We can blame this all on Ed Chavez as we can with so many other things. As a fan of Shonen Sunday I distinctly remember Ed recommending this title to me. That led me down the road I walk today. But in the end I have no regrets. This was the only path. My whole post is recommending Zettai Karen Children.
In an alternate history set in the not too distant future, next Sunday AD, psychic powers are a rare but not unheard of phenomenon. And while some people use their power for selfish gain, crime, and destruction the forces at B.A.B.E.L. use their gifts to defend their fellow-man and help promote the idea that psychics can be a force for good. Three of the most power psychics in the world are the extremely bratty and rebellious girls known as The Children. Can their new guardian Koichi Minamoto train them to their full potential while preventing them from taking over the world?
As I have stated before when I went on my crazy twenty-two volume readings spree there are some more problematic parts of the series in the beginning. Zettai Karen Children does have a bit of a lolicon angle in the first phase and the plot is mostly goofy with occasional hints of having a more serious backbone. But as the series goes on it really changes into a different series. The core mechanics are always the same but as The Children mature so does the plot.
In many ways what started off as a cooky series about misbehaving little girls has turned into the Shonen Sunday’s version of the X-Men. The manga slowly introduces a clairvoyant prognostication of a terrible future where Kaoru is the leader of a bloody war between normal humans and espers in which Minamoto has to kill her to prevent even more devastation. This leads to several groups slowly fomenting this conflict on both sides of the issue. At the first major villains, P.A.N.D.R.A., go from generic bad guys of the week to nuanced anti-heroes with their own flawed but understandably agenda. Kyosuke Hyobu and Magneto alone have a considerable amount of parallels. Kyosuke even got spun off into his own anime as the anti-hero. The series even has some slightly serious looks at Japanese Imperialism during WWII and the standard examination of prejudice and discrimination that comes up whenever people with mutant powers are involved.
That is not to say that Zettai Karen Children totally drops in goofy sense of humor. Its large cast usually is built around everyone have a comedic core. But it takes those colorful and uses them to grow the plot into something more complex. This is hardly a seinen masterpiece of breaking genius but it does become a more nuanced work that it first might appear to be.
If your interested in starting the series but are worried the excesses of the manga’s first books you can cut your teeth on the much tamer anime which is also legally available to purchase. It is a nice way to know if you are going to like the series as a whole of not.
One last random note. One of the strangest parts of the whole series is almost all the core cast of characters is named after characters from the book, The Tale of Genji. While the character they are named after is often a distinct clue to their personality (and sometimes romantic relationships) the The Tale of Genji itself does not play a big influence of the plot. Just an interesting bit of trivia.