Psycome: A Murderer and the Deadly Love Affair

By Mizuki Mizushiro and Namanie. Released in Japan by Enterbrain. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Nicole Wilder.

The final volume of Psycome features something that previous volumes had been trying rather hard to avoid. For a series that starred a school full of teenage murderers, and innumerable theoretical murder attempts, there were very few actual murders among the cast members. That changes here, and while it’s not much of a spoiler to say that the main cast we’ve grown most familiar with are pretty safe, several of the antagonists we met in the athletic festival book meet a rather grisly end. It’s a good reminder of the basic premise of the series, something that Kyousuke and Ayaka need to accept: they are not here for the same reason as everyone else. They are not murderers. Nor is Eiri, our failed assassin, though she comes pretty close here. The rest of the students are, even Maina, whose murders may be accidental but they definitely exist. Kyousuke and Ayaka don’t belong here. And so we get the premise of this final volume, where they’re offered a battle in order to leave the school – get to the other end of the grounds while trying not to get killed.

We do finally meet Kyousuke and Ayaka’s parents in this volume. Honestly, they’re sort of exactly what I was expecting. I was more uncomfortable with the fact that they’re basically an older Kyousuke and Ayaka, only as husband and wife – Ayaka and Kyousuke’s brother/sister complexes have not been my favorite source of humor in this series, thank you very much. (Fortunately, by the end of the book, Ayaka at least seems to be moving on a bit.) Most of Kyousuke’s main “harem” is there to help him escape, even ones who seemingly are on the side of the school, like Shamaya, who is as foul-mouthed as ever. Maina’s big moment may seem a bit out of character, frankly, but it was nicely dramatic, though I wanted to see the fight itself. And then there’s Renko, who Kyousuke admits that he loves, and she loves him – but she wants to kill him, and he doesn’t love her enough that he’ll let her do this.

In the end, though, the winning girl is unsurprising, given Renko’s origins and basic personality. Eiri is a type, but it’s a good example of the type, and she’s grown up a bit in this series too – despite all of the yawning and tch-ing she does in this book, possibly a new record for her, she’s now able to admit her feelings, get her man, and also start a career as a supermodel almost without effort. Good for her. (I am less fond of the implied love between Kurumiya and Mohawk, which manages to combine about four different types of love affairs that make me uncomfortable. That said, it’s always been played for broad comedy, so even its “dramatic” ending made me laugh a bit.)

Sadly for fans who are always desperate for sex in their light novels, the book ends just before Kyousuke and Eiri consummate their love, though it’s implied. There’s also an implied observer of their covert love affair at the end, who the author admits might be Renko if readers want. Insert threesome fanfic here, I guess. There’s also a volume of short stories mentioned by the author that’s also coming out, though I suspect that may be in Japan only.

Psycome was always a surprise light novel license because it lacked other tie-ins – there’s no manga adaptation that I know of, and it never got an anime. Give the sheer amount of brutal, mostly comedic but sometimes serious violence scattered throughout the book, I can’t be surprised it stayed as a book series. But I’m pleased Yen picked it up. It grew on me book by book and I really came to enjoy the cast and their situation. The plot of this book echoes my point of view – it’s time to end it, but… it’s been really fun, hasn’t it?

Psycome: Murder Machine and the Catastrophic Athletic Festival

By Mizuki Mizushiro and Namanie. Released in Japan by Enterbrain. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Nicole Wilder.

Given the nature of a series like this, which not only revels in its cliches but tries to top them, a volume devoted to a school athletics festival was almost as likely as one devoted to a culture festival (that should be Vol. 6). And for all I said Phycome would never be great in my last review, it comes damn close here, as the descriptions of the bloody, murderous giant melee battles in this book are so much fun I found myself grinning much of the time. Each scene tries to act as either a topper for the previous one or a showcase for the main character’s foibles. The volume is not perfect (the epilogue and ‘continuing chapter’ feel very tacked on and slightly OOC), but for those who want Psycome in its purest form, this is the one to buy.

