Ground Control to Psychoelectric Girl typifies elements from both the slice-of-life and harem genres, but manages to preserve its sense of originality. A fairly standard set-up introduces us to our 16-year-old protagonist, Makoto Niwa. After his parents move overseas, he’s sent to live with his aunt in the city. He sees the shift as an opportunity to live out the teenage dream, and obsesses over fulfilling the ideal close to his school years. Makoto even uses a rating system to quantify his satisfaction. Events earn “adolescence points” on a scale of 1-5. Maintaining a high score logically ensures a memorable life, void of regret.
Discovering his secret and offbeat cousin, Erio Touwa, derails Makoto’s careful plans. Erio believes she is an alien, and she spends most of her time wrapped in a futon for protection. To make matters worse, his negligent aunt, in the throes of a midlife crisis, focuses her attention on seducing Makoto. He also earns the attention of two of his female classmates: tall cosplayer Maekawa and the super kawaii Ryuko. Makoto’s annoyance with Erio softens into concern, and he takes a personal interest in guiding Erio back to “normal” society.
"She’s as odd and misunderstood by her peers as Harry Potter’s Luna Lovegood or Jerry Spinelli’s Stargirl."
Erio moonlights as Makoto’s manic pixie dream girl while coming to terms with her mental illness. And I’m not sure which message the creators intended. She’s as odd and misunderstood by her peers as Harry Potter’s Luna Lovegood or Jerry Spinelli’s Stargirl. In contrast, modern indie cinema places Erio on par with the many awkward faces of Zooey Deschanel. The mental health assumption risks trivialization, and excessive fanservice does no favors here. Upskirt shots are mild for anime, but they’re still present. Erio is as sexualized as the other female characters, but she’s also developmentally disabled. Whether that disability culminated as a result of her amnesia six months ago is a stretch, but ultimately beside the point. Makoto respects Erio, through his words and actions. His genuine devotion to Erio seems to be driven by something deeper, and a romantic motivation is debatable. He’s honest about his physical attraction, and the show makes no efforts to downplay Erio’s desirability. The “accidental” shots of her clothing falling off are clearly meant for fans, and feel entirely out of place. Combined with her shyness and childlike disposition, it’s just too much.
"The accidental shots of her clothing falling off are clearly meant for fans, and feel entirely out of place. Combined with her shyness and childlike disposition, it’s just too much."
What sets Ground Control apart and saves it from mediocrity, is that both Makoto and Erio grow and gain from their relationship. Their sincere moments of understanding outweigh the invitations to voyeurism. Supporting characters Maekawa and Ryuko are not just screens to project Makoto’s desires. While both characters embody some conventional traits, their interactions with and interest in Makoto feel real. While Ground Control doesn’t have a distinct storyline, emotional development propels the action enough that it doesn’t matter. It’s an unassuming coming-of-age story filled with beautiful moe-style art. SHAFT provides fluid, top-quality animation backed by strong voice acting.
It would be remiss to categorize Ground Control within the sci-fi genre, despite the reference to aliens. The first arc of the show actually includes several overt ET references: Erio’s initials, her foreign father is named Elliot and Makoto joins her in a recreation of the famous bike scene. Still, Ground Control is much closer to a comedic drama than fantasy epic. Erio’s alien involvement is primarily discussed in the beginning of the show.
"NIS America never skimps on quality, and the standard set is a steal."
Ground Control to Psychoelectric Girl has been available for well over a year, but it never piqued my interest enough to investigate before this standard release. Neither the locked subtitles nor the name change posed issue going into this series. And I’m in the appreciative camp on the Major Tom reference. That level of minutia doesn’t worry me. However, I am glad that the OVA finale wasn’t deemed a premium exclusive. NISA includes all thirteen episodes in the standard release on both DVD and Blu-Ray. NIS America never skimps on quality, and the standard set is a steal. Like many other NISA titles, Ground Control is available for free streaming on Hulu. Yet, those in search of the ideal viewing experience will still want to invest the extra.
Review by: Ameenah Salamunic | Published by: NIS America