A new anime from the mind behind Steins;Gate mixing science and the paranomal. Occultic;Nine follows nine characters and their various connections to the occult.
Nine idiosyncratic individuals are linked by the “Chōjō Kagaku Kirikiri Basara” occult summary blog run by 17-year-old second-year high school student Yūta Gamon. Little incongruities that occur around these nine eventually lead to a larger, unimaginable event that may alter what is considered common sense in this world.
What is this? This is a series blog, where we’ll provide informal and brief hot takes after each episode in a given anime series. We’ll be updating this every week after each episode, so please check back for more thoughts!
Episode 12: We’re Gonna Have a Real Good Time Together - Airing December 24, 2016
So that’s why it’s called Occultic;Nine! I was wondering why it was called Occultic;Nine even though there are ten main characters if you include the very occultic Asunyan but now it makes sense. Sort of. Just like Occultic;Nine itself.
I won’t go much into detail regarding the plot because this episode unfortunately felt very similar to the first episode. It had almost all of the first episode’s issues (the pacing…) except for the gratuitous fanservice. If the light novels the anime is based on hadn’t been cancelled, I’m sure this episode would have been a whole volume as well. It felt disjointed, rushed and full of ideas that were never properly explored. Too many unanswered questions, too many inconsistencies and too many gods from too many machines.
Furthermore, it feels like it’s not the true ending. Shortly after the final episode aired in Japan, Shikura tweeted that the visual novel will be released sometime next year and that it will feature different routes and endings which will be unlocked through blog posts on Kirikiri Basara. With this in mind, it’s quite clear that the anime’s final episode was not the true ending. It had all the signs of a good but not true ending:
- The world is saved and the evil organisation destroyed (see New World Programme),
- one of the heroes dies suddenly and without much explanation (goodbye ghost of Aveline),
- key characters are never fully developed (Ririka, the Pale Kid and Onii-chan) and
- the hero does not get his happy ending (the episode ended with a shot of a cold sleep room with Gamotan’s name on it indicating that he may be able to be revived even after those occultic nine minutes).
The issue here is not just that it was simply rushed but that it makes the whole anime feel like one long trailer for the visual novel in retrospect. You wanna know how it really ends? Play the VN coming out next year! As of right now, it seems like the VN is no longer in development hell and we’ll probably hear more of it in the next couple of weeks or maybe even days and I’ll definitely play it. The VN will undoubtedly answer all the remaining questions and more. Playing the game is a given for me since I’ve spend too much time thinking of these characters and the plot to be denied the true ending and yet that is exactly what the anime adaptation did. We, the viewers, were cheated out of the true ending.
Of course, the ending doesn’t ruin the anime but it tarnishes the experience. I fully enjoyed the middle part and I will go on defending Occultic;Nine’s good parts (like it’s great art direction, stellar voice work and how brilliantly it uses its medium to create suspense) but I can’t deny how unsatisfactory this ending was. It’s a shame. At least we were given one final beautiful end card by Occultic;Nine’s character designer pako, who, by the way, is also the character designer for Edison in Fate/Grand Order.
This concludes my almost-weekly Occultic;Nine write-ups. If you have questions regarding what actually happened, feel free to comment and I’ll try to answer them as good as I can. Thank you, everyone, for reading, commenting and watching along side. It was a wild ride and I’m glad I got on it. Next anime season I won’t be covering an anime due to university obligation. Again, thank you very, very much for reading, I really appreciate it!
In one line: Viewers are denied the true ending.
Episode 11: We Want the Airwaves - Airing December 17, 2016
Phew. Well, this episode was an exposition dump. Since I don’t feel like summarising (read: fully understand) the techno babble, which I’m sure is super-duper accurate, I will instead talk about some other things which are not all plot-related. Prepare yourself for a history lesson!
The penultimate episode did one thing and one thing only: it set up the finale. All the key players are in place and we still don’t really know where those places are. Gamotan turned out to be über-charged (or something) so he can punch the bad guys and be a ghost superhero (or something) but the details are not so important as to why Gamotan is über-charged. The important thing is that he is and that he holds the key (or does he!?) to saving everyone and Tesla’s technology. The only problem is, he does not, in fact, hold the key. The occultic nine need the Poya-Gun and the key to destroy the New World Programme’s suspiciously Wardenclyffe Tower-like mind control tower Odd-Eye and I bet Ririka stole the key after she rose from the dead. Why? I have no idea but it is most likely connected to her painting from last episode. Her painting, like episode 6's end card, show her sprouting wings and flying up to heaven and I theorised it symbolically signified her reanimation but that doesn’t seem to be the case as the preview for the finale showed us different shots of the sky and the moon as well as Gamotan sprouting wings! What does it mean!? How is it connected?! I have no idea anymore. Right now, I’m just leaning back and enjoying wherever this wild ride is taking me but I really hope we’ll get a conclusive and satisfactory ending.
Apart from some minor notes
- I doubt Ria and Onii-san (nice Monogatari reference there, Occultic;Nine) will play any part in the conclusion as their arc is over
- the real not-possessed Ryotas seems to working for the evil organisation
- Izumin turned out to be evil to the surprise of literally no one
- Asunyan is a great nickname
this is pretty much all I can write about this episode. So instead, let me focus on one line spoken by Aveline in regards to Thomas Edison.
