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Mar 19

Movie March – Psychic School Wars

Wear trunks, enter God mode

Y’all know the Movie March drill by now. So lets talk about Nerawareta Gakuen, or Psychic School Wars to use a far more memorable and enticing name. Coming from Sunrise, a studio who’ve done a few anime series over the years, it’s based off a now over 40 year old book. Its had a bunch of live action adaptations in the past but this is the first time its been brought to life in animated form. A classic in the making then, or something better consigned to the history books?

Well, the first thing to get out the way is that this is damn pretty. For those who saw me rave on about Garden of Words last week, this certainly gives it, and Shinkai’s work in general, a run for their money. As I said then, this stuff looks better in motion, but still, take a look.

The film uses different artstyles for memory sequences but they’re still just as beautiful

The visuals really do elevate the experience here and you can feel the love put into the fluid animation. But of course, they are only one small part of a production (although undoubtedly more crucial in anime than most mediums), so lets talk about the story, which is where things start to unravel.

For the main, it revolves around four key characters. We have Kenji Seki, our lead guy who fulfils the passionate but dumb male lead role to a tee, his room filled with various machinations and his love for his dog and friends clear, even if he’s too blind to spot those whom hold him dearly. There’s Natsuki, an athletic girl who fits the tsundere box to a tee, who has a totally not obvious crush on her lifelong neighbour and friend “Ken-chan”.

Then there’s the other pairing of Kahori Harukawa, a fairly shy but talented girl who surfs and plays the piano, and because love is dumb is totally oblivious to Ken’s crush on her. Finally, the guy who instigates the events of the movie, our mysterious transfer student Kyogoku Ryoichi, the epitome of the calm and cool transfer student trope you regularly see in anime (I hate Haruhi for pointing this out to me), and these two slowly fall in love as the movie progresses. D’aaawwww.

Except “progresses” feels like the wrong word to use. That would imply that the movie has good pacing, or on a more fundamental level, that you understand what’s going on. At all. This film will end and odds are you’ll still have dozens of questions on your mind. It’s not that its badly written, its more… things happen, and you don’t know why. What’s there is good, but its incomplete.

Trying to explain the plot… well, our transfer student has actually transferred in from a future where humanity is forced to live on the Moon after some unexplained catastrophe strikes Earth. As such, he and his animal associate try to awaken the latent psychic powers that lie dormant in the current time so they can throw away cell phones and embrace the superior means of communication to stop people being lonely! Maybe. Honestly that entire plot seems more background noise compared to the love stories the film is trying to tell, with you jumping in at points having seemingly missed large chunks.

The school student council, whom the film also tries to flesh out but doesn’t do a brilliant job of, are slowly converted and there’s some implication that the psychic way is evil but when all they’re doing is confiscating cell phones for no meaningful reason when their end goal is to save the future… or the present… or the past… see, now I’m lost, and I’ve already seen the thing.

This sounds like the start of a terrible joke…

What this also means is that there aren’t any Psychic School Wars. It teases you with conflict and then lets friendship conquer all. In those terms, the film actually does a really good job with its four main cast, making their interactions meaningful and heartfelt as the world around them seemingly goes mad.

Elsewhere there’s some really nice musical pieces and background noise, including a charming and sombre piece by supercell, as well as a surprise appearance by a lovely classical piece that I now finally know the name to.

To surmise then, this isn’t a film to watch if you’re of the thinking persuasion. It creates a vivid and interesting world but then pushes you in without ever really going into depth of the reasons behind what’s happening. They just do, and while they look damn pretty in the process, it lacks the coherence that the more simplistic Shinaki equivalents utilise to their full potential. But if you can switch off and enjoy the spectacle, then there’s plenty to enjoy here from beginning to bittersweet end.

Oh yeah, expect a tour de force of philosophical quotes

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I haven’t written so much so often in forever. Got a request of a movie you’d like to see featured? Or maybe you want to write an article yourself? Then get in with touch with myself, Reaf or one of the committee. Or you could tweet us, or write on the Facebook, or post on the forums! Otherwise its Sean having free reign and I’ve just spotted the Chuunibyou movie which is going to be 2 hours of squeeing…