Teen-aged Ageha Yoshina’s life could be called pretty simple. He likes to fight, no matter the reason. So for a modest fee of 10,000 yen he’ll take on just about any cause for the chance to crack some heads. Unfortunately for him his life is about to get a lot more complex. First he answers the ring of a public phone when no one else is around and sees a strange apparition suddenly appear and vanish. Looking down he notices a red phone card that has been left in the phone with the logo of Psyren.
Ageha soon begins hearing a lot more about Psyren (pronounced ‘siren’). First, he remembers the reference made by his old friend and classmate, Sakuarako Amaniya, when some girls picked on her at the beginning of high school, telling them “Psyren is coming! You and I will be nothing but powerless trash!” The incident gave her a reputation as the Ice Queen. Then Ahega finds her lost wallet and notices she has another Psyren phone card. Does he hear her say “Save me” after he returns her wallet and she walks away?
It’s possible he does, as the next day Sakuarako is missing. When Ageha begins investigating, he hears details of an urban legend about the secret society of Psyren. People have been disappearing from all over Japan after receiving a red phone card from the mysterious Nemesis Q and using it to contact Psyren. The urge to continue his investigations is too powerful to resist and Ahega makes a fateful phone call that starts his unwilling journey to another world. The land of Psyren is a post-apocalyptic wasteland, seemingly populated only by mutated monsters. But soon after arriving Ageha does indeed find Sakuarako, who ends up unexpectedly saving him… and wielding a sword! Through her, Ahega begins to slowly learn the rules of this strange world, and to find out the game has just begun.
Iwashiro does a wonderful job of taking a simple character and situation and slowly adding mystery and excitement. The puzzle that is Psyren slowly builds throughout the volume as details about the world, the people transported to it, and the creatures that live in it are filled in. Unlike many manga series that seem to go on and on from volume to volume without much change, you actually get the feeling that the main characters are making progress towards figuring out their situation. It is evident that there are many more surprises and problems to uncover, but I enjoyed the fact that this volume had a definite ending – even if it was somewhat of a cliffhanger.
The artwork is also well-executed and the action scenes show a nice flair. Iwashiro’s line work and character design is very suited to the story he tells, reminding me a bit of Hiro Mashima (of Rave Master and Fairy Tail) as well as Akihisa Ikeda (Rosario + Vampire). There are moderate amounts of violence, but surprisingly little blood and gore as Iwashiro frames the action with more restraint than many similar series. Also, he seems happy to concentrate on action, humor, and mystery and leave the up-skirt fan service shots to the others as well, making this a good recommendation for libraries who have teen patrons hungry for action, but parents who monitor what they read. Personally, I’m looking forward to the next volume.