But given the rest of the show’s dialogue, it’s not that out of place.
As you can probably guess by the semicolon in the title, Occultic;Nine is another entry in the Science Adventure franchise, except this time it’s based on a two-volume light novel series written by that other semicolon writer not named Naotaka Hayashi. Not that it really matters too much because the basic plot is pretty much the same as all the other semicolon entries: a bunch of professional adults go apeshit for no reason other than they’re bastards and try to take over the world through some specific scientific area that’s been weaponized, and end up involving a bunch of eccentric young teenagers or college students who just so happen to have an interest in said field, as well as wield the only (nerdy) means that are capable of defeating said organization. And since this is a semicolon anime, that means all the characters are either a NEET or a cosplayer or an idol or some irritating “man, we sure love anime” trope that is about as un-relatable and accurate in regards to portraying the human being as Steven Seagal in every single movie he’s ever made or been in. Which makes even less sense here because the other entries have been all about technology, so they’d all somewhat fit in Japan’s electric town. But Occultic;Nine is more about the supernatural, which isn’t an otaku-bait subject at all, so having everyone be a nerd is as jarring as all those fanservice-y characters in those Zero Escape games.
Speaking of Zero Escape, it seems that the writers of this series are friends with the guys who made the Nonary games, because in addition to rehashing a lot of the same cliches we’ve come to expect from Science Adventure anime, this show also borrows a lot of storytelling devices from stuff like 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors and Virtue’s Last Reward. You’ve at least heard of those games, right? Those handheld sci-fi mystery visual novels that raise so many questions to the point of frustration, only to info-dump the answers to you at the very end to the point of tedium whilst being obsessed with the number “nine”? They’re tolerable to get through when you’re actually playing them, but outside of the interactive medium, they’re a fucking grind – something the writers of this show seemed to miss entirely when they somehow mistook that Punchline anime as VN-to-anime genius.
Occultic;Nine also differs from the other SciAdv entries in that it tries to mask the slow-ass pacing that generally happens with light/visual novel adaptations by borrowing heavily from Ryogho Narita’s style of writing, particularly Baccano with the multiple character jumping through different seemingly unconnected phases of the mysterious incident. This may seem like a compliment at first, but I think most of us who didn’t have the nails lodged in their brains required to acknowledge Durarara!!x2 as “not absolutely cancerous” can see at this point that Baccano’s style of storytelling hasn’t aged well at all. Because over-the-top characters with no personal flaws, interesting philosophies, or reason to be in the story other than to be cool whilst backed by an energetic presentation trying desperately to cover up for the lack of plot progression is about as entertaining as watching bird competitions where the competitors ate Chinese food during the pre-competition feeding time. And it doesn’t help when that presentation is applied to a plot that is about as over-complicated and impenetrable as a steel wall with candy canes of fifty different colors painted all over it.
Getting past the presentation is a tall task in of itself due to how much of a tonally inconsistent joke it is. For one thing, this show has constant hyper-stylization all through its run time that never calms the fuck down – playing ill-fitting music every time a murder happens to the point that it resembles a Green Day soundtrack in an Anne Frank movie. The animation itself is of decent quality when the show bothers to take a break from cutting to a new scene every two seconds, but it’s also horribly mismatched. Having the characters make exaggerated faces with the show’s sketchy style every time an important dramatic scene occurs to the point that you’d swear everyone in this show was horribly miscast. And they never blend in well with the realistic-looking backgrounds, looking more out of place than an animated character from Coonskin dancing on the set of How I Met Your Mother.
Not helping at all is that Occultic;Nine has what is possibly the worst directing/cinematography in an anime I’ve ever seen. A majority of the screen time consists of long long LONG scenes of characters sitting/standing around in one place delivering boring exposition that is almost completely unnecessary to understanding what’s going on, and often brings up more questions than it does answers. And because the director of this show lost all his talent after making Your Lie in April, he somehow approved the idea of a drunk cameraman doing the shooting for this show, because 90% of the show is shot at an angle. Most of the times, it’ll be dutch. Sometimes, it’ll be upside down or sideways. There’s one time when the camera just spun around for no reason and gave me a headache in the process. This is not how you make dialogue more engaging. You know what you do to make dialogue more engaging? Write some actual good dialogue.
