mDuo13

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Review: Seikimatsu Occult Gakuin @

Our protagonists and their scientific cell phone of future-prediction

Seikimatsu Occult Gakuin, or just Occult Academy, is a recent series by Aniplex studio A-1 Pictures, part of their "Anime no Chikara" project that also includes So-Ra-No-Wo-To and Ichiban Ushiro no Daimao, with the goal of creating quality original anime series (not based on manga or other works). Set in 1999, follows Kumashiro Maya, heir to a school that specializes in the occult, and Abe Fumiaki, an ex-psychic who has been sent from 13 years in the future to search out and destroy "Nostradamus's Key", the artifact that will cause an catastrophic dimensional rift on the 21st of July. Aside: I like how the time travel in this show almost becomes 12 Monkeys and Back to the Future - two competing models for cinematic time travel - at the same time!

Plot and Characters: Seikimatsu Occult Gakuin is a show that focuses on character development first and foremost, although it also has a penchant for gag-filled "freak of the episodes" episodes in the same spirit as traditional works of the "everything supernatural is real" genre. Unfortunately, the marriage of totally implausible, twist-based plots to serious character development doesn't work here, because the pacing is wantonly inconsistent. Both sides suffer: the plot advances at a glacial pace and then suddenly careens downhill into the trainwreck that is the last few episodes, and the character development that the show worked hard at early on ends up coming off as arbitrarily forced. The character development is supposed to revolve around some important flaws in the characters, but when it progresses so slowly, those flaws just end up making many of the characters unlikable. It has its ups and downs, and at least it tries something a little harder than many lazy shows out there, but the result is nothing to write home about and it especially hurts the show to end on a mess like it does.

Art and Animation: The animation for Seikimatsu Occult Gakuin is not bad. The backgrounds are often forgettable but usually very detailed and tastefully drawn, doing a good job of setting the scenes. The character designs look fairly nice at first, but they also seem a little off-kilter, like something's not quite right with everyone. These flaws seem to get amplified whenever the animation gets lazy, which is more often than they should. One girl, Kozue, takes the popular :3 and :< faces to such extremes that it seems almost as if she canonically has a cleft lip. Intrusive CGI elements are kept relatively light, and the opening sequence has a cool, Gankutsuou-esque high-saturation textures aesthetic. (The ending sequence is, for whatever reason, photographic still images of children lying around on grass with excessive lens flares.)

Music and Sound: The OP is catchy. The ending is acceptable J-Pop, but nothing I'll remember or care about six months to a year from now. The background music does its job and mixes it up well, from slow strings during the suspenseful parts to rocking, if generic, electric guitar shredding during the action. And, for once, that's about all I have to say about the music in a show!

Viewing Considerations: I have a hard time placing Seikimatsu Occult Gakuin into a particular target demographic. It doesn't put much emphasis on fanservice or moe or BL or anything, but there's definitely some nudity (apparently you can lose your clothes while time travelling!) and some sexual themes occasionally. Most of the time they don't stand out, although some of the later episodes make it hard to ignore. The humor is pretty elementary, so it doesn't require much particular cultural knowledge to follow, though it also falls flat somewhat often.

Overall: Occult Academy is a pretty mixed bag, a show that sometimes looks and sounds like it knows what it's doing but that illusion eventually falls apart, leaving something that's neither exceptional nor exceptionally bad, just somewhat lacking and disappointingly mediocre.

 

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