Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Ground Control to Psychoelectric Girl Review


I'm going to admit something, guys. I have yet to complete a series that has been directed by Akiyuki Shinbo. I've seen a little of Nisekoi and Mekaku City Actors, but I dropped both after a couple episodes. And I don't even want to go anywhere near the Monogatari franchise, mostly because I've seen the debates for that series and it can get rather heated. However, I can't avoid Shinbo forever. So, let's talk about one that's been on my list for a very long time....

Ground Control to Psychoelectric Girl is a 12 episode SciFi/Comedy based on the light novel by Hitoma Iruma and published by ASCII Media Works. A manga adaptation was also written by Iruma and published by Media Works from 2010 to 2013. The anime series from Studio Shaft and director Akiyuki Shinbo aired during the Spring 2011 season. As of this review, the series is licensed by NIS America and is available for legal streaming in the US thanks to Hulu.

Makoto Niwa is a high school boy who, since his parents are away on business, lives with his aunt’s family. It is there he meets his mysterious cousin of the same age Erio Touwa—who happens to tie a futon around her upper body and is a self-proclaimed alien. Her staple food is pizza. Erio had been missing for half a year and was found floating in the sea. She doesn't remember anything about what happened during that period of time, but she began to think that it was the act of an alien and wanders the neighborhood wrapped in the futon. 
  
Shaft has actually grown in popularity as a studio in recent years. This is mostly because of the Monogatari franchise, but more so because of Madoka Magica. However, the studio has also produced series like Saynoara Zetsubo Sensei. You can see with these three series, alone, the different styles that Shaft has taken on over the years. What Psychoelectric Girl decides to go for is fairly similar to the Monogatari franchise as well as other Shinbo series. This isn’t a terrible thing, if that’s what you’re wondering. Shaft has a certain animation style that we’ve all become used to, by now, with Shinbo’s being rather prominent since he is, basically, Studio Shaft itself with all of his work coming from just that studio. It’s kind of like how Satoshi Kon only made his work with MadHouse. Psychoelectric Girl uses lighting and shadow to it’s advantage along with the use of color. With these three elements in mind, this makes the series stand out a bit in terms of animation. The soundtrack is, honestly, rather forgettable. It has some easy listening tracks to it, but nothing really noteworthy outside of the rather random opening theme.
I think now is the time to say that watching this series was really hard. Partly because my personal life has been a little crazy recently, but more so because I had an extremely hard time getting into the show. The reason for this, I believe, is due to the story and the characters. With the story, it does have a strong start with Niwa trying to get his cousin to stop with the whole being an alien thing and to rejoin society. However, once he manages to accomplish this, that story line is pretty much kicked to the curb with more of a romance/slice of life story taking it’s place. Hell, it comes pretty close to a harem on occasion. And then, once we reach the final few episodes, we get a little bit of that alien plot line back, but not from Erio. And then the final arc is kind of a mess, in my opinion. What attracted me to this series was Erio and her belief that she is, indeed, an alien. But when you take the one thing that gave the series it’s charm and then give it a time out for the majority of the series, it doesn’t make it as good anymore. I’d be fine with the change if what it was replaced with was better than what I had previously seen. Romance can be a decent direction to go, when it’s done well, but that story line along with other plot points in the middle part of the series took away what the show really could have been, making it much more difficult for me to sit down and get through. However, like I said, the story isn’t the only drawback of the series.

This cast of characters left me with some mixed feelings, because either they were set aside or they were the focus for much longer than I would have liked. Again, this basically goes back to how I felt about the story. Our leading man, Niwa isn’t the worst lead character I’ve seen, but he isn’t all that outstanding either. For the majority of the series, he just lives out his teen years while trying to rack up as many “adolescence points” as possible. He does have a hand in bringing Erio back to society as a normal human being and he’s also some kind of magnet for the strange. His character is pretty straight forward throughout the entire series. He gets some slight development in the final third, however it ends up making everything go back to normal in the end and he didn’t real learn a whole lot from the experience. Meanwhile, Erio is my favorite character in the series that, like the main story, was pushed to the side. An odd ball girl, Erio is one of those characters that I really wish had more focus. This series is supposed to be more about her instead of the every day life of a high school boy who happens to have an odd family. As for Meme, Ryuko, and Maekawa I feel like they are either hair pulling annoying or just moderately amusing….. With Maekawa being the only moderately amusing one. Again, the characters have a different focus than what I was expecting, making the development rather different. However, what we do end up getting is well done, given the circumstance. Though, props to Niwa for not giving in to his crazy aunt Meme.

The Japanese language track for this is also a mix of hair pulling annoying and moderately amusing. In the case of the former, Emiri Kato’s (Baka and Test, Soul Eater) Ryuko is among the most troubling. Although some of the comedic moments of her performance worked, otherwise I think I could have done without the near bleeding of my ears every once in a while. Ai Nonaka’s (Madoka Magica, Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei) Meme seemed a little young sounding for a woman who’s supposed to be 40 years old, but this is anime. I won’t go too critical with that. Mai Fuchigami’s (Cross Ange, Sakura Trick) Maekawa was right in line with how I expected the character to sound and was one of my favorite performances. As for Miyu Irino (Captain Earth, Kamigami no Asobi) and Asuka Ogame’s (Photo Kano, Vividred Operation) Niwa and Erio, both gave solid performances despite the struggle with the story.

I really wanted to like this series. Honestly, I did. But, considering the instant shelving of the main plot after a few episodes, alongside some rather annoying characters, I just don’t know how to feel about this series. I guess you can say I’m caught in the middle. It has moments where it shines and grabs my attention, and yet it also has moments where I am bored and annoyed. My suggestion is to watch the first five episodes, or so, so you can see that change in story and decide for yourself whether to continue or set it aside. Though, I do feel that all Shinbo fans will strongly enjoy this series regardless. I’m just sad to say, I’m not one of those people. 

Next time, Christmas will be upon us. And so will letters from our loved ones. Until then, otaku on my friends!

Final Grade: 6/10 Erio isn’t the only thing alien about this series…

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