Makoto Niwa has to go and live with his aunt when his parents go abroad. When he gets there, he seems to have stepped into a madhouse. His aunt Meme Towa behaves in a very inappropriate way, but anime fans will probably recognise her character trope. She is on the verge of middle age, single, and desperate to hold onto her youth. That is causing her to behave inappropriately towards Makoto and just about everyone else. But nothing in this series is quite what it seems, and Meme’s behaviour is unusually not driven by a desire to find a husband, something that is explored later in the series in a very thought-provoking way. Sometimes people are who they are because that’s the person they want to be, not because there’s something lacking in their lives.
In a very clever bit of misdirection, it appears initially that there is a ghost living in the house, whom only Makoto can see, and Meme’s odd behaviour allows this red herring to work very well, but it turns out that the mysterious third person living in the house is Meme’s daughter, Erio. She’s a great character. When we first encounter her she is wrapped in a futon, which looks incredibly silly but is fully explained as the series progresses. She is an incredibly cute, quirky character, who believes she is an alien who has been sent to monitor the human race. That might sound far-fetched, but she has good reason to think that, because she went missing for six months and returned with no memory of that gap in her life.
Bringing us a little bit closer to an answer about that is the other great character in this series, Yashiro Hoshimiya, who doesn’t turn up until very late in the game. She is a little girl who goes around wearing a spacesuit, as if she’s a sci-fi obsessed child, but there’s more to her than that. Her origins are mysterious, and she seems to be a runaway, but at times she appears to exhibit some very real supernatural powers. The final episode on the Blu-ray set is an OVA episode, which actually rounds off the series very nicely, showing the extent of Yashiro’s powers, and shaking Makoto’s belief system.
Makoto himself is elevated from the usual bland male protagonist by a quirk of his character, where he keeps a tally of how well his teenage years are going by awarding himself “adolescence points”. He believes he is living the best years of his life, and each episode ends with a running total, which is a fun little bonus. There are a couple of other regular characters, two classmates of Makoto who inevitably end up with feelings for him, but this stops well short of being a harem anime. A lot of the series focuses on Ryuko, although I suspect she will be the character everyone forgets very quickly, while Maekawa is much more fun, a very tall girl who likes to wear silly costumes and refuses to call Makoto anything other than “transfer student”. She’s an entertaining character, although neither of them are in the same league as Erio, who is the heart and soul of this series and hugely watchable. Her predicament functions well as an examination of a shut-in teen, a common problem in Japan and the subject of several anime series. On the one hand this series avoids some of the constraints of that genre, with Erio unafraid to go out and about with Makoto, while unwilling to attend school, but on the other hand it doesn’t tackle the subject particularly well either. I would have liked to see Erio helped back to school by her new friends, but at least their friendship does create some positive progress in her life.
In a moment of spontaneous madness I pre-ordered this series on blu-ray when it was announced, without knowing anything about it apart from the title, but who could resist an anime called Ground Control to Psychoelectric Girl? I was rewarded with a series that is hugely entertaining and quirky, and left me wanting to see more from these characters. If alien encounters are this funny, they can come and visit us any time they like. RP