Posted 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

Posted on with categories: Seikimatsu Occult Gakuin



Okay, so this turned out to be an ending that I both loved and hated. Let’s just get the bad part over with first:

– Okay you discovered that the real Nostradamus Key was a dimensional time-rift created by Bunmei meeting his former self. The most logical step is now to get Bunmei out of that time-line as fast as possible in order to make the chance of him running into his child version as small as possible, NOT to just wait a day, invite younger Bunmei INTO THE SCHOOL, and just hope that everything goes well.
– Everything seems lost, the aliens have arrived, the world is about to go to hell, and here Bunmei comes, grabs younger Bunmei’s spoon, suddenly gets his powers back and blasts the aliens back to their own time-line. Where the hell did that come from?

Those are the only complaints I have about this final episodes, but dammit they’re pretty big ones. The entire story was rounded off so well before especially the second point comes, and here this series decides to end with a Deus ex Machina… I’m really wondering why the creators went with that plot, out of all possible things.

Nevertheless though, I also loved this episode as a final episode of this series. I love the entire irony behind Bunmei’s part in the series, and how he actually didn’t get to have a happy ending. You’d expect something over the top, after we just learned that that witch of the previous episode was not the Key of Nostradamus, and yet this episode was incredibly quiet with an actual climax of just one minute long (with some pretty neat animation, by the way). Throughout the entire airtime, there was this slight atmosphere of panic about what was about to happen and what was about to end. This series has already proven that it’s excellent at building up, and this episode proved that once again when it built up to the point in which Bunmei would meet his younger self.

I also liked how at the end, we saw the focus shift back to Maya’s father, which was really a charming way to close off this series. Despite the weird choices made, I do consider this episode to e in my top three final episodes that we got to see this season, alongside Kuroshitsuji II and Giant Killing: all of them tried to do something very interesting in order to close themselves off, and came with interesting twists and unorthodox pacing.

Overall, even though things could have gone better for this series, it did solidify me as a fan of A-1 pictures. This series looked consistently beautiful, and a few of the episodes were really masterfully written and laid out. Like all of the previous Anime no Chikara series, it had its flaws: Sora no Oto couldn’t decide what it wanted to be, Senkou no Night Raid’s lead characters needed acting lessons and Occult Academy had its balance issues. Nevertheless, really appreciate all three of them and what they tried to do, and Occult Academy is my favourite so far. I’m not looking forward to the next installment due to Shinbo and all, but I really hope that this timeslot isn’t going to end there because there definitely is potential.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 20 September 2010 with categories: Seikimatsu Occult Gakuin



Not as good as the previous episode, but still a worthy climax for this series. With one exception, everything from the past episode came together very nicely, all of the major questions were answered well and sufficiently, and this episode was overall a great and action-packed closure to this series. So what the heck is up with that final episode?!

I’m surprised how many people disliked the inclusion of black and white mages. I mean, this show is called Occult Academy: right from the start it was clear that it explores occult from all over the world. Don’t black and white mages belong amongst that? Either way though, this episode really explained a lot: all of the previous monsters that tried to kill Maya were sent by that black mage. It makes full sense for her to be the key of Nostradamus, it makes full sense that Maya didn’t go around to carry her notebook everywhere around with her and to prepare some sort of backup plan. And it’s very interesting to see that Maya’s father was still alive: that’s why her death was faked in the previous episode: to prepare for that plot twist. And as if to make up for the fact that nobody seemingly dies in this episode, the creators actually did kill off a few characters.

Now, that ending intrigues me. I mean, while it’s nothing new to have some kind of “bad guy behind bad guy”, it came completely out of left field in this series. I mean, the entire series was supposed to be about getting rid of that Nostradamus Key. Maya even got up a good future when she photographed it. So why is there still an episode left, and why didn’t the future change? I’m really curious whatever plot twist the final episode has in store here.

Now, the only problem I have with this episode was how Bunmei was suddenly unkillable at the most critical moment. I mean, the creators seemed to realize that it didn’t make any sense, but they made no attempt to answer that, and it’s a very strange question to leave unanswered at this point.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 13 September 2010 with categories: Seikimatsu Occult Gakuin




Wow…. these are the kinds of episodes that blow you away. It did to me at least.

