Review/discussion about: Occultic;Nine
The semicolon gets a bad rap.
Most day-to-day people never use them in today’s world of simplified, text-driven messages. They also look a little funky. (I mean, let’s be honest, a period on top of a comma? Get out of here.) Even Kurt Vonnegut, the beloved and creative author of stories such as Cat’s Cradle, is quoted as saying (with hyperbole and slightly out of context), “All they do is show you’ve been to college.”
He later goes on to say about his rule of never using them that “Rules only take us so far, even good ones.” With this thought in mind, I’ll provide the rule that I was taught which made me into a semicolon expert: Semicolons connect equal grammatical units. To go even simpler, think of the semicolon as an equals sign. That’s it. So long as one remembers this rule, the semicolon should be yet another tool in thy writer’s arsenal.
I like semicolons; they’re very fun to use. I don’t like Occultic;Nine; its semicolon doesn’t do it for me.
Occultic;Nine follows Gamon, a NEET, blog-running high-school teenager who wants to gain money through trouncing the ghostly and the magical. His “minion,” Ryo-tas, dances whimsically nearby. And, when a mysterious murder drags him and others into a series of strange events, his life becomes an unexpectedly, otherworldly predicament.
Although “becomes” may be the wrong phrase. “Careens towards” is more fitting since the anime makes it its mission to go full-throttle from the get-go.
The first episode blazes past the audience so quickly, it makes them wonder if they actually saw anything at all. It crams characters and events and premises and concepts and more characters and ideas and content and even more characters into a single episode. About as much as it could conceivably handle in twenty-some minutes. While it arguably leaves a negative first impression since proper pacing has essentially been stomped into the ground, the onslaught of information does pique one’s interest.
But that’s just the start, for the anime doesn’t. Slow. Down.
The remaining episodes do not reach the breakneck speed of the opener, but they follow the same negative charge. Explanations on pseudoscience throw jargon together. Connections between events flail about with flimsy relevance. Plot points refuse to rest long enough to earn their appreciation.
The most abrasive example is the characters and their conversations. They don’t speak so fast that it’s impossible to follow along with what they are saying, but they talk just fast enough to make their delivery and responses seem unnatural. Listen to the men of the Society of Eight Gods of Fortune cult. Either their lines are recorded on a tape recorder and slightly sped up or they are all robots with inhuman reactions. Their talks, especially when the blue-suit man gets involved, don’t wait for anybody.
Not to say that a speedy presentation is inherently bad. It’s not. But, in Occultic;Nine’s case, the speed not only adds an extra layer of unnecessary confusion but also fails to serve a higher purpose. That is, it’s fast for the sake of being fast and not much else.
One can argue that the overly quick presentation does, in fact, hold a thematic purpose. Gamon and the others become astral bodies. As is explained, their ghostly forms exist in a realm where time moves at an increased rate (one day equals one minute to be precise). Sadly, this quickness not only (obviously) exists within the first episode but also in every episode – including those when they were still alive. Plus, there’s that Fortune cult that houses not ghosts but rich dudes. In other words, the anime was unnecessarily quick regardless of the context, rendering this argument moot.
Looking at the content more closely, Occultic;Nine is essentially a twelve-episode exposition dump. It has the occasional tooth pull here or evil-café-owner skirmish there, but the show prioritizes the characters explaining their situation and what to do next at almost every turn. Even during the albino child’s coercion of Myuu, which should be a tense scene, the show falls back on him talking and talking and talking before a scuffle finally breaks out.
The albino child’s conflict also brings to light yet another problem for Occultic;Nine: bogus plotlines. Him and his kotoribakos? He sits in jail, and his boxes continue to rot. The female-doujin author? She draws a bunch intermittently throughout the season, but, in the end, she literally vanishes without doing anything. Gamon “losing” the golden tooth-key? Just materialize it out of nothingness.
