The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Occult Academy

Title: Occult Academy aka Seikimatsu Occult Gakuin
Genre: Horror/Comedy
Company: A-1 Pictures/Aniplex
Format: 13 episodes
Dates: 6 Jul 2010 – 27 Sep 2010

Synopsis: Kumashiro Maya’s father was the head of a school perched atop a hill until he died in mysterious circumstances. This school, Waldstein Academy, dedicated itself to the study of the occult, much to Maya’s displeasure. Maya has now inherited the school, but she seeks to dismantle it out of her hatred of the occult. However, a time traveler appears before her named Uchida Fumiaki, who bears a warning of a grim future, and a mission to prevent it.

The Highlights
Premise: Full of ideas; creative, but overwhelming.
Characters: Maya and Fumiaki are both fairly dynamic and share chemistry.
Pacing: Woeful; the first of Occult Academy’s major problems.
Climax: The battle witches arc is embarrassing.

Occult Academy is the third, and, at the time of writing, last anime-original series featured in Aniplex’s Anime no Chikara timeslot, following Sora no Woto and Senkou no Night Raid. All three problems seem to suffer from a very similar misfortune: ambitious ideas, combined with shoddy execution. I can’t complain about Occult Academy’s characters, or its dry sense of humour, both of which ooze creativity, but the script and pacing bind it from reaching its potential.

The lead pair, Maya and Fumiaki are each interesting for their own reasons. Maya is much more well rounded than the typical tsundere, and her attitude towards other characters and the events that take place around her are dynamic, and always tethered to sound reason. Her evolving relationship with Fumiaki (and, more importantly, the way she responds to him) is constantly entertaining (thanks to her wide array of facial expressions), but it was, funnily enough, her love-hate relationship with the occult itself that I found most interesting about her. Fumiaki is about the most likable coward I’ve ever seen in anime. His archetype, a character with Fred’s bland good looks and Shaggy’s fortitude, is common in anime and one of my least favourite, but his backstory, particularly the bits involving his overbearing mother and how they influence his current relationships with various women, makes him a sympathetic character.

The Scooby Doo theme has further relevance, because that’s what some of the episodic stories feel like at times. Dabbling in generally random and mostly pointless aspects of the occult, the stories are ultimately treated by the characters for what they are: one or, sometimes two, episode long red herrings that are forgotten quickly after they’re resolved. The more meaningful consequences of these episodes, whether they be developing Kozue’s character or expanding the friendship between Maya and Ami, aren’t all that engaging. But Occult Academy saves its worst for the climax. Aerial fights between witches, a brainwashed mob, roadrunning demon grandmas and the insipidly predictable revelation of the final bad guy all feature in the two episodes where the show goes from boring to stupid.

The final episode which is, surprisingly, much less hectic than the climactic penultimate, redeems it slightly, even if the conclusion takes some swallowing. The ideas it had about time travel (reminiscent of 12 Monkeys), as well as a few of the plot twists, really deserved more attention and things would have been much more interesting had they focused on that, rather than the battle witches arc that preceded it. Unfortunately, by this point, Occult Academy as an overall story had largely discredited itself. Its ideas, as intriguing as some of them are, feel wasted in the face of such inconsistency. Arguably what Occult Academy needed was a more focused script. But I have no doubt it needed better execution.

The Rating: 5

Reviewed by: Sorrow-kun

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