Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Summer Preview: Seikimatsu Occult Gakuin

After a heaping serving of horror courtesy of Highschool of the Dead, for those looking for a more supernatural anime with a sprinkle of comedy, Seikimatsu Occult Gakuin is right up your alley!

The episode opens up with what seems to be a setup for a future plot involving a group dedicated to fending off unearthly beings. After the catchy intro plays, the show introduces us to Maya Kumashiro, preparing to make the trek to her father's prestigious academy because the old man's croaked. As she comes in dressed in white to her father's funeral, a farewell tape is played for the student body. It seems that Maya's dad was into some weird business because he recorded himself reciting a spell to bring forth an evil spirit. This entity possesses the deceased dad's body and begins to terrorize the student body.

If you're starting to wonder where all the comedy is laced in this series, it's all in the execution. Rather than trying to scare its viewers, Maya helps us poke fun at the occult and pretend to be a skeptic in a situation where clearly some otherworldly events are happening around her. Although Maya clearly states her hatred for all things occult (espers, aliens, ghosts, etc.) she has a vast knowledge on the subject.

The episode proceeds in a small flashback to explain Maya's disdain for ghosts, ghouls, and goblins. It seems that she was at one time fascinated by the subject, but as her dad became more obsessed with the occult, their family life began to suffer. Eventually both Maya and her mother were pushed out of the picture and Mr. Kumashiro was left to brood within his precious Waldstein Academy without his family. This caused Maya's love for the weird and strange to wither away and in time blossom hatred for the subject.

The hilarity ends when Maya beheads her father's possessed body and puts an end to the hijinks of the evil spirit. Before the closing credits play, a strange man begins to descend from the sky in a beam of light...completely naked. Now if that's not enough of a cliffhanger for you, I don't know what is!

This first episode is a great lead off into a unique and fun series that looks both beautiful and plays out like a Goosebumps novel (I use to love those when I was a kid). What I love about this series is how it is clearly not trying to scare you, but get you to laugh at what should be serious situations. Maya's personality is stone cold, but because she use to enjoy the occult I can't help but wonder if she still secretly loves this stuff. The artwork is topnotch and the character design for Maya is simple and sexy. This episode also introduces what seems to be an interesting set of supporting characters: a spirit dowser who's pretty unsure of his own power, and a mechanic that can well...beat stuff up.

I seriously thought that this was going to be a more traditional, haunting and scary series but instead I was treated to something entirely different. An anime that's full of style, humor, and a great taste in the supernatural, and Maya is just the pretty little cherry on this otherwise delicious sundae of anime goodness.

4 out of 5 

Bottom Line: Maya is basically the anti-Haruhi Suzumiya. Instead of being aloof to the occult that surrounds her, Maya refuses to accept it. At this point of the series you could summon a demon in front of her and she'd probably argue that it is an elaborate costume, and will proceed to look for its zipper before beating the snot out of it.

Chanes of Jim following this series: 90% I'm sure the female ghost living in my room would much appreciate it. As long as the writers continue to spin Maya's charm and keep messing around with what should be some scary issues, this series is going to be difficult to pass up. It's definitely got the brains that Highschool of the Dead is missing, probably because the zombies ate it AND that series is doing great by following traditional "zombie conventions."

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