It has been a while since I have actually written a legitimate book review, but after finishing this series for the second time I couldn’t help myself. Since I have become a school teacher my time spent writing these reviews has regrettably been limited but I have realized that writing my feelings here, even if hardly any one sees them, helps release a lot of tension and pressure I build up everyday. That being said, I would like to commence with my review of the widely popular and in many ways overlooked series written and drawn by Toshiaki Iwashiro.
First serialized in 2007, Psyren is a shonen manga series centering on multiple people transported to a horrific future where the world has been completely destroyed and inhabited by unimaginable monsters. The trick is, they are only transported there when summoned by Nemesis Q who forces them to participate in a “game” meant to discover the reason behind that gruesome future. The story begins when the main character Ageha Yoshina watches an old classmate Sakurako Amamiya disappear before his eyes. Determined to find and save her, he accepts Nemesis Q’s phone card and after finishing a long survey finds himself in the formidable future. As he finds and rescues Sakurako and discovers his unborn PSI abilities that gives him and any who have been exposed to the future earth’s atmosphere awakened powers, he and others become determined to fight and change their formidable future.
I remember reading this series when I was perhaps nineteen. I went through it incredibly fast and was fascinated by Iwashiro-san’s incredible plot and characters. From the beginning, it was impossible to truly grasp what would happen in the story. Even the main character, who many no doubt expected to become an all powerful character like Ichigo from Bleach or Goku from Dragonball Z, was fully aware of his limitations and struggled to become stronger. Did he become the most powerful person in the entire universe? No. Not really. Yes, he became powerful but his power lay in something far more infinite and complex. This was a power born from an intense desire to protect others, especially Sakurako whom he had loved since childhood. Incredibly, they not only were able to prevent the horrible future but ensure that the future they had traveled to so many times, eventually broken off as a different reality, be saved and protected.
Let’s talk about the plot. The question that many of you are probably thinking is “How is Psyren any different than any other manga we have read or seen before?”. To be honest it is difficult to explain that. To put it simply, it is brilliantly clever in its dialogue and execution. Is that cliqued and not a very well supported answer? The plot flows with pristine beauty and flawlessly relays important clues and information without being too vague or obvious. To be honest, the minute you start reading it is likely that you will be hooked until the end. The reason? For me, it kept me asking questions. In my eyes Fullmetal Alchemist is the only manga that surpasses its breadth and depth. I know when I have struck gold when a story grasps me from the beginning and fills me with such joy at its conclusion. This is a story that MEANS something. It reaches into the vast human imagination.
I still haven’t been able to fully understand the characters (which is a good thing). Ageha, though initially your typical hotheaded hero bound and determined to save everyone really stepped beyond his stereotypical role. To put it bluntly, he grew into himself. He held incredible pain yet it didn’t seem to hold him back. Through most of the manga it is never even discussed. It is unclear until the last volume why he was so determined to find and save Sakurako and stay by her side. By the end it is expected that he will be become the most powerful being that saves the world almost single handedly. NOT SO! He doesn’t even kill the man responsible but fulfills the wish of Nemesis Q and saves him from becoming a monster. Sakurako also puzzled me because her personality was so erratic and unfocused till the end. One minute she was cold and calculating, the next she was a bubbly teenager. Her unstable grasp on her emotions was a result of her broken family life and involvement in Psyren but, to my delight, she is able to overcome such pain because of Ageha.
As for the other characters like the strong Hiryū Asaga, who had come to Psyren to save a childhood friend, Oboro Mochizuki, who is just plain crazy, and even Kabuto Kirisaki who overcomes his cowardice by assimilating his fear with his powers they are all genuine and entertaining.
Again, the plot’s execution was nothing short of brilliant. Mysteries slowly unfold and reach toward a future that not only means stopping the mass execution of most of the human race, but also the conversion of those responsible. To me, it means more when villains are shown to be more than mindless evil tyrants. They had a purpose that reached beyond mere greed for power and dominion. Rather, they were human beings deluded by their emotionless warped perception of human existence born from years of torture and seclusion. I empasized with them, however I was still able to acknowledge that their actions were nonetheless twisted and evil. Did that make them irredeemable? The story never truly says. Personally, I think this story shows that scientific experimentation on human beings never goes well. (Especially if you rebuild your laboratory more than once even after the first one had been completely destroyed by a previous patient.) You would think they have learned their lesson by then.
In a way, I am immensely glad that no one has tried to make this series into an anime. I would rather it stay the way it is. . . unless a legitimate company like BONES undertakes its animation. The art was incredibly well done. I wouldn’t expect anything less from a veteran artist like himself. I appreciate good art, though it may seem rather strange to call a Japanese “comic” series incredibly artistic.
I wholeheartedly suggest, especially if you are an anime or mange fan, to read this story. I believe it is a masterpiece. Will people disagree with me? Probably. I have my own personal standards and ways of determining artistic genius. These are extended, but not limited to, books like Les Miserable, movies like Nosferatu and even obscure Japanese manga like Psyren. It is my belief that in finding these beautiful masterpieces we are able to come closer to understanding the power behind inborn human genius and creativity.
Sakurako: Thank You.
Ageha: What for?
Sakurako: Thank you for being with me when I need help.
Ageha: I remember when we were in grade school. Mum died and you were with me when I was down. Consoling me always. It was you who chose to stay with me.
Thinking about this, I have actually loved you since then. But somehow I forgot the feeling. . . I . . . I started fighting others everyday and changed so much, before I met you again. Then that day when I chased after you after I heard you say “help” when you went away. . . and came to know psyren. . . I think I finally realized how I feel now. I loved and still love you. So let me protect you, Amamiya! You happened to be down now and its my turn to cheer you up!
Sakurako: . . . Yes.
Ageha narration: Since we connected at the hands Amamiya’s emotions were conveyed directly. . . . Amamiya kept crying. . . and I stayed with her still holding her hand. We said not a word more. . . we know our feelings.