Anime Reviews

Low-brow good times [Occult Academy first impressions]

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about anime over the past year, it’s that these Anime no Chikara projects start out strong, only to have me lose interest after four episodes.
When faced with the latest offering in the project, Occult Academy, I was determined not to be sucked in. I would watch it, but the cool-looking opening wouldn’t sway me, nor would the conversation with the cab driver in its opening minutes pique my interest. I was a woman not scorned, but bored – and I would not have it happen again. I sat on my throne of good taste, and prepared to get back to waxing poetic about The Tatami Galaxy.
Then the female lead decked her father’s corpse with a chair, wrestler-style, and all of a sudden, I was more than willing to give things a second chance.

Cast beside Shiki and Highschool of the Dead, Summer 2010 has turned out to be zombie-filled good times. Occult Academy starts us in medias res.. twice. Firstly, we are introduced to a man, pleading for a teleport. A column of light appears in front of him, and soon thereafter he is killed.

In the next cut, we’re informed that it is July 1999, and that we are in Nagano. Shortly thereafter, we meet Maya: our classically tsundere, old-school cellphone-wielding leading lady, sporting a short white dress and – pull out your fetish glasses, boys (and girls) – thigh-high black socks. She gets in a taxi cab. To her father’s funeral. In a white dress. Where she proceeds to fight off her father’s risen-from-the-coffin, zombie-ifed corpse. All the while, Maya pronounces the entire event as a hoax to the student body of the Academy. She is powerful, miserly, and a little bit crazy.
not going to lie - I laughed.
Maya has a sharp tongue (she refers to a larger male character as “Porco Rosso” at one point) and a sharp mind, though she hates the occult. In true tsundere form, she hates it due to it breaking her family apart. As she starts her monologue, I readied myself to write Occult Academy off as a failed “comedy with darker undertones”. Then, column of light appears in front of her, landing a naked man straight in front of her horrified, disgusted face. Should you choose to watch this, note the shadows in this scene closely – thumbs up to the animators for sneaking that in. There’s a reason this airs at 1:30am, I suppose.

Occult Academy pulls no punches. It aims to be a feel-good comedy anime about supernatural occurrences in high-school. And frankly – it succeeds. Wthin the first episode it makes jabs at no less than three anime/manga (Porco Rosso, Dengeki Daisy, and 666 Satan), all while set in a scenario that might make J.K. Rowling worry about her intellectual property rights. Should it continue on its current course, Occult Academy is everything a comedy anime should be: and able to poke fun at its own place in the anime world, as well as the larger world of onscreen entertainment.

8 replies on “Low-brow good times [Occult Academy first impressions]”

Anime no Chikara is such a great project, especially under the industry’s current stifled state. If only they could hire better screenwriters, things would look up exponentially. Although its too early to pronounce them a failure, their first two shows did nothing for me. They failed to leave a mark, an impression, a memento. Although not particularly bad I consider them largely mediocre. Could this be the show that finally pushes things to a more favorable side? I sure hope so. From all impressions I’ve read and judging from the screens, it seems promising and sure of what its genre is instead of the odd fusion of styles they’ve implemented in their older shows. I find the main character’s design so pleasing to the eye, simple yet piercing. The double-chinned lady/man/thing, not so much…but hey THATS memorable 😛

I know, right? I mean, cruel as it was, I laughed. I had an english teacher who used to teach drama once, and he used to tell me that the hardest thing in the world was to get someone, sitting by themselves, to laugh. That’s why small theatres are preferred, because we influence each other – we’re more likely to laugh in groups than by ourselves. The majority of my anime watching is done alone, therefore if something can make me laugh, I’m impressed.
I’ve been waiting for Anime no Chikara to pick up too. I think it’s a project with.. good blood in it, if that makes any sense. The intent was there, and to its credit – So Ra No Wo To and Senkou no Night Raid aren’t bad anime by any measure, just.. not good. We’ll see, I suppose.

This sounds good. Like Ivy, I’m quite desperate for a break-out hit for Anime no Chikara and this could well prove to be it. The pedigree of the people involved seems quite promising, too, most notably it’s being ‘helmed’ (god, I hate that word) by the Assistant Director of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, but I’ve also just read that Ryosuke Nakamura (dir. of Mouryou no Hako, Run Melos! of of Aoi Bungaku) is working on an episode for this, too!
Anyway, for all my industry squee, I likes me some good horror anime. I’ve placed a moratorium on watching new anime until I’ve finally cleared my back-log, but right now, it’s seeming like it’s either this or High School of the Dead for ‘good fun’ and Shiki as the season’s most sophisticated offering?

Being female, half of the premise of High School of the Dead (ie, panty shots) does nothing for me. Hence, Occult Academy is my choice between the two for good fun :p.
Shiki… well… Shiki is weird. I haven’t figured out whether it’s good or not. It has moments of extreme sophistication – to the point where it reminds me heavily of Moryou no Hako. And then it has moments of just.. looking and feeling cheap. I can’t figure it out. That might be a good thing, though, considering as how there’s only one episode out. Some brief thoughts on tumblr about that, btw.

A thing that got me about this episode, apart from Maya beating the crap out of her dad a couple times, then cutting off his head (btw, wearing white to her dad’s funeral … Good call. Hadn’t noticed that), is her ridiculous pronouncements to anyone who’ll listen that the occult doesn’t exist, even when it’s right behind her about to rip out her throat. This desperate public denial gives this very serious girl a comical edge, and helped me warm to her.

Actually, I enjoyed the entire funeral scene. It was done in a very “show don’t tell” manner at times; her posture, choice of dress, impatient heel-tapping and general disgust in the direction of the vice principal (and the entire student body) were palpable. Aside from the comments from her childhood friend (which where fragment sentences amounting to “well she’s kind of…” anyways) , basically we had to figure out Maya’s personality for ourselves, and that made it interesting.
She’s entertaining. I’ll be waiting for episode two 🙂

If there’s one thing Anime no Chikara has proven so far, it’s that they do seem to have a very distinctive visual style. It’s hard to describe… maybe the word “clean” or “crisp” captures part of the essence of it. The style certainly is very contemporary but remains rather distinct among all three shows they’ve so far put out; and so far they’ve shown a lot of ambition if not necessarily mastery, so I remain hopeful.

“ambition if not necessarily mastery” is a fitting phrase for the project up until this point, I think. Even though Senkou no Night Raid and So Ra No Wo To haven’t been like 8 or 9 out of 10 anime, they’re both.. solid. As per the visual style, I’ve actually found it a little on the typical/boring side, but hey, when I found out Yuusuke Nakamura was doing the character designs for the Tatami Galaxy, I was more excited about that than I was about Masaaki Yuasa directing – and that’s saying something :).

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