Aveline condemned Edison and rightly so. I’m going to sum up the so-called War of Currents, which illustrates the strained relationship between Tesla and Edison best, but if you want more info check out The Oatmeal’s Tesla cartoon which also lists a few great sources. The War of Currents raged between the late 1880s and early 1890 and pitted direct current (DC) based Edison Electric Light Company against the alternating current (AC) based Westinghouse Electric Company and Tesla. It was mostly fought using propaganda, often allegedly proving that one current is safer or more dangerous than the other. The War started after Tesla, who originally worked for Edison, started developing his AC, which irked Edison, since he owned all the patents to DC. So Edison started a campaign to prove that DC is the better alternative (see what I did there?). And what better way to prove that AC was more dangerous than DC, Edison thought, than by electrocuting animals? Maybe you’ve heard of Topsy, the elephant who was electrocuted? Truth is, Edison most likely had no involvement in that case and the killing of Topsy took place years after the War of Currents but Edison still electrocuted a bunch of cats and dogs in his efforts to convince people of how dangerous AC is. Edison’s plan to discredit AC, however, proved to be futile as Tesla was asked to provide the electricity for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair (in case you’re interested in the World’s Fair I can’t recommend The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson highly enough). This made him huge. Tesla, a brilliant showman, knew exactly how to awe people using his AC. Unfortunately for Tesla and luckily for Edison, Tesla was also kind of a madman. He spoke passionately about his plans and some of them sounded too fantastical and some of them undoubtedly were. Plus, Tesla’s lightning bolt displays often scared people as much as they awed them. In the end, though Tesla won the war, he remained in relative obscurity and died in poverty only surrounded by his beloved pigeon. Edison, meanwhile, went on to be regarded as a genius. Now go tell your friends that Tesla was the bigger genius.
In one line: Everything is set up for the final episode!
Episode 10: Another Girl, Another Planet - Airing December 10, 2016
Certain shots in the OP or ED. End cards. Seemingly one-off remarks. The way Occultic;Nine presents, hints at and solves its mysteries uses its medium, anime, to the fullest. Take, for instance, last episode’s end card which showed two Ryotas as if she was leaning on a mirror. You could interpret that it represents a possible duality in her character - that she is more that she seems - or simply say it’s just an artistic choice and makes for a good end card. However, it teased that there are in a way more than one Ryotas: the bubbly Ryotas we all know, the eerie voice from the radio Zonko and Aveline Telsa, the (fictional, as Tesla’s last romantic relationship was basically playing Hatoful Boyfriend irl) daughter of Nikola Tesla, who possesses Ryotas. Her existence was always there, hidden in plain sight in the ED directed by Myuki Kuroki where we see a girl sitting on a chair, her arms draped around her body emitting a certain sadness with the Tesla coil in the background followed by a Sleeping Beauty-esque shot of Ryotas. Many didn’t give the imagery much thought, thinking it’s just a beautiful motif for a beautiful ending or that it was Ryotas since much of the ED focuses on her but it actually subtly teased future plot developments revealed in this episode. Another shot, this time in Masashi Ishihama’s opening, is more obvious but also less relevant for the plot: the split second we see a Christmas tree in the opening had me confused since the very first episode, especially since the anime doesn’t even take place close to Christmas but then I realised it simply meant that the final episode will be on Christmas day. Those two instances, however, make me curious what other secrets Occultic;Nine’s ED and OP are hiding.
Another very insteresting shot from the ED has Aveline looming over colour-coded marbles, each undoubltly symbolising the occultic nine, yet their arrangement - some farther away from the others and one positioned in the light while the others are in the darkness - holds a certain meaning that I cannot completely grasp yet and it’s driving me mad!
Back to Ryotas, the mystery surrounding her is almost entirely unveiled. She is a descendent of Tesla and Aveline and the granddaughter of the Emperor Tokuo Narusawa, the current head of the Narusawa Medical Group directly responsible for the main characters being injected with scandium and turning them into SR ghosts. Ryotas and Aveline, however, seem to rebel against the Emperor as is evident from their helping the main characters and stealing the Wardenclyff gun. I doubt the only reason for their rebellion is because the New World Programme is ethically wrong on every level. This is just my theory but maybe Tesla devoted himself to researching the occult after the untimely death of Aveline and Aveline is leaning against the NWP because they misuse her father’s technology? The driving force behind their rebellion are not the only mystery, though. With Aveline being able to possess Ryotas the questions now is whether every ghost can possess everyone or is it just SR ghosts who can possess SR humans? Here, too, an end card might give us a clue.
The double Roytas end card was not the first time that the end cards have hinted at future plot developments and that may very well be why this episode’s end card was quite dull in comparison. A-1 Pictures knows we know some of the end cards are hints so they purposefully gave us one that is just a cute-ish image (and sadly one of the weaker entries in Occultic;Nine’s impressive end card gallery). Episode 6 featured an end card depicting Ririka with angel’s wings soaring through the sky and this episode features a shot of Ririka looking up to the sky while holding a drawing of what looks to be her with angel’s wings flying up into the sky. What it means? That she rose back to life. She possessed her own body and came back from the dead and so may the others. Ririka herself foreshadowed her reanimation when she spoke of creating a Frankenstein’s monster out of souls. Still, unlike SR ghost Ririka, Aveline is probably just a common ghost, thus it could very well be that Ryotas’ shamanic spirit guide abilities are why Aveline can take over her body.
With only two episodes left, I hope more mysteries will be revealed. This episode hinted at even more huge plot points but I don’t know how well they’ll play out given that the anime only has two more episodes left. I remain intrigued but concerns that the ending might be rushed are starting to grow.