Many events also tread into “just so happens” territory. Nikola Tesla “just so happens” to have an illegitimate daughter. Kiryuu, Aria’s “devil,” needed surgery to save his brain, and it “just so happens” that Aria’s brother died the same day. Kisaki, a female police officer with psychometry who shows up after half the season is over, “just so happens” to enter a taxi whose driver is friends with the former proprietor of the café where the gang all hang out.
Again, to be fair, maybe that’s the point. That, like the occult, the audience must accept certain happenings as less magical and more coincidental. Unfortunately for Occultic;Nine, the show itself is not a ghostly figure. Rather, it’s a real anime with real writing and real story beats that have real problems in their narrative construction.
Occultic;Nine does introduce the concept of living. I.e., whether the physical body or the spiritual entity constitutes a state of self. However, it doesn’t exactly challenge the idea. For its less about this philosophical pondering and more about the properties of scandium.
The anime does end on a surprisingly bittersweet, possibly dark note, and it even alludes to there being more to this story than lets on thanks to an after-credits scene. But, having reached the finale and finally stopping, the show still finishes in last place despite how fast it moved.
Occultic;Nine’s obsession with speed turns into obsession of a different kind with its art and its animation. Unlike the quick presentation and the abundant exposition, though, its obsession with style stands as a positive.
The anime’s actual animation remains consistent in quality, but its higher claim to fame comes in its artistry. For its backgrounds and locales, the show adopts an interesting look centered on overly realistic depictions. A café filled with mood lighting, extra tables, and a full-service bar. An office space packed with messy desks and doodads. The radio station and its technology.
The anime evidently goes out of its way to make the setting much more real in its delivery. Its character designs do the same. Granted, Ryo-tas’s comically large, mountain-sized breasts and some of their half-drawn circle noses argue that, no, their designs move away from realism.
But their subtle details mixed with their plainness keep them grounded. Shun’s overcoat uses a striped pattern. Touko wears glasses, she puts her hair in a ponytail while separating her bangs, and her clothes’ collar has this ornate design with an added ribbon. Aria wears a fur-lined red shawl with a brown blouse underneath, and her wooden platform shoes and leg tights are likewise colored red and brown, one color for each side.
Occultic;Nine also employs other oddities for their designs. A lot of extra creases in their clothes and contours for their faces add differing degrees of shadow that make their looks both pop and emit more of that realism.
The most interesting oddity, though, is the line work. While not scribbled, the outlines for the characters can sometimes be (using a cliché in a literal sense) rough around the edges. It’s only slightly, but these lines can have a noticeable jaggedness, a lack of rigidity in their formation. This aesthetic once again adds to the realism since the roughness helps them to mix with the hyper-realistic background art.
This drive for realism lends itself well to the anime’s main motif. In other words, while the characters are unsure of what’s actually happened and what’s in fact make-believe, Occultic;Nine paints itself as realistic as possible while still maintaining its own style.
Yet the anime’s strongest visual element has yet to be brought up. Arguably, it’s the show’s best trait period. This trait? Cinematic flair.
Just as Occultic;Nine obsesses over its backgrounds and design details, it also obsesses over how many different techniques it can incorporate throughout its run. For instance, it loves to play with the angle of its shots. From crooked to birds-eye, from looking up to completely sideways, the anime constantly flips around its camera to its liking.
That’s easy, though. Indeed, the anime goes much further with its techniques. Take episode ten. As Ryo-tas reveals her identity to Gamon, her head gets huge, taking up the whole left side of the screen as Gamon remains regularly sized on the right, imposing a sense of intimidation. Or take episode six. As Shun questions Aria at her residence, the camera spins and spins until Shun chooses to spook the audience after moving a lot closer towards the screen on the final rotation.
One of the coolest moves, though, comes from episode nine. Myuu receives a message from the friend who she thought died, so she rushes to the location. Once there, a secret tunnel opens, and she heads down it. At this point, the anime takes on a first-person perspective. Myuu steadily moves down the hallway as she (and the audience) look around at the green, concrete walls, the creepy lighting illuminating her path. (Her heavy breathing and the spooky sounds up the scariness.)
