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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Natsume’s Book of Friends Manga Review Volume 16

Helping Our Friends

We’re back with the next volume of Natsume’s Book of Friends and I absolutely loved this one. Okay, I love all of them, but this one seemed extra-special. Natsume always feels like he is taking without giving anything back, which isn’t true but it is how he feels, and he’s incredibly grateful for the friendships he has create with Taki and Tanuma even while he tries to look out for them and keep them safe.

This volume focuses very much on these relationships with the first two chapters dealing with Taki and the second two dealing with Tanuma. Both stories are absolutely glorious and then we get a really nice extra story at the end in case you haven’t had enough Natsume (and let’s be honest, there’s never enough Natsume).

Chapter 64 and 65

Naturally Natsume gets involved and at first fears the yokai aims to harm Taki but soon realises the yokai wants to thank her but doesn’t really know why. Once again the different time spans of humans and yokai comes into play as the yokai realises the futility of a friendship with a human yet still feels drawn to Taki.

It has been awhile since Taki has featured as anything more than just someone in passing and it was great to get back to her story and her house. This time she has helped a yokai leave her house after it got confused by all of her grandfather’s spells and the yokai now wants something to do with her, but isn’t quite sure what.

There’s also some other yokai in the house which leads to a really fun couple of chapters. it also makes Natsume think once again about his position and his relationship with Taki. While he tries not to keep too many secrets from her these days there are still some things he just can’t say and that keeps a small distance between them.

If you’ve been waiting for more of Taki this story will certainly give you exactly what you wanted.

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Chapter 66 and 67

After the joy and breath of fresh air that was Taki’s visit, we move straight into a trip with Natsume and friends (Tanuma, Nishimura and Kitamoto). They are visiting a place Tanuma went to often as a child and they soon encounter a mystery with a yokai and a mask. Tanuma helps Natsume by keeping Nichimura and Kitamoto out of the way while Natsume tries to uncover the identity of the yokai.

Once again this story makes it clear that even though Tanuma doesn’t have the gift that Natsume has, a lot of his childhood experiences are quite similar. He saw weird things as a kid and was also sick a lot which meant he didn’t have a huge number of friends. It turns out, one of the ‘friends’ he had wasn’t all she appeared to be.

Again this story focuses very much on the distance between Natsume and others and the reasons for the secrets and lies that build the walls around him. While Tanuma is the closest thing to a true friend Natsume has ever had, there’s still a barrier between them even if Tanuma has been given a lot more access to Natsume’s true self than most people.

Again, it is a really fun story and one that builds on what we know about these characters in the best possible way. There’s also some really lovely art in this one, particularly when Tanuma smiles at the end. It is so precious.

As usual, I can’t wait to get into the next volume of this manga. This series continues to build from strength to strength and while I love the stories that focus on the exorcists, this volume focusing on Natsume’s school friends was a real delight.

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Karandi James
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Fruits Basket Review Episode 13

Ayame Slithers Onto The Scene

Yuki holding Ayame in snake form.

Fruits Basket Episode 13

The introductions are coming thick and fast with Ayame, Yuki’s older brother showing up this week in Fruits Basket. Much like the original anime, Ayame is a larger than life character who certainly takes a bit of getting used to. His incessant prattle fills a lot of the episode but in-between the absurd stories and recollections there’s a genuine attempt at an older brother trying to make a connection.

The rift between Ayame and Yuki.

It is characters like Ayame that prevent Fruits Basket from feeling too trite. As much as he wants a relationship with his younger brother, Ayame is who he is, and his personality is pretty much incompatible with Yuki regardless of his desire. Even when he’s trying to bridge the gap he manages to unintentionally dig a deeper hole between them.

Fortunately, it isn’t game over. This is a starting point where Tohru meets him and sees the current state of the relationship. Ayame is reflecting on it and by the end of the episode Yuki has also begun to move. While they aren’t exactly building a bridge and getting over all their baggage, there’s at least the first stage of planning being put in place for future discussion.

Tohru with Ayame in her dress.

