Midnight Occult Civil Servants Anime Review

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.

Mayonaka no Occult Koumuin - You Can Talk To Them?

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.

Midnight Occult Civil Servants - Arata

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.

Great suggestion.

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.

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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.

Arata - Midnight Occult Civil Servants

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’.

Tragic back story always comes with a scar – Anime Logic.

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 Review Episode 12

A Sleepy But Satisfying Conclusion

Mayonaka no Occult Koumuin Episode 12

This one ended as it began with Midnight Occult Civil Servants slipping away without fanfare or anything overly noteworthy; just a sense of a story going quietly about its business without putting on airs or drawing attention to itself. Whether or not you like it will entirely depend on your particular fondness for the slow and steady tone of the story or quiet interactions with the supernatural that seldom have world ending consequences.

In this quiet little episode, Arata is taken to a field by some fairies where he meets an Another that seems to have amnesia. So begins a long and tiring journey as Arata seeks a new home for the Another the old fashioned way; he literally walks and looks around Tokyo for a place for the god to go.

While there are certainly some surprises and upsets along the way, and the god learning that he was draining the life force from Arata quite unintentionally certainly gave a bit of time pressure to the resolution, mostly this was Arata going about his job. Yes, his very mundane job as a civil servant even if the service he provided had supernatural connections.

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There’s nothing in this final episode that will push the undecided into watching this series but it feels like a nice way to bookend the story as Arata’s wanderings bring many of the minor characters that we didn’t see last week come back into play even if only for a few moments. We also see that Arata now deals with the Another’s in a calm manner and he deals with unexpected problems in a sedate fashion.

All and all, it was a satisfying watch even is a fairly unspectacular one.

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Midnight Occult Civil Servants Review Episode 8

A Supernatural Stroll Through Tokyo

Episode 8

There was something pleasantly subdued about the episode this week. After the attempted rising tension last week that kind of fizzled, Midnight Occult Civil Servants could have pushed for an escalation but instead decided to focus on kind of what the title of the anime implies: the day to day of civil servants. As such, while there are some interesting moments to be found in this episode it really is just a series of events in the days following the last episode.

We begin with some housekeeping as Kyoichi files paper work for his sister given she’s suddenly reappeared after many years and she’s still 17 years old. We also see Arata and Kyoichi take their sister and friend shopping for clothing. It is all just mundane stuff and yet adds a little bit of realism to the scenario presented here with employees watching over encounters with Anothers.

They also confirm that Arata is Seimei’s descendant, although I kind of thought that was already pretty obvious. While it seems like just something else thrown in early on the end of the episode circles back to this with Kohaku (Huehuecoyotl) leading Arata on a tor of Tokyo that ultimately ends in a garden that clearly belonged to his ancestor.

Throw in an encounter with a crow who also knew Seimei as well as the ongoing disturbances caused by Kohaku’s presence creating yet more work for Arata’s co-workers as he unknowingly follows Kohaku across half of Tokyo, and the episode is complete with very little actually happening and yet this episode still felt like it has a place as it builds on the relationship forming between Kohaku and Arata, continues to look at Arata’s connection with Anothers, and continues to examine the role of the civil servants in all this.

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Where the episode is at its weakest is in the visuals. The walk around Tokyo takes us to some very familiar sites but the visuals just aren’t up to the task. It may have been worth have less locations and more detail, or possibly just hoping for a bigger budget for this anime altogether, but basically the visuals are a noted low-point and make this one a harder sell than it should be.

We do however get the occasionally striking image such as Kohaku in the garden.

On that note, I love the opening song to this anime but the visuals are utterly failing to live up to the music and would love it is someone had done an AMV to this one because it could be aweseome.

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Midnight Occult Civil Servants Review Episodes 5 + 6

The supernatural mystery grows.

I have to give Arata credit here for a very appropriate reaction.

Episode 5

Not sure how I feel about the Another of the week being Pandora. Not to mention, it was pretty obvious from her first appearance where they were going with it so the reveal of her name toward the end of the episode didn’t meet with quite the ‘ooh’ moment I think they were going for given Arata’s reaction.

