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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Karandi James
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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 10

Do You Think He Realises He Was Wrong Yet?

Midnight Occult Civil Servants Episode 10

Pride comes before the fall and the government guy certainly is going to learn that after this week. Midnight Occult Civil Servants picks up immediately from the events of the last episode and shows the divide between Arata and the rest of the group he’s working with widen as their very different views on the Another’s clash head on.

This episode got a bit dark, so here’s a yokai cat being tickled just to make you smile.

A new case is brought to Arata’s attention and they head to the stadium where it turns out there are eggs or coccoons scattered about. Naturally Arata can’t converse with the cocoons which leads the government guy to the false assumption that Arata is useless and that the only possible action is burning them. You can already tell this is going to end well.

What we end up with is a cliff-hanger episode that is about as exciting as this anime gets. It is hopelessly predictable and yet satisfying because of it. What makes it even better is the guy who was kind of staying neutral in the war or words between Arata and the government guy calls Arata to beg him to help when everything naturally falls apart.

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It will be interesting to see how the team handle the situation next week. I kind of would have liked a little more from this episode in terms of suspense and I’m sure that with some better visuals the reveal of the Another at the end could have been spectacular. Still, it was good enough and interesting enough for what it was and I am enjoying this from week to week.

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Midnight Occult Civil Servants Review Episode 9

I Didn’t See That Coming

Midnight occult Civil Servants Episode 9

Midnight Occult Civil Servants Episode 9

After the light midnight stroll we had last week, this episode of Midnight Occult Civil Servants was a slap across the faces folded by a glass of freezing water tossed over our heads. And while there were certainly hints early in the episode that it was going to get a little darker the twist at the end actually did catch me off guard because I just didn’t believe this anime was going to go there.

Arata - Midnight Occult Civil Servants

As usual the episode begins with a new case to deal with and we see the team doing the usual office things before Arata gets assigned to go and look into a situation where a child has gone to sleep and won’t wake up. After Arata’s on his way we learn from Kyoichi and Theo that there have been cases like this one before so they suspect Arata can handle in. Then there’s a weird moment where Arata gets sent to work with the government office. This would have made more sense early in the episode before he picked up the case but it seems to just kind of get thrown in.

However, right from meeting the two guys Arata is now working with, you kind of know things aren’t going to go well. There’s a guy with a scar on his eye-brow who seems to have an intense hatred of the Anothers and you can see the ideological clash that’s coming even if not the consequences.

The actual hunt for the Another goes much smoother than normal. They talk to the brother of the most recent victim and find out the location the kids were dreaming of and off they go. It does strike me as weird that the mother wasn’t present during this interview but that’s a minor detail.

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I’m just going to say, the Another they find this week is really cute. Arata plays a game of tag with it, has a bit of a chat and more or less resolves the issue. Then get prepared for the slap in the face as that government guy you just knew was a problem takes matters into his own hands. The idea of who is more monstrous, monsters or humans, isn’t exactly a new one for supernatural stories to delve into however I was shocked by the callous cruelty on this one.

Mostly it makes me very curious as to what the last couple of episodes will bring for Midnight Occult Civil Servants as there’s plenty of fodder to dig into here but will it do it justice?

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Midnight Occult Civil Servants Review Episode 7

A lot of build up but no climax.

On a separate note – always bribe fairies with sugar. It apparently works.

Episode 7

The conclusion to this two parter wasn’t a disappointment, but it didn’t really seem to do as much as it could. Midnight Occult Civil Servants builds up to a confrontation that ultimately doesn’t exist and while we get some interesting moments along the way it really felt a bit anti-climatic.

On the positive side, Arata, Kyoichi and Seo get some moments early in the episode to clarify their current positions. Previously these three characters, despite being on the same team, have felt very disparate in their goals and approaches to things so it was nice to see them hashing out their current views and motives as it really felt for once like they were actually a team.

We also got some great moments with Huehuecoyotl as they taunt the team even while congratulating them on narrowing down their search. As they proceed toward ‘hell’ Huehuecoyotl makes their role as a trickster and someone just trying to alleviate boredom clear. Normally this kind of character would annoy me but I find Huehuecoyotl fairly entertaining so far.

That said, despite wanting to play with Arata, Huehuecoyotl certainly isn’t about to let him get eaten and I’m not sure how powerful Huehuecoyotl actually is but the other Another didn’t even want to put up a fight.

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While it is a cool moment it is the first of two really anti-climatic moments. The second one being when they finally find the demon and the girls, and of course the only two girls left inside are Arata’s friend and Kyoichi’s sister. The problem here being that they are essentially stopped from doing anything, the situation ends and they leave with the girls, and things sort themselves out without them ever raising a finger. They’d have got much the same result if they’d just had some coffee and waited for the day to be over.

As much as I did enjoy this episode, I can’t help feeling it really didn’t do as much as it could have.

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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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