Reviewby Carlo Santos,
Life has been far from ordinary for schoolboy Kakeru ever since a group of psychics moved in with him: mind-reader Ayano, fire-user Kaito, healer Xiao Long, and their mysterious leader Jôi. They're currently on the run from an organization called the Farmers, researchers who capture children and experiment on them to bring out their psychic abilities. Having survived the first wave of attacks, Kakeru and his new friends take a little free time to get to know each other, but it isn't long before the organization's "Category One" psychics are after them once again—including a ruthless telekinetic named Takemaru. Takemaru's orders are to capture Kakeru at any cost, but as the battle rages, it looks like Kakeru might manifest his own psychic powers...
The Psycho Busters approach to combat isn't anything special: basically, the characters blast their special powers at each other until someone wins. Who can create the most shocking illusion? Who can set off the most powerful fire? Who can telekinetically manipulate the most objects? What is interesting about this series, however, is that these psychic battles are also augmented by a battle of wills: Who can come up with the best philosophy on life? (And then they blast idealistic quotes at each other until someone wins.) That's the essence of the fight between Kakeru and Takemaru, which forms the centerpiece of this volume. It's a perfectly average teen-psychic adventure, armed with perfectly average artwork and some perfectly clichéd plot points, but at least it tries to get us interested in the characters.
In fact, the very first chapter of Volume 2 is all about getting to know the characters: with the first major battle out of the way, Kakeru and friends finally get some time off to hang out. Their venue of choice? The school swimming pool, which means fanservice galore! Admittedly, if you were looking for hot-blooded ESPer action, the first 50-odd pages of this volume will feel like a bore. However, it's a good refresher on the characters' personalities, as well as finally revealing Jôi's special power, and reinforcing the various bonds of friendship. (Even though one of those bonds involves Kakeru looking at Ayano in a swimsuit and saying, "All right, I'll swear to protect her!" Not very subtle there, buddy...)
The real action finally starts to kick in at about the halfway point, but along with the excitement comes a whole host of clichés as well. For example, Jôi's psychic awareness gives away one of the key moments in this volume: he tells Kakeru to climb down every stairway starting on his left foot. So what do you think Kakeru does by accident about 20 pages later? And the predictability doesn't stop there: you get the obligatory dramatic "Noooo!" scene, a bold but really stupid sacrifice, the ominous awakening of Kakeru's powers (complete with dark clouds and lightning), a traumatic childhood flashback, and a battle of ideals that boils down to "I want to destroy this world!" versus "You can be saved!" To be perfectly honest, the plotline and characters are as ordinary as they come; the only redeeming factor is that the flashbacks and friendship moments give them a little more depth than one might expect.
Sharply drawn artwork and layouts also help make this action-adventure potboiler more palatable: every panel is clearly lined off, and every scene follows naturally from one to the next, so there's basically no visual confusion even in the heat of battle. In fact, these battle scenes provide some striking visual effects, like the moment when Kakeru turns the world "inside out" (saying any more would give it away), or the fury of Takemaru's telekinetic attacks. But just like the story, the artwork is also highly susceptible to clichés: a floating and glowing Kakeru during his moment of activation, the screaming face of Ayano when Kakeru is in danger, and—in order to meet some arbitrary fanservice quota—various displays of female anatomy. Character design is another area where originality goes out the window: behold, the spiky dark-haired protagonist, along with the cute but well-endowed girl, and a mysterious guy with delicate features. Heck, Takemaru even comes with an evil eyepatch for good measure. Let's face it: the visual style is as generic as they come, with only the fancy psychic attacks to make it notable.
With such a predictable story, it should come as no surprise that the dialogue and text also make for easy reading. Even when they have a lot to say, the characters like to put it in simple terms—good for fast-paced action, although not so good for eloquence. Kakeru is perhaps a little too obsessed with internal monologue, but reading his actual thoughts does help to give a sense of personality, and also to see the story from his viewpoint. All sound effects are translated, with English equivalents placed next to the original characters, although it would be nice if there were more font variety. A glossary in the back rounds out the translation work, with various notes on Japanese life and culture that come up in the story.
Psycho Busters is never going to be considered a masterpiece; it might even be a stretch to call it above average. But it's good enough for popcorn entertainment, if only because it delivers the usual psychic-action-adventure clichés with a side helping of character depth (hooray for monologues and flashbacks!), flashy visual effects and clean page layouts. It's fluff for the brain and easy on the eyes—which is all right as long as one sets their expectations in the right place. Of course, after reading this volume, you might feel like a psychic yourself after being able to predict every single plot point in advance. But it's still kind of fun watching these kids blast their powers at each other until someone wins.
Overall : C+
Story : C
Art : C+
+ Takes a little time to develop the characters further, and the artwork makes it easy to follow the action.
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