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Aliens, Time Travelers, and ESPers Can Go Die in a Ditch

July 6, 2010

I’ve talked about my fascination with the apocalypse. I’ve mentioned how I’ve messed around with the occult in real life. Now Japan has read my blog posts and made an anime tailored to play off of my various “speculative” obsessions.

That anime is Occult Academy.

The series had me with the opening credits. It was like they took an episode of Coast to Coast AM and animated everything the guest said as he spouted it out. References to Stonehenge, Moai statues, psychic phenomenon, Mothman, bizarre mutations, conspiracy symbolism, and all sorts of other crazy fringe shit. It’s a beautiful thing.

The show itself comes off like some sort of attempt to make an anime version of Ghostbusters. There’s genuine, threatening occult stuff that the characters have to deal with, but the characters react in humorous ways rather than dealing with everything in a morose, serious, stuck-up manner. That’s the way to handle this sort of thing. Rather than trying to point out the ridiculous bits or exaggerate things to the point where every little thing becomes a joke, allow the humor to come out of the way characters react to the situation. That’s how Ghostbusters, and action movies like Die Hard, dealt with stuff and they’re pretty damn good movies. When faced with terrorists or ancient Mesopotamian gods bent on killing humanity, most people are going to react in a way that tries to lighten the mood rather than playing into the desperate, despair-riddled situation.

The bit where the girl with glasses looses her glasses and fumbles around for them while possessed was a classic moment. And it helps that the chick looks like a Japanese Velma from Scooby Doo. Awesome stuff there.

My only gripe, and this isn’t so much a gripe as it is a point of curiosity, is the fact that they aren’t exactly using real occult stuff. The main girl spouts out stuff about how the spirit doing the possessing is a “lamie” and has ties to an ancient Egyptian lost civilization called Laroca. At first I thought it was a mistranslation and she was referring to a Lamia, but all this stuff about possession and using deep-seeded memories and desires to lure in victims doesn’t match up with any Lamia story I remember (The closest anything gets to “half-snake-like” is the above picture.). And as far as I can tell “Laroca” is something they made up in the anime. If these are terms created for the anime and we’ll get some explanation as to their origins later on, that’s cool. It’s just that the way Maya casually spouts this stuff off, it sounds like it’s something that the audience should at the very least know in the back of their mine. Like, “Hey, that sounds familiar, I’ll go look it up. Yeah! That’s it!” With the way the opening refers to all sorts of “real” occult imagery, I was hoping they’d be inserting that stuff into the anime proper.

Also: Maya –> Mayan –> Mayan Calendar –> 2012 –> END OF THE WORLD. I’m curious as to whether her name is intentional or not.

And Maya’s a pretty cool character. I was talking to a buddy in chat last night about the series and as I described her he said she was “like Scully in the last season of X-Files.” She knows weird shit exists, but she actively doesn’t want it to exist due to personal issues arriving out of its existence. In thar regard she’s something of the Anti-Haruhi. Haruhi wants strange shit to exist, but outside forces actively deny her this revelation. Maya know that strange shit exists, but she actively wants to destroy it. A meeting between these two would be something supremely epic.

I’m wondering about this main dude. Is he really traveling back in time? The computers the dudes were using during that opening scene mission sure looked like they came from “now” rather than 1999, but maybe this is a case of the government/whatever having access to technology far in advance of mundane society. They could be playing off of the notion that all tech comes from backwards-engineering of alien tech, and these modern-seeming laptops were the tech the powers that be weren’t willing to release into the public just yet. So it does make sense to say that the dude’s being sent back in time (The Terminator reference that is his arrival definitely implies this.), but I think it’s just as likely that we’re dealing with “advanced” tech in the hands of secret organizations.

Also, that teleporter looks a lot like the ones used in Cronenberg’s remake of The Fly. These guys have good taste.

So far there’s really nothing not to like about Occult Academy. It’s pretty damn awesome.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. gwern permalink
    July 6, 2010 10:57 PM

    > Also: Maya –> Mayan –> Mayan Calendar –> 2012 –> END OF THE WORLD. I’m curious as to whether her name is intentional or not.

    No, think http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maya_%28illusion%29

    • Landon permalink
      July 6, 2010 11:25 PM

      It makes sense, yeah, but not nearly as cool as “I named you after the people who predicted the end of the world.”

      I didn’t think of that, though. Thanks.

  2. July 7, 2010 1:43 AM

    Rather than trying to point out the ridiculous bits or exaggerate things to the point where every little thing becomes a joke, allow the humor to come out of the way characters react to the situation

    YES! An anime without a straight man to point out the jokes. I think I’m in heaven

  3. July 7, 2010 12:06 PM

    So I finally got around to watching this. I skimmed it initially, didn’t seem that cool. But once I watched it, well, yeah, this is the show to watch this season.

    Also, awhile ago, I compiled a Top 10+ list of my fave anime chars for Mecha Guignol that I never got around to actually, y’know, writing. Most of the entries were female characters, and I kinda shoehorned some male characters in, just to reduce the estrogen ratio.

    But having seen Occult Academy, well, we gotta wait for the series to finish its run first, but Smile looks like he’s a major contender to be in that Top-List. It isn’t because he hit a girl. It’s because he totally treated it no different than if he were to hit a guy. Equal opportunity at it’s most legitimate, yo.

  4. A guy from /m/ permalink
    July 7, 2010 6:52 PM

    So far this is my favorite show of the Summer season. Maya is spunky and and stoic, but they manage to keep it down-to-earth in order to not go overboard with her character and make her look like another female stereotype. (That this medium is far too fond of using.)

    And the opening segment is a bit vague with Mothman chasing a paranormal agent while the said agent is being teleported away to a bunker, but all of that happened in the future, in the year 2012. So the dude at end of the episode was traveling back in time.

  5. July 10, 2010 6:31 PM

    “References to Stonehenge, Moai statues, psychic phenomenon, Mothman, bizarre mutations, conspiracy symbolism, and all sorts of other crazy fringe shit.”
    === I had been looking up on the references and I think I missed the moai statues and…. I’m not familiar with the mothman. Also conspiracy symbolism. I didn’t realize the others are just bizarre mutations o_o thanks~

    On lamie, I couldn’t find it either (though it mentioned it’s an egyptian belief). Didn’t match the lamia description either (though that one was greek). Perhaps it’s really possible that some occult stuff are made up by the series….

Trackbacks

  1. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (That Look Vaguely Like Your Mom and Want to Destroy the World Because They’re EVIL!) « Mecha Guignol

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