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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Occult Academy Complete Series Premium Edition (Blu-ray)
Occult Academy Complete Series Premium Edition (Blu-ray)
NIS America, Inc. // Unrated // May 8, 2012 // Region A
List Price: $64.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Sinnott | posted May 22, 2012 | E-mail the Author
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The Series:
NIS America comes out with another fun and charming series:  Occult Academy.  This show, about a time traveler who arrives at a school for the occult in order to prevent an imminent alien invasion has the right mix of adventure, mystery, and comedy for a short but sweet show.  In addition to the 13-episode anime, NIS America includes a nice hardcover art book in a slipcase with the two Blu-ray discs making quite an attractive package.  I've really enjoyed all of the NIS America releases I've seen so far, and this one is no exception.

Maya Kumashiro arrives at the Waldstein Academy, commonly referred to as the Occult Academy, on the day of her estranged father's funeral.  Junichirou Kumashiro was the headmaster, owner, and the person who established the school to teach young people about the occult and to follow the teachings of the mystic the school was named after, but his devotion to founding and running the school left him no time for his family.  That's caused Maya to resent her father and hate the academy and she's returned, as his sole heir to take over as headmaster and run it into the ground.
Things take an unexpected turn when she sees a young man float down from the sky on her first evening there.  What's more astounding is when the man shows up at her office the next morning claiming to be the new history teacher and bearing the name of a famous spoon-bending psychic who's been on TV lately but is only a little kid, Fumiaki Uchida. 

Fumiaki explains that he IS that child, but that he's come from 13 years in the future.  He knows that on September 21st aliens will invade the Earth and nearly wipe out humanity as predicted by Nostradamus centuries ago.  There's a small group of resistance fighters in the future battling the near invincible invaders and they manage to stumble upon some alien technology that allows them to send someone back in time.  Fumiaki is the sixth person to be sent back (the other five having been killed) and he has less than a month to discover the Nostradamus Key, the single item that allows the aliens access to Earth, and destroy it.
Maya isn't so sure that she believes his story of time travel and other-worldly invasion.  She's grown to hate the occult and Fumiaki sounds like a full-blown fanatic.  Still, when she discovers that her father didn't die from natural causes but was murdered, she vows to track down his killer and if Fumiaki's goals and hers are similar, she's willing to work with him.

This is a really fun show.  Running only 13 episodes, the story is pretty straight forward with no recap episodes or meaningless subplots that primarily serve to increase the episode count.  That's nice, and though I can really get into long, extended series, it nice to watch a short and simple show every now and again.  That doesn't mean that it's dumbed down or feeble.  There's some nice character development, and Maya changes over the course of the show, not only in her attitude towards Fumiaki but in how she remembers her father and his perceives his legacy.  The program grows as it continues to, getting better as to progresses and filling in histories and motivation more fully than I was expecting.
The animation is solid, and even a notch or two better than I was expecting.  No, it doesn't push any new ground, but it does look nicer than most TV series, even recent ones.  The character designs were nice, especially Maya and Ami as children. 

Since this isn't based on a manga or series of light novels, the creators were able to take the show in whatever direction they wanted and it's subsequently just a little bit different from your typical anime.  It jumps from a standard 'battle a monster' episode to a heart-touching story about a young ghost, to a mystery series, and even throws in a comic episode or two.  It all wraps up with a huge battle show, but then there's even an episode after that.  My point is that the program seems fresh, even for a jade long-time anime fan like myself.  And that's definitely a good thing.
The DVD:

I really like the way NIS America handles their Premium Edition releases.  This 13-episode series arrives on two discs, each in its own thinpak case.  The pair is house, not on top of each other, but side by side, in a beautiful sturdy board case that's nearly 8 in X 11 in.  The case is attractively illustrated with characters from the show.  In a nice touch that shows a fine attention to detail, the UPC code in hidden inconspicuously on the side of the case so that the artwork isn't marred.  Included with the two DVDs is a very nice hardcover art book.  Scroll down to the extras section for more details on that.
This release arrives with the original Japanese soundtrack in lossless LPCM stereo.  It sounded very good, with full range and some nice separation.  There are optional English subtitles, but there is not a dub track, which is fine with me.  I prefer watching anime in Japanese since that was the way it was created to be seen.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic image looks very good.  The colors are strong and solid and they're accurately reproduced and come through clearly.  The level of detail is very good and the lines are tight.  Digitally it also looked very good with aliasing, which often plagues anime, being nonexistent.
The discs themselves include a clean opening and closing, something I really enjoy seeing, and a set of four min-episodes.  These take place when Maya and Ami were young and still in grade school.  The two, very interested in the occult, stumble upon a snake-like creature that was only supposed exist in legend.  They capture it and keep the venomous reptile as a pet.  It's funny and cute and a nice coda to the show.  There is also a series of trailers for other NIS America releases.
In addition there's also a very nice hardcover book included with the set.  Reading right-to-left the way it's done in Japan, this attractive full-color book includes large images along with a synopsis from each episode, story board sketches a glossary of terms used in the show and more.  It's printed on high quality glossy paper, and is really very striking.
Final Thoughts:
I really had fun watching Occult Academy.  It ended up being much better than I was expecting.  Running only 13 episodes in length, the show manages to put a lot of story into that time frame and the result is a program that is full with characters that are nicely fleshed out.  With a nice mix of adventure, humor, and mystery as well as a conclusion that doesn't leave things hanging, this is a show that's worth seeking out.  It gets a very strong recommendation. 
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