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Another positive is the way this scenario helped to reinforce Haru’s relationship with Yuki. While he only appears in two short scenes, his actions off screen play a significant role in how the episode plays out and Yuki thanking Haru at the end and Haru’s genuine delight is a heart-warming sight to see. The episode also establishes the relationship that exists between Ayame, Shigure and Hatori fairly solidly even though we only see all three characters together very briefly toward the end of the episode.

There’s a lot of set up here for future developments and so as an episode, this one felt somewhat lacking, and yet it has given us so much room for growth. I really enjoyed seeing how this played out in this version of the story.

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Karandi James
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Bungo Stray Dogs 3 – ep 12: The Precipice

Well, I got to give it to them, it’s not perfect but Bungo Stray Dogs did manage to tie up most of the loose ends. Not only that but they found a way t make use of all those background episodes, even brought back Francis. His episode remains my favourite in what has been a consistently strong season. I still want more and this ending felt abrupt, but the story doesn’t seem as unfinished as I would have thought a week ago. You win this time! That’s 2 for me and 2937761 for you…

 You probably did not see this coming at all, but you can find my gallery for this final Bungo Stray Dogs SEason 3 episode by following his here link to my blog! But first. let’s talk finale!

Bungo Stray Dogs s3 ep12 (30)
glad you agree

We hit the ground running as the episode completely skips over the OP to plunge us right back into the heart of the action. Atsushi and a now stricken but impressively lively Akutagawa are chasing after Pushkin to force him to cancel his ability. As the action ramps up, we get a beautiful classical music score to drowns out all other noise. Admittedly I really love Tchaikovsky so I may be biased, but I thought this score really added a lot to the scene. Not for the first time this season, I was impressed by the use of music, which is definitely not something I could say for previous seasons. (Aside from the great EDs).

As fun as the chase was, it turned out to be a bait and switch as the main antagonist of the episode soon showed up and Akutagawa and Atsushi were forced to turn their attention to him, letting Pushkin escape. It took me a while to figure out this guy was supposed to be Goncharov. In classic Bungo Stray Dogs style, the character completely subverts his namesake.

Ivan Goncharov was by all accounts a dour and bitter man. He had a very public feud with Ivan Turgenev (another Russian author) who he accused of plagiarism and defamation, both of which have so far not been substantiated. And bear in mind this was the mid to late 1800s when it was very difficult to have a very public anything. You had to put an effort in. Stick around not moving for like 5 minutes just to get a photograph… This man was dedicated to his discontent! Also, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, who was about a decade younger, considered him one of the great Russian authors of the time and had a lot of respect for the man, while I’m not sure Goncharev ever even mentioned him at all. 

Bungo Stray Dogs s3 ep12 (23)
you had to be there

Most of the episode is dedicated to the fight between these three men. It’s very well animated and fun to watch, but as we have never really met Goncharov before this moment, there’s little to no emotional connection there. He’s not particularly threatening like Fyodor (ok but who is? good point me) I mean we don’t know anything other than h seems to have a pretty powerful gift. His character could have been replaced by an earthquake with relatively little impact on the plot.

On the upside, we did get a chance to see the two upstarts bond a little. I have to say, unlike a lot of characters this season, Akutagawa did not get much in the way of development. I found this very surprising.  mean, we learned a bit about his family and that was great, but he was really secondary in that story. Instead what the narrative did is give him a few very brief but significant interactions with key characters. Key for him at least. First Gin, then Kyouka and Dazai. In all of these exchanges, Ryo reacted in unexpectedly relatable ways and by the time this episode rolled around he had been so humanized that it was believable that he would put himself in danger to protect Atsushi. If it meant victory of course. Not just cause it’s the right thing to d. Let’s not go crazy!

I have to admit, on its own the whole Atsutagawa fusion bit was pretty silly. Dare I say even a touch stupid. However, by now, the season had built up enough good will in my book, that I really didn’t care. I just saw it as fun. I also really like the Ying Yang motif they put in that tar pit scene!Bungo Stray Dogs s3 ep12 (6)

it’s not perfect, but I see it

Despite the fact that the Goncharov confrontation probably took up most of the episode in terms of screentime, it’s the final at that really stuck in my mind. Pushkin escapes the tunnels only to be greeted by pretty much the entire Port Mafia and Armed Detective Agency front lines. Let’s just say that pesky cannibalism virus was expediently dealt with. Meanwhile, we find out that Fyodor has been peacefully enjoying his tea in a completely different part of town and normally, that would be it. A traditional cliffhanger to bait us into watching another season as our heroes are out of immediate danger but the real villain rides off into the sunset.

