the opportunity to review this film, Psychic School Wars, I had no choice but to accept. Not knowing what this movie was, I went into it knowing the name alone. Perhaps this helped my experience, but on the reverse side to this coin…perhaps it hindered me. If only I could understand my own thoughts as much as I wish I could understand others. Ironic, isn’t it?
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? – Madman Entertainment
Psychic School Wars definitely took me by surprise with the weight of it’s story. This was not the film I assumed I would be watching. When you read the name Psychic School Wars, you conjure up certain images in your own mind of teens battling with supernatural powers, but the conflict featured in the film was not that of a physical nature, but instead it’s focus was on a series of deep mental crusades with a set of four characters at it’s absolute center.
Whilst science-fiction elements like time-travel and mind-reader were key features to the unfolding of this story, it was not one focused solely on them. It was, instead, a tale of four teens locked in a battle for love, stuffed with intense emotions the likes of which only a confused series of teenage boys and girls could experience. This, as you would imagine, took me by surprise, but it allowed me to experience the film without any pre-conceived expectations. Once me assumptions of what it would be were blown out of the water, I was left but a blank slate for which to build upon, and build upon I did.
Psychic School Wars’ story is heavily reliant on it’s character cast moreso than it is it’s sub plot which involves mind control and the banning of cell phones on school grounds. This, though seemingly a huge aspect of the film, ended up leading towards nothing in the end, overshadowed by the emotions that these four teenagers had developed for each other throughout the film. Perhaps the only downside to a film being lead by purposefully immature characters is that you are forced to deal with their strange decision-making tactics and reactions to situations. Still, all very much on purpose.
While it’s more down-to-earth romantic elements were well fleshed-out and understandable to the smallest degree, it was the film’s attempt at proper science-fiction that lead only to confusion. As the film drew to a close, certain crucial story elements were brought to light that, instead of making things clearer for the audience, proved only to make things more convoluted. Still, this did not take away from the story that had been built up until that point, it simply added extra layers that did not necessarily lead to any form of much-needed payoff. Of it’s two parallels, it was clear which of this film’s focus was the more enjoyable one.
The true star of this film was not that of it’s story, though interesting enough to keep my attention the whole way through, but it’s visual presence which is unlike anything I have ever seen before. Speaking strictly of animation; Psychic School Wars was clearly developed with passion. Searching for mistakes or corner-cutting, I was not able to catch even a glimpse of a quality downgrade throughout the entire film. Every single scene was animated with care, and the way in which these characters moved was delightfully charming, mixing realism with the traditionally wacky Anime-style we’ve all come to know and love. Outside of pure animation, though, it was the film’s environmental design that left me in a state of absolute awe. The detail in every single background image was marvellous, to say the very least, and it’s setting is one that will be forever branded in my mind.
You could watch this film with the sound turned all the way down and still find yourself compelled to continue watching all the way until the end, thanks to the visuals alone. That’s not to say you should though, because doing so will have you miss another key element of this film’s excellence; it’s auditory side. Both it’s English voice cast, and the soundtrack that backs them up are utterly impeccable. The English dub is one to be envied, with all performers bringing the absolute best to their roles by harnessing as much raw emotion as possible, and the soundtrack is wonderfully fantasy-like with it’s light tones and booming orchestral pieces.
Perhaps it is some of the best films that take you by surprise. I, despite my predisposition towards Psychic-based media, experienced this in a way I never thought. Despite it’s heavy supernatural tones, Psychic School Wars came across very much like a story about love and loss, rather than one centred around a desolate future and a hopeful past in collision. I think, though I could be wrong, this was indeed the intention of Director Ryosuke Nakamura. It takes you by surprise, and through it’s tale makes you realise that, perhaps, even if one were to have access to such abilities…what mattered in life would still be very much the same.
Psychic School Wars has a lovely tale to tell, and some interesting lessons to teach, and it is thinly veiled by a name that makes it out to be, well…not of that nature. Of course, as with anything, Psychic School Wars is not a perfect film, not even close. It features a particular few characters that, because of their childish nature, make silly decisions and it is quick to sever the connection between them and the audience. Still, it does not ruin the film, it just makes it somewhat harder to swallow. It’s sub-plot, though interesting, doesn’t necessarily lead us anywhere that we needed to go, it instead walks alongside us periodically catching out attention but ultimately falling short of the true plot.
Regardless of all this, Psychic School Wars is still a fantastic film that shows the reality of love and heartbreak, but promotes the idea that love will always prevail, and that happiness is always just a few good decisions away. It leaves you with a small but sincere smile on your face, and that, I feel, is more powerful than anything else in the world.
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