Nerawareta Gakuen (Psychic School Wars) was originally a 1973 science fiction novel by Taku Mayumura, which spawned a bunch of live action dramas, films, but most recently an anime film by Ryousuke Nakamura over at the lively bunch at Sunrise studios.
Don’t get the name of the movie fool you however since Nerawareta Gakuen is anything more than just a psychic school war epic.
Normally when I watch films I generally avoid going onto Wikipedia to read an initial summary, this is because I feel as if I’m spoiling myselfwithout really spoiling anything. When it comes to movies I like to just sit back and watch them with no prior information. This is what I did with Nerawareta Gakuen and somehow I didn’t get what was going on in the first fifteen minutes. The beginning starts out rather sloppy as you’re thrown into the protagonist’s – Kenji Seki’s new school year at a junior high school in Kamakura while a new transfer student, by the name of Ryoichi Kyogoku joins the class and becomes the hottest boy in school (who secretly has psychic powers). The romantic elements gradually gets introduced as we learn that Kenji has a crush on popular girl Kahori Harukawa and his childhood friend; Natsuki Suzuura holds unrequited feelings for him. There weren’t as much hints going on as to where the plot would go at first, but it does effectively establish the relationships between our main bunch of characters. It was only until a little more into the movie I got the gist of the film’s main premise.
“Nerawareta Gakuen is less of a sci-fi action thriller, but more of a romantic drama”
When I read the title “Psychic School Wars” I was expecting a climatic battle royale between rivaling schools where high school students bear these cool psychic powers and it’ll be an awesome battle movie; to my surprise this wasn’t the case. There were numerous moments throughout the film where it felt like it was walking itself into a fight, but subsequently would walk away through unexpected surprises.
Nerawareta Gakuen is much less of a sci-fi action thriller, but more of a romantic drama.
The characters aren’t out of the ordinary as expected for a film, but they do have that adorable and cutesy air to them. It only took me a few minutes to realise they were designed by Mieko Hosoi; the same character designer for the leg-alicious anime Aiura. Mayu Watanabe in particular did a fantastic job portraying the role of Natsuki. Even though her voice doesn’t match the level of quality found in your typical anime, you can really feel the emotion and depth in her voice during those remarkable scenes.
Nerawareta Gakuen also proves once and for all that childhood friends CAN WIN! (Don’t click the link if you don’t want to be spoiled!)
“Watching Nerawareta Gakuen felt like I was watching a Makoto Shinkai film on steroids“
Nerawareta Gakuen’s strength – its trump card – without a doubt goes into its production. Watching Nerawareta Gakuen felt like I was watching a Makoto Shinkai film on steroids. The photo-realistic visuals are stunning and the motion of the characters always felt fluid and natural. The visuals look really colourful, like really, REALLY colourful. Nerawareta Gakuen never seemed to tire itself of its never-ending supply of filter effects and lens flares – it’s as if they they placed the entire movie under a Photoshop filtering machine in post-production. Sunrise has really outdone themselves in the animation department as the quality never seemed to waver at any given point in the film. The debate for endless spamming of photo filters equals great visuals is left for another time, but from my inner gut the visuals has done wonders for the movie.
To round things up, Nerawareta Gakuen is a marvelous scientific-fiction-romantic-drama of a film and it’s a shame how little attention this film received. The typical love polygons, the recycled romantic tropes plus the annoyingly thick density of the main character’s brain may let this film down a bit, but the spectacular eye-candy, the colourful visuals which stimulates your eye sockets and the touching story makes Nerawareta Gakuen a worthwhile watch.