There’s still an all-important question that needs answering: Why? Why does Occultic;Nine go overboard with its cinematic techniques? Yes, they are no doubt interesting, but what purpose does angling the shot or spinning the camera serve in this instance?
It all comes from the content of the show itself. Namely, the gross amount of exposition. With the characters doing nothing but holding conversations, the anime is inherently forced to use excessive cinematic flair to mask the dullness permeating their talks.
This flair certainly impresses, but, at times, it can be distracting. All the flipping and the perspectives and the orientations nearly detract from the story as the show places more and more focus on the presentation and less and less focus on what’s actually being presented.
Thus, like the overall physical-versus-spiritual motif, the anime enters a paradox. The distracting cinematic direction gets in the way of the boring exposition, but the boring exposition requires the distracting cinematic direction.
Granted, this distraction is a welcome one since the content is often in dire straits. Plus, given that the anime at least goes this route, does all that it can to make its visuals as engaging an experience as possible, it deserves praise first and foremost.
Occultic;Nine involves roughly seven main players from the 256 Incident: Sarai, Touko, Aria, Kisaki, Shun, Gamon, and Ryo-tas. Unfortunately, the anime’s penchant for speed negatively affects the importance and the impact of its characters.
For example, Sarai is the son of Professor Hashigami. Genetically, it makes sense that he’s a smart kid. But that’s it. That’s most of his character. He happens to have esoteric knowledge which he uses at nearly every convenient moment. From solving the secret codes attached to the victim’s names to explaining the warping of time between the physical and spiritual realms, he exists within the show not as a vital actor but rather as a crux that the story needed. Lest it proceed nowhere.
Touko is arguably worse. Where Sarai at least contributes his smarts, she contributes almost nothing. The anime doesn’t go into her background, and she sits about, occasionally chiming in to remind the audience of her presence. In essence, she could be removed from Occultic;Nine altogether without affecting the story to any noticeable extent.
Aria receives a lot of attention early on. Indeed, half of episode two dedicates itself to showcasing her backstory. The bullying and creepiness she endured, and the older brother who supported her wholeheartedly. Most importantly, it also highlights her psychosis in how she, unbeknownst to her, lived with her deceased sibling’s corpse for an entire year.
As the season moves forward, however, the audience sees less and less of Aria as she becomes increasingly irrelevant. While Gamon and the others discuss what’s really going on, Aria sits in her dark room, mumbling about her brother and failing to have a stake in the narrative. Come the end, she doesn’t get shot by the ray gun, meaning she remains a spirit with her “brother,” but it only reinforces the notion that she is inconsequential to the story.
Aria went through a lot of trauma in the past, and Myuu goes through a lot herself in the present. She becomes incredibly depressed after learning that the evil albino kid murdered her good friend. Her conflict, though, doesn’t have the emotional weight needed since the relationship with said friend was given as a quick set of scenes involving head pats, blurry pictures, and birds.
Kisaki arrives rather late into the season (officially in episode seven) as Shun’s replacement. She’s technically not as important of a character as the others, but Occultic;Nine fumbles with her as well. She receives one meager flashback that lasts no more than several seconds, showcasing the ridicule from those around her and highlighting the reason why she has feelings for Shun in the first place (since he was apparently the only one to be kind to her).
For Shun himself, he likewise doesn’t have much going for him. Again, he’s not as important as someone like Gamon or Ryo-tas, so it’s not necessary to give him a grand character arc or a dramatic backstory. Indeed, he’s one of the only characters who is adequately balanced in terms of importance and impact in that he actively takes part in seeking out clues and piecing this puzzle together while avoiding unnecessary attempts to flesh him out.
As for Gamon and Ryo-tas, they don’t have the right execution befitting their characters.
Gamon is a self-proclaimed anti-social blogger who simply wants to make money. He gets roped into all these events, succumbing to fits of paranoia, fear, and confusion. He tries to make sense of the situation, but, the more he learns, the more he falls back into those three feelings – again and again.
