Psycho Diver: Soul Siren
In a lot of ways DVD by mail is like an automatic review. If the title is good it is probably popular, and that means it's not available for rent. This title was immediately available... I think you see where this is leading.
This story is set in the modern world (1995 version) with a couple of important differences. One is that psychic powers are known to exist as a measurable, and somewhat controllable, force. The other is that they have been harnessed, using complex machinery, to allow a psychic to enter the mind of another... a process known as psycho diving. It can be an amazingly effective way to cure inner turmoil and madness but it puts the diver at an alarming, possibly even fatal, risk. After all, they are merging with a shattered and possibly violent mind.
Yuki is a young popular singer with a couple of issues. A prime candidate for psycho-diving because she's a valuable commodity. The guy we follow, Bosujima, is one of the very best. He's still not crazy enough to take on the job though, not after he saw what happened to the last diver who tried it, but when people start pushing he gets stubborn, determined to discover what's going on... both in this world and the one within Yuki's head. He's going to discover that his first instincts were right, this is a job it would have been better to keep well away from.
Ooops, forgot to mention the other aspect of this world. Apparently the sun has fallen from the sky and the world is plunged into eternal darkness. Actually I'm lying, apparently the sun is still there, but you wouldn't know it given the amazing preponderance of night scenes. The reason is to make it clear this is a mature title, although of course it also helps in hiding some of the limitations of the animation. There's also quite a lot of nudity and even more freshly flowing blood, just in case the darkness and language didn't give you enough of a hint.
Is the strong, somewhat corny, language present in the Japanese? I don't know, because this is a dub only DVD release. This caused me some confusion at first, I've become so used to the DVD format that at first I thought my player was acting up. It just seems so anachronistic to have a DVD title where they couldn't even be bothered adding sub-titles in the conversion from VHS... so lazy. Then again, it's pretty clear this is a cheap release to take a couple of bucks from those sucked in by the suggestive screen shots on the back of the case.
So is it any good? While its certainly no hidden classic, or anything you should go out of your way to see, it is sort of watchable. There is always going to be limits as to what can be achieved in such a short running time but in this case they've gone out of their way to make sure it is filled with plot events. As a result there's not that much time for character development beyond familiar archetypes, and the core of the plot is nothing too unique, but at least you aren't bored. The story moves pretty swiftly, often through the lead character providing narrative, from one event to another.
There are however a couple of bits that don't work. One of them is a strange musical interlude in which we meet Yuki, seemingly in prison. Actually it turns out to be just a video clip for her latest song, but it was a little surreal there for a moment with the dancing prisoners in the background. I would have worked it out faster if the song had been something I could actually imagine her singing. It's a rather horrid creation with weak pop music and badly structured death metal lyrics. There's another example of the same at the end of the title, which basically summarizes all the background music (no opening track), but by that time my sub-conscious had learnt how to filter it out.
A more serious failing is that the whole psycho-diver concept doesn't actually work that well. Of course there's not really that much time to spend on it, given all the other plot events they want to cram in, but what we get is somewhat disappointing. Once again its relatively simple imagery (and mostly in greyscale, the provided shot is taken from one of the two psycho diving sections) presented one after another. It would be possible to say that it looks a lot like the incoherent medley of imagery seen in video clips when shallow bands attempt to be meaningful. It is not particularly interesting, and the "conclusion" that takes place in this realm is just odd. The concept is rather cool, the mind of another person as an infinite and flexible stage, but this show doesn't have the time or skill to do much with it... so in the end its just another plot device.
I'm going to rate this one as "flawed". It's not that bad, and at times the lead does manage a bit of intensity, but there's just no real reason to want to see this. And the cheap presentation, bad music and general lack of imagination or novelty makes it quite forgettable even if you do come across it.
I hope you weren't expecting any sort of redemption here. Once again it has the same problem as the rest of the title, there's some skill here but not a lot of care. The characters look somewhat interesting, but the dialog is too simple to bring them out. Bosujima comes the closest, and the voice actor for him does a pretty good job (sounds like one of the people who did Tenchi?, ah yes, Kagato), but he's still a little too familiar to be interesting. The action is staged relatively well, but the backgrounds are so sparse (and dark) and the framecount so low, its hard to get interested in it. There's an awful lot of still shots, with moving mouths and slow pans, filling in the rest of the running time. I've already mentioned its dub only, and I'll make it pretty clear that I don't consider that reasonable on a DVD even though the voices are not too bad. The music has also received it's firm kicking already, so don't need to do that again.
A young pop-star is nearing the edge of collapse, her mind a battlefield between incompatible desires. However in this version of reality "pycho-divers" can enter the mind and fix the problems directly. In fact the diver we meet, Bosujima, is tough enough that he can take care of all the real world people giving her the issues in the first place. This title isn't that bad, but it's old, shallow and cheaply produced providing little incentive to actually hunt it out.