I typically don’t write reviews, since I never have much to say, but I enjoyed this little one-volume manga enough to jot down a few thoughts about it.
The basic plot of Psycho Staff goes like this: Hiiragi Kouichi, the protagonist, is just an ordinary guy who wants to make it into the college of his dreams, until he meets a mysterious girl who shatters his daily life. The girl, Sakuragi Umeko, turns out to be an alien who wants to recruit him for her planet’s army due to his psychic powers. On the surface, this sounds like your typical magical girlfriend setup, but the romance isn’t the main focus. Instead, Psycho Staff is more of a quirky, lighthearted coming-of-age story that centers on the theme of hard work vs. inborn talent.
Also, it has giant robots. That’s pretty awesome.
It helps a lot that Kouichi isn’t your typical milquetoast male protagonist, but instead a well-developed character with a backstory. His character is a contradiction: he values hard work above all else, yet he was born with immense natural talent (his psychic abilities). Umeko’s character is set up to contrast and complement Kouichi’s: she has little natural talent and attained her position through sheer hard work. Thus, she doesn’t want Kouichi to waste his talents on Earth- even though the reason Kouichi initially rejects his powers is because he doesn’t trust anything given to him without effort. Their viewpoint is essentially the same at heart; they’re just approaching the issue from different angles. This unique dynamic between the two main characters is one of the best parts of the manga. They bicker and squabble and fight with giant robots, and (obviously) eventually end up falling in love. The romance doesn’t really kick into gear until the later parts of the manga, but it’s cute.
I rather liked the ending. Admittedly, it’s an inconclusive ‘return to status quo’ conclusion, but it leaves you with the feeling that Kouichi has experienced his youth and will grow up from here onwards. It’s just bittersweet enough without becoming depressing. I guess the word I’m looking for is 爽快感.
The manga does suffer from flaws, mostly due to its short length. I kind of wish the story had gone larger in scale – I mean, it’s about alien space armies, so I was expecting some full-out battles by the end, yet the plot itself is fairly standard and predictable. I understand that for the purposes of a one-volume manga, the plot and cast of characters had to be constrained within a certain limit, but I would have liked a bit more craziness…
Anyway, I would recommend Psycho Staff to anyone, and will definitely check out Mizukami Satoshi’s other works (Lucifer and Biscuit Hammer seems to be the most well-known).