Let’s Talk It Out
Mayonaka no Occult Koumuin only has a score of 6.82 on MAL and that’s no real surprise. A visually dull anime with a slow story about a character who can talk to supernatural creatures isn’t exactly ticking everyone’s box of a must watch. Arata has no other power. No magic banishing spells or supernatural mojo to back anything up. He literally can just speak with these Anothers and so we spend a lot of the series either sitting around the office or walking around the city having conversations. It isn’t exactly designed to be riveting entertainment.
Despite that, this ended up being an anime I loved coming back to each week. The slightly darker and more mature tone was appealing and the absence of explosive fight sequences was kind of a nice relaxing view after the powerhouses of the season, Attack on Titan, Demon Slayer and One Punch Man were done. While there is certainly more this narrative could have done to play to its strengths, there was definitely enjoyment to be had in watching Arata slowly growing into his job and figuring out what he could do with his gift and what his limitations were.
The story is decidedly episodic with only one or two episodes carrying over to the following week. The general set up is something weird happens and Arata and his co-workers go investigate or Arata just happens to stumble upon something weird and gets involved. Over the episode we see the various characters talk about how inscrutable Anothers really are while Arata has his doubts and ends up trying to speak with the Another and then one way or another, the situation resolves itself.
Where Midnight Occult Civil Servants fell a bit flat was despite the incredibly dangerous scenarios set up at times with humans being kidnapped or falling into comas they pretty much without fail saved everyone and restored them to how they were. It kind of deflated a lot of the tension that could have naturally existed in this story because the Anothers were using a very different set of values to govern their actions and by default they didn’t see their actions as evil. There was a lot that could have been explored here and yet it really wasn’t.
The other area, outside of the visuals, where I found this anime lacking from the experience it could have been was in Arata himself. As a character he’s a little bit of a space cadet early on and while that makes sense given he’s been thrown in the deep end, it doesn’t really give him a chance to establish his values. As the story progresses, we see him become more determined and assertive of his views, but he still doesn’t have all that much of a personality.
And for a story based around a character who can talk to supernatural creatures, he doesn’t say a lot that is all that profound or interesting. In one case he’s negotiating with an Another that is transporting humans to her realm and then stealing their emotions in a bid to recover something she is searching for. Arata’s argument that it is wrong makes sense but when she disagrees he doesn’t back it up or propose any kind of alternative. He merely reiterates the point and then acts shocked that she doesn’t get it.
For the rest of the department the characters get some development but by and large remain fairly one note. While we do have a case involving the sister of one of Arata’s collegues, outside of this we just have them standing in the background a lot of the time or cautioning Arata. They also endlessly reiterate that you can’t negotiate with Anothers and that Anothers are dangerous but despite being tasked with dealing with Anothers they seem to know practically nothing about them.
As the story progresses we see more and more often human antagonists that seem to exist simply to oppose Arata’s views on the Anothers and while these characters could have been nuanced and interesting, they end up being one note characters who hate Anothers because ‘insert tragic back story’.
Basically we have all the ingredients for a more subdued dark urban fantasy but the anime itself doesn’t really deliver. The warning signs are there from the OP with a really great song and absolutely boring visuals that do not do the music justice at all. The idea is solid but the execution is shaky.
When we throw in the visuals which are poorly contrasted and routinely dull or ugly to look at and we end up with an anime that is difficult to recommend, yet I’ll do it anyway. As a break from stories about the power of friendship, high school girls being cute, shouty protagonists proving their values with their fists, or protagonists finding themselves in fantasy lands and suddenly super powerful, Mayonaka no Occult Koumuin is actually quite refreshing in its own way. While it never reaches its potential its an easy watch and one I enjoyed week to week.
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- Midnight Occult Civil Servants Series Review
- Midnight Occult Civil Servants Episodes 1 + 2
- Midnight Occult Civil Servants Episodes 3 + 4
- Midnight Occult Civil Servants Episodes 5 + 6
- Midnight Occult Civil Servants Episode 7
- Midnight Occult Civil Servants Episode 8
- Midnight Occult Civil Servants Episode 9
- Midnight Occult Civil Servants Episode 10
- Midnight Occult Civil Servants Episode 11
- Midnight Occult Civil Servants Episode 12
- Midnight Occult Civil Servants Episodes 14 + 15
- Images from: Mayonaka no Occult Koumuin. Dir. T Watanabe. Lidenfilms. 2019.