Psyren; A Discussion About Interest and A Review of the Future

 

Alright people, it’s been about 4 days or so since the last article and I think it’s about time for a review. Now I mean an actual honest review, with NO analysis, because TODAY I’m reviewing Psyren, the time traveling manga by Toshiaki Iwashiro. That introduction didn’t sound very exciting did it; it’s a shame really, because it’s the thesis statement that’s supposed to draw in the reader for any work of literature, and if you mess THAT up, well, there goes your audience. For the rest of you guys who DO decide to stay, allow me to start by saying this: Psyren is a FANTASTIC piece of literature, but it’s not without its flaws.

 

Actually, no scratch that, I’ll review Psyren later. First things first. I need a vote on whether or not Manga (and graphic novels in general) constitute being classified as things worthy of being called “books.” Folks, I took my first steps into literature when I was an infant, and seeing as how I lived in a typical family where both parents were capable of reading and writing English, I was also taught how to read and write by them, which is just brilliant, but away from the point. The point is this: when I was being read to by either parent, I was being read words from “books.” Yes, they had about 25 pages and were probably written by writers who wanted more from their careers, or by writers who just wanted to help children, or even teachers looking for an extra dollar here and there, but they were still technically “Books.” I called them books, my parents called them books and the people who sold the books to my parents called them books. There was no denying the literary power that was held in those 25 page constructions by any of the parties involved, and while Robert Munsch might not be winning any Pulitzer or Nobel prizes, he’s certainly a fantastic author either way. Soon however, I began reading on my own (as many of us who are lucky enough to do so end up doing) and with my ability to read came an interest in comic books and magazines. That was fine and dandy and still is to the date of this writing, however a rather interesting point soon began to be pointed out to me as I continued to discuss comic books and graphic novels like they were “Real” books; specifically that they WEREN’T “Real” books.

 

This is a point that has been pointed out to me a few times by people who I hold in especially high regard, figures in my life whom I both respect and admire for their abilities to think and argue rationally and logically; yet whenever I challenge their ideas, I get nothing more than a weak “Well you know, they’re COMIC BOOKS!” An argument which adds up to little more than “Because I said so,” and suffice it to say, I’m getting more and more annoyed with individuals like the one’s I’ve encountered, individuals who challenge works of literature and art as something LESS than what they really are. Now, don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a “Are video games art” train of thought (even though they are, just let it go people, let it go and keep reading). This is more along the lines of a “Why are you holding out on AMAZINGLY written works JUST because they’re supposed to be for 10 year olds fantasizing in their rooms?” Take Psyren for example; it’s a manga that was published in Weekly Shonen Jump between December 2007 and November 2010; it has 16 volumes with 5 chapters per volume (on average) and about 20 pages per chapter (this one’s actually a liberty, the number of pages is more along the lines of 30 per chapter on average, but I digress) and this amounts to about 1600 pages of reading. 1600 pages of FANTASTIC work that tackles questions regarding destiny, fate and, more importantly (if you dig WAY too deeply like I did) persecution of those who are different (racism people, it talks about racism except instead of mutants, the brotherhood is comprised of Psychics who destroy the world in an attempt to recreate it into a psychic paradise). Throw in a romance sub plot and the role we (as individuals) play in events and you’ve got a literary work of art that is, quite simply, genius.

 

Now, don’t get me wrong, Psyren has it’s weaknesses, mainly that it was published in a weekly magazine where the author is constantly trying to insure that their work is kept published thanks to a constantly changing reader base, and a constantly changing series of interests. Reading Bakuman has taught me enough about the world of Jump that I can safely say that being a Mangaka (author of a graphic novel, don’t act like you didn’t know) is a line of work that I’d NEVER want to enter. Though, from the horror stories I’ve read and heard about nobody DC and Marvel artists/ writers, western comic books aren’t much better. The point is this: you need to constantly change your work to suit your readership. Stuff like Naruto, Batman, Superman, Bleach, Spiderman, One Piece, Iron Man, and so on are popular because they appeal to most readers. We keep reading it because we can understand and relate to it, and they keep writing (and drawing) it because most of their other attempts either didn’t work or haven’t been tried yet. So yeah, comic book writers (Japanese, American, Canadian or Serbian) write what they want, and then we as readers either butcher their opinions online (or through letters to the editor) or praise them to the point where even Comic Con needs multiple panels to discuss their work.