In one line: Ryotas revealed.
Episode 9: Future Days - Airing December 3, 2016
I love Occultic;Nine’s end cards and I’m so glad they are allowing smaller artists to get more exposure. It’s one of the reasons why Occultic;Nine deservers more recognition than it gets. Instances like these are often ignored and instead, the anime is often being criticised for its fanservice, pacing and “pretentious” art style. I personally feel most of these points of critique are either unjustified or miss the actual point of why it should be criticised (look no further than the ongoing discussion surrounding Ryotas’ physique).
Occultic;Nine’s filming techniques are being criticised as too disjointed, too wild, its art style for being too avant-garde, too pretentious. In short: too Monogatari. While it’s obvious that any occult detective anime using different animation and filmmaking techniques - like this episode’s unsettling first-person-perspective shot reminiscent of horror games - evokes comparisons to Shaft’s flagship series, this doesn’t mean that all those anime should be considered cheap and lesser knock-offs. Occultic;Nine uses its avant-garde style, its mix of filming techniques, its pop-culture references and 4th wall breaking to achieve something entirely different than the Monogatari series. While the Monogatari series uses those to show viewers the depths of the human heart and soul, Occultic;Nine lacks that deepness. Instead, it opts to use those techniques to further the mysteries of the plot and create an atmosphere of nebulous tension, often swallowing viewers whole and leaving them confused but intrigued. Occultic;Nine never intended to reflect on human nature the way the Monogatari series does. It doesn’t want to say anything profound. It wants to tell a story full of horror and suspense and if you ask me it’s absolutely nailing it.
Similarly, the criticism towards the characters misses the mark as well. What should be criticised about them is not that “the main guy is so annoying, ugh” but that the characters are denied the exploration they deserve. Due to the constraint of telling a massive story in only 12 episodes, character do not get as fleshed out as they should be. This episode was a prime example for this. The pale kid, who still lacks a name I believe (correct me if I’m wrong), would have made up for a complex, fascinating and (even more) terrifying villain if he just would have been explored more. I’m afraid (and also glad because he was sick) that his arc is over but I cannot but feel that this was a missed opportunity. What drove him to become a murdered at such a young age, where did that feeling of entitlement come from and what’s his connection with the mangaka and the organisation? Not all these questions will be answered in the anime and with the light novel series cancelled and the visual novel in development hell, it could very well be that many of Occultic;Nine’s solutions to the smaller secrets will forever be trapped inside Shikura’s mind.
One central mystery, however, will be revealed in the next episode. Namely, who or what Ryotas really is. Last week I theorised about Ryotas but now, I’m not so sure anymore. While most of my theories on Occultic;Nine were spot-on (yeah, I’m proud of cracking this supposedly utterly messy anime so please allow me a second to gloat), I don’t think I was correct with my assumptions on Ryotas. To be honest, I don’t know what to think of her.
Given Agent Asuna’s expression when she say Ryotas for the first time and the policemen’s reactions when they found out who she was, Ryotas may not be one of the good guys after all? There was something sinister about those two scenes and not to mention Ryotas sudden voice change when she proclaimed that the world will surely end after Gamotan refused to go see Myu-pon. The pale kid confirmed that there are two types of ghosts, normal invisible ghosts and super rare visible ghosts of people who were given scandium (+ electromagnetic waves) that can only be seen by people who were given scandium (+ electromagnetic waves) (let’s call them SR ghosts from now on) or have Gamotan’s radio like our favourite cat-like FBI agent. So was Ryotas given (or did she willingly take) scandium or does she have supernatural powers and can see ghosts? Her Poya Gun may be the Wardenclyffe Gun the Emperor mentioned so what’s her connection to the New World Programme? Wardenclyffe, by the way, refers to the Wardenclyffe Tower, which is also known as the Tesla Tower, an early wireless transmission station designed and built by Tesla which is in the midst of being turned into a Tesla museum. As for the Emperor himself, he may be Gamotan’s father but since he’s bedridden and we’ve already seen someone stalking Gamotan wearing his father’s cult mask, I doubt it’s him, yet who else could it be but Gamotan’s father?
To make matters even more confusing we still don’t exactly know why Kusakabe Kiryuu can see and be seen by SR ghosts. At first, it was just him being able to willingly have out-of-body experiences but astral projection doesn’t quite explain his situation. Especially now that he can apparently time-travel as well!?(･_･;?!
In one line:
Buy Cardfight!! Vanguard cards, kids! Pieces are falling into place but what will the puzzle show?
Episode 7: The Dream’s Dream - Airing November 19, 2016
Episode 8: Happiness is a Warm Gun - Airing November 26, 2016
Since I had to postpone last week’s write-up, we’ll take a look at what was revealed in the last two episodes this time. So without further ado, let’s start with why this anime is called Occultic;Nine. We were formally introduced to psychometric FBI-Agent / High School student Kisaki Asuna, who’s come to investigate Lupin the 256-incident in the wake Moritsuka’s tragic demise. I know it’s petty and I will get to more important bits in a minute but it just bothers me that it’s not Occultic;Ten. She’s occultic, too, since she’s psychometric but I reckon the occultic part only refers to being dead in which case it should be Occultic;256, though I agree that would be a really weird and long title, Occultic;Two-hundred-and-fifty-six but anyway if it’s nine because of those who died then how do <redacted for spoilers> fit in? All I’m saying is it should be Occultic;Ten.
