Occult Academy episode 11: Let It Blow Your Mind

Possibly her scariest face yet…

Woooah. Clearly this epi was brought to us by Team Awesome. In fact, rather than just having a new direction, it felt like an entirely new show. In a good way, of course. In a Seriously. Good. Way. By the way, those of you who may have jumped ship mid-way through this series, go back and watch/ read summaries of what you missed, then come back and Watch. This. Epi. Go on, if you haven’t done so already, that is, for I guarantee that you and what is left of your mind will not be disappointed…


Episode Summary:

Can I just write ‘Awesomeness’ for this bit? Please? No? Okay, it was worth a shot… The epi begins with Maya and Uchida finding another suspect for Nostradamus Key, one of two excavated twin clay masks from the Joumon period, and arranging to travel to Nagano City in order to find and photograph both of them. All this is promptly relayed to the V.P. by her shady goon. Meanwhile, Uchida arrives back home to find that a lecherous Mikaze has already let herself in and is making him dinner, i.e. his exact favourite curry complete with his mum’s secret ingredients. Soon, Mikaze has reduced Uchida to a dazed and horny pile of goo, after snogging him senseless and convincing him (along with many of the KKK-esque garbed local townsfolk) that Maya is, in fact, a witch and thus behind all the weird goings on of late at the Academy and that, in short, she must die.

The next day, Uchida and Maya find the twin masks, but discover that they are not the Key. Uchida is pretty bummed and Maya tries to cheer him up by buying various random munchies, but he remains freaked out by the whole Maya-is-a-pro-alien-invasion-witch-who-wants-to-open-up-the-gates-of-Hell-in-her-backyard-on-July-21st idea. And the fact that he keeps seeing and hearing Mikaze’s creepy face and words everywhere he turns. Soon, he cracks and asks Maya outright if this is the case. Maya is not amused and tries to prove her non-witchiness by trying to take a photo with her phone, only to be prevented by Uchida, who is soundly beaten before Maya goes back home, with his warnings about the bloodthirsty townsfolk in her ears. Upon arriving home, Maya is scared by the sudden appearance to the V.P., who has let herself in after her… Now, insert a very brief couple of scenes with the mysterious future men, who are busy worrying about the ticking clock and if their final time agent will complete the mission in time… Back to 1999, and later that evening, Uchida is walking back towards the school with Maya’s forgotten shoes in his hand, only to discover that the place is crawling with the emergency services and that Maya has been murdered. Uchida promptly becomes distraught and then blames himself for getting her involved in the whole Key hunting thing.

The next day, school is cancelled and the rest of the Scoobies find out what’s happened and take refuge together at Ami’s place. However, they soon resolve to use their various skills to find out what really happened… Meanwhile, Uchida is tearily still guilt-tripping himself at his place, when in walks the VP… and Maya… who are now working together to deceive the enemy, the VP apparently being a White Mage who was entrusted by Maya’s father to look after Maya. Uchida is still unsure about wth’s going on, so Maya proves it’s really her by showing him her father’s notebook. Which Mikaze promptly flies in and burns. Yup, she is a Black Mage and, thus, the actual one potentially responsible for the opening of the Hell-gate, as she gleefully tells them all, before the V.P. briefly attacks her so that she and Maya and the shady guy can get away. Promising to come back and kill Uchida too, Mikaze powers up and reveals her even sluttier true form and goes after the others, who are swiftly cornered by the other townsfolk who are in KKK-posturing-mode, before their demonic leader joins them and reveals her dastardly plans and the fact that she killed Maya’s father. Maya promptly tries to launch herself at the bitch witch, before the V.P. intervenes and throws her like a kitten to her goon and tells them to run for it while she holds them off, before she promptly powers-up into White Mage-mode and the two women face-off… Cue cliffie.


Thoughts:

Bloody Hell, where to begin, eh… Well, that elusive main plot certainly came back with a bang. I don’t know who was more shocked during this epi: Uchida, Maya, the Scoobies, or us. And then there were all those subtle and not so subtle changes in shots, transitions, pacing, lighting and music. Overall, it was like the whole show underwent a magic girl-style power-up…

Eeevil.

Firstly, The whole sequence with Uchida and Mikaze at the start was creepy from the get go, with that Stepford Wives-esque uber-enthusiastic stalkerishness on Mikaze’s part, which later degenerated rapidly into that rather graphic songfest surrounded by the local brainwashes. Poor Uchida, eh, methinks the bloke should have been deliriously happy, but clearly he was just rendered delirious by the evil (or as Scamp would say, eeevil) one’s murderous machinations. That particular sequence, in fact, felt like the beginnings of a cultish sex-ritual, and Mikaze’s actions certainly pushed the boundaries of whatever rating this show has. I especially liked those panning shots of the two of them while they were in the centre of the ring of evil hoodies, which, along with the chanting and firelight, highlighted the sense of nightmare from which Uchida and we were probably hoping he’d soon wake up.

