We’re at the halfway point for many of the Spring 2019 anime, including Mayonaka no Occult Koumuin. While I understand people saying this show is boring, I find Midnight Occult strangely endearing— relaxing, even. I’m not sure what keeps bringing me back to it. So, rather than following my traditional structure, I’ll focus mostly just on my unfiltered thoughts, here in this review of Midnight Occult Civil Servants episodes 4, 5, and 6.
To be honest, Midnight Occult fails to give off any significant sense of suspense even in the more exciting parts of episodes, but I don’t mind at all. I’ve come to appreciate this as a mild show that calms and puts me at ease, rather than one that excites or inspires me (most of the time). I never get tired of the idea of a character who can see and/or speak to creatures that normal people can’t see and/or hear. The episodic versus serial structure is alright with me because we get to see new (if temporary) characters every episode. Some of them, like Yuki and Kohaku, seem to be sticking around. So far, any over-arching plot in Midnight Occult is rare and character-driven. In that sense, this anime is kind of like a Slice-of-Life series.
The humor is mild and innocent, but very much present as part of the story, and it usually brings a smile to my face easily enough. A good example is the way Arata got hammered in episode 4 and it’s unclear if he is running in circles because of Gongen’s magic or just because he’s so drunk. In episode 5, it was amusing how Theo kept joking about the other world and then freaked out when his colleages were actually pulled there. Plus, there’s humor of Pandora and the way she acts. I don’t think I can describe her well, so check out the episode!
Humor wasn’t much of a part of episode 6, though. It was a serious affair– though predictable and not quite suspenseful. Many girls have gone missing across various locations and over a span of about 40 years. These are the missing persons cases Sakaki had been looking into. I suspected his mother or his sister was one of the victims, and sure enough, it was his older sis. Those girls were kidnapped by a demon/ devil who wants to create the “perfect” human woman by taking a “perfect” part from each girl. One girl lost sight in her left eye, one the use of her right leg, and another the ability to sing high notes. Arata’s childhood friend Izumi is captured, too.
What’s the big fuss over that? Next episode, we’ll probably resolve the issue, fight or talk down the demon, and get the girls back. There were three things that piqued my interest. I’ll be brief so we can get on to the rest of the review. 1) Does Kohaku / Huehuecoyotl really intend to let Izumi get hurt, or is he using her as a chance to get the Occult Civil Servants to face that demon and take him down? 2) Part of the reason Sakaki and Theo always say Anothers can’t be reasoned with is because they are reacting to the unreasonable kidnapping of Sakaki’s older sister. 3) What kind of being is this “akuma” and why does he want a perfect human for a bride?
I’m repeating myself a little from my review of eps 1-3, but I really relish the opening and ending songs. Jun Fukuyama, voice of Arata, sings the Midnight Occult OP, “Dis-Communicate.” Toki Shunichi sings the ED “Yakusoku no Overture,” and plays Hueheucoyotl (AKA Kohaku). Though I’m a major fan girl of Jun Fukuyama, I have to admit that his song isn’t as impressive or stirring as the ED– or that’s my opinion, anyway.
As I mentioned in my last Midnight Occult post, protagonist Miyako Arata is voiced by Jun Fukuyama, who played Yukio from Blue Exorcist, Yuuta of Chuunibyou, and Grell in Black Butler. Miyu Irino (playing Theo) also voiced Todomatsu in Osomatsu-san, Ristu in Mob Psycho 100, “Prince” from Run with the Wind, and and Jinta of Ano Hana, to name a few. Sakaki’s VA, Tomoaki Maeno, has played numerous memorable roles, but I know him best from yaoi anime such as Hitorijime My Hero, Sekaiichi Hatsukoi, and Super Lovers. I think all three do splendid jobs.
Sometimes the music is too subdued in the background, but you notice it if you pay attention. For me, it’s great because it sounds like music I could play while writng or brainstorming. During episode 4, nice music appeared at 01:12 and 12:45. The first is soft, relaxing piano and some wind or woodwind instrument. The second is a jazzy-sounding piece with percussion and what might be a sax? I don’t know, but I love the way it sounds. In episode 5, I like the music playing at 16 minutes; it evokes powerful emotion, like the feeling of desperation. A musical moments I liked in episode 6 was around 12:30, where there is emotional music with strings and piano, reflecting the sense of loss Sakaki felt when his sister disappeared.