Onto more pressing matters as we were given an exposition dump and jotting down all the important bits and pieces probably gave me CTS but I’d do anything for my dear readers. As we now know for sure, the original occultic nine and the remaining 247 who died in the 256-incident are dead but still roaming the earth. Why is that? It’s because the organisation (I don’t remember them being given a name but please correct me if they were given one) gave them a mixture of scandium and electromagnetic waves. This also means that the pale kid is not the culprit or a supernatural being but I’ll get back to him in a second. The organisation used the Cult of the Eight Gods of Fortune as well as rich people to pick their “chosen ones” (read: human guinea pigs). These chosen ones would by getting a dose of scandium and electromagnetic waves be able to retain their memories and personality and keep their astral body when they died instead of becoming electromagnetic fields but just that wouldn’t be enough to be seen as a promise for eternal life, would it? This is where Tesla’s technology comes in. By using Tesla’s 8-bit technology the organisation was able to overlap or synchronise the plane of existence where ghosts live and the real world, meaning ghosts would still be amongst the living. The 8-bit technology allowed for 256 people to be brought into the New World Programme (NWP for short) as 8-bit allows for 2^8 (= 256) different possible values. Now back to the pale kid. He stated that his parents are rich and that he cannot die due to the scandium he had been given. Now this means that either he is among the 256 who died or that people who were given scandium (+ electromagnetic waves) are able to see the ghosts of those who were given scandium (+ electromagnetic waves) as well. I’m leaning towards the latter as only that way eternal life could really be promised. What good is eternal life when you can only watch and not participate in life? This is part of the organisation’s NWP or at least that’s what they want everyone to believe.
In actuality, the NWP is a means to brainwash and control the leaders of the world and thus a way to obtain world domination. The concoction of scandium and electromagnetic waves makes the chosen ones prone to mind control. The 256 were collectively hypnotised to commit suicide using this method. However, why were they sacrificed? They were just guinea pigs. They served their role and now had to be disposed of lest someone finds out what happens. Plus, what if a bunch of non-rich people and cult believers showed up in this new world? Would the rich still be willing to pay? By disposing the chosen 256 the organisation can erase all traces and keep their new world just for those rich enough to pay.
That’s one big mystery solved (I think?) but we still have lots of others to find out about, like who murdered Prof. Hashigami, are all the supposed dead - including the main character’s fathers and friends - really dead and what is Ryotas role in all of this? As for Ryotas I have a fairly strong suspicion that I know what her deal is thanks to having read the first volume of the light novel and her character profile (which, it seems, contains a huge spoiler). If you want to avoid any potential spoilers skip to the next paragraph.
SPOILERS START HERE
In the light novel, Ryotas is frequently referred to by Gamotan as his guardian angel as he cannot believe someone so cute and beautiful would spend time with him, something he called her in the anime as well. Furthermore, Ryotas character bio on the anime’s official site flat out calls her a spirit guide. A spirit guide can be one of two things (and sometimes both): either it’s a guardian spirits who guides you through hardships or who leads the souls of the dead to the afterlife. Both definitions are very much in line with Gamotan calling Ryotas an angel. My theory is that Ryotas is not dead but not alive either. I think she may actually be something akin to an angel but as to what her purpose is I don’t know. That depends on whether the main characters are really dead.
SPOILERS END HERE
Phew. That’s a lot to take in. With a big question answered there’s still plenty of mysteries left to be solved. Occultic;Ten has been a blast and frankly, I find it hilarious that people are still bashing it for its first episode. Though, I bet their bitterness will be fueled by the Lucky Ryotas Special. I, for one, adore this anime. From the great characters, the fast dialogue and pacing, the attention to detail, the gorgeous art direction (and end cards, seriously, look at them!) and the music, everything about it reels me and won’t let me go. I can’t wait for the next episode!
Oh, by the way, what’s the deal with Kusakabe Kiryuu, anyway?
In one line: Mysteries are revealed.
Episode 6: She Took a Long Cold Look - Airing November 12, 2016
I was quite sure that my theory was correct about the fate of the main characters as well as the Kotoribako but I was still unprepared. I didn’t expect the reveal to be so disturbing. Espcially Myu-pon’s very own “What’s in the box”-moment was devastating. We now know for sure that the occultic nine are all dead and probably victims of what seems to be a government ploy covering up ...something. Occultic;Nine really solves one mystery just to present viewers with an even bigger one.
I thought the main characters being dead and maybe ghosts or something akin to ghosts would prove that the ultimate answer to all the mysteries Occultic;Nine holds lie within the occult but with the new government-plot line I’m not too sure anymore. Tesla’s technology and lost wisdom were mentioned every now and then but I dismissed them as nothing but red herrings, yet now it appears that that technology was plot-relevant all along. However, this clue leads nowhere, so I’m not sure I should follow it. Luckily, this is exactly what this blog is for so let’s go and see where it takes us. Now, Tesla was interested in electromagnetic waves and Professor Hashigami said something along the lines of ghosts being similar to electromagnetic waves. Good. I’ve got nothing. No idea how Tesla, the government and a Frankenstein’s monster made out of 256 souls are connected. What we are able to say with relative certainty is that the 256 dead bodies found in the lake were all test subjects but for what?
