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Published on March 26th, 2014 | by Isaac

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Reluctant Anime Reviews: Occult Academy

We here at The Website of DOOM pride ourselves on being at the cutting edge of pop culture. Our staff handpicks and laboriously crafts the quality content that reaches your computer monitor. However, researchers in the lab have found we have a deficiency in anime-focused content. This is mostly because a lot of anime is creepy, and nobody at DOOM wants to go near it. Fortunately, “want” has nothing to do with our new project. We drafted (read: forced) resident hermit, and part-time artist Isaac to watch anime. The programs will be selected at random using a highly sophisticated process, and he will be forced to watch them from beginning to end, no matter how weird they are, how uncomfortable they make him feel, or how likely it is the police will show up at his door. After his viewings, he will provide us with an article reviewing the program he just watched.

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OCCULT ACADEMY

Occult Academy 1

There are few times in someone’s life when can say they witnessed a proverbial train wreck. My friends, this is one of those times. What started as an entertaining viewing experience turned into one of the most infuriatingly stupid things I’ve ever seen -within a matter of minutes.  Much like the myth of Icarus, Occult Academy flew too close to the sun on wings of wax, and plummeted to the ground, leaving only the sticky red paste of disappointment on impact.

Maya Kumashiro’s father was obsessed with all things occult. So obsessed, in fact, he neglected his daughter, and abandoned her to build Waldstein Academy: A school dedicated to the study of all things paranormal. In 1999, Maya’s father dies, and she assumes the role of principal in order to ruin the school from the inside-out- because child abuse and neglect isn’t likely to develop the most mentally stable or forgiving individuals.

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This is average behavior for Maya.

Soon after Maya’s arrival, however, a mysterious man calling himself “Abe Minoru” descends from the sky, claiming to be a time traveler from the year 2012 sent to destroy an artifact known only as Nostradamus’ Key. Abe tells Maya that in the summer of 1999, Nostradamus’ Key will open a wormhole above Waldstein Academy, unleashing a horde of hostile aliens that will nearly drive humanity to extinction. After some convincing, Maya agrees to help Abe find the key and destroy it, preventing the apocalypse.

Hijinks Ensue.

What follows is 10 episodes of wonderful nonsense. The supporting cast is interesting- although clichéd, the jokes hit hard, and the plotlines are fun. Occult Academy seems to revel in the world it has built, but seems reluctant to actually touch the main plot.

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90% of the show is literally spent “yukking it up.”

For a majority of show, the entire Nostradamus’ Key plotline is ignored- only mentioned when it gives Maya and the gang an excuse to on onto the next paranormal sillybollocks. And I’m fine with that, for the most part. But when the characters are given a vague time limit, it becomes difficult to imagine that they would spend days on end doing things completely unrelated to saving the world.

That being said, these asides are really well written, and provide important character development for Maya and Abe. In fact, one of these side plots- a story about putting the ghost of a little girl to rest- nearly made me cry, it was so touching.

That is why the last 3 episodes of Occult Academy infuriate me to no end.  After so many episodes of solid writing, the climax gets botched so hard, I’m actually impressed.

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It takes skill to mess up this badly.

In order to describe just how incredibly dumb this finale is, I must walk through it step-by-step in a mostly spoiler free manner. In episode 11, a shadowy force seems to have enthralled the city to its bidding, and it doesn’t want Maya to find Nostradamus’ Key. Maya appears to be murdered by this secret puppet master, and Abe has a feeling he knows who it is.  As the gang grieves for their loss, Maya suddenly appears in Abe’s apartment, alive.

Turns out she faked her death with the help of a good white witch assigned to protect the Kumashiro family. …Ok. And it turns out that the force that has enslaved the city was an evil black witch.  Who has the power to summon Chupacabras and Mothmen.  Ok…

The Good Witch is a person you thought was evil, and the Evil Witch is a person you thought was good. These twists take place within 5 minutes of each other, and you don’t particularly care about either one.  Episode 11 ends.

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Doesn’t this seem appropriate?!?

Episode 12 begins with Maya and the White Witch fleeing from the Black Witch. After an elaborate and completely out-of-place transformation scene, the witches do battle. The White Witch’s bodyguard transforms into a panther, and continues to flee with Maya on his back. The Witches have an aerial battle a la Dragon Ball Z, complete with energy balls and grandstanding. The White Witch loses, but is able to make it to Abe in order to tell him that Maya’s dad is still alive, and he has hid a spell to seal the evil witch away somewhere in the academy.  With the help of some deus ex machina, Abe and Maya manage to identify the Evil Witch as Nostradamus’ Key, and seal her away. End of Episode 12.

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“This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard”

When Episode 13 begins, we learn that the witch was not the Key. So all the witch stuff was pointless, and only served as an excuse to show cleavage and explosions.  After some help from the future brain trust, they realize what causes the dimensional rift. Despite their best efforts, the rift still opens, but a pointless character sacrifice closes it. This sacrifice literally has no consequences, so it doesn’t matter. The series ends with Maya’s father- who was the leader of the team who sent Abe back in time- leaving the bunker to find the world alive and well. Maya calls him, and tells him to come home. End of show.

Occult Academy has maybe the most poorly executed finale I’ve ever seen. The plot twists come out of nowhere, and the show takes a tone completely different from everything before it. The ideas aren’t even that bad, but with how haphazardly they are implemented, it becomes hilariously bad. It seems that in their bland attempt to have an action-packed climax (despite this being a comedy,) they forgot to actually think about what they were writing in context with everything before it.

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The finale, in a single image.

If they had just stopped for a moment, and thought about what they were doing, they could have included the twists and character arcs they wanted. Make the witches less over-the-top and ridiculous, keep the dad dead, and instead of shoehorning in a dumb sacrifice at the end, write a touching goodbye for Maya and Abe when he returns to the future. This would still have ended the show in the same way, but less stupid and jarring.

My suggestion is to watch up till episode 10, then stop. By episode 10, every character’s arc has been resolved, and it seems like they only wrote the last 3 episodes to tie up the plot they neglected through the rest of the series.

If they didn’t include all this dumb schlock that feels completely out of place, I would have adored this show. The animation is beautiful, and the writing is solid. But like a sprinter tripping on their own feet just before the finish line, Occult Academy falls short.

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It’s like they knew.

Next Time: KILL LA KILL

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(Spoiler Alert: I love it.)

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About the Author

Isaac

Isaac Hunt is a cartoonist, podcast-maniac, self-proclaimed butt-lover and part-time lab rat. He's got the fury of a burning sun, the funk, and a funny name! Viva-la-Fatty!



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