Wow. Turns out this rollercoaster had another few loops and twists along the way before we were finally let off of it. Here, for the last time, are my impressions of the ride…
The epi begins with a flashback of the moment when Maya’s daddy is magically sent into hiding by Chihiro, in fear of all the death threats that he has received. Next, Maya and Uchida are in the Principal’s office discussing the end of year ceremony to be held on July 21st and where Uchida says he’ll announce his resignation before going back to the future, despite Maya’s request to stay. Maya’s phone then rings and Uchida hears her confirming an appointment with his mummy to meet up the next day to discuss the details of her and Bunmei [henceforth used to refer to Uchida’s younger self, for my sanity] coming to the ceremony for a spot of spoonbending. Uchida is thrown by the idea, but is soon happy that he’ll get to see his mummy again before he leaves. At the same time, in their hotel room downtown, Bunmei looks excitedly at the school through the window.
Back in school, Uchida suddenly keels over and clutches his head, claiming that he doesn’t remember ever visiting the school before coming to work there and that he must be experiencing his sudden almighty headache because Maya’s actions are directly changing his/ the future. After a quick phone call to the MIBs in the future, they tell him that the still-filled-with-invading-aliens-future hasn’t changed and that Uchida is the Nostradamus Key, or rather the effect of him meeting his younger self and the resulting time-rift, in fact, is the Key. Maya promptly asks Uchida to accompany her to the next day’s meeting with his mummy, during which she rudely cancels Bunmei’s appearance and insults Mrs Uchida by claiming that she is only sees her son as a goose that lays golden eggs. After the woman storms off in outrage, Maya turns to Uchida and we realise that they were acting in order to deter his mummy from ever coming back with Bunmei and thus setting off the Key/ time-rift, thus Maya gives Uchida the ‘all clear’ to stick to the plan and attend the closing ceremony.
That evening, while the Scoobies are reunited one last time for a leaving party for Uchida at Ami’s place, Bunmei is seen to have run away from the hotel room and is delightedly exploring the school grounds on his own, before finally falling asleep on a grassy patch the under the stars… The next morning, Uchida makes his leaving speech, which includes an instruction to the students to always walk with their own two feet on the ground and follow their own path. Later, Maya is with him on the same rooftop where she first met him after he was beamed down from the sky where she now implores him not to go, however, Uchida insists that he must. He then phones the MIBs to request a teleport, when they suddenly spot Bunmei standing behind them and staring. As the skies immediately darken and thunder begins to roll in, Uchida resignedly goes up to his younger self and asks him if he came there of his own accord. The little boy says yes and Uchida ruffles his hair, saying that everything’s fine…
Then we see the time-rift open up above them and the aliens start to descend and blast everything in their path. At this, Bunmei angrily runs up to the nearest one with his finger pointed and yells at it not to destroy his special place, but he is blasted aside. Uchida then goes up to the prone little boy to see if he’s alright and both are momentarily enveloped by a blue-white light as he touches the spoon that Bunmei had in his pocket. Maya shouts that they should run, but Uchida instead picks up the spoon and replies that history is going to change, starting from now, and runs towards the alien, spoon held out before him. While Maya screams his name, he uses his powers to repel the alien, but is still picked up by it’s beam and lifted into the air and pulled closer. As his body starts to bleed and burn, Uchida looks back at Maya and cries out to her to take care of him, before he is finally destroyed by the aliens, who he manages to take down with him. As the skies then clear up once more, Maya stares at the spot where Uchida disappeared and silently cries, but ceases when she notices Bunmei coming to. She tells him to get up, with his own two feet, then the two walk off hand in hand amid the rubble of the damaged Academy.
In their underground bunker in the future, the MIBs celebrate as they realise that the future has changed and they all rush out to see, followed, more sombrely, by Maya’s father. After he goes outside, his phone rings and it’s a cheerful Maya on the line, asking where he is and reminding him to hurry home and have dinner with her and ‘Fumiaki’, who is ‘coming home early’. The closing shots are of a house that says ‘Uchida’ on the name plaque outside, before the camera zooms in on a table set with three plates of curry and beside is one is a spoon.
Well, we probably knew it was coming, but watching Uchida sacrificing himself to save the world was nonetheless pretty damn moving. The final action sequence, though brief, was suitably spectacular, but it was the gentle-yet-suspiciously-calm build up to it that was particularly effective, I thought. Thus, it was not only the overall plot that was finally resolved, but also Uchida’s mission both as a Time Agent and as his own person taking the courage to make decisions that were admirable and thus true to how he always wished he could be, and ultimately was.
In other words: a sucky [still depressed while writing this], but Good End.
As mentioned, the pacing, along with the dramatic irony in the first section worked well to build up tension, which was heightened further by more dramatic irony as we watched the Scoobies partay while little Bunmei was running around (un)bending things that should’ve been unbendable. It was nice to see the hitherto precociously stoic ‘Bunmei-kun’ off-the-telly going all dere dere over the occult, like a certainly little tsundere used to do. Clearly, this mirroring was intentional, not only highlighting the contrast between the past and future(-in-the-present) Uchida, but also the possible compatibility of him and Maya as future partners in more than one sense of the word (more on this below). And so, the whole ‘calm before the storm’ pace and mood of most of the epi prior to the deus ex machina climax and dénouement worked pretty well.
