HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME! Oh, and 200TH REVIEW! YEAH, IT’S “REVIEW” NOW, WHATEVS! Finally, “Mai The Psychic Girl,” the first manga translated for American audiences!
…Okay, not exactly “first.” It was released in conjunction with two other series, “The Legend of Kamui” and “Area 88.” Not familiar with either of those, so yeah. Still, Mai does have an interesting tidbit or two. Did you know Tim Burton wanted to adapt this? Yeah, the band “Sparks” wanted this manga to become a musical with help from Burton. Then “The Nightmare Before Christmas” happened and Mai didn’t. But in 2010, Burton expressed renewed interest. This manga… it doesn’t lend itself to a musical. Although I do see parallels between Mai and a certain Chocolate Factory.
Mai is a 14-year-old girl who uses her psychic powers for dumb things, then dangerous things, then cheating, then more danger, misguided savioring, throwing books, then flying. Lots of flying. Mai, along with four other children, has been examined by the Wisdom Alliance for PK powers, and they wish to harness her for their own goals. Mai’s father takes his daughter, running off to prevent her from becoming used. And the plot zig-zags from there.
I will say off the bat, this is not technically a “good” manga. If you want good writing, this isn’t unfitting, but you could find better. Like, way better. The biggest issue with the manga is lack of direction. So in the beginning, Mai is chased by a Senzo Kaieda
this guy, and his monster
this guy, to capture Mai. He’s the main antagonist for a while, but then in volume 2 of the perfect collection, he’s like, “DOH HO HO, I NEVER MEANT TO SCARE YOU, MAI, OR HURT YOUR FATHER! HE MUST HAVE BEEN PARANOID AND MISUNDERSTOOD MY INTENTIONS!”
So he’s BSing, yeah? No, he gains everyone’s trust. Even Mai’s father. Are… are we supposed to ignore the fact that Kaieda vowed to “Defeat Mai’s father with his own hands?” I’d trust him.
Not to mention the gratuitous nudity. Lotta nudie scenes with Mai. 14. Mai is 14. Hmm. Also, typical motif of the 80’s, but there’s Western characters in the manga. Mickey Mouse, Snoopy, I think I saw Garfield at one point. But if you want gratuitous Western characters, Osamu Tezuka is the reigning king, gone but undefeated.
It’s weird, I expected way more angst. Like, her father falls down a cliff, but she gets over it after she helps her new college buddy Intetsu cheat at Pachinko. She cause a huge car pileup, mopes and glums about, but Intetsu’s dorm makes her scrub their laundry and she brightens. I mean, I would do, like, something else, but whatever.
I mentioned four other children, yes? There’s a “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” parallel for me. Mai is Charlie, pure and the lead. Turm (yes, that’s her name) is Veruca. Unlike Veruca, she’s not spoiled… sort of. She is a normal child around her family, and refuses to use her powers in their presence (other than to light children’s hair on fire). She has a healthy relationship with her folks, and it’s nice to see the “spoiled rich girl” genre take a different route.
The relationship with everyone else could use some work, however. She destroys a plane with 300 passengers just to kill her musical rival aboard. Class act, and a subtle taste of acid. To me, Turm is the biggest threat in the manga, despite not being the last. She’s powerful, controlled, and cognizant of her potential. It’s just that she falls into the incinerator, leaving Mai to face Augustus, Violet, and Mike.
Our “Augustus” is Baion, a fat giant boy who’s totes grody.
“Mai the Psychic Girl” has no life of its own, going through the motions and compromising whatever the previous plot may be for a new one. Direction: It needs one.
The other two Wonkalings, right. Our Violet is some American kid. He’s cute, and he’s not Baion, but I feel that he had the wrong backstory attributed. David is remorseful for killing the monster man, Kaieda’s lackey. *****SPOILERS***** Okay, not lackey, son. There was a government experiment that the monster was in that turned him brain-damaged, bulky and tall, and somehow gave him fangs. It was pretty obvious that they were father and son a bit earlier on, but it came off well.
What didn’t was David’s excuse drama. “Oh, I’m psychic, so they treated me like a freak! Monster, we could have been friends!” Doubtful. Just… why not conceal your powers? And really, Americans would be less accepting of magic than Germany or three Asian countries? Oh, David’s our “Violet” because he’s rude and rough around the edges.
Finally, Hong, because he’s short and energetic. He has feelings for Mai, which makes it difficult for him to destroy Mai. Oh, and the fact that his boss chose the short kid to shadow Mai. Seriously, why do the psychic kids follow him? He never shows off any powers, nor does he state having any. Of course, that never comes to a head.
Here are some classic sins committed by “Mai the Psychic Girl”:
-Intetsu is the only dorm member not to receive injuries on his face from the Kaieda thugs
-The dog almost dies three times or so
-Since this is one of the trinity of the first American manga, it’s flipped
-Back cover BS: “Mai is silly, giggly, and flirtatious–just like any other cute fourteen-year-old girl!” In fact, Mai is the only one of her friends not interested in boys. The first two are true, though.
Okay, so there’s a recurring reference to the apocalypse in manga prior to 1999, as it was akin to their Y2K. The prophecy states that on September 9, 1999, world boom. Off by two days and two years, but it’s way too close to home for me.
The art is… okay, I’ll be real. Faces are chilling when up close, specifically Mai and Turm.
Less so with everyone else in any other angle, especially Mai’s friends.
Scenery also looks good, but it’s nothing outstanding. And every suited baddie looks the same. Oh, but a female baddie wears a suit! So, uh, feminism?
I think the manga of today ruined shmoopy drama like this for me. It’s meaningless since no one dies until the end, and no one dies who didn’t deserve to. Except… TEZUKA! Yeah, he was all about real drama, like a robot giving her life for her brother’s motorcycle, or anything in Lost World. We need to review Lost World. So “Mai the Psychic Girl” is toothless. Not unenjoyable, just weak. I’m not sure why Burton would adapt this, especially how he is now, all Helena-less. Poor lad.
I initially loved this manga, but I see flaws. And it’s not like they ruin the manga; honestly the different approach is appreciated. It’s better than a constant barrage of misery. But even I can’t handle how unharmed most of the cast turns out, and there’s too many good vibes that clash with dark settings. If you manage to find this at a good price, I wouldn’t pass it up. But if you want something structured, this isn’t your manga.
Well, that’s 200, I’m 23, here’s to more manga on the horizon.