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September 27, 2010

Do I really need to say anything about the final episode of Occult Academy? My predictions came true. I was right. The End.

The only difference being that near end of the world plays out like the ending of Timecop, except with tripods.

The whole “if two versions of the same dude from different places in the time/space continuum causes bad shit to happen” spiel isn’t new, but my favorite example comes from Timecop. Jean-Claude Van Damme has to go back in time and stop dudes from doing bad stuff and the main villain makes the mistake of traveling back in time and meeting up with his past self. In that movie the only way bad shit can happen is if the two past selves touch one another, so to end the movie JCVD does the splits and kicks the two baddies into each other. They explode. JCVD wins.

That’s pretty much what happens in Occult Academy, except insert in a hefty dose of Academy’s anticlimactic nature. The world was saved last episode, things calm down, but the world wasn’t really saved. The future is still fucked and the truth comes out: The world ends not because Pod Girl opened the gate to Hell. The world ends because Fumiaki meets Mini-Fumiaki and said meeting causes such a disturbance in the fabric of the universe that tripods proceed to invade Earth.

What makes this ending brilliant is the matter of fact manner in which it happens. We know it’s coming despite Maya and Fumiaki doing their best to avoid it. Despite all of their avoidance, it plays out like a mundane inevitability of life rather than a serious, tension-filled climax. It’s no different from every other so-called climax of the series– the supernatural is rendered impotent while the mundane is just as meaningless. Pure awesomeness.

But this was to be expected. Occult Academy has always been about undermining drama and laughing at tension. The kicker is how it all plays out for Fumiaki. He finally gets his own catharsis of sorts when he gets to see the true side of his mother. He sees her for the bitch that she is and realizes that he has no fond memories of her, but at the same time he can’t help but love her. She’s his mom, no matter what bullshit she put him through as a kid, and that stands for something in the end.

And this allows for him to finally realize that he’s been nothing but a follower all of his life. Yeah, he knew he was a bit of a wuss, but his moment with his mom brings it all together. Fumiaki’s never taken the initiative when it comes to anything. Saving the world wasn’t his idea. Becoming a teacher wasn’t his idea. Being a reality TV star wasn’t his idea. The only thing he’s ever done on his own accord is run like a fucking coward. And he wants to do something about this. Given everything else that’s happened in Occult Academy you figure that he’ll just go back to the future, never see Maya again, and do something utterly mundane– all on his own volition.

Nope. The world starts to end and Fumiaki’s one chance to do something on his own accord ends up killing him. The one time in his life where he’s able to choose his own fate results in him sacrificing himself for the good of humanity.

I can’t help but think that he did this on purpose. He knew exactly what would happen if he met with his former self. He could have easily avoided Mini-Fumiaki ever after the fact. They may have seen each other, but much like Timecop the “bad shit” didn’t happen until they made physical contact. It wasn’t until that moment that they entered each other’s “space,” and it was that deliberate contact on Fumiaki’s part that led to the end of the world.

Fumiaki may be a brazen coward, but he ain’t a moron. He knew what was up. He knew that his actions were going to trigger this event, and he may have thought that this was his one chance to do things on his own terms. He is the Nostradamus Key after all, and he’s fulfilling his role in the world. He does this because he knows that he has the power to stop the invasion as well. With his newfound determination he knows that he can use his telekinetic powers and kill these damn aliens and right all that’s wrong with the world. No one may ever know about it save for Maya, but he’ll finally do something good.

Sometimes, when you want to prove your manhood, you have to try to destroy the world. Isn’t that what Captain Harlock did back in the day? He attacked his own people to prepare them for a far worse opponent coming over the horizon? Fumiaki may not be doing the exact same thing, but it’s the same principle. That makes Fumiaki a man worthy of admiration, regardless of his prior wussiness.

I also love how this one moment of sacrifice is the one real moment of drama in the entire series. The ghost girl was melodrama that couldn’t be taken seriously. The Magical Eyes Wide Shut two-parter was so ridiculous that its awesomeness had nothing to do with drama. And with everything else in the series being played for laughs, Fumiaki’s sacrifice is the only thing that could be seen as genuinely serious. In having his crowning moment be the only serious moment it makes that moment all the more meaningful. If Occult Academy played it straight the entire time, playing by the rules and never bothering to stray from the plotline, I don’t think the ending would have as much impact. You gotta make these moments worthwhile, and one way of doing that is by limiting their supply. It’s exactly what I was talking about in yesterday’s post. Bebop, the series Occult Academy best mirrors, did it, and so does Academy.

I fucking love this series. Not sure if it trumps Tatami Galaxy for this year’s best series, but it’s right up there. When I get around to updating my top list, it’ll be pretty high up.


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