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[Editor’s Pick] With great power comes great exasperation

Between Gintama and Gintama 2, director Fukuda Yuichi found time to adapt Aso Shuichi’s The Disastrous Life of Saiki K., another manga about a reluctant smart-talking hero with distinctly colored hair. Fukuda translates the physical comedy, deadpan humor and general ridiculousness of the gag manga into an appropriately over-the-top live-action high school comedy about the misadventures of Psychic Kusuo.

Prolific young actor Yamazaki Kento takes on yet another manga adaptation, but like with the JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable adaptation, Psychic Kusuo sees him expanding beyond the shojo manga heartthrob fare that has been his bread and butter in the last few years. As the eponymous exasperated teen psychic with a disastrous life, Yamazaki successfully elicits laughs while playing a largely expressionless character.

Saiki Kusuo was born with extraordinary psychic powers, including telepathy, telekinesis, teleportation, time manipulation and x-ray vision. However, it turns out having such enormous power is a total drag. Every day, he has to live carefully to keep his powers in check. Otherwise, he might accidentally destroy the world. Since Saiki can read minds, nothing interests or surprises him, leading him to be completely poker-faced to the antics of those around him. Saiki’s goal is simply to be average and not stand out.

The day of the school festival is usually a day of escape for Saiki, because he can slip away and do his own thing. However, the school has threatened to cancel the festival the following year if anything goes wrong this year. Naturally, everything goes wrong – from perilous magic tricks to a gang of high school delinquents seeking a fight. Saiki’s hilarious efforts to fix the wrongs trigger worse problems, and his out-of-control powers eventually put himself and the entire student body at risk.

Much of Psychic Kusuo‘s comedy derives from the contrast between Saiki’s deadpan demeanor and everyone else’s exaggerated actions and expressions. Just like how Gintama creates humor from its manga/anime references, Kusuo creates humor through its hero cynically seeing through the other characters’ stock manga-like behavior and personalities. Kaku Kento and Hashimoto Kanna pretty much spend half their screentime doing facial contortions, all of which could get annoying if not for a protagonist who balances the madness with a relentless straight-man act. Albeit, a straight man with neon pink hair, an antenna on his head, and a penchant for turning people into stone.

Psychic Kusuo takes the audience through Saiki’s long and harried day in which many crazy things happen around the school that test the scale and limitations of his powers. But also nothing happens in the greater scheme of things. It’s just one gravely serious yet irreverently inane day in The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.

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