After the first two episodes of Occult Academy blew me away, I was expecting big things from the third. In hindsight, perhaps this was foolish; many anime have great introductions, but falter a few episodes in. Was I setting my expectations too high? Or was I merely so confident in the creative talent behind Anime no Chikara that I thought they could do no wrong?
Perhaps I’m being a bit drastic; the third episode of Occult Academy certainly wasn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination. It rounded out Fumiaki’s character wonderfully, and delivered more laughs than Seitokai Yakuindomo will ever manage. However, it barely added anything to the series’ mythos or storyline, other than the rather bland new character Mikaze. In fact, this Mary Sue romantic interest and her date with Fumiaki took up far too much of this episode’s runtime, and slowed the pacing to a crawl. The end result was an episode that, while still enjoyable, was nowhere near as good as the previous two.
Find out more after the break.
This episode begins with two girls in Fumiaki’s class discussing a recent string of attacks, which are rumored to be caused by a tengu. When Maya brings this to Fumiaki’s attention, he dismisses the idea with a laugh. After all, tengu are mythological creatures… they couldn’t possibly be real, right? However, Maya reminds him that aliens are due to invade the Earth soon, and an advance alien scout wearing an pilot’s oxygen mask could easily be mistaken for a tengu. On the off chance the attacks are related to the Key of Nostradamus, Maya orders Fumiaki to investigate.
After class, Fumiaki encounters school bureaucrat Chihiro, who has grown suspicious of his relationship with Maya. In order to avoid her probing questions, Fumiaki desperately tries a diversionary tactic; he complements her dumpling-like hairstyle. Surprisingly, Chihiro is so taken aback by the compliment that she becomes infatuated and tries to kiss him.
After escaping from that eldritch horror, Fumiaki heads to his hole-in-the-wall apartment and encounters the landlord, a creepy old lady. Later, he catches a TV broadcast of his younger self, performing psychic tricks on a variety show. Feeling wistful, he calls up his old family using a pay phone, but hangs up before saying anything. Depressed, he heads over to a local eatery (run by another creepy old lady) and orders some curry. That’s when he meets… her.
Say hello to Little Miss Perfect, Mikaze Nakagawa (voiced by Minori Chihara of Haruhi fame). She’s cute, cheerful, sensitive, big-breasted, wealthy and so utterly bland that she’ll put you to sleep faster than an elephant tranquilizer. Naturally, Mikaze and Fumiaki hit it off almost immediately. After he frequents the diner for a few days, she asks him out on a date.
The date itself was the most boring part of this episode. It’s basically just the two of them touring various historical sites around the city, punctuated by a rather tired running gag involving Mikaze recklessly driving her sports car and scaring the living daylights out of Fumiaki. Eventually, they wind up in Zouzan Bunker, a historical relic from World War II. Maya is also investigating the bunker as a possible source of the tengu attacks, but doesn’t interfere with their date. After they leave, Maya runs across a shadowy creature, which she shoots with her crossbow. This has little effect on it, and it swiftly flies towards her and attacks. To be continued…
This was a good episode, but it had some problems. For starters, the pacing slowed to a crawl; the last two episodes blasted through their stories at lightning speed, whereas this one had a more mellow, relaxed tempo. Now, I understand they were trying to take their time and develop Fumiaki’s character, and the effort is certainly appreciated. After all, the last two episodes were Maya-centric, and Fumiaki certainly deserved some screentime. However, did they really have to make it so boring? His date with Mikaze was just plain dull, and the reckless driving gag was utterly cliched and awful. Now, I’m not saying this kind of joke can’t be funny; when Hiroyuki Morioka used it in Banner of the Stars, he made it fresh and interesting by spicing up the formula with hilarous dialogue and character interaction. Kiyohiko Azuma did much the same in Azumanga Daioh. However, in this show, Mikaze is too bland of a character to make this kind of comedy work. Instead, the animators toss in some bare-bones reaction shots of Fumiaki looking frightened and leave it at that. It just comes across as lazy, not funny.
I’m not going to judge this episode too harshly just yet. It’s the first half of a two-parter, meaning these disparate story elements could still be woven into something interesting. For example, I have a feeling that there’s more to Mikaze than meets the eye. After all, why would they introduce such an obvious Mary Sue into a show that, thus far, has had superb writing and characterization? Here’s hoping next week’s episode picks up the pace; I’d hate for such a great show to ruin its potential.