When Maya returns to her father's academy after he dies, her life goes in unexpected directions when his possessed corpse tries to kill her.
What They Say
The year 1999, seventh month, From the sky shall emerge a great King of Terror. Waldstein Academy in Matsushiro, Nagano Prefecture. AKA "Occult Academy." A famous school where you can study spirits, monsters, UMA (Unidentified MYsterious Animals) and every manner of the occult. One day, a beautiful girl named Kumashiro Maya comes to the school. She is the only daughter of the school principal. Despite the fact that she's attending her father's funeral, she wears a white dress and high heels. In the middle of the funeral, they start to play a message the principal left for the students. Suddenly, the coffin bursts open and the students are attacked by the school president, who is possessed by a dead spirit!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
An original series from the Anime-no-Chikara block that's being produced by Aniplex and TV Tokyo using the A-1 Pictures animation studio of Aniplex's, Occult Academy is a thirteen episode series directed by Tomohiko Ito who has done some single episode directing in the last couple of years with shows like Stitch!, Kobato and Monster. While Ito doesn't have a ton under his belt, the series is being put together script-wise from Seishi Minakami who has done some interesting titles, such as some of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brortherhood, Shigurui: Death Frenzy, Sugar: A Little Snow Fairy and parts of Boogiepop Phantom. It's a pretty diverse mix just scratching the surface of what's familiar in the US and it gives indication that this seemingly serious series is in pretty good hands.
Occult Academy takes place, at least initially in 2012 where we're introduced to Maya, a young woman who has come to the Waldetein Academy which has a very unusual aura about it as it feels very out of the ordinary because of its heavy bent towards the occult. Maya's arrival comes at a time when people are feeling like it's the end of the world since it is 2012 after all and Nostradamus' prophecies are on everyone's mind. Maya's arrival at the academy is awkward at best as she's come to the funeral for the principal who just died and she's actually his daughter. In a moment of true awkwardness, while the students are all lined up for a ceremony to remember him, they play a cassette that has him talking from beyond the grave about the importance of the school and all that it means in regards to not looking away from the occult, but rather to face it full on. He intends to show them something of the occult by summoning a spirit from beyond but instead awakens the long dormant dead instead, which includes a spirit that posses his recently deceased body.
While Maya tries to play this off as a staged trick, she knows differently and tries to get everyone out before things get worse with her now possessed father intending to devour a whole lot of people. Detective work starts to make up the show as the spirit is in hiding though and they try to determine exactly who or what it was that Maya's father summoned through his recording so they can stop him. It's in this phase that we start to learn about the academy a bit and the kind of issues Maya had with him, including his altering the scope of the school from being about the archaeology of religion and ancient mysteries to including everything occult under the sun and moon.
Maya's return to the school is layered in a few issues and the ones revolving around her father are the strongest ones as she's felt that the school would only lead to disaster. The initial story is one that deals in setting up her relationship with him and just what kinds of supernatural things are out there as well as showcasing just how Maya will handle all of it with a certain kind of confidence. It's an engaging episode overall as it showcases all of this but it goes into someplace very unusual at the end when a man drifts in from the sky in a blaze of light. Occult Academy asks a lot of questions which is very good from the starting point while also answering a couple so as to set up the main tensions.
Occult Academy has a really great sense of design, both in the architecture and the characters. A-1 Pictures has quickly become one of my favorite animation studios in the last year with some of the things they've worked on as I love the flow of the designs they use with the characters and much more so when it comes to the backgrounds and building structures. Thee's a certain kind of detail and love in how they design things even in simple things such as a school hallway that gives it more of a life. I also like how they can take a good serious series and slide in a little bit of humor here and there, such as Maya tumbling after her possessed father surprises here, or the little bits of background to Maya's younger days. They've found a really nice balance here with the way they're telling the story but also in animating it by having both adults and kids dealing with what's going on.
The last Anime-no-Chikara series that I saw was in the winter season with Soranowoto, which overall I liked a lot. Occult Academy has a similar kind of strong set of production qualities about it but it goes in a vastly different direction and one that's highly appealing. With the original character designer having only work on Moribito, there's a certain familiarity to his work and I really like his style, though there's an amusing little nod in the next episode preview that reminds you strongly of that series. What we get here, combined with the summary of the premise that Crunchyroll provides, is very intriguing and has me wanting to see more. With a show that's original and not an adaptation of another work, I'm always more excited to see what happens and Occult Academy avoids a number of basic manga to anime adaptation things that irk me. What we get is a show that's starting off strong across the board with plenty of potential to be had.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Dell 10.1 Netbook via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.