Posted by psgels on 27 September 2010 with categories: Anime Reviews, Seikimatsu Occult Gakuin




The past summer really had its quantity problem, but there still were three series that really stood out to me as a breath of fresh air that may have significant flaws, but also have a delightful execution. These series are Shiki, Kuroshitsuji II and Seikimatsu Occult Gakuin. While Shiki had an incredibly solid execution and Kuroshitsuji got better and better as it went on, Occult Gakuin instead was just all over the place, which had both its advantages and disadvantages.

This series promised to be a fast-paced adventure series through the occult with its excellent and very witty first episode, but instead it turns out that it’s built around several two-episode arcs instead, focusing more on its characters while developing its plot only in the background. In Occult Academy, no episode really is like the other, with the result that you might be expecting a fast-paced action episode, only to get a bunch of episodes that focus more on the quiet type of storytelling.

On the bright side though, you’ll never know what this series will focus on next, and the episodes in which this series really goes all out were without a doubt the best episodes I watched during the entire summer season. The producers got some of the most amazing staff to write for some of the episodes, ranging from the director of Michiko e Hatchin, the director of Mouryou no Hako and Aoi Bungaku’s Hashire Melos to the writer of Noein and Birdy the Mighty Decode. There are thre episodes in this series that are so well written, portrayed and animated, that simply their presence makes this entire series worth watching.

Now, as for the rest of the series, it does have some balancing issues, and some other episodes fail to entice any excitement, and could have been cut from the series easily. The series itself spends a bit too much of its focus on developing Maya as a character, that it forgets about the other parts of the series. Because of this, some parts are rushed while others just take too long, on top of their lack of creativity compared to the better moments of the series.

Despite the balance issues, the plot does come together quite nicely in the end, though. All of the major questions get answers quite nicely and used to bring in some very interesting twists near the end. And really, amidst the countless of series that don’t seem to have any ambition, Occult Academy really tried to create something interesting, creative and diverse. It’s set up pretty much guarantees that you’ll be disappointed in one way or the other due to the lesser episodes, but for me it had enough to make up for it. I have quite a few issues with this series, but really: if those issues were fixed then this would have been a serious contender for the best series of the year and it will be awesome if more series would try to follow in this series’ footsteps.

Storytelling: 9/10 – The writing ranges from average at worst to absolutely fantastic at best. When it wants to, this series can be truly excellent at building up, but there are times in which it doesn’t have enough creativity in its script.
Characters: 8/10 – A very solid cast, but considering the premise of this series, the creators could have eliminated some overused cliches, and they could have done more with Maya’s character considering the amount of time that was put in her development.
Production-Values: 9/10 – Gorgeous and creative animation that really brings the characters to life.
Setting: 8/10 – Explores the occult from all over the world. Very interesting as a kaleidoscope throughout the supernatural, though never really goes in-depth.

Suggestions:
Baccano
Michiko e Hatchin
Kaiba

9 Responses

  1. skchai says:

    Not doubt anime should try to break out of the existing genres and try completely new concepts. Seikimatsu Occult Gakuin does does its best to do so while maintaining a strong focus on entertainment, as do the other series in the Anime no Chikara timeslot.

    Although the two are often conflated, their aim is in a way the opposite from Noitamina, which tries to adapt high-quality mainstream manga rather than otaku-oriented stuff in order to attract a wider audience.

    I loved the early episodes and the Maya character in general, who is interesting, funny, and sympathetic, as well as being impossible to place within any existing anime archetype.

    The plotholes are so numerous, however, that it frustrated the detail-obsessed otaku side of me to end. Not just the ending, but also . . . .

    Did Mikaze herself believe she was the Nostradamus key (it’s never made clear)? If so, why would she, especially if she is such a brilliant mage? Furthermore, if she was capable of opening up the time/space portal and she was not in fact the Nostradamus key, then she should have been able to do it any time, not just the appointed date.
    What’s with the classic-model aliens? Why should they, of all folks, exist on the other side of the portal? What would Mikaze gain by letting them in (assuming she thought etc. etc.) Were they her pals?
    Why were all the previous time travelers killed when they actually posed no real threat to Mikaze’s plans? Unless she knew Bunmei was the key, but then there very easy ways for her to bring about the apocalypse once he arrived.
    Shouldn’t did the Sumidagawa area of 2012 have appeared in a destroyed state when Maya’s father arrived after his time-forward travel?
    If they already knew about the Ramachandran-Fischer law, should the slight problems it could cause have been pretty evident Maya’s dad and the chief scientist from 2012 (BTW a rare current role for Futamata Issei = Godai Yuusuke from 1986’s Maison Ikkoku) before they sent in the time travelers.

    And hey, which Ramachandran and which Fischer’s name are they taking in vain? The various biologists? Or is Fischer a callout to Bobby? Did his mastery of the Ruy Lopez opening somehow reveal something about time-space portals? At least use some obvious imaginary names if you’re going to talk about fake laws, so that make otaku engage in useless, time-wasting, speculation.

    Sorry, rant over, but I think with a little bit more time they could have come up with a plot that had fewer holes, and in the process got more entertainment value from characters like the vice-principal/mage and the spoon-bending young Bunmei.