We finally got some answers and hints but they all seem to lead us nowhere. Ririka, whom I initially thought to be the main antagonist, seems to be another victim, though I still don’t trust her at all, while the Creepy Smile Kid, whom I saw as being Ririka’s familiar and nothing more, turned out to be a psychopathic monster. I don’t know why he created that child-stealing box or why he killed poor Chizu but I wouldn’t put it past him that he did so on a whim since his evil strikes me as the chaotic and random type. Ryotas, too, keeps getting more and more suspicious but I can’t quite put my finger on what exactly makes her so suspicious. Is it because she and the fan-service she’s subjected to seem so out of place? Maybe because she’s such a Manic Pixie Dream Girl that there has to be more to her? Or is it her self-proclaimed flag-raising air-headedness? Whatever it may be, I’m sure there’s more to her than meets the eye. Same goes for Izumi, the owner of CafeBar Bloomoon - which, by the way, is a real place - who’s so suspicious, I can’t help but think of him as a red herring though I probably shouldn’t. I could continue this list of suspicious people but it would include almost everyone.
I have been a fan of Occultic;Nine’s pacing and suspense from almost the start but this episode was it’s most suspenseful yet. The pacing was much slower, one could even call it pensive for Occultic;Nine’s standards. The one we have to thank for that is Masashi Ishihama, who directed this episode. As I mentioned last week, he’s the director of Shin Sekai Yori so he has a way with creating mood and atmosphere using pacing, framing and direction.
Next week, we’ll meet a new character, FBI agent and high school student Asuna Kisaki, who will investigate the case of the mass suicide. Given how much I like the other characters, I’m very interesting in meeting the Super High School Level FBI Agent. Furthermore, the next episode marks the first episode that is not available as a light novel since the third planned light novel was cancelled. Now really no one knows where this wild ride is taking us next.
In one line: “She Took a Long Cold Look” proves once again that boxes in horror stories are always disturbing.
Episode 5: She’s Lost Control - Airing November 5, 2016
As more characters meet, the plot thickens and gets even more complex. Moreover, by using various camera angles, this episode was deliberately designed to be disorienting. We saw the Kiri Kiri Basara gang getting and trying to piece everything together, much like us viewers for whom it seems to be virtually impossible to say where the plot is headed next, especially since the next episode will be the last episode to be based on the light novels. Episode director Ryouji Masuyama’s Dutch angles play their part in creating an atmosphere of mystery, in addition to the pacing and stellar music, all making for a worthwhile mystery thriller and I think I have cracked the C-O-D-E.
One of the mysteries will be revealed in the next episode - which has a lot of promise for various reasons which I’ll get to later on - as we’ll finally find out what the strange toothy key will unlock. We did see that it was a box, specifically a “kotoribako” - a type of haunted bird cage of Japanese urban legends - and that scares me. Boxes are never good news as Pandora’s box or Box of Spirits (one of the most disturbing and fascinating manga I’ve ever read) can attest. I don’t even want to begin to imagine what’s inside Occultic;Nine’s box and yet I’m more than curious to find out.
What I did begin though, was reading the light novel series Occultic;Nine is based on and I’ve noticed an interesting titbit. “She’s Lost Control” was the first episode since the first one to (lightly) touch upon one of the light novels’ central themes: the relationship between fathers and their children. Seemingly every main character seems to have lost their father prematurely. Plus, their relationships were all either especially strained like Sarai’s or especially close like Gamotan’s and Myu-pon’s. The theme and its importance are much more prominent in the light novel which makes me thinks it’s not necessarily a hint at solving Occultic;Nine’s mysteries unless Nyarlathotep turns out to be the main antagonist and takes on the form of the Great Fathers as in Persona 2: Innocent Sin but a means to have the characters get to know each other better. Thus, while the fatherly theme may not be too relevant for the main plot, it seems to be a driving force for the characters to bond, as a throwaway line between Gamotan and Sarai indicated. I’m all for the characters bonding and interacting more, as I’m a huge fan of the pukey clever and fast-paced dialogue. It never feels obnoxiously clever, something that can be said about the anime as a whole.
Last week, I theorised that the prophetic dream of the mass suicide was shared by all its victims but promptly dismissed it. Yet after this episode, I think I may have been onto something. During the conversation between Ririka and the creepy smile kid, he mentioned that he has seen her name in the news and that she didn’t think she would end up drawing herself while looking at a drawing of many people underwater, afterwards asking if where she is now could be the new world. This could mean that she is among the identified victims, hence her appearance on the news. Furthermore, this gives my theory more credibility so could it be that the occultic nine are all dead? Were they maybe hypnotised into committing suicide in order to create a Frankenstein’s monster out of 256 souls as Ririka implied? As this is a Shikura anime, I wouldn’t entirely rule out a pseudoscientific explanation but with every passing episode it seems more and more likely that Occultic;Nine will do its name justice.
Speaking of Ririka, I’m not sure if she is simply an observer or directly tied into what is happening. She seems to have excessive knowledge on what is going on but that could also be explained by her clairvoyance. Then again, she’s definitely in cahoots with the kid, though I can’t say what his ultimate goal is. Similarly, Agent Moritsuke is an equally elusive character who follows his own agenda. He tampers with crime scenes, withholds information, is cunning and a master at mind game. Maybe he does so because much like his idol Zenigata in his pursuit of Lupin III, Moritsuke feels a compelling and driving determination to reach his goal, whatever that goal may be. I don’t doubt that he’s a chūnibyō but his driving force is something different than the fantasy of being a man on a mission. Then there’s also Zonko, the voice that comes from Gamotan’s old radio. Some speculate that it may be self-proclaimed airhead Ryotas who’s behind it, a theory I can neither support nor dismiss since someone calling themself an airhead raises so many flags but at the same time Ryotas being Zonko seems a bit too obvious, doesn’t it? Hmm.
