Review by: Felicia Day
Publisher: NIS America
MSRP: $64.99 US
Running Time: 334 minutes
Rating: T (Teen)
Release Date: Available Now
You know you’re in for a unique supernatural sci-fi anime series when a young time-traveler falls from the sky stark naked and the cute new school headmaster is being chased by a pack of Chupacabras. It is these things that drew me to the Complete Series Premium Edition of Occult Academy, an anime series that doesn’t fail to entertain and – at times – make you laugh. Yes, it’s that kind of series where the world of the supernatural clashes with that of the science-fiction genre yet making room for some comedic moments.
Occult Academy revolves around a school called the Waldstein Academy that specializes in training its student body in all things involving the occult. We also meet a young girl named Maya Kumashiro who arrives in time for a ceremony honoring the newly deceased school’s principal who also happens to be Maya’s father. It’s clear from her attitude that she and her father have grown distant and she makes it even clearer that she hates the occult even though she had been obsessed with it growing up.
Suddenly, the series shows us what it’s all about when a poltergeist takes control of the principal’s body as well as that of a cute nerdy student named Kozue. Maya helps draw out the evil spirit but the big shocker is that, her father’s will has placed Maya as sole inheritor of Waldstein Academy … a responsibility that Maya takes seriously to the point that she takes up the role as the school’s new principal. Sure, the sexy Assistant Principal is against the idea but Maya is the type of girl who sticks to her guns.
Then, things gets even more interesting when Maya witnesses a naked young man slowly float down from the sky and land right in front of her. He is Fumiaki Uchida, a time-traveler who has traveled back to 1999 in order to locate what his handlers call the Nostradamus Key in order to stop an alien invasion in 2012. Armed with a cell phone that is able to snap pictures that will reveal the subject’s future, Fumiaki thinks Waldstein Academy is the best place to begin his search.
Of course, Fumiaki is something of a coward who frightened by the supernatural elements that occur around the school. Despite his yellow streak, however, Fumiaki comically catches the attention of the Assistant Principal who starts writing romantic entries in her diary involving him. He also becomes involved with an attractive waitress named Mikaze who spends her time having him try out her new curry dishes as well as drive him around (quickly) in her sports car.
On top of Fumiaki’s relationship with Mikaze, the Assistant Principal and Maya, we come to discover an even more intriguing element. In 1999, a child star is born as Bunmei-kun takes the talk show circuit by storm with his ability to bend spoons with his mind. It becomes obvious who Bunmei-kun will grow up to be and that alone makes the character truly fleshed out to the point that we come to understand Fumiaki and Bunmei-kun.
It is because of Bunmei-kun that Maya comes to realize things about her past, particularly why she has stopped loving the occult as well as her father. We learn of Maya’s past by way of Ami Kuroki, a student at the academy who was something of a childhood friend to Maya. Ami tries to understand what led her once childhood friend to stop obsessing over the occult and even Ami’s father – a big man-child of a man – tries to rekindle the girl’s love for the occult with rumors of a UFO sighting.
The rest of the series revolves around the search for the Nostradamus Key that is often interrupted by some unsavory supernatural appearances from creatures we have all heard of at some point such as the Mothman and a pack of Chupacabras that have been connected to a string of cattle mutilations. At one point, they even try to reclaim the lost soul of the nerdy Kozue who took part in an experiment. There’s even the ghost of a little girl who the group takes it upon themselves to help.
Thankfully, Fumiaki and Maya have help from Ami and Kozue but also the school’s mechanic named Smile (who carries a giant wrench he uses as a weapon) and a pudgy goth kid named JK who uses rods that is able to pick up supernatural vibrations. They all take part in helping Maya and Fumiaki on their search. Meanwhile, the series hints at the Assistant Principal wanting to put a stop to their search.
Unfortunately, despite the interesting character developments and solid writing, you can’t help but feel like there should have been more in terms of the villains … if you can call them that. Some minor characters don’t really add much either. Unfortunately, Ami – who is suppose to fill the “childhood friend” role in this series – ends up being rather on the lackluster side and adds very little to her role. In fact, that only real drama she brings to the table comes when she slaps Maya’s face after the girl chews out Ami’s father.
Still, these are small gripes in an overall entertaining package. Watching Fumiaki’s past unravel to reveal the typical child star problems is fascinating and his growing relationship with Maya is fun to watch. Even the humor in the series is charming and laugh-out-loud funny, especially the Assistant Principal who goes from serious to doe-eyed very quickly when Fumiaki crosses her path. Then there’s the ending that, to me, is surprising and very fitting.
As far as the animation is concerned, it is the right balance between decent-looking character models and some stunning painted backgrounds with a side of eye-catching visual effects. Add a stellar voice cast and you have a series that will have you thanking NIS America for releasing it on Blu-ray.
Occult Academy is not a serious supernatural anime series and, as a result, ends up being wildly entertaining enough that you will find yourself enjoying every minute of it. It’s hard to not to like a series that features time travelers, Mothmen and Chupacabras all in one fun package and, somehow, this series pulls it all off with a tongue-in-cheek approach that works. Sure, the series is lacking in a few things that would have made it amazing but the Premium Edition package of the Complete Series of Occult Academy is a guaranteed good time.
BLU-RAY REVIEW BREAKDOWN
It’s 1999 and a young girl named Maya inherits the Waldstein Academy – a school dedicated to the occult – from her deceased father. While she tries to make it clear that she hates the world of the supernatural, the arrival of a young time-traveler named Fumiyaki who has come in search of the Nostradamus Key that can save the world from an alien invasion. Together with the school’s students and faculty, Maya and Fumiyaki deal with a number of supernatural creatures and sci-fi elements that keep getting in the way.
VIDEO QUALITY: A
NIS America has decided not to include a DVD version, which is understandable seeing as Occult Academy is an anime series with gorgeous animation that includes impressive backgrounds, stellar visual effects and decent character design (with JK looking more original than the rest of the cast). The ending theme animation actually includes real actors.
AUDIO QUALITY: A
The series isn’t just about gorgeous visuals as it also contains an excellent voice acting cast that includes Yoko Hikasa as Maya and Takahiro Mizushima as Fumiaki. On top of that there’s also an appealing original score and an even better opening theme song (“Flying Humanoid” by Shoko Nakagawa) and closing theme (“Kimi Ga Iru Basho” by Ayahi Takagaki).
Once again, NIS America knows how to do a Premium Edition right and this one has enough extras and collectibles to satisfy fans of the series. For starters, there’s the 36-page hardcover book complete with character artwork, episode synopsis and an occult encyclopedia that makes for a fun read.
The Blu-ray discs contain extras as well such as the clean opening and closing animation with the closing being on the top of my list of favorite closers. Then there’s an exclusive “Love Machine” clip that you have to see for yourself as well as four bonus mini-episodes featuring Maya and Ami as children since the series touches on the fact that they hung out as kids.
While it is not quite as stellar as it should have been considering solid storytelling and a likeable cast of characters, Occult Academy is still a blast to watch either way. It’s hard not to like a series that blends the supernatural with sci-fi elements topped off with a great sense of humor. Still, you can’t help but feel that the series could have been better but, for my money, the Complete Series Premium Edition of Occult Academy is well worth your money.
Review copy provided by NIS America