Except this isn’t a normal show and we still don’t know if one of the main protagonists isn’t the real villain. Dazai is a constant wrench in the works. So who better to be waiting for Fyodor in that caffe? Awww, don’t worry about it, I’ll tell you who. Francis, that’s who! Not only did they bring him back (not the young programmer though), but they even gave him a logical reason to be there. That was a very good…what’s the opposite of a plot hole? A plot hill?

It was a good ending. Heck, I’m impressed they managed to pull off anything resembling an ending at all. There was action, we got to see all our favourite characters and even a mega happy ending with everyone dressed in fancy clothes. A rare smile from Fukuzawa became my favourite gif of the season. There were a couple of nice Chuuya ones as well…

Bungo Stray Dogs s3 ep12 (34)
beautiful sunset once again

But you know, even with Dostoyevsky seemingly outwitted at the last minute and being escorted out by an entire swat team of government agents, h didn’t seem particularly defeated. Just momentarily thrown off. When I said they pulled off an ending what I mean is that they created a natural break in what is obviously a larger narrative. There is clearly more to this story. And if the quality in direction and production keeps up, I desperately want to see the rest. I think I want to see the rest either way, actually.

As the end scene played over that wonderful closing music. It really is fantastic! I immediately started to miss the series. I guess it’s yet another manga I have to buy now. Please Bones, make another season!

 

 

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Contributed by Irina
from I Drink And Watch Anime!

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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Bungo Stray Dogs 3 – ep 11: Generations

Stop me if you’ve heard this before but this season of Bungo Stray Dogs is just amazing. Everyone, please go by a manga or DVD or something and show the franchise some love. Mama is gonna need a season 4 of this. For this time, and this one time only, I will be mama. This is how much I am loving this season!

Also, this episode looked great. Not that Bungo Stray Dogs is not a generally stylish show with great visuals but the flashback scenes were particularly fun to watch so I more or less created a stop motion of the episode. You can see it  HERE, on my blog. 

Dazai
Yes, sir!

I think someone owes me a round of applause. Remember when I said that Fukuzawa and Mori must have been close at some point? O.k., it wasn’t exactly hard to guess. Still, I’m going to take the credit for this one. Indeed, the two men have a shared history and although it would probably be a stretch to call them friends, they were for a time at least, allies.

We have seen Mori and Fukuzawa share scenes in previous seasons of Bungo Stray Dogs but none of those encounters had the weight and complexity of what we saw in this episode. Mori is a lot of questionable things but he isn’t a troll. What I mean by that is that he doesn’t just throw fake accolades around. When a younger Mori addressed Fukuzawa as Fukuzawa-dono, I believe it was sincere. He really does respect the leader of the Armed Detective Agency.

And although Fukuzawa is as always more restrained and less sociable, he did admit that the two of them have a lot more in common than not. In the end, both are intelligent, powerful men that recognize each other’s talents. Two men with very different visions but the same goal and the same mentor. The uneasy partnership of convenience between the two was wonderful to watch and I would have enjoyed an entire arc on their past adventures. Oh, for those that haven’t seen it, the episode opened on a flashback of Mori and Fukuzawa’s first meeting…

Bungo Stray Dogs Season 3 ep11 (2)
wh sort of Detective Agency?

We know that a man named Natsume brought them together as the first protection for their beloved Yokohama. And the foundations for what would become a fragile peace are laid down as Mori wrestles the out of control Port Mafia into his iron grip, the government enforces the Special Ability Department and Fukuzawa founds the Armed Detective Agency to keep the balance. 

In time, both men would find someone the would choose as a successor. Fukuzawa saw a lot of himself in the diligent and hardworking Doppo. And he was right. Although Kunikida was close o broken last week, he pulled himself together and managed to think things through. He let his detective skills guide him and realized there was still a chance for Katai. Mori, on the other hand, was drawn to Dazai. Of course, since Dazai is a lot like him he proved unreliable and untrustworthy but that has never particularly bothered Mori. Almost as if it was all part of the plan. And for all his faults, Dazai is resilient as well, having rested long enough, it was time for him to get up and start hunting down some Russians. That’s a weird sentence for me to type.