Consequently, Gamon, despite his main-protagonist moniker, floats along for most of the season, lamenting the position he never asked for let alone wanted. As such, he’s not a very interesting character, and the audience cannot even call him the lens with which they view this world since many of the other characters manage to unveil more than he ever did or could.
He at least has a redeeming moment near the end of the season. The cast want to go back to being alive, but they also need to foil the Fortune cult’s plans. Gamon volunteers to risk his (physical) life, opting to perform the final act and saving the others in the process. That is, he overcomes his paranoia and fear and confusion through the bravest feat imaginable.
Ryo-tas is, in comparison, weirdly hyper all the time. She also carries a curious gun that seems like it comes right out of an old-timey alien movie. Alongside hints that she is perhaps hiding something, the audience questions this façade she appears to be putting on. Indeed, the anime later reveals who she really is: “My true identity is the astral body possessing Ryoka Narusawa’s body, Aveline Narusawa Tesla.”
This reveal isn’t super game-changing since there wasn’t much to build up to it on a narrative level. Even afterwards, it doesn’t make much of a difference. She also does a whole lot of nothing throughout the season besides impersonating Ryoka. To her credit, she at least guided Gamon by also pretending to be someone named Zoko, the voice from Gamon’s hand radio. So, she wasn’t as worthless as some of the other characters.
Between the lot, a possible throughput on fathers exists. Gamon’s backstory involves his father, Sarai’s father’s death starts the whole debacle, Myuu pleads to her father when called out on her fortune-telling powers, and Ryo-tas’s father is the famous Nikola Tesla whose theory forms the basis for the supernatural occurrences.
Unfortunately, the anime not only doesn’t have this throughput for all its major characters (Touko, Aria, Kisaki, and Shun have nothing specifically about fathers) but also doesn’t try to explore this connection further. Gamon’s radio and his childhood revolve around his father, but it’s never a pivotal character trait. Sarai somewhat comes to terms with his father’s choices, but a clear resolution does not come about. Myuu never mentions her father again. And Ryo-tas (i.e., Aveline) isn’t given any flashbacks with Nikola.
Thus far, the characters of Occultic;Nine have been overwhelmingly subpar. That’s not wholly their fault, for they are at the mercy of the story. Since the plot requires so much extra information and involves a lot of content without much substance, they lack the attention and therefore strength that they arguably deserve.
Despite these woes, the anime at least gives them all a higher role to serve.
Sarai voices dissent. He continually tries to view their situation from a logical standpoint rather than outright accepting that their predicament derives from otherworldly sources.
Touko is the normal one of the group. She’s not the smartypants, the black-magic girl, the fortune teller, the psychometry user, the detective, the otaku, or the seventy-year-old astral spirit. She normalizes the group given how quirky the rest tend to be.
Aria represents the accepter of their situation. Where the others wish to come back to life, she’s perfectly content with remaining on the spiritual side. An ending she receives since Gamon (presumably) never shot her with the special ray gun.
Myuu gets the unfortunate position of “it can happen to anybody.” Someone as kind and as famous as her, with foresight powers too, receives the same treatment as the others.
Kisaki’s convenient psychic ability enables her to follow the trail left by the others as they themselves try to fix their predicament.
Shun acts as the revealer. When the audience wonders about certain events or directions, he manages to find the info through his investigation skills.
Gamon demonstrates how most regular people would react if placed in the same spot. Yanking teeth, getting attacked by a gargoyle demon, seeing one’s own dead body. His emotions may make him a nonexistent player for most of the tale, but they are justified.
Ryo-tas distracts the audience from the truth (through her strange behavior), provides a connection (however feeble) to the Fortune-cult plotline, and guides the rest of the cast along (but really mostly Gamon).
This character writing is arguably common, maybe even expected, for a show aiming at mixing together a large cast. But, given how the characters are meager at best and forgetful at worst, their personalized roles within the story at large earns them all a stronger sense of place within Occultic;Nine. A much-needed writing buff that keeps them from the depths of complete character catastrophe.