I already mentioned at the shoutbox that we had a beyond awesome staff working on this episode: Sayo Yamamoto, the director of Michiko e Hatchin doing the storyboard and the script written by Hiroshi Ounogi, who also wrote Noein and Birdy the Mighty. It’s like Superman having tea with Batman here. And seriously, even knowing that, this episode kicked ass beyond belief.

I don’t even know where to start with how magnificent this episode played out. So much happened at once (I guess that that was the point of the previous two episodes: becoming so quiet and dull in order to just strengthen the ridiculously huge impact this episode would have). Mikaze’s sex appeal went beyond the roof here (and it was actually used extremely well in the first half of this episode), the inner paranoia of her spells on Bunmei were wonderfully portrayed and the entire episode itself was just amazingly animated.

This episode was just disturbing. I mean, we could expect Mikaze to be up to something, but I absolutely loved how the creators just threw everyone’s hidden identity at your face here. Mikaze knowing the exact recipe of Bunmei’s cooking was just creepy. That kissing scene… I can’t believe how far and graphic that actually went. You could really see the influences of Michiko e Hatchin here. Another favourite was that scene in which Maya kicked the heck out of Bunmei here. Talk about brutal!

I mean, I’m just baffled by this series. The thing is that it had its share of mediocre episodes, and it is mostly awesome when it has the right episode staff (I really have to applaud the producers here in getting the best people they could get here). I mean, episodes 1, 6 and 11: I consider all three to be the three single best episodes out of any show that started in the past summer season. I found it really strange that right before the ending, this series would waste so much time on random stories. But I really didn’t expect the creators to bombard us with so much at once here.

Occult Gakuin, I applaud you.
Rating: **** (Fantastic)

Posted on 6 September 2010 with categories: Seikimatsu Occult Gakuin



Well, that settles it: the end of this episode really hinted that in the next episode, the finale is finally beginning. With that, we should get away from the random storylines and back to the main storyline, which is bound to be a lot more action-packed.

The big question is obviously going to be: did this series take up too much time, trying to develop Maya? The thing with the past two episodes was that the direction was nowhere as interesting as the rest of the series, which can really hurt with a 13-episode series. I mean, the first half of this series was full of wit. The absence of this wit throughout most o this episode was rather unnerving. There were some parts I liked, especially the part in which Fumiaki tries to talk to Maya (seriously, more anime characters should do that), plus the development of Maya was also quite nice, but right now this series is in the danger of spending so much time on development that it sacrifices too much of its entertainment, story, Anime no Chikara tension and atmosphere.

Having seen Sora no Oto, this is something that worries me, though thank god it’s not as extreme here. At this point, Sora no Oto had novels full of questions that it had yet to answer, and that really showed in its final episode in which it tried to do way too much at once. Senkou no Night Raid in contrast did have a great build-up with its finale, and that’s because it abandoned its build-up phase very early after episode seven. Occult Academy looks to be somewhere in the middle. Three episodes will be plenty of time to resolve all of the questions it has left hanging, but can it deliver? With its excellent script and direction it has built up expectations for its ending> I really want to see something more than a simple ending that just attempts to answer those questions. I want to see something that rocks.

Ultimately, the ghost girl felt shallow to me. This series really has the opportunity to toy with new ideas, and here it comes with the ghost of a dead girl who was neglected and can go to pass on after hugging her father. I can understand that the creators wanted Maya to relate to her, but it’s all “been there, done that”, with no need to spend two whole episodes on it. A skilled writer could have put the past two episodes into just one episode and make them work just as well.
Rating: * (Good)

Posted on 30 August 2010 with categories: Seikimatsu Occult Gakuin




It’s episode nine. We’re about to hit the climax with five episodes left. And so this episode comes with a seemingly unrelated arc that ends with a cliff-hanger that will continue into the next episode. I’m really interested in the creators’ intentions here.

Don’t get me wrong here, this episode was excellent as usual. I still consider this to be the best executed series of the season. But I’m fearing that this series will go down the road of Sora no Oto and wait too long with its ending, resulting in a bit of a cop-out. If this episode wasn’t what it looked like and actually was already slightly hinting at that climax then it’s fine, but I don’t want the same thing that happened with Sora no Oto’s ending to happen here.

