Don’t be fooled by the Alice band and the white dress and heels – that gap on the wall is there for a reason…
Mysterious framing-narrative promising more conspiracies than you can shake a stick at? Check. A cute, but badass main character who can run in heels as well as wield an axe? Check. A more luxurious and weirder than average High School setting? Check. Supernatural goings on galore? Check. Like all of the above in one supernatural-comedy series? Then Occult Academy might be right up your street…
The year is 1999 and a man is chased by a bat-winged, red-eyed beasty as he flees through a moonlit forest while spouting supernatural techno-babble on the phone to someone requesting a teleport. The latter appears too late, however, and the mysterious men on the other end of the line comment that that’s their fifth agent who’s been gobbled up by such beasties and that they’ll need to send in Number Six. And then the really interesting stuff happens…
That is, the episode proper begins and we are introduced to Maya, an independent, impatient, doesn’t-take-any-bullshit-from-anyone sort of gal, who arrives late to her estranged father’s funeral at Waldstein Academy. The place is, in fact, nick-named ‘Occult Academy’ by the locals due to the supernatural goings on that have been happening there and have been encouraged by its former head, Maya’s father. Soon after, a tape recording that the deceased made moments before his demise is played to his assembled staff and students, which invokes a malevolent spirit that promptly possesses and reanimates the dead man’s corpse, which goes on the rampage as it tries to possess everyone else who comes in it’s green goo dropped way.
An impressively pissed-off Maya initially tries loudly to dismiss the spectacle as staged, but soon takes charge of organising a hastily assembled group of ghostbusters to vanquish the offending fiend, but not before it tries to take down a few more people, including our heroine herself. However, Maya is ultimately too bad-ass to fall for its ghoulish tricks and soon gets her way, while we get a brief insight into her past, plus her current occult-hating views. Which are screamed at the top of her lungs from the school rooftop at the end of the episode. Just before a naked man promptly descends from a shining hole in the sky and lands before her feet.
This is probably the best looking show of the season and, so far, its characters, plot and comic timing do not disappoint either. Maya is a great lead character who not only knows her demon lore and how to wield an axe, but her reluctance to show off the former plus the glimpse we see of the paternal neglect she suffered as a result of her father’s unhealthy immersion in the subject, shows a more vulnerable side that is just as appealing to the audience as her impatient, arse-kicking ways. Having seen the lead male character only briefly at the end, I can’t comment much on him at present, but unlike the dominatrix we see perched on the guy on all fours in the promotional poster, clearly neither of these two leads are what they first seemed like they’d be to the audience.
So, as a first episode of a supernatural comedy series, I think it hits all the right spots: as mentioned, it looks great, really nice character designs and backgrounds; it has a solid cast of characters; the pacing is very good (perhaps a little too fast in some places, but meh); a good OP (song is decent and the sequence made me think Alice in Wonderland meets The Twilight Zone, but funnier); and really enjoyed the Twilight Zone-/ X-files-/ Scoobydoo-/ Exorcist-/ Ghostbusters-style referencing.
It’s also pretty darn funny too.
And I don’t just mean the homage/ references to such shows, but also little touches such as the old school mobile phones, the flashes we get of Maya’s various pissed-off faces, the little version of the white dress she wears in the flashbacks where she’s goofing off with her former best friend… I could go on (don’t worry I won’t), but a show that already has such a great premise, but also shows such attention to detail is all kinds of Win in my book.
So, in short: if supernatural goings on in high school settings are your thing, but you’re not into the gore- and fanservice-fest offered by High School of the Dead, then Occult Academy might be right up your street.