Despite how loud the characters tend to be, the voice actors and actresses performing those roles nail them. Yuki Kaji as Gamon screams and cries without shame. Ayane Sakura as Ryo-tas speaks with a high-pitched voice as she ribbits, and she switches into peeved speech when giving orders (under disguise) to Gamon himself. And Kenjirou Tsuda as Kouhei Izumi, the café owner and the unknown villain, uses an effeminate voice that fits the flamboyant murderer quite well. (An extra shout-out goes to Shizuka Itou as Touko for her “Ascension…” reaction.)
Listening to the opening track and the ending track, they come out about even.
For the ED, its tone has this hopeful yet melancholic sound that it blends together through strong singing, background vocals, and a charged techno foundation. The instrumentals and the beat itself are a bit uninspired, and the English lyrics don’t always hit their mark (especially when they conveniently skip the number eight in their count). But its ability to sync up with the preview visuals, to give them a better sense of urgency, made for a small treat at the end of each episode.
For the OP, it gets at some spookiness as it starts with ominous echoes and a set of background vocalists all its own. The middle section is filled with cool guitar chords and a steady drum beat, but they aren’t as powerful as the main vocalist and the off-kilter feeling. Its abrupt stop also gives it an edge since it fits the spooky approach.
Neither the ED nor the OP stand out as very strong pieces, and the same goes for the rest of the music. It does have a lot of variety, though. Playful and jazzy. Energized and guitar-laden. Moderately paced and plucked. Violin and claps. Techno and more techno. Nothing major, but, just as the art aims for visual variety through its different techniques, the OST aims for musical mixing through its different pieces. Although these tracks lack the finesse that the techniques bring with ease.
I was liking the anime’s dark atmosphere early on. The murder of Sarai’s father and Aria’s twisted lifestyle made for quite the grim setup. And the death of all the characters and the demented blood boxes (kotoribakos) shaded the atmosphere with even more darkness.
Yet these shadows couldn’t stop me from constantly shaking my head.
The characters are annoying. Gamon never stops yelling and being overly obnoxious in all that he does. Ryo-tas isn’t being cute but instead aggravating in her ditzy behavior. Sarai refuses to accept all that’s happening around him despite personally witnessing numerous pieces of evidence. Myuu walks herself into the most obvious trap possible. Aria and Touko just sit around.
Shun is perhaps the only character I tolerate. He at least tries to have fun and brings some spark to the anime that isn’t bent on being annoying. But he wasn’t always around, and he was semi-infallible (infallibility being a trait I absolutely loathe). So, he wasn’t that welcomed, either.
I also wasn’t a fan of much of the story itself. The 256 Incident didn’t make for involved drama. The whole mutual recognition plot convenience was very lame. The albino-kid plotline was pointless. Their conversations were generally dull, uneventful, or both. The Fortune cult was so disjointed from everything else, it didn’t make for a compelling conflict.
The things that I do like in the anime – Kisaki’s “screenings” of the thoughts she reads, the actual (loose) science backing the plot – are sadly quashed by the immense amount of annoying, boring, or otherwise grating material that this show so regularly offers.
Occultic;Nine has visuals that deserve praise and music that passes. Unfortunately, the core of this tale contains more problems than its title can count. The narrative strings together as this wobbly, worthless mess. The characters, inevitably pulled along, don’t have much impact beyond their singular roles. And the anime simply does almost nothing of interest for its entire run. The show drowns; it doesn’t resurface.
Story: Terrible, an overabundance of speed, exposition, and convenience leave the narrative gasping for breath when it eventually crosses the finish line
Animation: Great, overly realistic background art, subtle stylistic choices for the character designs, and a wide array of cinematic techniques make for an engaging visual experience
Characters: Bad, Gamon, Ryo-tas, and the other members of this large cast lack importance and impact throughout this tale, but they at least have particular roles to serve
Sound: Fine, okay OP, okay ED, okay OST, and good VA performances
Enjoyment: Terrible, too annoying and too uneventful
Final Score: 3/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review. If you want, take part in the discussion below! :3