Occultic;Nine Volume 2 (Episodes 7-12) (Cert 15)

2 Discs DVD/Blu-ray (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 144 minutes approx.

Usually when reviewing the second part of a series I proffer a brief recap of the central plot by way of easing us into the discussion of the events of this follow up release. That is going to prove a little difficult for this title since most of the review of the first volume was taken up with trying to summarise the involved and complex plot!

So instead, either refer back to the review of part one or make do with this absolutely unhelpful extreme potted version, to wit: a group of disparate people may or may be connected to the mass suicide by drowning of 256 people. Okay? Then we’ll continue.

The very last discovery made NEET occultist fan Yuta Gamon at the end of part one was that his name was among the first batch of suicide victims released by the media. Considering Yuta was alive to make note of this leaves him rather baffled, but suddenly people around him seem unable to see him, leaving Yuta to wonder if perhaps he is dead after all.

Actually, he is but lives on as a ghost. Sort of. Yuta can still be seen by some people, like his closest friends and recent acquaintances in the mystery of Professor Hashigami‘s brutal murder, so he remains something of a physical presence but how? Unsurprisingly, the others are also dead partially because they are linked to the murder investigation but that is the only connection they have.

Or so it seems. Their individual and collective investigations into the matter reveal an overlap in their circumstances through people they know who know people the others know, all tied into a mysterious organisation called Society of the Eight Gods of Fortune, part religious cult-part multi-corporate conglomerate with intent to change the world’s connection to the spirit realm through science and the theories of Nikola Tesla.

I’d love to say at this juncture that it is much simpler than it sounds but that would be like promising everything will be fine once we leave the EU – i.e.: a lie. Junpei Morita’s script based on the light novels of Chiyomaru Shikura is labyrinthine headache of multi-layered mysteries, obfuscated by garrulous exchanges spoken at light speed and random science/horror misdirection before converging in a clever but not altogether satisfying way that leaves the viewer still wondering what was happening.

More so here than in the first half, Occultic;Nine resembles the equally frustrating and unwieldy Monogatari series, employing obtuse irritating camera angles for no apparent reason in the later episodes, but at least this show is less obnoxious and the prolix chat sessions actually further the plot.

Yet there is still that feeling we are not being let into everything that is going on in the creator’s head which is off putting as well as compromising the potential of the story, which is cleverly constructed, just wilfully maladroit and too esoteric for its own good in execution.

A new character is introduced in the form of Asuna Kisaki, a high-school girl with a gift for Pyschometry and an FBI agent to boot! Asuna is able to dive into people and objects to see inside them and retrieve memories or vital information being kept within to help with investigations. Be it one of the suicide victims or an obscure item like a hair tie or a microphone, Asuna gets her answers via a cinema projection of the secrets it holds.

Naturally, the roads of Asuna’s investigation lead her to Yuta and the others. Her first breakthrough is hunting down the psychotic Albino kid proudly boasting how he can’t be charged for his gruesome acts of violence as he is a minor. This nameless brat knows an awful lot about the Society of the Eight Gods, revealing all to Ririka Nishizono, the doujinshi manga artists who predicted the professor’s death.

Quite what the boy’s relevance is to the story other than being a disturbing serial killer and info-dumper isn’t shared – or if it was, it is possible I may have missed it if it was buried among some excitable waffle. Another character who ends up having little bearing on the climax is Aria Kurenaino, the young black magic practitioner flanked by demon apparition Kiryū Kusakabe. After a look into her backstory in the first half, she is barely featured here.

Conversely, there is a major shift in the contribution and value of Ryoka Narusawa, Yuta’s ditzy friend with zeppelins for boobs. After spending 10 episodes demonstrating any equity in her presence, this is an almighty plot twist that upends the entire foundation of the story as well as propelling Ryoka into the forefront of the salvation mission as its most important player.

What that is, you’ll have to find out for yourself but remember to suspend your disbelief from somewhere very high otherwise you’ll tie yourself in knots trying to work out the whys and wherefores of this development. This is one of those occasions where “it’s anime” actually suffices as an explanation to justify this and the mileage in terms of entertainment value one gets from it.

This pretty much applies to the entire series if I’m being honest. Not all science fiction has to make irrefutable sense or be completely plausible (not that it ever has done) and sci-fi in Japan has always pushed those boundaries to breaking point. Given this show is part of the series from visual novel creators 5pb. and Nitroplus, we shouldn’t expect anything less based on their previous form.

Occultic;Nine is still a difficult show to grade. If the pace was toned down to let the story unfold naturally focusing on the show and less on the tell, the results would have been much more satisfying. Perhaps it requires repeat viewings and preferably in one go to fully “get it” but the dense narrative and verbiage heavy presentation that remains is its biggest drawback.

It’s certainly something, I’ll give it that.

 

Extras:

English Language 2.0 Stereo

Japanese Language 2.0 Stereo

English Subtitles

Disc 1 Only:

Textless Opening

Textless Closing

Trailer

 

Rating – ***

Man In Black