 

That, in essence, is the trouble with writing comic books. You need to keep changing things to suit the reader base and sometimes things just DON’T work. That is a noticeable problem with Psyren. It starts off with a simple premise: random people are using Psyren phone cards and are disappearing. Also? This guy named Nemesis Q is somehow involved. The first few chapters start of as a battle manga usually does; we’re introduced to our cookie cutter (and don’t challenge that, thanks to DC, Marvel, Darkhorse, and Jump, almost EVERY character that’s drawn can fall under a certain category; again, readers get what they don’t complain about, but that’s fine because I complain too) protagonist, maybe a rival here or there and the possible love interest, stuff happens and OH! Protagonist is now part of the Nemesis Q plot. However, things change along the way and time travel is thrown in. And because of time travel, a lot of plot points are left hanging in the wind, and they don’t end up getting resolved. The good thing about the time travel plot point was that the “time skip” that happens to most manga (Jump or otherwise) is dealt with almost immediately.

 

For those who are confused, the time skip is when the big bad has been taken down (for now) and the characters either need to get ready for the REAL plot, or they just need time to set up the next big story arc. Either way the author takes time off for a few weeks and then things get set in motion! Naruto Shippuden is the timeskip for Naruto and One Piece had their time skip a while back. Simply put, you’ll know the time skip when you see it and Psyren handles it PERFECTLY. Moving on from that, the ultimate superpower “NOVA” is another plot point that felt rushed (which goes back to the declining popularity of the manga). Much like EVERYTHING ELSE, if manga, etc. aren’t popular, the author has a set amount of time before the higher ups pull the plug. Stuff like Naruto, One Piece, or Kochikame is SUPER lucky because making it to 100 chapters is difficult enough, let alone 600 (like One Piece) or 1600 (like Kochikame). Psyren didn’t make the cut sadly, and it had to be wrapped up. This is noticeable due to the ending; if it was popular enough, the final battle could’ve gone on longer and the part where the main characters make it back to the present for the “final” time could’ve dragged on into another story arc. Then there’s the problem of the author not wanting to continue (but if you’re in Jump, I doubt you’d want to quit, Bakuman notwithstanding; to those who are wondering, Jump is like if DC and Marvel merged into one superpower and then did EVERYTHING right and took over the industry even more than they already have), but I digress.

 

The problem, though, is that Psyren got a little confusing and that’s ALWAYS troublesome for a piece of work, written or otherwise. It became difficult to remember each character from EVERY time period and at one point, I felt lost enough that I had to go to the Psyren wiki just to make sure that I was feeling sorry for the right variation of the character from the WRONG time period. You can see what I mean by “Confusing.” So it became confusing at times, but the author fixed that later on and he did it in an interesting way. That, incidentally is where I’m going to stop and end this article. First however, Psyren is a fantastic manga with a really interesting plot, well developed characters, and is well drawn. It falls short due to its (very) slightly confusing plot and to me, that’s the ONLY problem. Everything is fantastically done and I REALLY hope that Toshiaki Iwashiro continues on, he has a VERY bright future (I hope -rimshot-).

 

The point is this: Psyren was interesting, and frankly? That’s all it needs to be for me to care about it. One can claim that comic books, graphic novels, and manga aren’t works of literature and they’d be wrong because it all comes down to one VERY important point; if it’s interesting, it’ll be printed. If it’s NOT interesting and it’s printed, well then, I suppose we only need to ask Stephanie Meyer how unhappy she is changing the collective worlds of teenage girls the world over, hmm?

 

If it’s interesting, I’ll read it. If I read it, I’ll analyze it and if I analyze it, I’ll talk about it, discuss it, and give my opinion about it, because that’s all it takes. One can challenge the notion that graphic novels aren’t “Novels” and they can sit there and feel superior knowing that they’ll go to bed right after they finish one more chapter of Anna Karenina, and that’s all fine and dandy. I’ll do the same except one night it might Batman: Year One, the other night it could be War and Peace and the other night it could be volume 17 of Detective Conan. Long story short? If it’s interesting, it’s a work of art (and yes, I DID use an absolute to get comments, GO GO GO!).

 

As always, this has been your Admin, comment and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

 

-EK


Comments are closed.
%d bloggers like this: