Welcome to another Anime Rant! This time we have a review of Spring 2019’s laidback fantasy/workplace anime, Midnight Occult Civil Servants. For this post, I’ll abbreviate the title as Midnight Occult. Five categories will be explored: Story, Art, Sound, Characters, and Personal Enjoyment. Each is given a number from 1 (so bad it shouldn’t exist) to 10 (perfect masterpiece). At the end of the review, those five numbers will be used to calculate the overall series score. For your convenience, here is the number scale. Now, let’s Rant!
1 = Abhorrent/ Shouldn’t Exist
2 = Horrible
3 = Very Bad
4 = Poor / Unsatisfactory
5 = Average/ Satisfactory
6 = Fine/ Fair
7 = Good/ Entertaining
8 = Great/ Excellent
9 = Magnificent
10 = Perfect/ Masterpiece
Story (Originality/Structure/Other): 7
In this anime, youkai and any other fantasy creatures or beings are called Anothers. They can’t be seen by humans in most conditions. The Midnight Occult Civil Servants are employees of a secret branch of the Tokyo government dealing with Anothers. Arata Miyako is a new employee of Mr. Senda’s unit, working on a team with Theo and Sakaki. Their job is to deal with small incidents caused by Anothers. On his first night of work, Arata discovers that he can hear the voices of Anothers because of an inherited ability called the Ears of Sand. Nobody else can ever understand what Anothers are saying or thinking. This is a good, solid story concept.
Series structure wasn’t great, but it wasn’t a total train-wreck, either. The anime consists of 12 episodes that are either youkai-of-the-week style, or two-episode mini-arcs. The most powerful and climactic one was the arc with Oshira-sama in episodes 10 and 11. The final episode after that was another business-as-usual help a youkai, solve a problem, clean wrap-up. That miffed me. I think the climax and resolution of a short anime should be in episodes 11 and 12, the final two chapters. Why add an extra one at the end, where nothing major happens, killing the build-up of the story? I liked Voros, but his story should have been placed earlier in the series.
Midnight Occult isn’t the strongest story when it comes to having everything make sense. I didn’t spot any major, gaping plot-holes, but there were a lot of things that were just never made clear, or weren’t quite consistent. For one example, why does everyone but Arata treat Anothers like natural disasters or pests just because they can’t hear the words used? It’s very clear that Anothers are intelligent and sentient. Other humans besides Arata should be able to see the expressions of Anothers, and maybe work out a sign language or symbol system to communicate. What about trying to learn their language and writing notes to communicate? None of that was ever made clarified.
Occasionally, there’s some very humorous moments, like Pandora’s reactions to being able to talk with a human, Arata, in episode 5. And, in episode 4, there’s the lovely bit where Arata, Theo, and Sakaki all get royally drunk in a drinking contest with a local shrine god. Good humor is part of what makes up a good story. Comedy in Midnight Occult was mild and only appeared now and then, but it was funny. Another component of story can be themes, especially those of psychogical or philosophical nature. When it comes to Midnight Occult, though, there’s very little of anything interesting on that front. As you can see, the story has some ups and downs, but because it kept me entertained and had a great story concept, I consider it good overall.
Put simply, the art/animation in Midnight Occult was just barely satisfactory, being average in every way. Use of bad CG was rare but painful. Character designs and the way everything is drawn look about as detailed and polished as the people in a five-year-old’s coloring book. The designs of the creatures encountered in the story were either boring, cheap-looking, or both. The face expressions of the characters are usually stiff and awkward, or suddenly way over-the-top. There is minimal movement, but when it’s there, it doesn’t look particularly smooth at all. A mediocre art-style, though, isn’t enough to make me dislike an anime. In a way, I kind of appreciated everything looking so simple, because I was able to focus better.
The instrumental music throughout Midnight Occult is surprisingly pleasant, and I’d love to find the OST and use it for background music for studying, brainstorming, or light exercising. Often, it has a jazzy sound to it, with a lot of piano, percussion, and something trumpet-like. I enjoyed the opening song and the ending one as well, but mostly because they were sung by seiyuu who play roles in this anime. Intro song is “dis-communicate” by Jun Fukuyama, a famous and respected seiyuu who in this series voiced Arata Miyako. Outro song “Yakusoku no Overture” is sung by Shunichi Toki, who played Kohaku. Both were fine, but I might completely forget the OP and ED for Midnight Occult in a few months, compared to other songs from spring 2019.
Now let me just say that I am a squealing fangirl of Jun Fukuyama. I adore his voice and the many ways in which he can manipulate it and infuse it with great acting. I even watched an absurd yaoi hentai OVA just because a character was played by Jun Fukuyama. This amazing seiyuu really gets into his characters, but that’s not always a great thing, because sometimes he ends up with a character like Arata who is quiet and rather boring. Midnight Occult made me familiar with Shunichi Toki, and I like his voice quite a bit. I also enjoyed hearing Tomoaki Maeno as Sakaki and Miyu Irino as Theo/Seo.
Later on, Sakurai Takahiro plays Kanoichi, and does a good job as usual. Unfortunately, he and all the other seiyuu were limited by the script, story, and directing of Midnight Occult. They weren’t able to show their talent very well. That’s why I only give a 7 instead of an 8 for the audio components of this anime.
The character concepts were not very exciting to begin with, and little development of them ever happened. That doesn’t mean I don’t like these characters; but they’re not portrayed or explored well enough, and you might forget about them in a few months. Arata is quiet, polite, tolerant, and a bit nervous in nature, but not to an annoying degree. His character concept is that he has the Ears of Sand, an ability that lets him hear the voices of Anothers (youkai). Partly because of that, and partly because of his normal personality, Arata sympathizes with Anothers to a great degree. There wasn’t anything interesting or well-crafted enough to call it a character arc.
Of the main four guys, Arata is probably the most well-developed, which isn’t a good sign. Pretty much the only remarkable thing about Sakaki is that, due to a tragedy in his past, he distrusts Anothers and fears that Arata might be spirited away or killed by them. Theo is the analyst and scientifically-minded one of the group, but even that aspect of his character isn’t explored very much. He’s basically just there as the one with a cute face. Kohaku had a great character concept, but very little follow-up with that potential. Senda was a favorite of mine, but he can just be summed up as “the friendly but self-absorbed boss of the unit.”
Personal Enjoyment: 7
My level of enjoyment varies greatly from anime to anime, but it was relatively high for Midnight Occult. Despite its many shortcomings and failures to elaborate on interesting concepts, this show is still, for some reason, very entertaining. I like the music. I like the story concept. There was some humor here and there. Arata is a good character in my book because of his desire to get along with Anothers. It’s nice to have a sexy character like Kohaku around. Most of all, I enjoyed learning (or being reminded of) the mythology, which is mostly Japanese, but also includes some creatures from various other countries. Here are pics of a few more creatures.
Scoring The Series
Story was a 7, Art a 5, Audio a 7, Characters a 6, and enjoyment another 7. If we add those up and divide them by five we arrive at 6.4. The same 1-10 scale is used for interpreting that number. Anything in the 6s category is just fine/fair, and anything in the 7s is good/entertaining. Mayonaka no Occult Koumuin is right between them, but still technically in the 6s range. Despite the score being a little on the low side, I still recommend this show— but only to people who like youkai and mythology, and are ok with a very laidback story lacking real depth.
Overall Series Rating = 6.4/10.0 = Fine
Thank you oh-so-very much for reading this review! I hope you can make some time for yourself today to chill out and relax like this big ol’ kitty here. Jya, nee!
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(Image Credit: Mayonaka no Occult Koumuin. Dir. T Watanabe. Lidenfilms. 2019.)