Occult Academy Complete Series Premium Edition
Studio: A-1 Picture/Aniplex
Publisher Nippon Ichi
Runtime: 344 Minutes (2 Blu-Ray discs)
Release Date: 05/08/2012
Over the two years that Nippon Ichi has been doing anime releases to supplement their video game publishing, we’ve seen the product evolve. It started off with straight DVD releases with series like Toradora! and Persona: Trinity Soul. Then with Arakawa: Under the Bridge and Katanagatari , Nippon Ichi moved to Blu-Ray/DVD combo packs. Now Occult Academy marks Nippon Ichi’s first Blu-Ray exclusive release. This seems to be a one-off as anohana is scheduled to be a combo pack and Zakuro is set to be DVD only. I’m not sure why Nippon Ichi decided to go Blu-Ray exclusive with this set as it limits who all will be able to watch Occult Academy. That said, those who are able to will find this thirteen episode series to be an exceptional one, and the third best release Nippon Ichi has put out (after Toradora! and Arakawa.
This thirteen episode series is a hybrid of action and comedy. Although one might think there are some elements of horror in a series entitled Occult Academy, this is more of a high-school X-Files than something from the Hammer House of Horror. There are two main characters. The first is Maya Kumashiro, the estranged daughter of Waldstein Academy’s principal. After his passing, Maya comes back to the academy to attend her father’s funeral and also to take over as principal of the school so that she can run it into the ground. Maya hates the occult and everything even remotely connected to it. Why? Well, her father’s obsession with the arcane destroyed his marriage and his relationship with his daughter. As far as Maya is concerned, the school and all who attend it, would be better off if it was shuttered.
The other main character is Fumiaki Uchida. This is where things get a little odd. Uchida is from the year 2012. It’s just like OUR 2012 except the entire planet has been decimated and it’s been conquered by interdimensional aliens. You know, pretty similar. Uchida is a time traveler sent back to the year 1999 to discover what caused this horrible event to occur and try to prevent it. His cover is working as a teacher at Waldstein Academy but he eventually reveals himself to Maya and together the two look for the potential trigger which is dubbed “The Nostradamus Key.”
The series is very well done, with most of the episodes being self contained while slowly inching towards the end goal. At only thirteen episodes one would think the series feels rushed (as most anime series seem to have a 25-26 episode set), but it plays out wonderfully. I honestly think if things went longer the joke would have started to get stale or the plot would have become convoluted. As it stands, Occult Academy is just the right length and each episode was a blast to sit through. I am torn on the last episode. On one hand I loved what the Nostradamus Key ended up being and it was a great twist. On the other I didn’t like the actual ending as no theory of time travel out there has changing the past working in that manner. Still, since it’s a theoretical science at best, I didn’t mind too much. Plus it was a cute ending, so what the hey?
The special features in this release include clean opening and endings (two for the latter) and four shorts about Maya as a little girl with her pet Tsuchinoko (Cryptid snake-like creature that may or may not exist). These shorts are very cute although holy hell, is the last one dark. This is a nice little bonus to pad out the time these discs will stay in your Blu-Ray player.
Besides the thirteen episode anime series, there’s the full Premium Edition package to look at. Occult Academy‘s Premimum Edition is exactly like all other Nippon Ichi releases. You get an oversized super thick cardboard slipcase with glossy artwork on both sides. Inside the case you’ll find two Blu-Ray discs housed by two separate slim-pak cases, each of which also bears artwork from the series. The cases and packaging all looks great and although it’s a bit awkward to get one of the sets to fit on your shelf, they are incredible impressive, especially compared to anime releases from other companies. Think of a Nippon Ichi premium release as a DVD equivalent to a coffee table book.
The final piece of the premium edition is the hardcover artbook. This thirty-six page book is gorgeous. The cover contains more artwork from the series and inside, you’ll find character biographies, episode synopsis, full renderings of locations in the series and even a guide to all the paranormal creatures and events referenced in the series. There are spoilers ahoy in the artbook though, so I wouldn’t recommend looking through it until you’ve watched the entire series, but this is one of the best art books Nippon has ever put and it’s a wonderful compliment to the anime.
The MSRP for Occult Academy is $64.99, but Nippon Ichi sells it on their website for $51.99. If you’re used to buying no-frills anime shows, than this might seem a bit pricey to you, but remember you’re getting the slipcover and hardcover artbook in addition to the anime. You can also purchase the series from websites like Rightstuf.com and Amazon, but if you buy directly from Nippon Ichi, they also throw in a Waldstein Student Planner for free. Yay for extra swag! If you like the nifty extras and are willing to pay a little extra because of them, I can definitely recommend that you purchase Occult Academy. It’s one of my favorite NIS America anime releases and I’m sure I’ll watch in again and again in the years to come. It’s a nice mix of action, intrigue and comedy and is sure to delight the anime watcher in your home, regardless of their genre preference.