In contrast, Uchida’s day out with Maya in Nagano city was a nice mirroring of his first dayto with Mikaze and, despite how it all ended, it was certainly a delicious bit of dramatic irony watching a dere dere Maya trying to cheer him up from what she assumed was his depression over their latest Nostradamus Key disappointment. Of course, Maya’s dere dere mode is soon replaced by her tsun tsun and then yan yan mode when she starts practicing her kickboxing skills on her favourite punching bag. But rather than it being funny, I felt even more sorry for Uchida, as the confused man was also clearly trying to protect his young partner despite the many suspicions swirling around over-sensitised brain.

A more innocent time…

Didn’t see much of the Scoobies this epi, but Ami’s image of her and Maya in loli mode communicating with the spirits was pretty cute, as was, for different reasons, their togetherness and determination to do something occultish rather than just sit around. What that something is, of course, is probably going to be pretty redundant given that fact that Maya ain’t dead after all, however, that’s a minor point and that Rugby scrum pose and the lighting during these scenes more than made up for that.

Is it just me, or does anyone else wana join in?

And speaking of the lighting, I thought the presentation of pretty much every scene was excellent, really working to help evoke the atmosphere and drama throughout the epi. In addition to the above mentioned sex-ritual and Rugby scrum shots, the scenes where the V.P. does her big ‘reveal’ as a White Mage (as well as the reference to her unrequited love for Uchida, daww) before the evil one comes flying in through the window vampire-style, also made good use of shadows and a more muted colour palette to convey Uchida’s regret and grief. But it wasn’t all doom and gloom, of course, as the show’s trademark humour was still present even in such scenes, e.g.: Maya saving Uchida’s number as ‘Idiot’ on her phone being a nice touch and a lighter moment among the tears. I assume that the deception regarding Maya’s death was probably not a surprise to any of us, given the way it was already flagged up in the preview last week and the fact that the fake corpse was wearing the same shoes that Uchida was still carrying when he saw it etc. etc. Thus, if that was the only, or one of the few, predictable things about this otherwise surprisingly good epi (Mikaze turning out to be eeevil being the other no-brainer), then I have few other complaints.

…Except one, perhaps: the magical girl stuff at the end was a bit lame (in fact, talk about Wizard of Oz-ish). Unless, I suspect/ hope, that it all supposed to be very much tongue-in-cheek, in which case it’s all in keeping with this show’s randomness. However, overall it was a fabulous rollercoaster of an epi that’s set the bar high for the final two. Let’s all hope that they can deliver, eh…

Damn right, but more of these guys in the next epi, please…

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13 Comments

  1. Rathje
    Posted September 20, 2010 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    I’ll have to admit, I almost turned the episode off with that stupid “Sailor Moon” transformation scene. It felt like the entire series had jumped shark, and wasn’t going to recover. The events in this single episode really should have been dragged out to two. Throwing in a creepy small town cult was a nice (and honestly inevitably suitable) touch, but it needed more creepy build up before blowing up like it did here.

    It also felt like the “scooby gang” was being ditched in favor of characters we never really liked much to begin with. Uchida really isn’t strong enough of a character to carry an episode alone with Maya, and certainly not with Mikaze.

    I mean, what was the point of the group huddle suggesting seance, summoning, ouija board, or “whatever” if you weren’t actually going to freaking do it? It’s like you’re getting all psyched to see the gang pull a rabbit (or an undead Maya) out of the hat, and then… “oops, we were just kidding about Maya being dead!” All brought to you by the vice principle – whom none of us liked to begin with.

    Boo.

    Then our two least favorite characters go magical girl on us, and you are left with the distinct feeling that the script writers have been told to speed up a plot they really needed and wanted to take more time on.

    Seriously, I think the scooby gang got shafted here.

    On a minor note – I’m kinda pissed that the diary from Maya’s father got unceremoniously torched. That was a cool plot device, and I was looking forward to seeing at least something happen with it. Then that dumb bimbo randomly floats through a window and torched it!

    Double boo.

    • Posted September 20, 2010 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

      The pacing certainly had issues, but I assume more because of how late all these loose ends have been left to be tied up. And given that some of the best moments in this series were due to the weaving in of the Scoobies’ various shenanigans, they definitely should have been used more wise, or heck, just used more! Completely agree that they seem to have got shafted in favour of two less favourable characters. Let’s just hope the brewing cat-fight between the two witches is as bloody as (I assume) we’re both hoping for, lol!

