If there’s one thing I’ve learned about anime over the past year, it’s that these Anime no Chikara projects start out strong, only to have me lose interest after four episodes.
When faced with the latest offering in the project, Occult Academy, I was determined not to be sucked in. I would watch it, but the cool-looking opening wouldn’t sway me, nor would the conversation with the cab driver in its opening minutes pique my interest. I was a woman not scorned, but bored – and I would not have it happen again. I sat on my throne of good taste, and prepared to get back to waxing poetic about The Tatami Galaxy.
Then the female lead decked her father’s corpse with a chair, wrestler-style, and all of a sudden, I was more than willing to give things a second chance.
Cast beside Shiki and Highschool of the Dead, Summer 2010 has turned out to be zombie-filled good times. Occult Academy starts us in medias res.. twice. Firstly, we are introduced to a man, pleading for a teleport. A column of light appears in front of him, and soon thereafter he is killed.
In the next cut, we’re informed that it is July 1999, and that we are in Nagano. Shortly thereafter, we meet Maya: our classically tsundere, old-school cellphone-wielding leading lady, sporting a short white dress and – pull out your fetish glasses, boys (and girls) – thigh-high black socks. She gets in a taxi cab. To her father’s funeral. In a white dress. Where she proceeds to fight off her father’s risen-from-the-coffin, zombie-ifed corpse. All the while, Maya pronounces the entire event as a hoax to the student body of the Academy. She is powerful, miserly, and a little bit crazy.
Maya has a sharp tongue (she refers to a larger male character as “Porco Rosso” at one point) and a sharp mind, though she hates the occult. In true tsundere form, she hates it due to it breaking her family apart. As she starts her monologue, I readied myself to write Occult Academy off as a failed “comedy with darker undertones”. Then, column of light appears in front of her, landing a naked man straight in front of her horrified, disgusted face. Should you choose to watch this, note the shadows in this scene closely – thumbs up to the animators for sneaking that in. There’s a reason this airs at 1:30am, I suppose.
Occult Academy pulls no punches. It aims to be a feel-good comedy anime about supernatural occurrences in high-school. And frankly – it succeeds. Wthin the first episode it makes jabs at no less than three anime/manga (Porco Rosso, Dengeki Daisy, and 666 Satan), all while set in a scenario that might make J.K. Rowling worry about her intellectual property rights. Should it continue on its current course, Occult Academy is everything a comedy anime should be: and able to poke fun at its own place in the anime world, as well as the larger world of onscreen entertainment.