by Gabriella Ekens,
How would you rate episode 4 of
It's official. Following the sheer information overload of its debut, Occultic;Nine has plateaued into something comprehensible, at least on a basic plot level. This doesn't mean that the show is worth giving another chance if you were put off by that first episode – it's all reliant on you having watched and understood that mess – but it's no longer switching between characters every minute or so.
Coming off the last episode, hundreds of corpses were dredged out of a park lake, the apparent result of a mass suicide the night before. The first third of the episode consists of characters reacting to it. Sumikaze comes into work to find her coworkers too preoccupied by the news to address her. She's then sent out to collect information on what happened. (Curiously, when she checks her appearance in the mirror, there's no reflection. Hmmmm.) At the same time, the blogger crew is also poring over their newsfeed. The incident is good news for them, since it'll generate clicks, but Yuta is unsettled. He then tries to explain that his radio, given to him by his father, speaks to him with a female voice who he calls Zonko-tan. (That's who told him to pull out the key at the scene of Hashigami's murder.) The radio doesn't speak out in front of the others, but it gets mad at him in private later for trying to reveal its existence. Y'know, between this and Ryoko's inexplicable raygun, Mr. “People Who Believe in the Occult Are Idiots” Yuta sure is surrounded by a lot of obviously supernatural nonsense.
After that, we're finally introduced to the “devil-san,” Kiryu Kusakabe. I was wrong in assuming that he's the ghost of Aria's brother. It turns out that he's just some random ghost who teams up with her for occult business. They met when she attempted suicide after her brother's death. He's generally grumpy and aloof, but takes a strange interest in her. That's about it.
Apparently, Sumikaze and Miyu know each other. Miyu mentions that she knows the owner of Kiri Kiri Basara (Yuta's blog) and Sumikaze demands to be introduced to him. Apparently there's a connection between the blog and the suicides. A few months ago, someone pointed out the similarities between Professor Hashigami's murder and a certain BL doujinshi. Yuta and Shun have already realized the connection, and now Sumikaze is on the trail. Meanwhile, Sarai catches Yuta trying his key out on random locks around the Hashigami household. It looks like the cast is gradually coming together.
Now that we're a few episodes in, I feel like I know the characters enough to evaluate them. Yuta's hyperactive chuunibyou antics are extremely annoying whenever they happen, but I don't mind him as a character that much, probably because the show dunks on him pretty hard. Booby girl Ryoka is the same deal – for some reason, I tend to zone out whenever she's onscreen. So far, fortuneteller Miyu is the most relatably human member of the cast, mostly concerned for her missing friend Chi. Sarai plays a similar role as a mostly well-adjusted student and skeptic, and it looks like he's finally going to have an active role in the plot. For all of the backstory she's gotten, I don't feel one way or the other regarding Aria Kurenaino. She amounts to an odd combination of the stock imouto and mysterious stoic girl archetypes, and while she doesn't have much of the off-putting sexualization that these characters tend to come with, that doesn't translate into me feeling actual affection for the character. At the same time, I don't actively dislike her. Shrug. Sumikaze, the reporter, hasn't done much yet. Doujinshi author Ririka Nishizono and “devil-san” Kiryu Kusakabe are both enigmas at this point. And then there's Shun Moritsuka, the super otaku detective. He's hilarious in his raw-chuuni-ness, and I don't trust him for a second as a sincere agent of justice. It looks like writer Chiyomaru Shikura is trying to accomplish something like Ryogo Narita's Baccano! and Durarara!! series, with their casts of dozens of distinct characters, but he lacks that writer's talent for crafting memorable personalities. Instead, he tends to repeat a couple character types: nerd fantasy (plus or minus monkeycheese hyperactivity) or normal-ish person. The effect is alright, at least more emotionally distant than flat-out bad, once I got over Ryoka's terrible boobs. I'm curious to see where Occultic;Nine will go with its characterization.
Otherwise, Occultic;Nine continues to be a rollercoaster ride of a show, for good and for ill. The story still isn't particularly compelling, but I've at least grown curious to see how this tangled web of a narrative comes together in the end – if it does at all. The comedy segments involving the otaku are irritating, but at least the other characters respond to them like they're ridiculous, and they don't shove the same type of dialogue into every character's mouth. While it's ostensibly a mystery, this story doesn't feel like something that I can predict in advance. The story world feels like too much of a hodgepodge of every urban fantasy idea under the sun for it to be subject to logical scrutiny yet. My current predictions extend to Zonko-tan actually being the okama barkeep, since he was ominously framed last episode.
I also have to give props to the production – it's extremely consistent at nailing its intended aesthetic. I'm not sure how easy it is to produce something that looks like this, but it seems time-intensive since the backgrounds and animation are consistently detailed. Now that the pacing is somewhat reasonable, the direction does a great job of keeping me visually engaged. While I question the storytelling so far, A-1 Pictures is bringing their A-game in terms of visuals. Awkward execution aside, Occultic;Nine at least has something that many anime desperately lack – momentum. If you managed to get over the hurdle of the first episode, it does get easier to watch. Let's see if it keeps this up.
Occultic;Nine is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Gabriella Ekens studies film and literature at a US university. Follow her on twitter.
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