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May 21, 2012

Bento Bako Weekly: Psyren volumes 2 and 3

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Written by: Drew
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Psyren volumes 2 and 3
Publisher: Viz Media (Shonen Jump Line)
Story and Art: Toshiaki Iwashiro

[Volume 1 review.]

Right off the bat, have to tell you reader, Psyren, pronounced like “siren”, is a great manga. Why on Earth it hasn’t gotten more attention is baffling, but Shonen Jump pushes their big-3 always, which includes One Piece, Naruto, and Toriko (Bleach was recently announced it’ll be ending in a few weeks, and since then Toriko has replaced it in the big-3). This survival genre manga takes hints from and feels like a lot of things combined, part-Battle Royale, part-Drifting Classroom, and part-Silent Mobius, and ┬áby being peppered with each of those vibes and then blended together, we get something that’s pretty fantastic. Not that those comparisons are needed, it’s just nice to see a modern Shonen Jump book that doesn’t feel influenced by Dragon Ball (like One Piece, Naruto, Bleach, etc.) or Jo Jo’s Bizarre Adventure (like Yu-Gi-Oh!, Shaman King, etc.).

So what’s Psyren about, for those who don’t know? It follows Ageha Yoshina, who in volume 1 found a red phone card with the word “psyren” on it. After his childhood friend Amamiya goes missing, he suspects there is a connection between her and the urban legend of the Psyren Secret Society, and uses the phone card. He answers a grueling 40-some question survey and blows it off as someone messing with him. However, the next day he finds himself dogged by guys disguised as cops, and suddenly cannot stop a telephone ringing sound in his head. Before he knows it, he is transported into the world of Psyren, a barren post-apocalyptic wasteland. It’s all part of a game, and that game seems simple – players start at one phone, and need to get to the next to get out of the wasteland. However, from point A to B, players may face murderous monsters and demonic looking killers, and if you die in Psyren you turn into dust, never to be heard from again. Yoshina goes along, finding Amamiya and some others as they face the game.

Volume 2 picks up where the first left off, and is a ton of plot-moving story. Yoshina makes its back to our world with Amamiya, another old friend named Asaga, and some other guy named Semitana. Turns out that after you clear a level, you come back home where a few days will pass by until you are randomly contacted and forced to play the next level. How are they forced? Well Nemesis-Q, the figure who runs Psyren, will start the ringing in your head. If you don’t get to a phone to transport yourself, that ringing will grow louder and louder until your brain pretty much explodes. If that wasn’t bad enough, Amamiya reveals that the wasteland they went to is really Japan in the future. So many questions rise amongst the cast here. Why does this happen to Japan? Is Nemesis-Q doing this to prevent the destruction of Japan or save it? All go unanswered since no one knows. Weirder still, turns out Psyren awakens the psychic abilities in people, and so Yoshina and Asaga get fevers and terrible nose bleeds as part of the awakening process, freaking them out. Amamiya ,who’s been there several times, lets them know they’ll get use to it.

Amamiya also introduces them to her Psi-Teacher, the famous musician Matsuri Yagumo. Yagumo and Amamiya begin training the two boys on how to concentrate and hone their new psychic powers, so they can use it to battle and beat Psyren. We are also briefly introduced to actor Oboro Muchizuki and punk Kabuto Kirisaki, who have Psyren phone cards but haven’t gone into the game yet. Before we know it, the phone is ringing and they are all transported back to Psyren, where our established characters meet the new characters. However, the baddies this time are worse than the previous, and the group comes face-to-face with a giant killer worm that tracks by sound, like Tremors, and a boy their age who appears to be human, with a huge gun.

Volume 3 is all action. Asaga quickly realizes this enemy is actually his old friend Tatsuo, whom Asaga thought he lost to Psyren long ago, but why is Tatsuo the enemy now and why is he trying to kill them? Amamiya, Asaga, and Yoshina want to make a huge play for it, but new comers Oboro and Kabuto are struck down with fevers, their powers already awakening. This puts a damper on things, and from there the volume becomes a strategic battle, five against one, with the giant killer worm-monster, and it’s simply all action, action, and action as they make their way to the exit phone. The action is done extremely well, with lots of surprises and great art. There’s also a few laughs here and there with newcomer Oboro being very touchy with a sudden man-crush on the other guys making them uncomfortable, and Kabuto trying to be a ladies man with Amamiya. A sort of battle system for their psychic powers is also explained, providing uses for attack, defense, healing, etc., but it’s a limited pool, so once the energy is gone it’s gone, so it must be used wisely.

It’s exciting, it’s suspenseful, and most importantly, it’s not just good shonen manga, but good manga in general. Iwashiro does a great job with both art and writing, and makes you want volume 4 to be released instantly. Volumes 2 and 3 are out now, $9.99 for a physical copy and $4.99 if you buy it digitally.

Drew McCabe
drew@comicattack.net

Review copies provided by Viz Media.

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