Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Novel 2 - Murder Princess and the Summer Death Camp
It's been half a year since Kyousuke Kamiya was sent to Purgatorium Remedial Academy for a crime he didn't commit, and just as he thought he was sort of settling in…it's time for summer camp! Shipped off to an even more remote part of the school's island, Kyousuke, Maina, Renko, and Eiri must survive ever-more grueling “activities” designed to reform them into professional killers, and, worst of all, their upper classmen.
Authors' afterwards in light novels can be anything from sneakily informative to long lists of rambling thanks, so you could be forgiven if you usually skip them. Mizuki Mizushiro's epilogue to the second volume of Psycome, however, is definitely in the former category; Mizushiro mentions editorial input kept the book from being, in Mizushiro's words, “too grotesque.” That may have been market-appropriate, but it also explains the greatest failing of the novel: an over-emphasis on the “love comedy” aspects with not enough “psycho.”
After a fairly strong, albeit somewhat disturbing, first volume, it looked as if Psycome was going to be an interesting blend of typical rom-com tropes with a dark and seedy underbelly. While that is technically still true, the second volume, subtitled “Murder Princess and the Summer Death Camp,” spends far too much time playing to the very tropes it was playing with in the first book. With the mystery of Renko and her gas mask solved, as well as the revelation that Purgatorium Remedial Academy is in fact a secret training school for professional assassins, the stage was set for Kyousuke, Maina, and Eiri to start taking down the system, or at least learning how to make it work to their advantage, with the intriguing and dangerous possibilities about Kyousuke's sister lurking in the background. When the school departs for a trip to their “summer training camp” on an even more remote part of the school's private island, it seems as if the students will discover new secrets, or possibly formulate plans while in a new location. Instead, however, most of the book is concerned with the romantic rivalry for Kyousuke, primarily between Eiri and Renko, and mostly consisting of conversations about breasts. It is a largely accepted trope of manga, anime, and light novels that girls are hyper-conscious of their bosoms to the point where they will have lengthy debates about the merits of large versus small; the issue here is that it becomes the sole conversational gambit between the two. As far as Renko and Eiri are concerned, breast size is the only thing they have to offer Kyousuke in a romantic relationship, which undoes a lot of the character development of volume one for both of them. More importantly, it also gets in the way of the actual story, which is about the continued revelation of what's really going on at Purgatorium and the group's interactions with upperclassman Saki Shimaya, the eponymous “murder princess.”
Shimaya is responsible for twenty-one deaths, making her the high scorer at school, and like other students, she's fascinated by Kyousuke's supposed kill count of twelve. To her this indicates that they are like-minded individuals, and she actively resents the rest of his group, primarily Maina, the girl so clumsy that she accidentally murders people. Shimaya is set up to be an example of the kind of student the academy wants, and she prides herself on the fact. That she is also a stereotypical ojou-sama character, down to the blond curls and “oh-ho-ho” laugh, feels like the sort of jab at the romantic comedy that the first volume played with so well, and it sets her in direct opposition to Eiri, who seems to be the primary romantic interest. Had the story been more balanced, it could have used her to illustrate the difference between the actual psycho/sociopaths who attend (and teach at) Purgatorium and our main trio, none of whom want to be there or even really belong. Mizushiro does accomplish that to a point in the third chapter, which is the absolute strongest of the book's primary content, but it's too little, too late by that point. Although the contrast between Shimaya and Maina is well done – and Maina's backstory really is sympathetic – Eiri is left just sort of hanging out on the sidelines, while Kyousuke's chief role is to be the object of desire rather than the actual protagonist.
The actual best part of the book in terms of sheer effect is the “secret track,” or second epilogue. This returns us to Kyousuke's sister Ayaka, as in the first volume, and her efforts to be reunited with her brother. Like everyone else, Ayaka believes that Kyousuke committed the crimes he's being punished for, and her plan to be with him again is chilling. It also raises the question of which Kamiya sibling the government really wanted – there's been implication that Kyousuke was framed to get him into Purgatorium; did they know what the resulting reaction of Ayaka would be? It's by far the most interesting part of the book, and it's a shame that it isn't given equal time with the booby hijinks. (It also worth mentioning that it deals with very sensitive material.)
Psycome is at this point wasting its potential. There's nothing wrong with a goofy romantic comedy, but this series is clearly interested in being more than that, and the second half of the title is not getting equal time. (Remember, “psycome” is a portmanteau of “psycho love comedy.”) Hopefully things can get back on track in the next volume, because it would be a shame for this to become just another schlocky harem rather than building on its promise.
Overall : C
Story : C-
Art : B-
+ Good development for Maina, Ayaka epilogue is very well done. Art is fun without being over the top.
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