Reviewby Casey Brienza, Apr 4th 2009
Psychic Power Nanaki
GN 1-3 (Complete Series)
Ever since he was knocked unconscious on the street by a careless driver, things have had the strangest tendency to blow up around high school student Nanaki. The appearance of a stoic boy with long hair named Ao Kudo resolves the mystery: Nanaki is a psychic whose powers have been awakened by trauma! The revelation, though, is just the beginning. If Nanaki wants to continue his life on the outside, as it were, he is going to have to join LOCK, a shadow law enforcement organization that employs psychics in order to deal with supernatural phenomena. His partner in the organization is to be the reluctant Ao, of course. Poltergeists, witches, and vampires lie in Nanaki's future. Does he have the gumption to face it all?
It is generally accepted, at least among Westerners, that stories should have a well-defined beginning, middle, and end. Perhaps this is why trilogies are so popular in the United States, particularly in genre fiction. In Japan, however, sets of three do not generally carry the same meaning that they do on this side of the Pacific. And in the case of the three volume Psychic Power Nanaki by Ryo Saenagi (Satisfaction Guaranteed, Sequence), all it means is that the story was abruptly cut short before it ever even got off the ground.
The premise is promising enough…if, by the standards of Japanese manga these days, relatively ordinary. Nanaki discovers that he has superpowers and is then recruited into an improbable crime fighting organization. He has some grouchy exchanges with his scowling boss Gunji, but they eventually are able to resolve the bulk of their immediate conflicts. Then, in the style of a shounen tournament manga (although Psychic Power Nanaki is technically shoujo), he and his partner Ao engage in episodic encounters with various bad guys interspersed with scenes where Nanaki trains to improve his control over his telekinetic, pyrokinetic, and teleportation gifts.
Some of the standalone chapters are quite pleasing. In the first volume, there is a chapter about a boy with destructive psychic powers who, as it turns out, has a parasitic twin that is controlling him from the inside. They is also a sentimental, finely crafted story at the end of the second volume about the ghost of an ardent believer of the paranormal, who, ironically enough, cannot be at peace until he himself sees evidence that The Truth Is Out There, as well as another decent entry about a fortuneteller who has been cursing to death the people who stood by unmoved while his wife drowned. Other standalone chapters are “just okay,” but the overall effect is not displeasing. (On the other hand, the bonus story, with a plot unrelated to the main series, is truly terrible and borders on the incomprehensible.)
The problem, though, is not so much what the story is, but rather what all it is not. For all intents and purposes, these three volumes constitute little more than a prologue. The most interesting ongoing plot threads, such as Ao's precise relationship to his former partner and the ultimate fate of said former partner, are left virtually unexplored. Also, it is revealed late in volume three that Ao, who looks about fourteen but is actually twenty years old, has been cursed with eternal immaturity. Why this is so is never explained.
Furthermore, you might think that the fraught love/hate relationship between Nanaki and Ao would be great fodder for yaoi fans. Yes, Ao is quite pretty. Unfortunately, it does not seem like Saenagi's heart was into developing a homoerotic, buddy show-esque bond between the two youths, so the recurring depictions of their petty rivalries quickly become forced and airless. The cover for volume three, which depicts Ao tenderly kneeling in front of a seated Nanaki, is quite lovely, but this is about as exciting as their interactions ever get—and it's just a pinup! The handful of supporting characters who appear and disappear on occasion throughout the series are so inconsequential that they may as well be dis-included with little in the way of ill effect upon the manga as a whole.
As implied in the previous paragraph, this series' primary asset is bishounen eye candy. Saenagi draws like Shuu Katayama (Dragon Fist, Ransetsuki), and irrespective of her weaknesses in the plot development department, she sure as heck can draw a pretty picture. Artwork is bold, heavily screen toned, and dynamic, with the sort of painstaking visual detail you might expect from a Shounen Jump title. If she has any weakness here, it would be the relative lack of range in facial expression for her characters. Her comic chibis especially always seem to strike a single—not to mention somewhat discordant—note.
All in all, Psychic Power Nanaki is a series that you should feel safely empowered to avoid entirely. Tokyopop made a good faith effort in its English language release of the manga, but there is only so much you can do when there is so little to work with. For a good shoujo series about a psychic who solves supernatural mysteries and puts wandering spirits to rest, I recommend Tokyo Babylon (also available in English from Tokyopop) instead.
Overall : C+
Story : C-
Art : A-
+ A weak effort that was discontinued before any of its most intriguing subplots were satisfactorily resolved.
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