If you’ve ever had any passing interest in outer space, you’ve probably wondered whether we are alone in the universe and in Ground Control to Psychoelectric Girl, set against the backdrop of a very human story, we see a series that says that even if we are just imagining things, we can still hope that intelligent life exists out there somewhere.
Adapted from the light novels by Hitoma Iruma, Ground Control to Psychoelectric Girl is a zany series that tells the story of Makoto Niwa and his potential encounters of a third kind after moving into the home of his eccentric aunt, Meme Towa. Knowing Meme is supposed to be living alone, Makoto is shocked to find a girl wrapped up in a futon lying in the hallway when he first moves in. While the girl is actually his reclusive cousin, Erio, she claims to be an alien sent to observe the humans on Earth, and quickly drags Makoto into her night-time adventures, exploring the city in the basket of her old bicycle. While he initially finds his new home life exasperating, Makoto soon becomes enamoured with his cousin and with the help of his newfound friends, Ryuko and Maekawa, resolves to break Erio’s delusions of being an alien and re-integrate her into society.
At first glance, the series can feel very bizarre and is a little difficult to get into, as it introduces the main characters and really tries to make you believe that Erio is an alien, which is something that it really hit me with, as I initially failed to pick up on some of the subtle clues that indicate she’s not. If you are caught in this trap, it can feel like the series is setting itself up to be something different than it actually is, which can result in your expectations falling back to Earth with a bump, given how relatively mundane everything turns out to be. Yet it’s with the mundane where the series finds its feet and flourishes, as it quickly opens up into a very heartfelt story that looks at those perceived as being on the outside of society and explores how such people can delude themselves to get through the hard times in life.
All of the characters in this series have some kind of quirk or eccentricity that ends them up in trouble of some form, which the series uses to explore a range of social and human issues, from that feeling of being left out, to the fear of a family member dying and being left all alone. Each situation is treated with sincerity, and it’s clear that it cares a lot for its cast of characters, never coming across as mean-spirited and always taking the course of action that would benefit a character’s development.
While quite a few of them come across as unlikable, annoying or shallow at the start, as we learn more about them, they actually show a real sense of depth, with a lot more going on around them than you first realised. Ryuko, for example, really lacks self-confidence and is therefore struggling to make an impact on her school’s basketball team; yet with her friends, she becomes a really fun character to watch, with a very energetic personality. Makoto meanwhile, starts off as a rather simple protagonist who will begrudgingly help anyone out if they need it, but also has his own dark past that looms over him in the last few episodes.
It is Meme who is the real surprise however, as while she is initially very annoying and childish, with a creepy penchant for coming on to her nephew, she eventually shows herself to be a much more realistic and caring person, and is simply using her personality as a front to hide her anxieties and fears. It’s cool how they’ve integrated this into the story as well, as she’s always hidden away in the background somewhere, helping Makoto, Erio and their friends along, even though they aren’t aware of it.
While there are a few clear arcs to the story, and not all of the characters get an arc to themselves, it is at least able to carry the development of all of its cast through the entire series. Not taking a once-and-done approach ensures that they all have something to give in each episode, and although the main focus is on Makoto and Erio’s relationship, it never feels like anyone is being left out. There are some great moments between each of them with plenty of fun and laughter to be had throughout, particularly with Maekawa’s cosplay antics being pretty funny as she continually appears in various silly costumes.
The series is also generally well-paced, and while things do slow down somewhat in the latter third as it starts to focus on a baseball game between the shopping and residential districts of the city, there’s still plenty of things to tell, especially when it introduces one of the most pivotal characters in the series, Yashiro, a young girl who has run away from home dressed in a spacesuit, and claims she has mysterious powers. Her introduction helps the series loop back round to its beginning and wrap things up with a very satisfying conclusion.
Animation is handled by SHAFT, who are a great fit for the series, with the more outlandish parts of the story very much going with the studio’s style. You’ve got an unmistakable head-tilt in the opening episode, and even what appears to be a reference to the cram school classroom from the Monogatari series later on. While the animation is pretty solid, visually it’s fairly typical for a slice-of-life romantic comedy, however attention has been paid to the female characters who all have very pretty character designs. Scenes where Erio’s hair mysteriously sparkles are particularly impressive and are used well early on to cement her feeling of other-worldliness.
The show’s soundtrack, credited to Franz Maxwell I. (formed of Yoshiaki Fujisawa, Kenichi Maeyamada, and Yusuke Itagaki) isn’t too noticeable, but sits well in the background with a mixture of light compositions mixed with some synthesiser work which emphasises its space themes. I’m personally not too fond of the opening theme, Os-Uchujin, by Erio wo Kamattechan (featuring vocals by Erio’s voice actress, Asuka Ogame, and music by Shinsei Kamattechan), as the in-character singing is frankly terrible, yet the ending theme, Ruru by Etsuko Yakushimaru, is absolutely adorable.
This is a subtitle-only release from MVM, which features a strong voice cast with Miyu Irino as Makoto and Asuka Ogame as Erio, while Emiri Katou puts in a great performance as Ryuko. Fan favourite Kana Hanazawa also gets to voice the captain of the city district’s local baseball team, who perhaps intentionally shares the same surname.
On the discs you’ll find all thirteen episodes of the series along with extras such as clean opening and ending themes and a trailer for the series. There are also links to trailers for other series on the disc menu, such as Natsume’s Book of Friends and anohana, however the trailers do seem to be missing as selecting any of these options just reloads the disc from the main menu.
Overall, Ground Control to Psychoelectric Girl is a heartfelt and funny slice-of-life series that really cares for its cast of characters and tackles some sensitive topics well. It is a little difficult to get into at the start with its initial weird sci-fi premise and some problems with its characters, but it quickly turns this around, while its sci-fi elements wrap around nicely to produce a very satisfying conclusion. If you are a fan of SHAFT in general or just want to watch a more off-the-wall series, then I would definitely recommend it.