Anyway, about the episode, when you ignore the time-limit of this show, it was a very good one in its build up. The creators are continuing to develop Maya, using her relationship with her father, and the next episode especially seems designed to push her character in a new direction. Meanwhile this episode was excellent with its facial expressions, especially Maya’s, but JK also shined here.

It’s interesting how the case was seemingly solved before the end of the episode: the spirit’s father accidentally killed her due to neglect, now all that’s seemingly left is to bring this ghost to that father, have a bit of dialogue and things should get finished. That shouldn’t be enough to fill an entire episode. Still, with all that build-up it had better be building up to something awesome. It’s quite like Sengoku Basara Two this season: they’re both spending quite a bit of build up hyping up their own climax, so at this point I still can’t say anything about how good they are going to end up becoming in terms of the big picture, unlike, say, High School of the Dead where you know exactly what to expect.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 23 August 2010 with categories: Seikimatsu Occult Gakuin



With so many episodes devoted to nothing but the characters, I demand an awesome ending. If not, then this was a wasted episode.

The previous two episodes were very well written and directed so I didn’t mind, but this episode didn’t belong in a 13-episode series. Series like these have a very limited amount of airtime, and really need all of the time they can get. Episode six and seven did this well with great pay-off to their build-up, but the Chupacabra fight that allowed Maya and Ami to make up again… I feel like the creators could have done more with this episode.

The acting in this episode was great, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that the script disappointed me a bit. Especially the following thing: Chupacabra are seen as blood-sucking monsters, right? This episode saw them killing off a ton of cows and chewing who knows what kind of animals right down to the bone. So why did they keep Ami alive? Why did they not harm her? Why was Ami fine after being bitten by such a huge monster? You’re ruining the suspense of disbelief that was built up by the previous episodes!

At this point, I’m beginning to think that Nostradamus’ key is something very obvious. I can easily see it being Kozue who tries a little too hard with her experiments on the occult. Please let it be not that simple!

Either way though, I can very easily see this series divided into three parts: there’s the first action-packed part, spanning the first four episode. This one was full of tension, ranging from Maya’s hatred of Bunmei to all of the weird occult monsters they ran into. Episodes 5 to 8 slowed down the pacing for a character-development arc, which seems to be finished at this point. At the final arc, this show needs to start delivering, though. Arc 1 provided the entertainment and the background, arc 2 provided the depth. Now, arc 3: USE THAT.
Rating: (Enjoyable)

Posted on 16 August 2010 with categories: Seikimatsu Occult Gakuin




The execution in this episode was completely different from the previous one, but the basic premise was the same: a lot of build-up that comes together wonderfully at the final few minutes of the episode. This episode wasn’t as good as the previous one, but it still was a great one.

For most of the episode, I actually didn’t think this was the case. I mean, I could see what it was trying to do: showing different sides of the characters and flesh them out. That’s great for a series with 26 episodes. For 13 of them… not so much. I mean, there is a plot that you’re meant to tell. If you’re going to keep wasting episodes like this the ending won’t have any build-up.

But really, after the climax everything made sense. This episode did more than just flesh out the characters, it really developed them a bit, and added extra depth to them. The climax was completely different from the climax of the previous episode, which was strong, full of energy and visually powerful. This time however, the episode ended with this awkward silence when two people in a group are fighting. I loved how Maya clashed with everyone else in this episode, who without knowing pulled a completely inappropriate prank on her.

This episode was a bit shaky at times, especially Kozue was reduced to a walking stereotype, but when it mattered this episode really delivered. Ami’s father really stepped too far when he tried to turn Maya back to the way she used to be. When Maya was slapped, it didn’t suddenly make her nice again like you’d expect in some cliche. It was rather Ami’s words that calmed her down. I loved how realistically this was portrayed.

The storyboard of this episode also was… interesting. Especially in the first half, it just kept switching back and forth to close-ups, regular shots, far-away shots and close-ups at random objects or limbs. I wouldn’t call it low-budget because it was as detailed as ever (save from a few notable far-away shots here and there).
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 9 August 2010 with categories: Seikimatsu Occult Gakuin




It’s just as I hoped! This episode really was awesome, and it had a really excellent direction behind it. With the comedy elements this really was different from the likes of Mouryou no Hako and Hashire Melos, but you could still see the traces of Ryousuke Nakamura and Mieko Hosoi. God… these people need to direct another full fledged series.

