Occult Academy Episode 5 – Beaver Fever
Just when I was starting to like Occult Academy again, they give me an entire episode about Beaver Girl!
Kozue Naruse, the occult-obsessed, bespectacled and kind of dumb friend of Ami Kuroki, childhood friend of Maya, our main characters, gets her own episode, which promises to fix some of the problems with Occult Academy’s side characters, and her in particular.
First off, none of the secondary characters are very interesting. In a show where both the principles continue to annoy me, Maya with her violent tsundere act and Fumiaki with his utter incompetence, having interesting supporting characters becomes a must. Of the rest of the cast, the only two who have even gotten enough screen time to be of interest are the vice principal, who admittedly continues to be the comedic soul of the show, and Mikaze, the object of Fumiaki’s desire, who is interesting more for what we don’t know about her than what we do.
The vice principal’s misguided attempts to woo Fumiaki continue to be endearing: they’re probably the only reason I’m still watching this show. Her shock and betrayal at seeing how hard Fumiaki has fallen for Mikaze is the second best moment in the show. And I’m genuinely interested to see how Mikaze fits into the show’s world. Her appearance is just too convenient: she has to fit into what passes for a plot in this show somehow.
The rest of them, though, are just tediously dull.
Part of the problem is that they’re just not well-developed. All we know about the janitor is that he frequently beats things up, and all we know about the fat goth is that he can apparently sense spirits, and that he’s frequently around the janitor for some reason. That’s it. They aren’t characters: they’re plot devices with voice actors.
After this episode, we know that Kozue is really obsessed with the occult. And that she’s the only one at school who hasn’t seen some supernatural phenomenon with her own eyes (despite being possessed in episode 1 and kidnapped in episode 3 and 4).
Her drive to experience the paranormal is the plot underpinning this episode. Basically, it consists of Maya and Ami shooting down her bogus discoveries of supernatural occurrences, and saving her from danger in her misguided search for the occult.
This culminates in her volunteering to undergo a near-death experience for school, which is an awfully convenient turn of events. Occult Academy survives mostly on its goofy, weird world, but this is pushing it even for all that. Anyway, Kozue is placed in a weird pod that doesn’t look like 1999 tech at all, her heart rate drops, and she travels to a surreal dreamscape where she bungee jumps through bubbles. It, uh, definitely looks cooler than it sounds.
This whole scene is pretty well done, and a continuing testament to the solid animation work being done, but the best moment is definitely the aftermath of Kozue’s self-induced brush with death. After being revived, she stands straight up, declares she doesn’t need her glasses, and dismisses the whole affair as silly occult nonsense. Meanwhile, we see Kozue on the monitor showing the dreamscape, disoriented and frantically screaming for her glasses. That’s where the episode ends—her screams are even layered over the ‘To Be Continued’ screen.
It’s actually really creepy, especially for anime, where most horror shows tend to fall victim to one side or another of the uncanny valley. I could nitpick about the contrivance of a monitor showing Kozue inside the dreamscape (it doesn’t even show her from the first person), but this is the show’s best moment. I should let it have its chance to shine.
Overall, though, Occult Academy is one of those shows that seems perpetually one episode away from me being fed up with it. So far there’s been exactly one thing per episode keeping me from just giving it up, but what happens when the inevitable dud pops up that’s even worse than usual?
Part of the problem is, despite my claims last episode, the show still doesn’t have a consistent tone. Unless you find Kozue’s pathetic attempts at finding supernatural events funny, this show isn’t a comedy. Of course, with no plot to speak of until its last five minutes, it isn’t much of anything. It’s just the first episode of what appears to be another multiple episode arc, but most of this feels like it should have been left on the cutting room floor.
I’m interested to see where this arc is going, and the last storyline was extremely weak in the first episode but better in the second, so let’s hope this one will pay off. I have to be honest, though: I don’t have much hope.
Watch this episode right here. Or don’t. I don’t even care anymore.