When I saw the DVD case for Psycho Diver my expectations were set. Its stylish combination of black, blue greys and greens immediately evoked an emotive mood of a fluid subconscious. The box stills of bloodied bandages, a cadaver-colored body and a knife-wielding woman – read sex and death – reinforced the notion of mental fragmentation. I was there. I wanted to see Bosujima, the Psycho Diver, tramping around in somebody’s subconscious encountering all kinds of disturbing imagery. If he punched out a few inner demons along the way then so be it. It’s time psychoanalysts got a little proactive.
Unfortunately that’s not quite what you get. Psycho Diver is pretty much a straight hard-boiled mystery. The animation is heavy-lined with a dark palette complementing the narrative. The moody environments and are drenched in inky shadows recalling Golgo 13 or Ninja Scroll. The characters are pretty much film noir standards. Bosujima comes across as cynical PI type. How do we know this? He is given a world weary voice over. Yuki’s business manager plays the femme fatale. Is she playing Bosujima for her own ends? And Yuki, the pop star, vacillates between coquettish psycho killer and shop store dummy. It’s as if the makers have dispensed with characterisation because the viewer comes pre-packaged with these stereotype templates.
What really makes Psycho Diver is the disturbing imagery of the psycho diving. Weird doll-like children and bloodied bandages all add up to a quite a distressing hit. However, all too quickly the story moves on to more conventional action. In fact, all the plot twists and action hit the viewer without much tension building at all. It all feels like a series of short, sharp shocks because of the lack of build to the next dramatic event.
Psycho Diver tries to squeeze too much into its allotted forty-seven minutes. Instead of building tension, it relies on the viewer to fill in the missing tension. Instead of building character it gives the player a breakdown and asks the viewer to fill in the blanks. Psycho Diver’s strengths are its smooth and moody animation and its exploration of the subconscious is suitably creepy. Unfortunately it’s not quite enough.