Though I’m focusing on what I appreciated in this review, I still feel it’s appropriate to mention a weakness of Mayonaka. I mean the art/animation. It looks awkward or just plain bad much of the time, and being extremely simple at the best of times. The stylization is kind of dull, or some might say weird. The backgrounds seem fine, though again frugully designed. There isn’t a lot of movement, but that’s natural for series not focused on action. The colors and lighting are dark and dreary. Face expressions are adequate, yet they’re subtle, and not your typical over-the-top anime reaction images. Except, when they are. There were more intense expressions in episode 6.
The creature designs so far have not impressed me. I mean, what was up with the dryad in episode 4? It’s literally an outline of a woman in a body suit filled in with green, and a few sticks on her shoulder. That’s certainly not the complexity I’d expect to see in a humanoid tree spirit from famous and well-known mythology. Anyway, besides the boring way the Anothers look, I don’t actually mind the rather bland art/animation. Elementary as they are, I’m fond of the character designs. The simplicity of the visuals actually helps keep me focused sometimes, comared to being overwhelmed by details, diverse colors, and fancy effects. As always, visuals are just one part of how I judge an anime, so “bad” animation doesn’t usually turn me away.
While the characters are the type that can probably be found in a hundred other anime series, I don’t give an F because I like them and the interactions between them. I’m also having a wholly delightful time with imagining yaoi ships, to be honest. Which is better– Sakaki x Theo or Sakaki x Arata? Or perhaps should I ship Senda with someone? 😀 Anyway, the characters are interesting to me even if they’re predictable or follow tropes or stereotypes. I like learning about Sakaki’s past. I like the way Arata is generally friendly to Anothers, the way he’s getting better at considering the experiences he’s had, and how he’s paying attention to cues around him. Theo is very expressive and sometimes goes too far, but I like that in the right kind of guy.
A Few Favorite Moments/Aspects
The things I liked best in episode 4, “Fixed Point Observation in Kabukicho,” were the mentions of six creatures from the mythology, plus a shrine god from Japanese Shinto (Kio Gongen). I’ll go over the creatures. 1) Shojo, apelike beings from Chinese legend. 2) Dryads, tree spirits out of Greek myth. 3) Japan’s Mezu, a horse-headed youkai. 4) From Roman myth (adapted from Greek) there’s the owl of Minerva, goddess of wisdom. 5) Afican mythology’s Bultungin, or werehyena. 6) Azuki-Arai, another Youkai from Japan, who washes beans. Learning about all those creatures was a lot of fun for me.
One of my favorite moments from episode 5, “Other World Elevator at City Hall Observation Deck,” was when Arata is talking to Pandora and realizes that just because he can communicate with her doesn’t mean he can reach an agreement with her. This is an interesting and serious piece of Midnight Occult’s story, and Arata is bothered by its significance. He already learned in ep 3 that Anothers can be dangerous and unpredictable, but since he reached an understanding with Kohaku, who was only playing a “prank,” Arata had a good feeling of control. At the end of ep 5, he’s realizing for the first time that Anothers are forces to be reckoned with, things that he won’t be able to subdue in every case.
All this makes viewers wonder just how many cases of human injury, disappearance, or death are caused by Anothers. Reiji Senda tells Arata not to worry about it because solving “the big issues” isn’t their job. They only handle small, local cases, and I bet the last few were only resolved so smoothly because of Arata’s Ears of Sand ability. Still, I wonder what will happen if Arata and company stumble on something major, or need to call in the big guns. There are probably other secret government organizations that deal with Anothers– ones that are probably a lot more powerful than the Occult Civil Servants.
From Episode 6, “A Demon and the Sense of Loss,” I found myself surprisingly happy to see Arata with a childhood friend who’s basically his girlfriend. I love my yaoi ships, but in this anime they’re only in my head, and I also care about the more probable (and boringly hetero) ships. At times, Arata can be melancholy, and at times, he can zone out or get lost in clouds of random thought. Izumi, the “girlfriend,” is cheerful, energetic, and down-to-earth in comparison. It seems like they’d make a great match. Too bad Kohaku had to have Izumi spirited away.
Scores for Mayonaka. Story: 7/10, art: 6/10, sound: 7/10, characters: 6/10, and enjoyment: 8/10. Overall Score = 6.8/10 Fine.
This show isn’t that good compared to what else is out there this season, but since my personal enjoyment is pretty high, I plan to keep watching. So much can change in the second half of a short series, so I still don’t know if I recommend this anime. But so far, I think Midnight Occult will be entertaining for people who like laidback series about youkai and mythological creatures.