Psyren, Vol. 1

By Toshiaki Iwashiro. Released in Japan by Shueisha, serialized in the magazine Weekly Shonen Jump. Released in North America by Viz.

When it comes to weekly manga publication, there are several things we have to face up to. First of all, the editor of Weekly Shonen Jump has to get 18 series out every week. And they can’t all be One Piece. Sometimes you get super blockbuster hits, and sometimes you get those ‘workhorse’ series. Secondly, when Viz is looking for Jump series to license, they may see a series that’s 19 volumes and still running and think “Will this be profitable enough to risk it never ending like One Piece or Naruto?” Much easier to take a chance on a medium-length series, 16 volumes or so, that’s already over.

And so enter Psyren, a perfectly serviceable Jump series that I suspect is not going to gain much of a following simply as its first volume, like many Jump series, is pretty damn average. Of course, One Piece 1 was pretty mediocre as well, but it was already a huge phenomenon by the time most folks here read it. No one is telling Psyren readers, “Just wait it gets so much better later.” Indeed, it may not, I’ve no idea. But if this series is like most other Jump series, I suspect that it is a slow builder.

So, Psyren! Let’s see, we have the guy on the cover, who is our hero, Ageha. (No, he doesn’t sew designer accessories, wrong series.) Ageha is fairly cocky, likes to hit things, helps out cute young girls… he’s a very likeable teenage hero. He happens across a rather beaten and stoic classmate, Sakurako, who flips out when he returns her wallet that had been stolen and notes a red phone card in it saying Psyren. Mysterious card… damsel in distress… time for Ageha to jump to the rescue! Especially once he gets a phone card of his own.

Psyren’s predictability is both its strength and its weakness. You know to a certain degree what to expect, so the book moves fast and the plot sets up nicely. Naturally Ageha will never turn his back on someone in need, even a stranger he barely knows, and his stubborn desires impress his new soon-to-be friends. On the downside, there’s nothing that leaps out and makes you want to read Volume 2. It’s a fun read, but if the series was cancelled after this volume, most readers would simply never notice.

The setting is a desolate wasteland, so naturally there’s lots of room for battling huge ugly monsters, another Jump staple. These battles also seem to involve psychic powers, or at least they do for everyone but our hero, who I’ve no doubt will be unlocking his true abilities soon. And yes, the heroine does get a nosebleed after using her powers. It’s not just Marvel Comics doing that cliche. If there is one surprise in the volume, it’s the cliffhanger, which makes a refreshing change from the ‘we’re on an alien planet’ or ‘we’re in another dimension’ that I was expecting.

So the question is, is it worth getting volume 2 in hopes the series takes it up a notch? Not sure. But I don’t think you’ll have wasted your money if you get Vol. 1. Psyren is a perfectly normal manga series, which unfortunately may not have enough hooks to make folks come back for more.

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  1. Well, I don’t know where you get “no one is telling Psyren readers just wait and it will get better”, because I certainly have been, and I know many others who have read it in Japanese or in scanlations who are, too! XD Sure it doesn’t have a huge English-language fanbase, but there are fans out there who have been talking about it.

    I admit it is a slow starter. I was not impressed by the summary and would never have picked it up if the group I was working with hadn’t asked me to translate it. But I did start translating it, and went back and read it from the beginning, and it turned out to be awesome! Like many Jump series (and many manga series in general), the original plot expands into something much more, and not really all that related to the original premise (or at least what the original premise seemed to be).


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