I have recently taken to one of TV Tokyo’s Anime no Chikara’s projects, Occult Academy. Anime no Chikara makes fresh anime. This means that it’s not based on pre-published material such as a manga to dictate direction. Well thanks to a way-ward plot that veers between cliché and great humour it certainly feels random.
The first episode opens with a chap being chased by a monster and pleading to be teleported out as people monitor him from some unknown facility. After his death and the opening credits we go back in time to Nagano circa 1999 and introduced to the female lead, a serious young woman on her way to her father’s funeral at the school for the occult he built.
Her name is Maya Kumashiro and she hates the occult. And she has to take charge of the academy.
What follows next is a slap-stick fight with her father’s zombified corpse as she tries to convince the staff and students that the occult doesn’t really exist.
Why does she hate the occult? At one time she loved it but the series reveals its influence on her family and friends and how it defined her. And the show continues along with this merry mix of the supernatural, science fiction, family intrigue and the strange goings on around the mysterious school and its link in an impending apocalypse.
What makes this anime watchable is the fact that it’s a goofy knowing comedy with an equally silly but well-drawn cast who are treated kindly making sure it is broadly entertaining. It is like a grab-bag of every occult and narrative cliché going with magic, UFO’s, Christmas ghosts, mothmen and other monsters and mythology.
I actually liked this universe. I recognised the references and enjoyed the uneven tone in setting between the strange and normal. The settings, monsters and situations felt contradictory but raised the show up from the mundane format of two-episode stories and item searches seen in so much media like Darker than Black and role-playing games.
This addiction to the occult is a major selling point especially when exhibited through the insanely cute and charming Kozue.
Through Kozue, the show is brave enough to enter upon flights of fancy as with her near-death experience looking more like a children’s story book with patchwork fields made up of a myriad of wonderful pastel colours, malleable landscapes and weird gravity.
The rest of the supporting cast and their exaggerated reactions to the normal and not so normal are simply wonderful but it is Maya and Bunmei who are the main draws.
Maya is a great lead. Acting as both a student and a headmistress with an authoritarian streak a mile wide, she is usually seen glowering at anybody mentioning the occult and meting out violence to monsters.
She is the source of much comedy, criticising people around her because of their involvement in the occult in bursts of sharp vituperative dialogue or disdainful comments.
Maya has to share the stage with Bunmei.
Bunmei is always a likeable character due to his bumbling, cowardly nature which sees him the source of much comedy and the target of Maya’s anger. Lost in time and desperately seeking love, he draws sympathy.
Despite settling down with a formulaic nature and a few generic ideas and episodes, the friendly tone of the anime made me like it. The twists at the end with regard to the Nostradamus key were also quite sharp.
Fundamentally, it is funny. It has been a while since an anime has made me laugh. I can admire visuals and action but the comedy got me and no matter how many times I re-watch scenes it never gets tired. I just hope that this gets a UK release.