Speaking of the dialogue, in addition to having some of the worst directing in an anime ever, I think Occultic;Nine’s writing was the product of some bet with the Kingdom Hearts guys to see who can make their audience slice their ears off or turn off the subtitles the fastest. Not only do these characters not shut the fuck up, but when they’re not delivering exposition against dull still backgrounds regarding Nikola Tesla and how the story intends to rape his corpse, they’re prolonging scenes with quips consisting of nothing but explaining the logistics of some minor thing or engaging in otaku dialogue in a show that has nothing to do with otaku. There was one exchange in Episode 5 when the character kept saying the word “pukey” for like five minutes because they wanted their conversation to be “cute” for no reason whatsoever. And even earlier in the episode, one of the main characters info-dumps a lot of signs regarding how Gamon is lying to him from the amount of time his eyes wandered to his facial expressions, even though I don’t care how he knows since everything about Gamon’s personality should make that obvious. Yes, the dialogue is that bad.
Doesn’t help that even by the standards set by the specific visual novel company’s previous track record, the nine characters that make up this show are all just completely unlikeable, Rewrite-style. It’s like they were written by someone who forgot that the pre-requisite for wanting to see how everything connects together in a mystery show as it goes on is to have individual character stories that can stand on their own do most of the leg work in regards to telling the story. For example, there’s this one girl who was so delusional about her brother’s death that she ended up living with his corpse for a year until the neighbors realized that onii-chan was starting to smell a bit. You’d think this would give an insight into some serious psychological issues or play a vital role in what exactly the fuck is going on, and you’d be more wrong than a typical 4chan commenter. It’s never brought up again, all it did was make the girl creepy without giving me a reason why I’m supposed to care that she’s creepy. And just to put the cherry on top, she has no literally no purpose in the main plot at all. I’ve seen teen stereotypes in 80s slasher films that were more three-dimensional.
Of course, when compared to the villains of this mess, Jason Vorhees might as well be any of the characters that Gary Oldman played in his career. I know the evil organizations in these series tend to be a load of crap, but I think Occultic;Nine was trying to out shit the Sinister Six with the motivations it gave its antagonists. Without spoiling anything major, the evil SERN replacement that looms over this show’s shadow wants to control the rich in order to rule the world for no other reason than because they’re nameless bastards. You’re probably thinking at this point that this sounds like a shitty comic book plot, and it is; but somehow things get even dumber when it’s revealed how they’re going to accomplish their master plan. Someone want to explain to me who’s providing the funding for these guys and their convoluted plans? Because I think Akihiko Kayaba from Sword Art Online presented a more engaging business plan in regards to his quest to kill off Japan’s youth.
Oh and for the love of god, ENOUGH WITH THE GODDAMN TIME-TRAVEL/ALTERNATE WORLD SHIT, ALREADY! From Higurashi to Clannad to Madoka Magica to anything written by Kotaro Uchikoshi, I am fucking sick of visual novel companies/writers using it. It was old when those products did it, and as of this point, it’s pretty much just a dead corpse kept in cold storage with people fighting over who gets to unfreeze it next. Occultic;Nine doesn’t even make good use of it. It’s only hinted at through a few characters whose sole purpose are to be McGuffins, and then used as a last-minute deus ex machina for its finale, which is pretty exposition-heavy for an episode that’s supposed to conclude things with a bang. But even if the creators had fixed the infamous pacing problems that turned many people away to start with, that still wouldn’t have fixed Occultic;Nine’s biggest problem: it fucking sucks.
I mean between the numerous plot points borrowed from every visual novel ever, horrible motivations driving the characters forward, and awful humor that couldn’t make Barney the Dinosaur fans laugh, the shit-ass production of this show just twists the already-deep knife wound so hard the blood fucking explodes. What on earth does this show have to offer anyone? What exactly is it about? When the mystery is over and the answers are revealed, what then? How does this show have anything to do with the occult? You’d think a show called Occultic;Nine would pay more than lip-service to its many practices, but it never does. Instead it does what every awful mystery show does: bait the viewers with questions throughout the entire journey whilst having that bait be the substance rather than everything surrounding it, answer only a few of the questions tediously at the last minute, and have said answers be unsatisfying dogshit.
Well fuck you, Science Adventure guys. And fuck you too, A-1 Pictures. This anime was like a magazine collage that was fed through a shredder and had to be put back together ten minutes before the actual deadline!
- Years later and Blair Witch 2 continues to haunt me.
- No more rankings for the rest of the season given how I’m already writing reviews for all the Fall shows before the Winter anime start.
- Great post to relieve post-holiday stress, huh?