Saturday, July 27, 2013

ねらわれた学園 (Nerawareta Gakuen): Great expectations should come prepacked with free insurance

Nerawareta Gakuen, literally 'Targeted School' had me feeling expectant for a few reasons- I'd just watched Kotonoha no Niwa, which was absolutely brilliant (see previous post); the art in this show looked fairly pretty; and finally, the summary seemed promising enough, mentioning a conflict between psychics and normal students for control of their school. Unfortunately it just didn't live up to its advertising. Major spoilers to follow since I'm not particularly happy with the show- you have been warned.

Transfer student Kyogoku is the antagonist here of this story- he's not just a psychic, he's a time traveler from a city on the moon, here to change the past in an attempt to turn as many people into psychics as possible. For some odd reason a mulled cellphone ban is enforced because cellphones are an obstruction to developing psychic powers (if we can't talk by phone, feel free to ring my head instead).

Meanwhile our main man Seki is revealed to be not just a bit of a clod, but also a super-psychic; his grand-dad is also a psychic from the future; and his dog is a collar, not just a dog with a collar. If that made any sense. Think of it as me doing my best to encourage you to give this show a try. Anyway silly Seki is head over heels for student council member Kahori, but she falls in love with Kyogoku; and Seki is too daft to notice childhood friend Natsuki's feelings for him.

For some reason Gakuen's English name is 'Psychic School Wars'. I'm not entirely sure which fool in marketing came up with that title, which conjures up images of an all-out fight between groups of psychics (true in a sense, but only in the end and very briefly), or at the very least intense psychological warfare- Kyogoku's silly campaign did cause grief to some normal students. but that was pretty much it.

Speaking of Kyogoku's campaign, here's a quick summary: he approached weak and stressed out students, awakened their dormant powers, and took over the student council. It's not entirely clear why they all went along with his plan- they don't look like mindless minions, but it's ridiculous to expect that his converts would all think of him as a messiah-general, especially when the only process of the conversion shown is when he bullies them with his powers to awaken theirs. Oh, and they all think alike for some reason. ...Sheep.

One good thing I have to say about Gakuen: the ending. Not for how good it was- like the rest of the movie it hovered somewhere over the meridian  of mediocrity- but for how divided it had me. After making me go through all that trouble with the romantic progress between Seki and Natsuki, I was hoping for a happy ending. Instead Gakuen gave put forward the 'bad end'- Seki sent Kyogoku to the future, couldn't return to his original timeline, and Natsuki forgot about Seki- and ending which had me silently raging at how unfair it was to Natsuki.

Still sulking, I stuck through the credits just to listen to the music. Here's when it happened- a post credits scene. This time they gave the good end- Seki came back, Natsuki remembered everything about him, and they lived together happily ever after. I was happy for them, and glad that I got to see the ending I wanted to see- but I couldn't help but feel that the screenwriters copped out. They had me feeling morally conflicted as a viewer though, and if that's what they were gunning for, congratulations then.

In short: there are many other better movies out there. If you want something a nice time travel romance, go watch Toki wo Kakeru Shoujo. If you want actual 'psychic warfare', there's To aru Majutsu no Index. If you want to watch a show about strange happenings in a school, look to Sekimatsu Occult Gakuen. If you want to watch something with nice art coupled with good storytelling, there's always anything by Shinkai Makoto.

Don't watch this show after watching anything you consider a masterpiece- go watch something incredibly vacuous first to help dampen any high expectations you might have... and to have a good (this is questionable) point of comparison.

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