Where can you find tengu, chupacabra and crop circles all in one place? Waldstein Academy of course! NIS America’s recent release, Occult Academy, focuses on the abnormal and unexplainable phenomena that happen in Waldstein Academy, or “Occult Academy” as it is called by the individuals who live nearby. Occult Academy focuses on Maya Kumashiro and time traveler Fumiaki Uchida as they scour the city looking for the key of Nostradamus that will cause an alien invasion on July 21, 1999 while battling against all the occult creatures that get in their way.
After reading the summary before I watched Occult Academy, I was wondering how much occult creatures and concepts the directors at A-1 Pictures and Aniplex would include. I can safely say it includes a pretty fair amount. Maya, despite hating the occult, is actually quite knowledgeable and clearly explains what most of the creatures are. Fortunately, the series doesn’t suffer too much from the Scooby Doo-type syndrome where every episode introduces a new mystery creature that Maya and Fumiaki have to figure out and get rid of. There was enough variety in each episode’s plot to keep the mystery creature episodes bearable.
When I watched the first episode of Occult Academy, I was pleased that we were thrown right into action. The former principal’s dead body is possessed by a ghost. Maya, the principal’s daughter, immediately says that the corpse is just a hoax made by her father. Of course, it isn’t a hoax and we get a nice introduction episode where Maya gets to track down and kill the spirit possessing her father’s corpse. Unfortunately, not all of the episodes are as fast paced and as interesting as this one. I had previously watched the series before on Crunchyroll while it was being simulcasted from Japan. I was excited to know that NIS America was releasing it as a premium edition blu-ray set, but couldn’t remember much of the series except the beginning and ending of Occult Academy. The middle episodes of Occult Academy were a bit bland and repetitive due to romantic plots, false leads, and one or two seemingly random episodes. There was also a real abrupt transition from the boring ’fluff‘ episodes to the episodes that revealed the individual orchestrating the attacks on Maya Fumiaki.
***Warning, spoilers ahead! Highlight to read.***:
Despite some awkward pacing issues leading up to the end of Occult Academy, I was actually pleased with the conclusion. After finding and destroying a witch who has been summoning the evil creatures to interfere with Fumiaki and Maya’s mission, the viewers are lead to believe that everything is okay. The witch was the key of Nostradamus, and Fumiaki could then return to a non-apocalyptic future, right? Wrong. Instead, we get a nice twist in the form of a time paradox when Fumiaki meets his past self and triggers the arrival of the aliens. I felt like I got trolled in a good way. Plus, I’m sure it would have been just really boring to end it with a short witch fight.
Character development for everybody except Maya and Fumiaki is really non-existent. Maya has a strong adversity to the occult and later comes to embrace it, while Fumiaki goes from being a cowardly time traveler to a more courageous one. The rest of the cast is merely there. I felt like there was a bit more that could have been done for the other characters since there are plenty of weird phenomena.
The setting and art direction makes up somewhat for the lack of character development in the series. I loved how it takes place in 1999. The clothing and technology definitely matched. It was also good to see some historical sites pop up. Most of the colors used for the series weren’t overly vibrant and the characters had simplistic designs that were a welcome change from some other animation titles.
NIS America’s Occult Academy premium edition comes with art book and nice box to store your collection in. Sadly, I found the extra features on the blu-ray to be a paltry amount. We get a few short stories and clean versions of the opening and closing animations. The art book was, as usual, a good addition. It even has a nice encyclopedia with occult terms and creatures in it.
Despite not having the awesome animated Cthulhu that I was hoping for, Occult Academy is actually a decent anime for those who love the occult and want an ending with a twist. I would definitely recommend watching it.
Things I liked:
+ Setting/art direction
+ Nice beginning and ending episodes
+ Maya punching Fumiaki with her bracelet
Things I didn’t like:
- lack of character development for supporting cast
- paltry offering of special features
- awkward pacing
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the distributor
Images copyrighted:NIS America/A-1 Pictures, Aniplex