I mentioned that the next episode is very promising and not only because secrets are beginning to be unravelled. The next episode will be directed by Masashi Ishihama, who directed Occultic;Nine’s opening as well as one of my favourite anime: Shin Sekai Yori. I won’t spoil what Shin Sekai Yori is about but it’s one of the best unconventional horror anime I have ever seen and a true masterpiece. In equal parts profound and unsettling, it will haunt you long after you’ve finished it. Needless to say, I can wholeheartedly recommend it. Ishihama is immensely talented and I can hardly wait to see how his episode plays out. I’m especially intrigued about how he’ll handle the pacing, atmosphere and character dynamics. Man, I’m so hyped. Just the prospect of having Ishihama direct an episode is amazing. He seems like a great fit for the suspense horror that is Occultic;Nine. Next week’s episode can’t come soon enough!
In one line: A deliberately disorienting episode hints at secrets slowly being unravelled.
PS: Please watch Shin Sekai Yori.
Episode 4: Psycho Daisies - Airing October 29, 2016
Occultic;Nine is a rollercoaster. It has its ups and downs but you generally like the ride if you are the type to like rollercoasters. It builds up an atmosphere of anticipation that makes you feel excitement and even dread at what’s going to happen next. No matter how prepared you think you are, the drop will happen sooner than you expected and it will catch you off-guard. Then it will begin anew. All that’s left is to enjoy the ride.
As I explained in the previous entries of this blog, I have plenty of reasons to enjoy this ride. From the atmosphere and tension to the gorgeous art direction and character designs. Yes, character designs. Yes, one character has comically large breasts but the rest of her and everyone else’s design deserves recognition. I constantly find myself admiring how well-dressed the characters are. I need a parka like the one Gamon wears. I digress. The character designs are distinct and filled to the brink with style. Their outfits could easily be copied for real life purposes as well as for cosplays. Yes, one character has comically large breasts but to get hung up on that means completely disregarding pako and Tomoaki Takase’s lovely work.
“Psycho Daisies” is heavy on the style but lighter, though not light, on the substance. Unlike the other episodes, this one didn’t give viewers any particular insight into the characters or what is going on. However, it gave us two very interesting pieces of information. One is, that Kiryū Kusakabe, the demon who “curses” people on Aria’s behalf, can project his astral body out of his normal one. It doesn’t necessarily mean that he is dead or that Aria can indeed communicate with the dead but it does further support that the occult is real in Occultic;Nine’s world, something NEET God Gamon strictly opposes. Given that this anime was created by the man behind the Science Adventure series that includes Steins;Gate, many believe that the clue to Occultic;Nine’s myriad of riddles will be science. Shikura, however, went on record to state that Occultic;Nine is not part of the Science Adventure series, so the worlds of, say, Robotics;Notes and Occultic;Nine are not set in the same world or universe. Semicolon be damned. Therefore, it is possible that the key to unlocking the mysteries Occultic;Nine holds are indeed to be found in the occult. Somebody call Doctor Strange.
Observation two is much more obvious to spot but not less meaningful: Tōko is dead. It was obvious from everyone at her office ignoring her, plus her not having a reflection was a dead give-away (ha!). This itself wouldn’t be too noteworthy weren’t it for the fact that a.) Miyū talked to her after she died and b.) countless people committed mass suicide by collectively walking into a pond and drowning with only half the people that died having been identified. a.) further serves as an argument for the “occult is real”-theory but b.) is more meaningful. The implications of it are clear: Tōko (as well as the lost Chizu) could very well be one of the suicide victims. What makes this so intriguing is that Tōko had a prophetic dream about this. Is the dream connected to the reason why so many people committed suicide? Maybe everyone who did had the same prophetic dream and it really was a case of mass hypnosis? Then again, this would mean that Gamon and Ririka died in the incident as well which seems less than likely. My head hurts. Oh, the the side-effects of a rollercoaster ride but I can’t wait to take another ride on this peculiar rollercoaster come Saturday.
In one line: “Psycho Daisies” raises more questions.
Episode 3: She Cracked - Airing October 22, 2016
I am absolutely in love with this anime. From the way it’s directed to the way it’s animated and designed, it is pushing all my buttons. Plus, this episode featured none (!) of the issues that plagued the first episode. No fanservice and no pacing issues, only heart-pounding suspense and paranormal horror. I feel sorry for those who dropped Occultic;Nine after its first episode.
As it turned out, Aria was the girl from “Mummygatari” living with the corpse and ghost (?) of her older brother, a twist many saw coming since the different storylines had to converge sooner or later and “She Cracked” actually had a few intertwinings. While “Mummygatari” may not have worked out too well as a shocking turn of events, it did treat us to some excellent direction. During the flashback-scenes of Aria and her brother, you could notice that he had no shadow and no reflection. It was clear from the start that what we were shown was “Mummygatari” and that the brother was dead but the way it was subtly hinted at and hidden in plain sight was fantastic and well thought-out. Just another instance of Occultic;Nine’s backgrounds being full of life.
