It’s been a long time now since I first watched the Psychic Force OVA, but since I rewatched it last night, I thought it about time to write my impressions.
Psychic Force started life as a little-known fighting game for the Playstation that I became addicted to back in 1997 simply because I saw images of the animated intro in a gaming magazine and loved the character designs. Indeed, the intro to the game remains one of the best opening sequences I’ve ever seen, with great music, extremely dynamic animation and those really great-looking characters. I became a great fan and sought out the rare Puzzle Taisen spin-off, released only in Japan, because it, too, had a great animated intro – although the song was very cheesy. I spent hours on a 56.6kb modem getting fanart, ordering doujinshi anthologies I couldn’t read, and of course playing the game. And at some point, I got hold of two versions of the OVA – a Hong Kong DVD with nice transfer but utterly impenetrable subtitles, and a fansub with VHS transfer and much better (though still poor by today’s standards) subs from the old tape-trading days.
The OVA takes its story from the game, which seems to be highly influenced by The X-Men. In 2010, more and more people are showing signs of having evolved further than the rest of the human race. Telekinesis, elemental control and, it would seem, a universal ability to fly mark these ‘Psychickers’, and so of course begins the subjugation of and experimentation on innocents by government authorities so ubiquitous in such stories. An organisation called NOA, led by a man with the decidedly unthreatening name Keith, begins to fight back, and commences a hostile takeover. But the more sinister Wong, with control over time itself, is the one really pulling the strings, and his ambitions go further than emancipation. The government is not alone in opposing NOA, as a group of young superpowered heroes led by Burn, a young man with control over fire, is leading the counterattack.
The OVA has a lot of story to fit into just one hour, and squanders most of it with a lengthy and highly unimaginative flashback to the friendship between Burn and Keith that blossomed several years earlier. Most minor characters, including my favourite, the vulnerable and terrified young Emilio, get only cameo roles, and poor Wendy’s story barely gets touched upon at all – but she fares better than Genma, who never even meets any of the other characters. The worst part is the ending, where Wong begins to feel threatened in a fight against Brad and Sonia, who he has previously been controlling with Keith’s help, and…blows everything up. Just like that. He gets some of his hair cut off…so he blows up the building. Way to wrap up the plot.
There’s a rich story and an impressive aesthetic to Psychic Force, even if both are really very derivative. But unfortunately only the simplest and least impressive parts make it to the anime adaptation, and the screenplay must be one of the laziest I’ve ever encountered. A disappointing adaptation of a favourite property.
(originally written 2.11.07)
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