Review for Occultic Nine Volume 1
I’m getting a bit of déjà vu here. Manga Entertainment are releasing another Aniplex show this spring, and once again, Aniplex have laid the law down as to how the show should be released. Once again we get a 12 episode series in 2 parts, and against all my instincts, I’m actually excited at the prospect of the release. The first time it was because of a continuation to the sublime Blue Exorcist series. This time it’s down to that poorly placed semi-colon. Occultic;Nine is another science adventure adaptation, from the people behind Chaos;Head, Robotics;Notes, and the transcendental Steins;Gate. This ought to be interesting.
Yuta Gamon is a high school student who with the help of his friend Ryoka Narusawa runs a blog on the occult, Kiri Kiri Basara. Occultic;Nine follows nine characters linked to this blog, and the events that occur surrounding the mysterious death of a famous professor of the paranormal named Hashigami.
You get the first six episodes of Occultic;Nine from Manga Entertainment spread across two single layer Blu-ray discs.
2. My Cold Dimension
3. She Cracked
4. Psycho Daisies
5. She’s Lost Control
6. She Took a Long Cold Look
Occultic;Nine gets a 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p transfer. The image is clear and sharp, and with six episodes spread across two discs, you’re not going to have any worries about compression, aliasing or even digital banding. Colours are strong and consistent, and detail levels are excellent. While the character designs are rather typical of anime, there is a sketch style to the line art that gives Occultic;Nine a rather unfinished, unique look that is really appealing, while the quality of the animation is rich and fluid. It’s a fine looking show, apart from Ryoka’s fan servicey, oversized breasts, which are such a sop to the otaku that they’re actually a comic distraction.
The images in this review were kindly supplied by Manga Entertainment.
You have the choice between PCM 2.0 Stereo English and Japanese with optional translated subtitles and a signs only track. The stereo is perfectly suited to bringing across the drama and comedy of the show, and the fast paced dialogue is clear and audible throughout. The subtitles keep up well, while remaining legible and they are free of typos. If there is an issue, it’s one of subtitle placement, with the captions alternating between the top and bottom of the screen, seemingly at random. I gave the dub a quick try and it sounded pretty good to me, a strong alternative if you get tired of reading at breakneck speed.
The discs present their content with silent animated menus. The extras on disc one comprise the textless credits, and a 1:59 trailer for the show.
Those breasts! They’re patently ridiculous, and a total distraction. I don’t know whose idea they were, or who got their jollies from animating their independent and buoyant adventures, but someone needs to have a word about realism and sensibility, and the fact that it isn’t always necessary to cater for the lowest common denominator in a fanbase. The breasts have the character of Ryoka Narusawa attached to them, whose annoying energy is almost as much of a distraction as her mammaries.
The last thing that Occultic;Nine needs is to be distracting its viewers with fan service. This is a mystery show with a whole lot of emphasis on the mystery. It’s also a show that isn’t reliant on linear narrative to tell its story. It’s fast paced, and as mentioned, doesn’t stint on dialogue. It also shifts character perspectives at the drop of a hat, and moves back and forward in time through the story as well. You’ll have enough of a challenge to keep the story straight without being hypnotised by those boobs. With nine characters to keep track of, it’s fair to say that Occultic;Nine will keep the grey matter busy, and give you homework on top. But is it worth it?
It certainly offers compelling mysteries to be solved, beginning with the murder of a professor of Parapsychology. By the fourth episode, that’s been overshadowed by a mass suicide in a city park. There’s a missing girl, a mysterious key of grisly origin, a dying message, a strange voice on a shortwave radio, a prophetic doujin comic and more, much more.
The problem with Occultic;Nine might be the likeability of its characters, at least its main characters. At the heart of the story lies the Kiri Kiri Basara occult blog and website, so quite naturally, you get to see a lot of the site’s author Yuta Gamon, and his able assistant Ryoka Narusawa. Their ‘HQ’ is a bar run by an anime transvestite cliché, and neither one of the three is at all likeable. Yuta is loud and self-absorbed, Ryoka has an energy and a personality that is out of this world, and the cliché is the cliché. I had to tolerate a lot from these characters to stay with the story. Fortunately the other characters in the show are a lot more interesting, particularly Aria Kurenaino, the go-to girl for curses, who has a tragic history and a pet ghost. There’s also a faux kid-detective Shun Moritsuka (he’s in his twenties) whose presence always comes with layered meaning and weight. The fortune-teller Miyuu Aikawa does much to make Yuta tolerable once she joins his ‘club’, looking for her missing friend Chi.
Occultic;Nine happily does its own thing, balancing its more annoying characters with its interesting narrative, and then comes the end of this collection, the end of episode six, with the kind of epic, awesome, game-changing plot twist that will send you right back to start of the series to watch it all over again, to check out all the little clues that you might have missed. It’s also a twist that serves as the perfect cliff-hanger to end this collection on, as you simply have to have Part 2 of Occultic;Nine to learn how it ends. With one story development, the show firmly grabs you and refuses to let go.
Normally I’d continue the whinge about Aniplex and their cockamamie release strategies, but for once, I think serendipity has made it work. Episode 6 is the perfect note to end on, to leave anticipation for Part 2 maxed out. Part 1 of Occultic;Nine is definitely worth the effort it demands from its viewers. It’s all up to the conclusion to live up to that cliff-hanger, and it will have its work cut out at that.