Occultic;Nine Volume 1 (Episodes 1-6) (Cert 15)
2 Discs DVD/Blu-ray (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 144 minutes approx.
Release Date: April 2nd
The more observant among you who noticed the semi-colon in the title will hopefully recognise it as the trademark motif of the works from visual novel creators 5pb. and Nitroplus which includes Chaos;Head and Robotics;Notes. Also part of this stable of VNs is the time travel adventure Steins;Gate by Chiyomaru Shikura, who is also behind this title.
However to say Occultic;Nine is unlike the other shows is akin to choosing the odd one out from a line-up of Stephen Hawking, Stephen Fry, Brian Cox and Joey Essex! As the title indicates, Shikura this time has turned his attention to all things supernatural and demonic in this hyper kinetic and often convoluted tale of murder, conspiracy and the black arts.
Yuta Gamon is a 17 year-old self-confessed NEET who runs an occult blog called Kiri Kiri Basara which collates all the latest news from around Japan in this subculture. Hoping to increase traffic to his site, Yuta encourages classmate and online fortuneteller idol Miu Aikawa to work together. Miu suggests Yuta interviews renowned academic Professor Hashigami about his research of the occult as a sure fire attraction for the site.
Arriving at Hashigami’s office, Yuta finds the professor’s dead body, having scrawled the word “CODE” in his blood on the floor. Under the instruction of a mystery female named Zonko who communicates via a short-wave radio, Yuta extracts a gold tooth from the professor’s mouth which is actually a key, before fleeing the crime scene. Yuta now has to find what lock the key fits, what “CODE” means, who killed Hashigami and why.
Doesn’t sound too difficult thus far right? That is because this is just one small strand of this vast network of threads that make up the entire baffling mystery. The nine in the title refers to the number of people that become embroiled in this situation, the links between them ranging from the tenuous to the conveniently similar, brought together by fate.
Working alongside Yuta is his annoyingly perky and ridiculously busty (emphasis on the ridiculous) Ryoka Narusawa, who so far adds nothing to the proceedings beyond being an irritant. She and Miu pay a visit to a girl called Aria Kurenaino, a practitioner of black magic accompanied by Kiryū Kusakabe, an invisible spirit she thinks is the devil, offering a service to curse people, to test her out by having her curse Yuta.
Touko Sumikaze is a writer for an occult magazine looking into Hashigami’s murder following her editor receiving the professor’s latest manuscript from an old woman, despite Hashigami’s wife being dead. Also investigating the case is cosplaying college student Shun Moritsuka, working unofficially with the police as he gets results.
One lead Shun has is that Hashigami’s murder is almost identical to one featured in a doujinshi manga by another absurdly busty young woman, Ririka Nishizono, who claims to be able to see the future in her dreams, which then she uses in her stories. Finally, Sarai Hashigami, the professor’s university student son and cynic where the occult is concerned, chose to meet his father after Miu told his fortune on the night Hashigami was murdered.
So that is the main cast introduced and I hope I did a better job than then this show did as they attempted to do the same in the first episode, bombarding the viewer with a dizzying onslaught of information and images that ultimately leaves us none the wiser. A symptom of condensing extensive source material into a finite space, the opener is simply rushed confusion and potentially detrimental in hooking the viewer’s interest in staying with the series.
Luckily, the story begins properly in the second episode, although the narrative tends to flit freely between the various skeins and timelines – think Durarara! with a less obtuse take on the Monogatari series format for a relatable comparison. Even at this half-way stage of the first six episodes the story is still taking shape, the current cliffhanger coming after a mass suicide by drowning of 256 people appears to be linked to one of Ririka’s drawings.
Also in need of expansion is the presence of an albino boy with a thirst for blood and possibly responsible for the disappearance of Miu’s friend Chizuru, and the mysterious organisation intent on entering a spirit realm in accordance to the research of famed scientist Nikola Tesla. With these developments arriving in the last moments in this set, a lot of pressure is on to bring this all together in a satisfying conclusion.
The 12-episode run this series has seems insufficient to adapt all of the source material which would explain the frantic pacing and exposition heavy dialogue. This mean not all the characters are that well fleshed out, with Aria’s eerily tragic backstory benefitting most from the writer’s attention. Some, like Touko, Shun, and Sarai, are lucky enough that their roles make them easily defined while others require further exploration.
In mentioning Durararara! earlier as pertains to the narrative structure, the artwork and animation from A-1 Pictures has the same loose style to it, with a touch of the vibrant and colourful surrealism found in Gatchaman Crowds. The dialogue comes at us through fast and furious delivery (a’la Monogatari) proving to be a lot to take in, so don’t be put off if things only click later on with further pieces of the puzzle are revealed.
Like the recent Blue Exorcist release, this is a two-disc set with three episodes per disc which is a costly investment for a single cour run, but don’t blame Manga Entertainment for this as it is not their decision.
Offering an opinion on Occultic;Nine at this halfway stage is a little unfair let alone difficult, as its quirky nature and sinuous plotting really demands that it be judged as a whole. So far, the story is intriguing if a little haphazard in its presentation, therefore the score I proffer is a nominal fence-sitting verdict, pending its forthcoming conclusion.
English Language 2.0 Stereo
Japanese Language 2.0 Stereo
Disc 1 Only:
Rating – ***
Man In Black