OP: 「dis-communicate」by Fukuyama Jun
「新宿上空の天狗と天使」 (Shinjuku Jōkū no Tengu to Tenshi)
“Angels and Tengu Above the Shinjuku Skyline”
Well, wasn’t this a pleasant surprise?
Despite having written the preview for this series, I’ll admit that I hadn’t expected much more from it than Miyako Arata’s (Fukuyama Jun) sweet vocals, but Watanabe Tetsuya’s directing has elevated Occult from standard fare to a cleverly adapted series. Through the use of breathtakingly captured cityscapes, the viewer is put firmly in the driver’s seat with Arata, lost and in awe of the grandness of Shinjuku. Watanabe’s worked on Fullmetal Alchemist and xxxHolic The Movie in the past, so the fast-paced editing of the opening, accompanied by the upbeat, jazzy OST provided by Evan Call, definitely carried his influence.
Since it’s Arata’s first day in the Shinjuku Ward Office’s “Nighttime Regional Relations” department, he’s still a little wet behind the ears. Luckily, he has the oddball pair of Seo (Irino Miyu), a blunt scientist with an effeminate figure, and Sakaki (Maeno Tomoaki), a former host, to show him the ropes. At first, it seemed like Arate was in for a steep learning curve, since he was assigned to take care of and manage angels and youkai without even believing they exist, but it’s quickly revealed that Arata is the only human capable of understanding the youkai’s language. He first discovers this gift when listening in on a tengu and an angel couple discussing their elopement in the Shinjuku Imperial Gardens. The interaction between the lovers felt so comedically overdramatic I half-expected Sakaki to pull out a bag of popcorn, but then it was revealed that none of the other humans could understand what “Anothers” say. This may have even led to humans thinking the youkai and angels and fairies weren’t capable of higher thought, since Seo compared speaking with them to speaking with cats and dogs, and has definitely led to unnecessary conflicts in the past.
Arata’s rather bland design probably has something to do with him being the audience surrogate of the piece, as Seo and Sakaki stand out visually in ways that complement their eccentric personalities, but even the youkai, tengu, and fairies aren’t that interesting to look at. Most of them are humanoid from head to toe, for example, which is a missed opportunity in itself when there are so many things more interesting to look at than humans. Before it sounds like I’m coming down too harshly, the series does deserve props for actually attempting to draw fairies, as opposed to throwing a glowing orb on the frame and calling it a day. They also depicted a grassy-looking Cu Sith, an uncommon choice of folkloric creature originating from Scotland.
The theme of the “other” seems to be especially prevalent this season. The message here, though, isn’t a bleak one: If we can only learn to understand each other, then we can learn to live in peace. The conflict in this episode stemmed from a misunderstanding fueled as much by prejudice as it was by love and concern. The tengu and angels were just trying to protect what was precious to them, and if every episode follows a similar episodic format where an issue arises that only Arata’s intervention can bring to its best conclusion, then you can count me in.
ED: 「The Promised Overture」 (Yakusoku no Overture) by Toki Shun’ichi