Occult Academy, you’ve made a fan out of me.
It becomes clear in episode 5 of Occult Academy that fledgling director Tomohiko Ito owes much to his time under Mamoru Hosoda. This is by no means a bad thing – for me, it just took the series from good to great. While all the Anime no Chikara series have been visually strong, episode 5 steps things up with a short, surreal journey to the afterlife.
But this isn’t the afterlife often seen. It’s glittering colors and foreign landscapes, sprinkled with bubbles, a dream come true. Though the rest of the series is saturated and beautifully done, it’s also eminently realistic. From its first episode, it was clear that Occult Academy was a cut above. It was quick-witted, well-paced and (like all Anime no Chikara projects) well-animated. But it dares to be different. It dares to be more than a gag anime; as the quietly-developed plot continues to bubble forth. Maya’s growing concern with the state of the school’s activities is palpable as they send Kozue, a classmate, to the afterlife via bringing her to a near-death state. Despite the plot creeping in, Tomohiko Ito manages to keep the humor and drama relatively well-balanced. If Occult Academy is his first gig as a series director, I’d love to see him 5 years from now, when he smooths the edges in his style.
The episode concludes with our bespectaled Kozue only partially returning to life: a part of her is stuck on the other side, searching for her glasses. Following episode 4’s somewhat deadly (and smelly) encounter with moths, the campus activities are slowly straying from harmless to dangerous. In addition to the beauty of this episode, Ito is continually building layer after layer of something more sobering; what it is remains to be seen.
If Anime no Chikara will be remembered for anything, it will be for giving the chance to outlandish premises like Senkou no Night Raid, and to directors like Ito. At the moment, I have nothing but praise for the man: he saw a chance to flex his directorial muscles, threw caution to the wind and went for it. The result is an absolute treat to watch.