While the “Mummygatari” twist was rather obvious, the cliffhanger at the end of the episode wasn’t, even though it was teased since the very first episode. The first episode’s Japanese title was たくさんの人 which translates to “many people” and that was also one of the first lines spoken by Yūta, who dreamed of many people underwater (hence the English title) drifting lifelessly. Tōko Sumikaze, the reporter, also had a similar dream, though she could only remember vague details. Although her thinking back of the conversation she had with the professor made it clear that her dream would have something to do with the plot, I was surprised to see it resolved by the end of the episode. Only to raise even more questions.
Yūta, Tōko and mangaka Ririka - if she is to be trusted - all seem to have prophetic dreams but how are they connected to each other? Frankly, I don’t have the faintest idea and I’m loving it. We’re three episodes in and Occultic;Nine won’t stop giving us mysteries to puzzle over. How are they connected? Who was the kid with the creepy grin? Who was the guy with the creepy mask? Where is Chizu? Is the occult real? I can’t wait to find out and I hope Occultic;Nine manages to give us satisfactory conclusions to those and all the others questions it will undoubtedly raise.
My personal highlight of this episode was the back-and-forth between clairvoyantic acquaintance of gods Ririka and otaku detective Agent Moritsuka. It showcased not only the great writing but also emphasised the chemistry between the voice actors. Furthermore Moritsuka’s “You already know me. After all, I am the detective of your story.” gave me the goofiest grin. Here’s a character pretending to be pretending to be cool and it could easily come off as obnoxious and annoying but instead he manages to be one of the coolest characters in the anime as well as the comic relief. Ririka and Moritsuka’s conversation will again call forth comparisons to NisioIsin’s style and indeed, given Occultic;Nine’s visuals and pop-culture-referencing as well as endearingly savvy dialogue, I’m sure a lot of viewers will find Occultic;Nine to be aping the Monogatari series. I don’t see anything wrong with that though. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Pacing was a huge problem but it seems Occultic;Nine has found its groove and what a groove it is. What used to be one of its major issues is now one of its strongest points as the pacing and tone leave you positively breathless. This is how a mystery anime should be. I doesn’t give you time to catch your breath while still allowing you to effortlessly understand what is happening as long as you pay attention and Occultic;Nine demands attention. The advantages of the anime’s fast pacing would be wasted if viewers were to not watch closely but the production team is doing excellent job at forbidding viewers to look away. The animation is fluid, the colours are lush, the backgrounds are filled with details, the dialogue is (I don’t want to say snazzy but) snazzy and the music, oh god, the music. I need the soundtrack so badly. I digress. Everything works in tandem you give the viewers 20+ minutes of thrilling suspense. This is how you do a mystery anime. I can’t stress it enough because it’s been ages since I saw a show, any show, of the mystery genre that managed to end every episode with me trying to catch my breath.
However, it’s not just the suspense elements that Occultic;Nine does well. It also has its fair share of horror. Horror isn’t just about being scary. According to Devendra Varma, horror is the stumbling against a corpse. Occultic;Nine seems to have taken these words very literally. Yet, shocking revelations aren’t all we are offered as the anime succeeds in creating an apprehensive mood fitting its different storylines. The confrontation between mangaka and detective was light, yet had an underlying tenseness to it, while Yūta’s dream (?) carried over its paranoid and oppressive atmosphere to the viewers and “Mummygatari” was like a dream that slowly but surely turned into a nightmare and I don’t think this nightmare is over yet. Far from it. Oh boy, I’m looking forward to delve further into the nightmare.
In one line: Occultic;Nine knows how to do suspense and horror.
Episode 2: My Cold Dimension - Airing October 15, 2016
Yes. This is what I wanted. Intrigue. Mystery. Suspense. This episode was riveting from start to finish and didn’t suffer from any of the problems that plagued the first episode. As expected this episode featured far less fan service, is far less frantic and is still adapting parts of the light novel series’ first volume. A lot of people were afraid that Occultic;Nine would just skip the first volume entirely and becoming really confusing but this isn’t the case. Also, don’t worry about the planned but cancelled third volume. After all, we still have Shikura’s vision. Well, maybe worry a little bit because he can be a little hit or miss. Or choose to go into it with an open mind. Or be cautiously optimistic because this episode was splendid.
The pacing was a huge problem in the first episode and while the second episode’s pacing is still fast, it’s far from frantic. Instead of being chaotic and confusing, it serves the tone of the anime and has you on the edge of your seat. Things happen again but this time you can tell what is happening and it’s riveting. Pacing, art and music design work together so harmoniously to create a suspenseful episode full of teeth-pulling and accounts of living together with a mummy. Even the cliffhanger at the end of the episode worked well because the hinted tragedy surrounding Miyū and the ominous smile of Ririka Nishizono, the dōjin mangaka who seemingly has a connection to the murder of Sarai’s father, set it up nicely. This is how you do a cliffhanger ending. It’s not just tagged onto the ending of the episode to have viewers want to keep watching but it feels natural to the episode and, most importantly, it keeps the momentum of it going. There was no forced shock value, only the continuation of what was started in the first minute of “My Cold Dimension.”
To be honest, I was a bit shocked at the reactions Occultic;Nine got. We had only seen one episode and yet a handful of people already formed a steadfast opinion on it. The first episode was what I expected it to be: a set-up for the general plot and characters that tried to draw in viewers. Did it execute those expectations well? No, it didn’t since the pacing suffered from crowding the episode with every single important character and the fanservice was very unnecessary and over-the-top. Interestingly, most of the criticism was addressed towards Ryōka’s Ultra C cup without getting to the real issue of it. People criticised the anime for Ryōka’s physique yet still disregarded everything else about her and dismissed her bubbly and charming personality. The issue isn’t that she has a made-up size that would cause her back to permanently ache but that this kind of fanservice has no place in this kind of anime. Thankfully, the second episode toned down the fanservice a considerable lot and, while it’s still there, it’s not as in-your-face anymore. This episode will surely have a lot of viewers stick around for longer than they had thought.