Still, the set-up here is nice for a case-of-the-week kind of story with an urban legend about an elevator to a parallel world. I do feel they probably should have done more investigation to determine if anyone was missing prior to actually looking into supernatural origins but we’ll just go with it. The basic flow of this episode was fine as they introduced the problem, the investigators looked around, and then Arata and Sakaki trigger a condition and get taken in the elevator to another dimension.

The dimension itself is at first kind of awe inspiring and I can imagine if I’d ever gotten out of an elevator into such a place it would be shocking. But, it quickly becomes kind of dull. And as Arata and the Another prattle on making very little ground as mostly we’re just getting another emphasis of the fact that despite being able to understand their words, Arata really doesn’t get Another’s, nor does he really make much effort beyond asking her to stop what she’s doing. It isn’t as though he proposes an alternative or discusses why what she is doing might be a problem, merely insists it is.

This is where a stronger lead character, or at least a more interesting one, would come in handy because an actual debate about the morality here might have lead to an interesting exchange. Instead, while this all works, it remains decidedly average in execution and content.

Ultimately, this episode seems to serve little purpose other than adding a minor bit of backstory to one character and while it was enjoyable enough there was so much more potential here than it actually delivered on.

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Episode 6

With twelve episodes in this season (at least as far as MAL is concerned) we’ve hit the halfway point and I’m actually feeling optimistic about this series. Episode 6 brings together so many elements from the previous episodes to set up a new challenge for Arata and the team to deal with and it just did it in such an effortless manner.

This episode we learn that one of the girls they rescued previously in the zombie like episode has woken up and so Arata and Kyoichi go to interview her. So far so ordinary with them revisiting a victim now that she’s woken up. However we learn quickly that she wasn’t a recent kidnapping and despite looking like a teenager she should be well and truly older. We also learn a few details about her abduction, most notably the black sand, and then learn that she’s lost her ability to sing.

None of this is all that odd given some of the things we’ve seen from the Another’s and yet it means something to Kyoichi. Tragic back story time as the older member of the team fills Arata in on the his sister’s abduction when he was younger giving him a personal investment in the current situation.

While the civil servants are doing their thing though, Huehuecoyotl is busy setting up more mischief and we see that he ends up directing the kidnapper toward Arata’s friend, I’m assuming just for his own amusement.

Honestly, while the visuals remain pretty unimpressive and the animation is ordinary at best, I’m enjoying the way this story is rolling out and episode 6 has really managed to catch my attention and it feels like all of these characters have finally settled into their roles and now they can just get on with things rather than feeling forever like we’re getting introduced to stuff. It is a comfortable place to be in the mid-season and hopefully this means Midnight Occult Civil Servants will be able to pull together an interesting second half.

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Midnight Occult Civil Servants Review Episodes 3 + 4

Ugly visuals but interesting premise.

This is a very trustworthy face.

Episode 3

Just going to point out that Midnight Occult Civil Servants is making a good run for ugliest visuals of the season. While I get night scenes need to be dark, the lack of contrast or distinction in the visuals makes this a murky and unpleasant viewing experience even if I’m inherently interested in the story.

Midnight Occult Civil Servants Episode 3
For example, this could have been an interesting scene but instead I’m stuck tilting my head and squinting at it trying to figure out just what I’m looking at.

With that said, the story isn’t exactly running along. This episode focused entirely on fighting off the corpses woken at the end of the last episode and while we learned that the Another that was responsible for waking them was a friend of Arata’s ancestor, little else was gained from the episode in terms of greater narrative. Then again, we are still establishing the world and the relationships between the different wards and the police involvement in cases involving the Another’s so maybe that is enough for a third episode.

Despite wanting to like this anime, and for the most part enjoying it, even I have to roll my eyes at the solution though. Drawing the Another’s name from a memory of a story his grandfather told him, Arata is fast becoming a protagonist that just has whatever information or skill is needed to solve the problem at any given time but doesn’t know until it is needed. That essentially means he can pull any fact from some childhood story at any time to solve any future problems and that sets a dangerous precedent and makes it difficult to take any dangers seriously when he overcomes them as easily as thinking really hard about a childhood memory.

