Psyren, Vol. 8

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

No, I haven’t really skipped Vols. 2-7. Psyren simply lends itself well to the brief, one-paragraph reviews I do for Manga Bookshelf every week, and I’ve covered them all over there. Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan is a similar title. They’re both what I call ‘mid-range’ Jump titles. They’re not huge, breakout hits, and they tended to linger at the bottom of the table of contents when they were still running. But they fill the magazine, and they provide a good helping of ‘Friendship, Training and Victory’, Jump’s motto. The slow economy means we don’t see as many of these types over here now – Viz tends to wait for breakout hits, like Toriko and Bakuman, or more recently Nisekoi. But all this is not to call Psyren generic shonen. It has its very good points.


When we last left our heroes, they were back in the Psyren world, which is not particularly one of those good points. I find Ageha and company’s quest to discover the truth about their powers and trying to change history far more interesting when they’re back among the kids of Elmore Wood and their former Psyren mentors. I’m not sure the author agrees with me, but at least this time round we get a little bit more than just desolate wastelands and explosions of power. The attempts to change history are finally WORKING, and even though everything still goes to hell, this time Ageha and company have a few more allies to choose from.

If you take time to look at what’s going on in this volume, you’ll end up with the feeling that you’re being emotionally manipulated. Which, well, is what authors do. Almost every scene in this volume is there to make you squee with joy, or tug at your heartstringas, or laugh out loud (only a couple of times there – this is, for the most part, a serious series). You feel for our heroes when the bad guys take them apart (including ripping off Ageha’s foot, which looks appropriately gross), and grin when the cavalry arrives to rescue them and kick the villain’s asses. (The cover spoils the cavalry’s appearance a bit, but hey.) And the flashback describing the destruction of the world, as well as the death of many of the more adult Psyren charact4ers, is really depressing.

So, I hate the Psyren world, but I’m not alone. The reader really wants Ageha to change things so that this ISN’T the future they have to deal with. Unfortunately, I have a feeling that to do that, we’ll need to be here a while, but hey, there are checks and balances. By the way, if you have friends who read superhero comics and want to see what this manga thing is all about, Psyren would be a very good entry point for them, as it’s basically kids with superpowers they don’t quite now how to control battling a mysterious organization. There’s a little Teen Titans theme going with the Elmore Wood kids. And hey, one of the women in this volume even wears a hilariously awful fanservicey outfit which emphasizes her huge chest, even though she’s canonically shy and modest. What’s more superhero comics than that?

Psyren is not a Jump title you obsess over like Bleach or One Piece. You will forget about the series a few hours after you read the new volume. But that volume will please and entertain you, and gives you good shonen vitamins and minerals. Sticks to the ribs in your quest to stave off a hunger for more manga. Check it out.

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.