It’s fairly easy to tell when a friend isn’t acting like themselves: they might lack their usual energy, or refrain form some mannerism that’s particular for them, or just generally seem different from how they normally act. But what happens if their actions and beliefs seem so utterly different that they could be a different person?
How would you react to someone you cared about undergoing such a sudden change in behavior? What would happen if they suddenly became a very different person? One might suspect some kind of psychological trauma. The more spiritually minded might suggest demonic possession.
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.
But first: the bad news. The show sadly seems to have all but thrown off the weird 90s paranormal horror feel it so successfully created in the first episode, in favor of more traditional anime wackiness. The supernatural bits are there, with our heroes finding Yggdrasil under a Japanese mountain, and the revelation that mothmen were the real things responsible for abducting people. Beaver girl is back, too, if you’re not a fan.
But, weird mythological transplants from the West aside, there’s nothing else in the show to support the kooky/creepy 90s paranormal tone that we saw in the first episode or two. It’s still got the same off-beat sense of humor, but it’s got more in common with other goofy slapstick comedies than what we were teased with earlier.
I’ve given it some leeway for the first two episodes, but now I have to ask the big question: what the heck is Occult Academy about?
It’s maintained an odd, offbeat tone throughout but, let’s be honest, it’s not very funny, even by the low standards of most not-very-funny “comedy” anime (although this episode has a few exceptions). Like most anime, it has a fairly high concept premise, but that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. There’s the sinister conspiracy apparently responsible of the death of Maya’s father, but the first episode spelled out pretty clearly that the rest of the administration was involved with that, so who cares?
I was afraid this would happen.
From the looks of this episode, it would appear that Occult Academy, despite its unique setting, is actually a pretty normal anime. I can already see it start to slip into the same old patterns: the overly familiar characters, the stock premise, my spiraling lack of interest.
I guess, if you wanted to be charitable, you could chalk it up to this being the boring ‘set up the premise’ episode that last week forwent in order to give us some undead father-punching character development. But the truth is, good shows manage to be interesting even when they’re dumping exposition on you.
Both shows that have aired in TV Tokyo’s Anime no Chikara time slot, created to showcase original anime not based on manga, games or books, has so far failed to grab me.
Both Sora no Oto and Senkou no Night Raid have been original, but only in the sense that they took familiar anime premises to strange new places. Sora no Oto was (from my admittedly brief viewing) a slice of life moe anime set in a brutal alternate-reality World War 2, and Senkou no Night Raid is, as you may know, a superhero conspiracy show set in one of the more controversial periods of Japanese history.
Occult Academy is a period piece too, taking place in the unfamiliar and alien world of 1999. It’s a great time period for mysticism and the supernatural, with hysteria about the year 2000, the last spasms of the New Age movement and the general undercurrent of weirdness and belief in the occult.