Director: Ryousuke Nakamura
Release Date: November 10, 2012
Genre: Sci-fi, Romance, Drama
Goddamn... didn't see that coming...
Nerawareta Gakuen, or Psychic School Wars as it's called in English, is an anime film from Sunrise directed by Ryousuke Nakamura, and based on the 1973 novel of the same name by Taku Mayumura. This isn't the first time the novel has been adapted for motion pictures, though, as it's also been made into two live-action films and four live-action TV dramas. The anime first premiered at Scotland Loves Anime on October 19, 2012, but was officially released on Noevember 10.
Now, I can't say I've read the novel or watched any of the live action adaptations, nor have I even heard of them, so I can't say if they were better or worse than the anime. When I saw the trailer, I thought it looked alright, like your typical romance anime with sci-fi elements. From the previews it certainly looked gorgeous, similar to a Matoko Shinkai film, like 5 Centimeters per Second, Children who Chase Lost Voices, or even recently The Garden of Words (Kotonoha no Niwa). So last night I gave it a watch, with reasonable expectations...
... What I got was probably one of the worst anime films I've seen in recent years. A movie so bad that I couldn't even go to sleep that night, because my anger was keeping me up and I had to watch something better. Seriously, I didn't expect this movie to piss me off as much as it did. I can barely put into words as to why I hate it so much, so I'll try my best to keep this review comprehensible, but I make no promises. But I can promise that weather or not you can understand this review or not, it would still probably make more sense than this film.
So the story, from what I could gather, revolves around mainly four characters. Ryouichi Kyougoku, a mysterious time traveling psychic from the future where the world ended in the future and humanity settled on the moon, and transfers into the 8th grade and quickly becomes popular among the students. Kyougoku's mission from his father is to take over the school and awaken as much psychics in the present. Then there's Kenji Seki, a seemingly ordinary middle school student who has a hidden psychic ability. His neighbor and childhood friend, Natsuki Ryouura. And Kahori Harukawa, a member of the student council. As the movie progresses, you find out that Natsuki (obviously) has a crush on Kenji, and Kahori (quickly) develops feeling for Kyougoku.
The first third of this movie is just downright boring. I found my attention wandering throughout most of it. The anime jumps all over the place, and it feels like it skips a couple of scenes. It makes it difficult to properly follow, to the point where you can't become invested in what's going on. Maybe for those who bother to look deep enough may find something, and if you do, congratulations, you gave more of a fuck than I did (don't take that as an insult, by the way.)
As the movie progresses, however, it becomes a huge mess of pretty visuals, convoluted story telling, inconsistencies, odd pacing, a stupid, confusing ending that raises several questions and issues, and a strange, intense hatred towards cell phones. I was almost mesmerised by the thing, because I couldn't believe what I was watching. The movie's just all over the goddamn place. I don't know how different or close this is to the original novel. Maybe the novel explains some of the plot holes and clear up some of the confusion, but having to read the novel in order to fully understand the movie is not a good sign of a good adaptation, or a good movie for that matter.
If I'm gonna give this anime any credit, it's that it looks stunning. Like I said, not that different from a Matoko Shinkai film other than the character designs. But with that said... there was few things that bothered me, like Natsuki's physics defying gymnastic stunts.
I can't really say anything else about the visuals. Maybe some will get more enjoyment out of it because of how pretty it is. At least the animators did their job.
Not a lot to fault the anime here, either. The voice work does a fine job, after all you have Daisuke Ono and Kana Hanazawa as part of your main cast, as well as AKB48 member Mayu Watanabe who does a decent job. The music is fine, and you got Supercell doing the main theme. So yeah, not much to complain about, or even talk about, so with that said, let's bitch about the terrible characters, shall we?
Kyougoku is probably the only character that has any resemblance of depth here, as he's the only character that has a complete backstory and motivation, but you can essentially sum him up as being your mysterious transfer student, as well as, and I kinda hesitate to say this, a Kaworu clone. Sorry, but there isn't really any other way of describing him, as there's nothing really interesting about him personality wise.
I started out hating Natsuki, and I still do. I get tsunderes, and I like a lot of them, but sometimes too much is too much, and while Natsuki clearly seems like a nice, cheery person, the amount of abuse she inflicts on Kenji is staggering. Literally when she first pops up she verbally ridicules him, call him a pervert for simply liking a girl, and, I'm being serious here, reports him to the police, all in under a minute. Throughout the whole film she beats the living crap out of him and ridicules him for little to no reason, never giving the guy a break, as well as doing the typical "You don't understand!" and running off without giving any context. I get that she likes him and I guess that's her way of showing she cares, but I seriously wanted her to lay off him for at least 10 seconds. That is until later when I was actually rooting for her to beat the crap out of Kenji.
Simply put, Kenji is one of the dumbest anime leads I've seen in a long while. I just can't believe half the stuff that comes out of his mouth. There was a point where I seriously wanted to smack him across the head because he reacted so stupidly. He's not even charming in how dumb he is. You can have a stupid character if you at least give him some charm, but there is none if that with Kenji, he's just a grade-A idiot with the density of a brick.
As for Kahora, I have about as much to say about her as the movie did. Other than to add a second romance subplot, she serves absolutely no purpose. She barely ties into anything in the story, when she's not being shoehorned into scenes. Even her romance between her and Kyougoku is completely one-sided. She does nothing. You can probably take her out of the movie completely and nothing would've changed. Even her backstory is only briefly (and I mean briefly) glanced over, and it never amounts to anything or tie into anything that is going on. There is no reason for her to be here, and it's not like her character was all that interesting, either.
The rest of the cast isn't any better. There's a girl that Kyougoku recruits and turns into a psychic who apparently flunked a year and was attempting suicide, but that's about all we get out of that character. The movie also has probably the worst and most insane student councils I've seen in an anime. I wasn't kidding when I said that this anime hates cell phones, as the student council seems to go to great lengths to ban cellphones completely. I know that cell phones are usually prohibited in school, but these guys take that to the fucking extreme, even carting teachers for bringing cell phones. It gets to the point that towards the end they hold an entire courtroom scene because Natsuki accidentally brings her phone to school after being absent for a couple of days. The whole cell phone thing doesn't even mean anything and is completely unnecessary, other than for the psychics to make a connection to telepathy, which we never see them do. At all. Really, Psychic School Wars is a bit of an overstatement.
I've never been this mad watching an anime since Penguindrum. I rarely ever do. There were points where I wanted to stop watching, but I told myself that if I could sit through 24 episodes of trite pseudo-intellectual dialogue, over-repeated segments, and child broilers, then I can sit through this 100 minute film. I thought at the very least I would've just found it mediocre and forgettable. I can say that I'm not gonna forget it anytime soon, that's for sure. I guess if you're looking for pretty visuals and nice music, then by all means give it a go, maybe you'll get more enjoyment out of it than me. The general consensus seems to be mixed, but I'd say just watch some of Matoko Shinkai's stuff instead. You'd get just as much visual eye candy, and probably a better story and characters. Hell, go watch The Garden of Words, instead. While it's by no means a great movie, that 40 minute film is still better than this travesty.