There were a ton of really well animated shots in this episode, with quite some fluid animation and imaginative camera angles. There were a few scenes that really brought these characters alive, and especially the diving scene at the end was just utterly beautiful. It’s also very interesting how two completely different types of artists worked on this episode and the previous one: the previous episode was very obviously drawn by Mamoru Hosoda fans, while Mieko Hosoi has a completely different inspiration (I’d love to know what that was, by the way).

As for the direction, I absolutely love how this episode played out. Throughout most of the episode we see this careful build-up that shows Maya investigating exactly what happened, combined with a number of quick but really good jokes. There were a few outbursts of drama, like the sudden point in which Kozue started crying, but that too was just used to build up to that final part, which worked really well with Bunmei’s life flashing before his own eyes. It lasted like what? 2 minutes. But they really were worth it.

Beyond that, they also made it plausible for Bunmei and Maya to make up. Thankfully they stayed away from any sort of romance, but rather Maya forced herself to see past her biases after having seen the future.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on 2 August 2010 with categories: Seikimatsu Occult Gakuin



The focus is away from Bunmei, and so this episode was much more enjoyable than the past one. It was all about the occult, and really chock full of references to all kinds of ideas and superstitions around the world thanks to a character that I once thought was pretty useless (the girl who is obsessed over occult stuff).

It actually made this episode pretty interesting. I’m a big fan of the series that put a lot of research into their subject matter here. While the previous episodes were all about “what if folklore was true”, this episode broke that part and instead talked about superstitions that are just products of the imagination of humans, ranging from spoons that can’t rust to monks who bury themselves alive and even the five second rule passed (called the three second rule here).

At first I really thought that that girl would be annoying with her optimism, but the comedy around her was again really excellent. This series definitely has the best sense of humour of the entire season, and its jokes are well built up and varied and the repeated jokes are handled with restraint.

Also, the previous episodes were certainly annoying, but they did what they were supposed to do: Maya really loathes this guy right now, and the previous two episodes really turned that into a deep-seated loathing, compared to the “this guy is weird”-kind of hatred of the first two episodes. Now, if she suddenly starts to develop feelings for Bunmei this would of course ruin everything (“you guys are fighting a lot so you must be in love with each other”… blegh), but I have faith in this series. And heck, the next episode will be staffed by Ryousuke Nakamura of all people. While I’d rather see him get another full series over which he has total freedom, an episode directed of the best and most imaginative series of the current summer season certainly isn’t bad either. I’m really interested what he’s going to do with it.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

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  • K-Off
    (Friday, May 27. 2016 03:52 AM)
    @Aidan If the “recent comments” is failing to show up this often, it may be a problem with the plugin or maybe even the theme itself, the site is outdated. If you can do anything on your end you can try.
  • K-Off
    (Friday, May 27. 2016 03:39 AM)
    Okay for now, the Featured Posts box will have only 6 thumbnails in it until the next few reviews, since for some reason I can tag helghast’s OST review but not any of the previous episodes.
  • AidanAK47
    (Friday, May 27. 2016 03:33 AM)
    Or not. WordPress make up your mind.
  • AidanAK47
    (Friday, May 27. 2016 03:33 AM)
    Looks like recent comments disappears when we have more than six.
  • K-Off
    (Friday, May 27. 2016 03:30 AM)
    @Aidan I’ll try tagging 6 more to see if it’ll do a similar thing at 9 posts.
  • AidanAK47
    (Friday, May 27. 2016 03:29 AM)
    Ah crap. Almost forgot.
  • AidanAK47
    (Friday, May 27. 2016 03:28 AM)
    If you set it to three then the featured Posts category only shows two for some reason.
  • AidanAK47
    (Friday, May 27. 2016 03:26 AM)
    Weird…
  • K-Off
    (Friday, May 27. 2016 03:26 AM)
  • AidanAK47
    (Friday, May 27. 2016 03:25 AM)
    Like so? Hmm….Might be better to only show three of them though.

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