Still, I am enjoying this supernatural story so far. The range of yokai involved seems quite extensive and it seems that some of them at least are going to pose actual threats. It also seems like there’s going to be a focus on the way different groups respond to the yokai. I guess we’ll wait and see what is ultimately delivered but for all the flaws this series has shown in its first couple of episodes, Midnight Occult Civil Servants works well enough and as someone who is a fan of the genre being delivered it is doing enough to keep me interested.

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Episode 4

I finally figured out what was bothering me about character designs in Midnight Occult Civil Servants. All of the characters look like they suffer from sleep deprivation due to the way their eyes are drawn. At first I thought it was just Arata and they were trying to show the fatigue of his situation but then I realised all the characters have the same basic feature and it is what has been throwing me off so far.

Arata Episode 2 - Midnight Occult Civil Servants

Anyway, this week is a more stand alone story with Arata learning to deal with his new yokai housemates and then work taking a tour of a district and checking in on the yokai in the area. A problem arises when a police officer is kidnapped by a yokai who turns out to be the god of a shrine and the group need to get him back.

I’m not entirely sure the characters meandering about and meeting weird yokai really counts as much of a plot and it eats up a lot of episode time. While the encounter with the monkey spirits turns out to be a necessary development for the resolution, the random naked guy and other spiritual encounters are really just filler for an episode, that while interesting in some ways, lacks substance in a lot of others.

Yeah, random naked guy is random. Does not appear again.

The drinking challenge solution to the kidnapped officer is also a little weird because it seems bizarre they’d accept that challenge or not try to think of an alternative. The other issue I am having is their continued statements that the Anothers are like natural disasters. So far each Another that we’ve encountered has had clear reasons for their actions even if they aren’t reasonable by human standards. It seems bizarre an organisation that is meant to monitor them hadn’t found more information or ways to deal with them over the years.

Outside of that, this is pretty easy viewing and while it isn’t amazing by any stretch it is still keeping me entertained. Hopefully it continues to do so until the end of the season.

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Mayonaka no Occult Koumuin Review Episodes 1 + 2

Starting a new job always comes with problems – usually not supernatural ones.

Midnight Occult Civil Servants Episode 1 - Arata

Episode 1

Right, this one is appealing directly to my love of supernatural/paranormal stories and it has just enough real tension as well as its cheesy moments in this first episode to just nail exactly what I like from this kind of story. I get that it is kind of a niche market but there’s something really entertaining about a monster of the week style story with an ongoing mystery kind of developing in the background to be resolved by season’s end. When you throw in the one guy who can hear the yokai talking and helps two young yokai in love it is all just the right kind of silliness.

Visually, this one is very dark to look at. Which makes sense given they are working at night but is doesn’t make for an overly interesting anime as other than the characters who do stand out nicely, the backgrounds are all just kind of, well, dark. There’s nothing wrong with it but nor is it particularly interesting to look at and even the yokai designs so far have been pretty ordinary.

They also give in to the trope of not telling the new guy anything because of course it’s easier to learn by being thrown in the deep end. I really hate this trope if for no other reason than I cannot imagine any business or government being able to survive the law suits of not providing adequate employee training before throwing them into the field particularly when the results could be catastrophic if a mistake is made. I get anime isn’t real life but if you want me to suspend disbelief and accept a special group in Japan that are working to keep supernatural creatures safe as well as protect citizens, then they need to go all the way and actually make that believable.

However, there’s a pleasant and easy charm to this one, a set-up I really like, potentially interesting characters should they grow beyond their first impressions and lots of room for the story to grow or even just become a yokai of the week type of affair and either way I’ll probably enjoy it. I’m pretty hopeful of enjoying this one so fingers crossed it doesn’t fall apart.

As for larger appeal, as I said, this one is definitely the kind of story that will appeal to those who like this kind of story but for everyone else it will probably be the anime they pass over this season because there’s nothing here to grab you unless you particularly like this kind of niche story.

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Episode 2

Midnight Occult Civil Servants isn’t exactly going out of its way to grab its audience seemingly content to go through the motions of a story we’ve seen before with the rookie who is more than he seems learning about the secret world that he’s directly tied to even though he didn’t know it. That doesn’t mean it isn’t entertaining for those who like such stories but it also isn’t exactly making it something that can’t be missed.

