Title: Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko (rendered as: Ground Control to Psychoelectric Girl)
Episodes: 12 (+1 OVA)
Genre: Comedy-drama, Sci-fi
Makoto Niwa meets his first cousin Erio Tōwa at the house of his aunt Meme Tōwa. He is confused to see Erio when he first moves in because he thought his aunt lived alone; Erio, who claims she is an extraterrestrial lifeform, is no longer enrolled in school and wears a futon. Surprised by his cousin’s eccentricity, he needs time to adapt to the tumultuous new life that has been sprung onto him.
Originally called “Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko” in Japan, the term denpa (電波) is usually used to describe individuals that are more or less social outliers to the rest of society and promote this by using highly embellished backstories or delusions as to who they are. The term can also be used to describe electromagnetic wavelengths, so when NIS America choose to name the anime release, Ground Control to Psychoelectric Girl it was an actually shrewd decision on their part. Erio Tōwa, the girl in question believes herself to be an alien and when her cousin and protagonist Makoto Niwa moves in, he is determined, if only for his own disbelief in all things supernatural to set her straight and try to live the life of a normal high school student. While it does sounds to be like another jolly and exuberant comedy romp, they are times when it surprisingly pensive and often makes for great commentary on the social barriers that stand between people truly understanding one another and living life in the face of adversity.
Obviously enough (and confirmed an episode in), Erio is no alien, if anything, socially awkward and pariah to almost everyone in the town she resides in – yet for a good reason. Wrapping herself in a futon is also for a good reason, but I digress.. As the series goes forward, Niwa takes most of the initiative trying guide his wayward cousin back closer to reality in a sense to the point where own mother (also eccentric might I add) has left her to her own devices. Given his own pragmatic and amicable disposition, his desire is more of one forced upon habit not having to deal with Erio’s unreasonable conduct as well as live a rose-colored adolescent. However, like most titles of this nature, the two grow to develop a close bond and he risks everything to help her – even if it does come to his own image tarnished in the process. While the general manner in which the story is told is by no means special, the narrative does go down easy no matter if it is comedy or drama focused and not as unapproachable as it might initially appear.
However, after Erio does manage to get back onto her feet roughly 5 episodes in, the series takes on a more comedic tone, but still equally a drama as Niwa learns more about Erio and the many people in the city that shunned her. Surprising enough, everyone that lives in the city is an outlier one way or another. His classmate Ryūko is overtly energetic, his other hyperthermic classmate Maekawa loves to cosplay to her job functions, a little girl who claims she an esper, and Erio’s grandmother who has resigned her life to old age and waiting to die as she speaks of aliens and cattle mutilation. I could on about the many personalities here. Of course, these idiosyncrasies do hide the characters true selves much like how Erio developed her tendencies to block out painful memories. Some are simple such as Ryuko wanting to fit in and avoid Erio’s fate to more complex like Meme wanting to enjoy her youth before aging any further as well as trying to be an adequate parent to Erio – something she was not prepared for. The character interactions and writing supports this to large degree and just feels right to see it all play out. So what about the comedy I mentioned? The standard thoroughfare you might already be use to such as: blatantly veiled references (one for you Earthbound fans out there), non sequitur humor, and the typical arrangement of various tropes turned farcical situations. Either elements you like or don’t and not worth trying to explain in great detail. Let’s just say that there is a good chance you find the mix of humor pleasurable.
In terms of the production and animation side of things, Shaft is something of bizarre choice for the project, but given the series outlandish nature – it works so well. Much like other titles the studio has touched, this is no exception: pack to the rim with visual gimmicks and eye-catching uses of light and color. The gimmicks are nowhere close to the explicit level of the Monogatari series or others similar nature that pre-date it, but given the number of celestial motifs, it is probably one of the series that put it to actual good use. Erio’s is an obvious and the best example of this: various scenes featuring her with an ethereal appearance; her hair glistening in the light and producing particles. In contrast with some the backgrounds it is a very aesthetically pleasing series. The music and soundtrack engineering is great, too – but apart from the upbeat opening theme and lulling ending, the rest is fairly forgettable. With NIS America release only containing the original Japanese track (which is fine), they are some nice extras pack alongside it such as the limited edition box, artbook, episode guide/director commentary, and both the DVD and Bluray editions.
Excluding the OVA episode, the series does end on a rather sweet and jovial note just as it began and with everyone in better places from where they are started. There many life lessons about dealing with adversity, whether it is socially constructed or purely by design the series brings up, but that contemplative message is never doled out in a priggish manner and always done in a loving, amusing fashion. However, aside from all that, the series is just plain fun and pleasurable. It is a shame that without the light novels that the story never reaches a definitive conclusion, yet given what I have seen – I am more than satisfied and proud to say that is one of my favorite anime series to come from the 2011 lineup year.
Pros: Characters personalities and interactions, comedy and drama elements meddle together well. (recommended)
Cons: soundtrack lacking, the extra OVA provides little content
- While I am not completely sure that is observation is correct, it is an interesting theory. The composers of the soundtrack consist of: Yoshiaki Fujisawa (F), Kenichi Maeyamada (M), and Yusuke Itagaki (I) to get the name “Franz Maxwell I” as the unit they formed to release the official track. Despite this being a shot in the dark, the name probably pays homage to James Clerk Maxwell, the father that coined the theory surrounding Electromagnetic radiation which the concept of denpa-san is related to. I might be wrong, but consider the interviews never mentioned that, it is the only reason I could think of for this one-off unit to be created.