Having said much about Uchida already, there wasn’t a great deal of Maya and the others in this epi, aside from as supporting roles. However, having previously complained about not seeing enough of Ami and the JK-Smile double act in particular, I admit that it was probably not necessary in this epi, where it was all about Uchida and the tying up of loose plot ends. Though, during the brief moments that we did get to see them, it was satisfying seeing the Scoobies ribbing Uchida-sensei and then watching their reaction to his leaving speech during the ceremony, the only part of which we in fact saw (I assume Maya and other staff and students would normally say something during these things). thus, the feel of the ceremony as presented was more like that of a memorial service, especially due to the use of similar camera angles and shots to the ones we saw during the former Principal’s funeral service in the first epi. Which was, of course, ironic, given what happens to Uchida later…
So. Dat Ending. Clearly, some of you will have a bone to pick with the whole one-man-and-his-spoon-defeating-a-hoard-of-evil-inter-dimensional-time-rift-jumping-alien-invaders idea. However, considering the track record of this crazyarse show when it comes to deus ex machina resolutions, I thought it was not only a fitting way to sort out Dat Plot, but a nice (if predictable) touch to have this former resentful coward recover his powers as well as his humanitarianism in such a spectacular way. In short, surely he has now completely redeemed himself, right?
So. Dat Ending: Part II. Or, rather, Dat Epilogue. Well, firstly, Maya using the late (*sob*) Uchida’s words to help Bunmei was a nice touch, as was the hand-holding (no pun intended). Secondly, I can only assume that the two are now living together as a (not necessarily married but they probably are) couple, along with Maya’s father. Strongest evidence for this being Maya’s most dere dere voice yet when she refers to all three of them eating dinner together at ‘home’, which would explain why they’re all living under the roof of a house that says ‘Uchida’ on it.
I have to say, though, that I would’ve been extremely annoyed to think a few weeks ago that this particular female and male lead would end up together, as this was one of the things I liked best about the show, the largely and refreshingly unclichéd relationship between Maya and Uchida and the fact that neither of them were drawn in a conventionally attractive way nor attracted to each other. I mean, Uchida (if bizarrely to us) even stated that Maya was not his type at all. However, Uchida was also presented in those earlier epis as rather naïve/ immature in many ways, thus it’s not surprising that people’s tastes, let alone romantic preferences, change when they mature. Which is nicely ironic, given that this implies that little Bunmei personality-wise is very compatible with Maya after all, due to the whole dere dere for the occult thing that they share. Therefore, way after they’ve both grown up of course – which I assume they have done in between the climax and that epilogue-style scene – I think I’m okay with both their getting-together and their age gap, which wouldn’t matter ten years later in 2012 anyway, as they’d both be over 20 years of age, I assume.
Anyway, minor gripes aside, I thought that this epi, along with the previous two, was a solid finale to the series. Let’s face it, I think we were all worried that we’d need a never-would’ve-happened-anyway second series to claw its way back to Dat Plot and resolve the whole Maya’s daddy’s murder mystery and alien invasion thing. Luckily, and I’m still not quite sure how it happened, Occult Academy managed to give us a fairly smooth ending to a pretty bumpy ride of a show. But what a ride it was…
…wasn’t it? It certainly was a bit all over the place in terms of Dat Plot – namely the bizarre, er, forgetting-all-about-it-ness of it, as most bloggers and commentators have mentioned already. I guess, while all this forgetfulness was going on, we got to see most of the main characters fleshed out. A lot.
Plot and pacing issues aside, though, there were loads to love about this series, which had some really awesome and memorable moments. These, for me, include: the many faces of Maya; and of Uchida/ Bunmei; and of Smile’s smiley badge; that random Smile punch; Smile and JK putting their spanners/ dowsers/ keytars on; Kozue’s psychedelic triptastic afterlife; Ami’s Mothman cosplay outfit; Ami’s awesome daddy; Akari the adorable snow-ghost loli; that random Smile blush; Dat Snog; and Dat Flying Battle Cat.
Overall, Occult Academy has certainly been a hole heap of fun and I’m happy that it was the first complete series that I got to blog (as opposed to one that I took over part-way). Also, as an Anime no Chikara ‘original idea’ project thingy, I think we’ve all enjoyed, at various points, thinking up/ sharing crazy theories about what was going to happen next. Despite the above mentioned dips in the middle of the series, the opening and final epis were really strong indeed and showcased the best (as opposed to the dodgiest) things that can be achieved with fresh pairs of directorial eyes. So, props to you, Occult Academy, for trying new things and aiming high, without forgetting the anime staples of good visuals, good characters and good (eventual) plot.
And props to all of you for sticking with it – in short: GOOD END!