There’s a few pots boiling away in this episode with his co-workers investigating Arata’s ability to understand the Anothers (Ears of Sand which seems like a silly name), as well as mysterious thefts going on involving occult items. However, little other than walking and talking, and the introduction of a cute two tailed cat, actually happens until the final moments where they leave us on a cliff-hanger probably because there’s literally no other way to ensure the audience coming back for a third episode.

It isn’t just that this is a story we’ve seen before with characters who are barely sketched in at this point in time. The execution is, at absolute best, average. Visuals are quite dark for the majority of the time and movement is fairly limited in general. The most animation seemed to come from morning greeting on entering the office and that is perhaps the least interesting part of the story and yet we return to it again and again.

I am going to make it clear that I am enjoying this. It isn’t great, it isn’t even really good, but there’s potential and even if this story remains just average it is exactly the kind of thing that appeals to me even as I’ll pick it apart so I’m in for the long haul. Still, I’m not exactly going to jump up and down and recommend it unless it noticeably picks up in the next few episodes.

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ReLIFE Series Review

Overview:

Arata Kaizaki’s life has kind of hit a stand still. After quitting his first job three months in he is finding it pretty hard to find employment, or even really face the world and is becoming increasingly isolated. Enter a pill and a contract to go back to being 17 years old for a year and have a chance of a job waiting at the other end of the experiment. Yes, Arata is going back to highschool.

Review:

Firstly, I am going to thank whoever decided to release the 13 episodes of this show on one day. If I’d had to wait week to week to watch this, I would have lost interest. Not because this is bad, but because it is kind of ordinary and there isn’t really enough to make you want to come back to it. However, in a single sitting or split over a couple of days, this is actually quite fun and interesting. So, good decision there.

Secondly, what’s with the title? Why is does LIFE need to be entirely in capital letters? I don’t normally care when anime does weird things to English words but this one kind of just made me wonder whether there was meant to be some greater significance that I just missed.

Alright then, on to the review.

The premise of this anime (that somehow reliving a year of high school will enable you to overcome your adult gained emotional baggage and become a productive member of society again) is complete and utter rubbish. No matter how you look at it, even if magic pills that could make you appear older/younger existed, this is not going to work. Even if you learn to get on with others within the confines of school, this does not directly translate to the workforce. More importantly, in Arata’s case, it isn’t his inability to deal with people that’s the problem. It was the criminal negligence of the company he worked for. So reliving high school, not helpful.

If we ignore this (and if you can’t just don’t bother watching), then what we get is a half-way interesting show about nice guy Arata overcoming the hurdles of being plunged back into a classroom and helping all his new high school friends overcome their emotional angst by giving them pep-talks. Okay, it sounds lame but as I said, it kind of works. It’s sweet and it doesn’t drag and most the characters are likeable.

My biggest complaint would have to be the writer’s inability to let the premise be. He goes to school for a year and then everyone forgets him and he goes back to his adult life. Instead we have a second test subject in the school and a growing romance and you just know that if this story continues they are going to find some ridiculous reason to let at least one person remember what happened. Just commit to your silly premise already. Hey, you already declared you were going to wipe perfectly innocent students’ of their memories of an individual, what worse things could you possibly do?

There’s some genuine humour to be found in this series. Particularly Arata’s difficulties with studying. Yep, even if you made it through school, if you don’t use it you lose it. In addition to studying we get to look at sports, bullying, romances and all the usual anime high school tropes but from the perspective of an adult who has already had their illusions about real life shattered.

Furthermore, the two ‘support’ characters who are working for the group that are incharge of the ReLife experiment are gold. Their back and forth when discussing strategies, their different approaches in the classroom, and just their ‘support’ really work well to keep the plot moving along.

I enjoyed ReLIFE. I started watching it while waiting for someone while I was away and ended up marathoning the entire series. That doesn’t mean it is amazing but it is watchable and a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. However, if you aren’t going to let go of the fact that the entire motivation behind the going back to school thing is rubbish, you aren’t going to get into this show.

So, what do you guys think?

ReLIFE is available on Crunchyroll.