There is one more generation to go. One more mismatched pair of powerful ability users that represent the ying and yang of Yokohama. The ones that will take up the reigns and march onto the front lines. Of course, that would be Atsushi and Akutagawa. Throughout the episode, we saw each player get ready and each pair come together for the battle ahead.

Bungo Stray Dogs Season 3 ep11 (17)
some took a little convincing

I also wondered early on in the season if we were finally going to see Natsume Soseki this time. We saw essentially hs outline in season 2 but we do see him clearly in the opening credits. Although as the episodes wore on, I thought that might just be a red herring. Turns out I was wrong! He makes a full unveiled appearance in this episode and does not disappoint. From the little we do see, he seems to be a mix of Mori and Fukuzawa’s personalities, which I’m not complaining about. And he has the best voice. Well second best. Fyodor is still best voice!

To be honest, this felt very much like a penultimate episode. All the main characters are coming together and getting ready for one final confrontation as time is running out. We are introduced to last-minute powerful but ultimately distant characters to shake things up a little. We even met Pushkin who did not look like I thought he would. Ok, ok… I’ll admit this is a bit jerky of me but Bungo Stray Dogs is a bishie banquet,  didn’t realize the artists working on this show could even draw a character that was not delicious looking. Turns out they can.

We only really see Pushkin in the last minute or so, as such I don’t have much of a read on the actual character. I did like how he outsmarted Atsushi and Akutagawa, though. The episode ended on a pretty good cliffhanger but ultimately ineffective since we were running out of time anyway.

Bungo Stray Dogs Season 3 ep11 (22)
We don’t often see Mori flustered

My best guess is that Dazai and Doppo will join the fight next episode, we saw them getting ready to do so. Atsushi will save someone but I’m not telling you who because spoilers and they will get to Pushkin before the virus runs its course. I don’t think they will kill off either of the bosses and I hope they don’t since I like both characters a lot. On the other hand, the inherent conflict from such a move would hold so much narrative potential!

But another season is absolutely required. For one, Francis is still just hanging out in some high rise building somewhere in town, making money on the stock market. Natsume till needs to be fleshed out and explained. And although they might conceivably catch Pushkin, I really don’t see Fyodor going down that easily. Not in the next episode. There hasn’t been enough set up for it!

To the few of you who are watching this season, I’m happy for us! We are having a great anime time!

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Contributed by Irina
from I Drink And Watch Anime!

Midnight Occult Civil Servants Review Episode 11

Let’s Get To Work

Mayonaka no Occult Koumin

Part two of the story in the stadium and we see Arata using the connections he’s made to clean up the mess made by city hall. Midnight Occult Civil Servants is definitely laying it on thick with their messaging about governing bodies having a human only focus and trampling nature in the process to the detriment of human lives however with gods and Anothers in the mix it all kind of works.

Despite Arata’s general ‘good guy’ status, there are serious questions being raised about his team leader. Despite the dire situation he still wasn’t willing to actually help out with the scene until he was given full control over the situation and who knows what else he managed to negotiate. He certainly looks out for his own interests even in the midst of an emergency.

However, Arata reconnecting with the Another’s he helped early on in this series and calling on assistance to clean up the mess was actually pretty neat. Prior to now we’ve moved from character to character and it has been difficult to really see if any kind of relationship was established by their actions or if they were just passing by. While the Another’s don’t exactly leap at the chance to help humans, they do see the sense in helping Arata in return for his earlier assistance and the promise of potential future assistance.

I’d like to say that they did a pretty good job of making the silk spinning scene exactly what it needed to be. It gave us a sense that some of the barriers between Anothers and humans were coming down and a small measure of camaraderie over a joint venture was formed even if humans were still very wary of the Another’s. They also gave us enough sense of beauty and other-worldliness to make it just fit appropriately.

There’s another episode to go and I’m curious how they will wrap this one for the season. I actually wouldn’t mind another season. While this one is hardly going to top the season, it has been consistent viewing and reasonable low-key entertainment and it will be a shame to see it go.

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