I’m grateful the issues from episode 1 are largely absent in the second episode as it allowed the fast, clever and funny character interactions and the gorgeous art direction to shine. Kouta Michishita, the art director for this episode, has worked on the Monogatari series and it really showed, especially during the Facebook posts sequence which featured text over avant-garde imagery reminiscent of Shaft’s cult anime, emphasising just how out-there and haunting “Mummygatari” was. Furthermore, the backgrounds are a joy to look at, being full of little details that are fun to spot. The whole art design team is doing a fantastic job and deserves praise.
All in all, I really enjoyed this episode. The first episode already showed promise and this episode lived up to it and what’s more, it lived up to my expectations, too. I was hoping for an occult detective anime that drives me so far at the edge of my seat that I’m running the risk of falling and this is exactly what I got. Bring on episode 3!
In one line: With none of the first episode’s issues around, Occultic;Nine lives up to its promise.
Episode 1: Underwater - Airing October 8, 2016
Thanks to its occult detective theme and being created by Chiyomaru Shikura, the writer behind Steins;Gate, Occultic;Nine quickly became one of my most anticipated anime of the season (the only other anime I was more excited about is Yuri!!! on Ice because I’m a fan of figure skating and I would watch anything Sayo Yamamoto directs) and I was let down I think but then I did enjoy it as well?
First, some background information. The A-1 Productions anime Occultic;Nine is based on the eponymous light novel series by Shikura and is directed by Your Lie in April’s Kyōhei Ishiguro and newcomer Miyuki Kuroki. That alone is enough to have potential viewers excited. Interestingly, only two novels exist as the planned third volume of the series was cancelled only a few weeks ago. This may or may not explain some of the issues some viewers had with Occultic;Nine’s premiere. On a side-note before the actual write-up starts, I’m going to use the end cards as headers for each episode and credit the illustrators.
Occultic;Nine is frantic. The pacing is incredibly fast and even messy, you’d think A-1 Pictures was trying to out-Trigger Trigger and failed. I had the feeling important plot points were just glossed over and as it turned out that is in fact the case. The pacing’s speed is something director Ishiguro even acknowledged and he recommends viewers tape the episodes so they could go back to them for future reference. However, the pacing wasn’t a big issue here as the trailer already made it seem like the anime would be quite hectic. The main issue was that this episodes, this first episode, rushed through the whole plot of the first light novel. This caused the whole episode to feel disjointed. Things happened. Characters were “introduced.” However, there was no - or at least it seemed like there was no relevance to the plot. A whole novel was crammed into ~20 minutes. Regardless, I still enjoyed what I saw.
Maybe it’s my love for the Monogatari series but fast-talking, pop-culture savvy anime with occult components are kind of my thing. Yet, that personal preference is not all Occultic;Nine has got going for it. The characters that received proper introductions all were incredibly likeable and I love their character designs (apart from one aspect that everyone has already pointed out so I’ll not bother with it.) I thoroughly enjoyed the banter and character dynamics between blog-samurai Gamon, cute and bubbly Ryōka and moe medium (that’s what the official marketing calls her) Miyū. The writing was clever and the voice actors did a fantastic job delivering the lines with such energy that it simply carries you along. But it doesn’t carry you so far along that you wouldn’t notice that you don’t get a single thing that’s happening.
Something that clearly stood out (no, not that) in this episode was the amazing soundtrack! Masaru Yokoyama did a great job with the score. It’s perfectly fitting for the spirited (heh) tone of the anime and the OP as well as the ED are simply unskippable.
As I mentioned, the premiere episode blasted through the first volume and I’m very confused as to where it’s going from here. I suppose the remainder of the story could be told through flashbacks or maybe the anime will only loosely adapt the visual novels? As of right now, I’m very confused as to what happened, how exactly the characters are connected with each other and what will happen. Yet, I don’t really see this as a negative and the episode even reminded me of cult-favourite Paranoia Agent. Occultic;Nine is a mystery anime about the supernatural and science after all so a little or a bit more mystery and intrigue is absolutely alright with me as long as we get a satisfying conclusion and it’s much too early to say whether it gets one or not. I’m cautiously optimistic and very intrigued so I guess I’m hooked. Well, maybe not hooked. I’m intrigued. Yes. Let’s say I’m intrigued.
In one line: A very messy, yet equally intriguing first episode.
Occultic;Nine is produced by A-1 Pictures and airs during the fall 2016 anime season. It is based on the eponoymous light novel series by Chiyomaru Shikura, was directed by Kyōhei Ishigur and Miyuki Kuroki and written by To-Jumpei Morita.
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The Gespenst finds it immensely difficult to describe himself so he’ll be talking about his love for manga and anime instead. A fan of anime and manga since he first laid eyes on Sailor Moon, he mostly writes Anime Series Blogs and the occasional review. While suspense and mystery are his genre of choice, he’s always on the lookout for the next soothing Slice-of-Life. He can be found on Twitter@TheGespenst where he regularly talks about his favourite manga and anime in over-excited, yet eloquent(?) ways.