      Regarding the unceremoniously swift torching of the notebook, Uchida’s seemed really surprised when he opened it and actually looked inside it, so perhaps it wasn’t the real notebook and in fact a decoy for luring the enemy out, in which case hopefully we haven’t seen the last of it…

      • Posted September 21, 2010 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

        The pacing did have flaws, but this show delivered some great episodes. Have to agree that some characters were under-utilized, but when this show clicked, it was very effective.

  2. fathomlessblue
    Posted September 20, 2010 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    When I first watched the ep I was pretty annoyed by the fact it went overly cheesy and turned into some Magical Girl show completely out of nowhere, it kind of spoilt of what was otherwise a perfect episode for me. But actually, after watching it again, I now feel far more accepting of the change.

    When dealing with the occult/supernatural this show has always been pretty campy and non-serious. Tengu, aliens and Chupacabra one moment, bizarre storyline connections to the Yggdrasil and Mt. Minakamiyami earthquakes the next. Referring the Maya’s gang as the scoobies is pretty spot on, this show really does have the same mocking edge as series like Buffy or Doctor Who. I think the whole witch development felt jarring more due to the fact that the rest of the episode was more serious and toned down on the supernatural front, so when the twist came many viewers had almost forgot that the occult element was never treated seriously. Thats my take at least.

    Regarding the Mikaze seducing scene, there was no end to how awesome that part was. Sexy probably isn’t the right description but the whole sequence was just sensual you just couldn’t take your eyes off the screen, especially with the amount of money that must have been used to animate it. I’ve never really been into fan-service, but when used to such deliberate effect in plot development, it really can become something special. I found that short scene more powerful, and put to better use than the service in the entirety of Highschool of the Dead (well, probably; I actually gave up on that awful series halfway through, lol).

    One thing I didn’t like was the abrupt change from Uchida and Mikaze in the kitchen to suddenly being in the woods with the KKK’ers. It really felt like a whole transition scene was removed due to time contraints or something. The first time I saw it I assumed I was watching a dream sequence, in fact i’m still not totally convinced I wasn’t (way to go all Inception on me, Occult Academy!). A bit of clarity on that front would have been nice.

    • Posted September 20, 2010 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

      You know in a way I wish the series had been a bit more Buffy-esque, or at least had more such moments during those uber-emotional epis in the middle. But you take on the witchy twist is pretty convincing and would explain that jarring quality.

      The Mikaze seduction scenes were certainly something, but as you say, very effective. I kept thinking it was all an extended twisted dream sequence too. that particular abrupt transition may have been mainly for dark humour though, e.g.: thinking we were about to see them in bed, only to find them out in the woods like that, lol. Poor, naive, freaked out Uchida, eh!

  3. Posted September 20, 2010 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

    The one thing that I didn’t understand (well, there were probably a few things, but the one thing I care about :-P) was why Maya went so out of her way to be nice to Bunmei. Buying food for him, dragging him from place to place. As if it were a date. I know she’s been trying to get along better with him, but that seemed really off. I just didn’t understand her purpose in going so far.

    • Posted September 25, 2010 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

      Hmm, good question.

      Short answer: dunno.

      Longer answer: comic relief and Maya fan service.

      …Really cute Maya fan service. :D

  4. NitroX72
    Posted September 21, 2010 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    This sudden change in tone is extremely off-putting to say the least. The Akari story arc seemed to provide a bit of buildup to this, in terms of getting into a more serious tone, but like you said, it almost seems to have turned into a completely different anime. I feel like this is a pretty bad thing though, because it makes it feel like almost all the previous episodes had almost no purpose at all, save for character development. This change would be much better if dragged out over time, say two to four episodes, which would give it time to gradually change the tone and build up to a story that doesn’t look like it came completely out of nowhere (or in this case a story where everyone completely forgot about it for 8 episodes).

    Also oh my god all this action. Awesome yes, but similarly very odd. Especially when considering that the whole series has had only very little action, and that the story arc preceding this was emotional and had no action whatsoever.

    • NitroX72
      Posted September 21, 2010 at 8:47 am | Permalink

      Additional note. Just finished watching episode 12. All I want to say is that all the action ends at episode 12. 13 will be a cooldown-type episode thing. Also another dumb cliffhanger

      • Posted September 25, 2010 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

        I have a feeling you might be right. Thought it was good, though (will try and post my thoughts on it by Monday).

  5. Posted September 21, 2010 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    Yes, pretty good episode, and felt much more on track even though the magical girls was slightly off-kilter. Maybe it was the pacing, the conflict, I’m not exactly sure, but the noticeable rise in intensity was a good signal to know that the finale is on it way… or so I hope.

    • Posted September 25, 2010 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

      maybe it was […] the conflict

      You mean the fact that there actually was some, lol.

      or so I hope

      I hope so too. Well, now, I guess for the finale…

  6. Posted September 26, 2010 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    *Wags her tail*

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