Maina is on the cover, and gets probably about the most spotlight she’s ever going to here, as she proves once more to be a force of absolute accidental destruction. That said, she’s also grown slightly as a character, and it’s her determination that impresses here, as even the rest of the class admits. Her run during the relay race was a pump your fist moment. As for the others, Ayaka’s yandere sister side is in full force for those who like that (I do not), and there’s a third year DJ/murderer who seems to serve the role of Lee Jordan here, offering commentary and snark over the microphone. Eiri doesn’t have as much to do after getting the spotlight last time, but I will admit that Shamaya chasing her around the field with a giant vibrator may be peak Psycome. Unless it’s Kurumiya forcing herself to talk adorably in a goth loli outfit because she will do anything to win. One of those two.

The real development here, though, is with Renko. Her mother’s arrival forces her to choose between her loyalty to her and her love for Kyousuke, and it’s not as easy a decision as it sounds, given that Renko was literally bred to be an assassin. The battle with the two of them vs. her brother Renji is the action highlight of the volume, even though (as has happened before) Kyousuke’s super endurance seems utterly ludicrous. (We get more hints that his parents “trained” him, and they may show up next time.) And Kyousuke finally is able to resolve his feelings (Eiri is conveniently unconscious when this occurs, and don’t think I didn’t notice that), though the revelation about Renko and Renji’s true nature may put a kibosh on that one.

We’ve only got one more volume left, and I suspect it will be busy wrapping up all the loose ends that have collected. Therefore this may have been the last time we’ll see balls-to-the-wall comedic anarchy from Psycome, which has frequently tried to be over the top gonzo insane but has never quite hit it. It hits it several times here, and that’s why this was the most enjoyable volume to date.

Psycome: Murder Anniversary and the Reverse Memorial

By Mizuki Mizushiro and Namanie. Released in Japan by Enterbrain. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Nicole Wilder.

It is somewhat odd that I feel reassured at Psycome’s lack of ambition. At heart, this is meant to be a broad comedy, and as such it can’t give in too much to its premise. Despite having an innocent man in a prison devoted to making teen murderers into assassins, despite befriending a truly insane timebomb of a gas-mask wearing girl, despite finding out that your little sister seems to be genuinely disturbed… despite all that, the tone of this series has been light. Everything skews towards the cliche, towards the trope, towards the predictable. And yet you don’t really mind, because despite its flaws it’s sort of fun. That especially holds true for the 4th book, where we meet Eiri’s family and find they are a machine-gun nest of cliches.

Eiri herself is already quite the cliche, ticking off all the tsundere boxes very neatly. In case you think that she earned marks good enough to be able to leave the school, save your breath: she came in second to last, beaten only by the mohawk guy who spent the midterms in the nurse’s office. But her family have called for her, and so she must go. They’ve also asked for Kyousuke, which she finds disturbing. As for Ayaka and Renko, their grades WERE good enough to let them go outside for the reward, so they come along as well, because leaving Kyousuke and Eiri alone together is unthinkable. (Sorry, Maina, you’re just not important enough, though you do get the cover of the next book.) So everyone’s off to visit Eiri’s palatial home, which has the inscrutable mother, the little sister whose love for her sibling has turned to hatred, and the big brother who is creepy and a bit of a pervert. Oh yes, and murderous twin 9-year-olds, one male, one female, who are at least not named Hansel and Gretel. Eiri’s been called back home to try to solve the big problem: her inability to kill.

The climax of this volume is actually a giant anticlimax – by design, to be fair – and so most of the meat is devoted to the relationship between Eiri and her younger sister, Kagura. The moment you see Kagura and she attacks Eiri, you can see the entirety of her plotline laid out from end to end, and sure enough it’s all there – the hero worship, the frustration at being second best, the anger at being second best to an assassin who can’t kill. And of course the buried love she still has for her sister, which ends up coming out even after Eiri refuses to kill an innocent child to prove herself. The point of this book is to get Eiri – and by extension her family – to admit that it’s not that she can’t kill but that she doesn’t want to – that she finds it wrong. This is tied into the murder of her father as a child – Eiri felt the agony of her father’s death and her subsequent grieving, and even though she wants revenge, every time she made the attempt she though of others going through that and stopped. It’s good character development. Honestly, it’s more earned than the “I guess I do love you” tacked on at the end, which seems designed to keep things on a more even keel romance-wise – Kyousuke having spent much of the volume wondering if he really does love Renko.

Psycome is never going to be “really good”, but it’s still reasonably funny, and I like many of the characters. And we keep getting hints of the endgame plot, which I suspect will happen in the final volume. Recommended if you don’t mind cliches.