    The spoon thing at the end last episode was totally WTF, but it was sufficient over-the-top to be in the so-absurd-it-kind-of-makes-sense.

  2. Moonhawk says:

    @skchai:
    I don’t think Maya’s dad travelled forward in time when he was sent away by the magic spell.
    He was only transported someplace else in his time and started to look for the key there.
    Then on the appointed day he saw on television what had happened at Occult Academy and knew he had failed. From then on he started to develop a way to send timetravellers back to find the key that he himself had failed to find.

  3. hoiut says:

    Completely agree with psgel’s review. My goodness, even if I had the writing ability I honestly couldn’t have said it better myself. The last episode (13) review cinched it for me.

    What a ride this show has been! (Though for what it’s worth, I did like Sora no K-On-to a bit more than ya). Keep it up!

  4. skchai says:

    @Moonhawk: That’s possible. The Asahi Beer Hall with the strange golden-feces looking thing (it’s supposed to be the “Asahi Beer Flaming Heart”) was already built by 1990 (?) so it could be in 1999.

    But if they wanted to transfer him to Sumida 1999, why not just take the train, for God’s sake?

  5. yamapishy says:

    i love this anime, definitely one of the best this season! it’s short but has a concrete plot and unforgettable characters. I hope we get to encounter more animes like these.^_^

  6. Suu says:

    What amused me was that it somehow just evaded “the lame guy with three women fawning over him” cliche. Very crafty, Occult Gakuin. Nice idea to make one of the women as the focal point instead of the lame guy.

  7. Troyen says:

    You bring up a good point #6, I didn’t really think about that until now. (Though I guess it came close in some of the earlier episodes when Mikaze first showed up.)

    I have to say I really enjoyed the facial expressions in this show. Especially the eyes; every time someone was irritated or disgusted it just felt like there was more life in the facial region than in other shows.

  8. Mushyrulez says:

    #1: Yeah, Mikaze’s portal was to hell; but then the Nostradamus portal was to the alien land. If Mikaze was still alive, hell-aliens would come (and get destroyed by nukes and rockets shortly), but if she died and Fumiaki didn’t stop the portal, not even rockets will help.

    BECAUSE THE SPOON IS MIGHTIER THAN THE ROCKET

  9. Souther says:

    A worthwhile production, overall, but if you ask me…I would say they were trying a little too hard towards the end -some questions don’t always need to be answered when there isn’t enough time to expand on them- but Occult Academy still deserves credit for daring to try something relatively different from the usual anime crop.

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  • Bam
    (Monday, May 25. 2015 05:54 AM)
    The episode was alright and felt dense as I watched it, but in hindsight only really moved the plot forward incrementally. Lancer not untying Tohsaka as soon as he killed Kirei and then not killing Shinji when he clearly had the chance left a bad taste in my mouth. That and Shirou’s heavy plot armor at this point is becoming reminiscent of another famous anime dual-wielder. Not a compliment.
  • Bam
    (Monday, May 25. 2015 05:46 AM)
    UBW 20 felt like another rendition of Eva 26 (Take care of yourself), complete with character analysis, battle with one’s Jungian Shadow, and loosely Buddhist ideas of self-actualization. It even featured the repetitive monologue shots that fade to black (with “I saw Hell” instead of Rei’s “Sky. Red, red sky”). It never went as far as Eva with “which way is up?” type of Soliloquy, but that’s probably a good thing.
  • Emma
    (Sunday, May 24. 2015 05:48 AM)
    Ashura was an excellent example of how to through anime illicit and emotional response in an honest, non-melodramatic way.
  • Emma
    (Sunday, May 24. 2015 05:46 AM)
    @Bam: I’d be more than happy to take a look at some of those shorts anytime.
  • Bam
    (Sunday, May 24. 2015 05:44 AM)
    @Emma: there’s a lot of European animators that got active in the last 10 years or so that are really reinvigorating their animation scene, and every now and then I get introduced to some fabulous shorts.
  • Bam
    (Sunday, May 24. 2015 05:40 AM)
    @Emma: no I don’t really mind gory ‘for the fuck of it’ violence, I even like it in some grindhouse type of works, but I just don’t think it’s always effective as a shock factor. Live-action is the most sympathetic for obvious reasons, but there are animated works that do elicit a deep response. Probably because of circumstances but also the details of the in-between animation, which can induce certain feelings of disgust.
  • Emma
    (Sunday, May 24. 2015 05:39 AM)
    *here and there
  • Emma
    (Sunday, May 24. 2015 05:35 AM)
    @Bam: I really wish there was more arthouse anime now to give some kind of a balance to everything thats out these days.
  • Emma
    (Sunday, May 24. 2015 05:33 AM)
    Now I like my exploitation every so often, but yes Bam I really do wish that adult and mature storytelling could be better associated with truly, more pure mature themes.
  • Emma
    (Sunday, May 24. 2015 05:25 AM)
    I get choked up over Bergmans cries and whisper and Autumn sonata, I look back on a work by Key and Jun Maeda and wonder, think of how silly it looks to me now.

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