Occultic;Nine Part 2
by Paul Jensen, James Beckett,
A day may come when Daylight Savings Time doesn't take me by surprise, but it is not this day. There's a unique displeasure in the realization that I'm about to lose an hour of sleep, as if I'm somehow being robbed by time itself. At least it only happens once a year. Welcome to an unusually sleepy Shelf Life.
Jump to this week's review:
Occultic;Nine part 2
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Shelf Life Reviews
The first half of Occultic;Nine barely squeaked its way into Rental territory when James reviewed it a few months ago. Will the second half of this mystery series fare any better?
Over the course of these final episodes, all nine of our protagonists are thrust further into the mysteries surrounding the mass suicide at Inokashira Park. Yuuta Gamon goes from ambitious blogger to the reluctant focal point of a massive conspiracy, Sarai Hashigami learns some unwelcome secrets about his recently deceased father, Miyu Aikawa and Touko Sumikaze discover their own dark relationship with the Inokashira deaths, Ririka Nishisuzuo befriends a mysterious boy who claims to be immortal, Aria Kurenaino and Kiryu Kusakabe grow closer than ever, and the diminutive Shun Moritsuka gets a little too close to cracking the case once and for all. Perhaps most important of all is Ryoka Narusawa, who finally gets something to do outside of merely being a walking boob-joke. These many characters all eventually become embroiled in a plot that involves beings that may or may not be ghosts, time travel, evil cults, and Nikola Tesla. Naturally.
So yes, Occultic;Nine continues to be a lot to take in, and all of the narrative and structural ambition makes this series its own worst enemy. Even as the plot coalesces into something slightly more digestible, it remains about twice as complicated as it needs to be while only being half as clever as it thinks it is. New twists and supernatural elements are dropped into the story left and right without any regard for pacing or consistent logic. Without spoiling too much, much of the series' late-stage story revolves around the properties that govern both ghosts and time travel, and even though multiple characters go to great lengths to explain how everything works, the theories they assert only barely hold together enough to get the story to the finish line, mostly by disregarding any story or character threads that make little to no sense whatsoever. There are multiple instances of Yuuta and other characters pointing out the fuzzy logic and inconsistencies of the phenomena they encounter, but lampshading the sloppy writing doesn't make it any less frustrating.
Admittedly, the plot is breezy and entertaining enough in the moment to warrant a bit of forgiveness for playing fast and loose with its own mythology. There is a certain amount of fun to be had just seeing where Occultic;Nine's story goes next, even if the plotting feels like the narrative equivalent of a Rube-Goldberg machine: a mechanically elaborate contraption with incredibly modest functionality. Even when the mechanics don't make sense, just watching Occultic;Nine throw absolutely everything into its creative stew never gets boring.
Even though Occultic;Nine has no business being so overwrought or intentionally dense, the show also wouldn't have much reason to exist without that self-imposed complexity. This is especially the case given that the show's crowded cast isn't compelling enough to warrant all of the story's fuss. Unlike Steins;Gate's immensely lovable squad of science nerds, the disparate group of weirdos in Occultic;Nine remains passable at best. The second half of the series definitely gives them more to do, and the Big Twist that connects them all is a compelling enough idea on paper, but in execution the ensemble is severely lacking in personality and charm.
As the ostensible Main main character, Yuuta is alarmingly ineffectual, and not even later episodes' focus on his family history can muster up enough sympathy to make him a proper leading man. Other members of the ensemble, such as the unflappable Shun and the perpetually grumpy Sarai, fare better in this final half of the series, but they're not enough to carry the show on their own. Much to my disappointment, Aria and Kiryu get next to nothing to do in Occultic;Nine's final half, despite making a strong first impression near the start. Newer additions to the cast are mixed; Ririka befriends a murderous albino boy who's just a notch too over-the-top for my liking, but the other teen detective that arrives on the scene proves to be one of the most lovably understated members of the whole group.
Technically, the series remains up to the standards A-1 Pictures set out in its first six episodes. There's an unsurprising dip in animation quality up front, but things even out well enough for the final few episodes. The direction itself continues to rely way too much on goofy dutch angles to spice up some of the more tedious expository scenes, but Occultic;Nine is generally a fresh and engagingly produced series otherwise. If anything, I wish that the series had a score to match its manic storytelling and eye-pleasing visuals; while it took influences from their structure, Occultic;Nine is unable to ape the bouncy, energetic soundtrack that perfectly supplemented the content of Baccano! or Durarara!!. Masaru Yokoyama's score is serviceable but unmemorable, which often serves to make the extended exposition and dialogue that Occultic;Nine indulges feel all the more tedious.
Aniplex's release for Part 2 of Occultic;Nine is much the same as the set for Part 1. There are six episodes spread across two discs that lack any special features save for a fairly well-produced English dub. There are some excellent physical goodies thrown in though, including a nifty slipcase, a small booklet containing character biographies and more, plus a stack of glossy pin-up cards. My main reservation for both of these sets comes with how expensive they are; each individual collection of six episodes can cost between $80 to over $100 online, meaning that collecting the entire series will carve a huge chunk out of any fan's wallet.
At the end of the day, I liken the experience of watching Occultic;Nine to seeing a 3D-printer produce a complex and intricate set of mechanical parts. It's an involved and technically impressive process, but there's little soul to be found. It might be fun to watch unfold for a little while, but only a small subset of enthusiasts will want to stick around for all four and a half hours of this experience. If you're a diehard fan of the Science;Adventure series of anime, games, and light novels, you might find the series to be worth the steep asking price. Everyone else should approach Occultic;Nine with caution, especially if they're only arriving because of its loose association with Steins;Gate. There's fun to be had investigating alongside Yuuta and the gang, but you'll have to wade through a hefty amount of tedium and nonsensical mumbo-jumbo to get there.
That wraps things up for this week. Thanks for reading, and remember to send your Shelf Obsessed entries to [email protected]!
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