Spring 2019 Grab Bag Week 9: Mayonaka no Occult Koumuin

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Ryo is scared of his dreams

Mayonaka no Occult Koumuin Episode 9

This series really knows how to come out of left field, but I think this episode had an interesting concept behind it. The episode had a sense of slowness in the beginning, but I liked the idea of dropping Arata in a completely different group. I think it might have been better if the series built up to its shock ending more, but I’m curious to see how it plays out.

No one thinks about what Anothers think

While I don’t have a problem believing that many people would think this way, I find it hard to accept that it’s as systemic a problem as the show presents. I say this having taken classes on animal behavior in school. Anothers seem much more interesting than a sleeping lion. Maybe the series is trying to make the point that government officials don’t care.

Arata defends the Anothers

I like how Arata explains his position here. The fact that he understands an Another’s motivations doesn’t imply that he agrees with it. It’s a nice mentality, and it gets at how I tend to approach discourse. Rather than labeling them as monsters, Arata can at least see their intentions.

The Another is surprised to meet Arata

On a side note, I did think that the Another in the episode was cool on its own. I think the concept of playing tag in a dream works well. A childish Another is also a good way to introduce the concept of a being who causes harm without necessarily knowing any better.

Arata can't understand

I get the vague sense that this whole encounter is going to be made “okay” later in the story. I suspect that the guy who eliminated the Another has some painful history with Anothers that motivates him to take drastic measures. I’m not a fan of that direction, but I can see it happening. The reason I’m largely against that is that I like how Arata takes his power for granted. It makes sense that the other government workers can’t make the same assumptions that he does, which makes for a valid point of discussion.

Spring 2019 Grab Bag Week 7: Mayonaka no Occult Koumuin

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Azazel finds his love

Mayonaka no Occult Koumuin Episode 7

This series has been in such a weird grey area for me. If I had to qualify it, I’d say it’s almost like the series has too much whimsy while trying to deliver something serious. Decisions seem to change at the drop of the hat because they almost have to do so. In other situations, seemingly big events seem to get waved away. I’d almost prefer if the series stuck with a more whimsical tone for the type of fantasy series it’s trying to be.

Theo tries to find the source of the sand

Let me give an example. This episode starts with a sort of climax for Kyouichi’s character arc. We learned last week that his sister was one of the girls spirited away by Azazel, and he tries to take advantage of Arata to find her. This blows up in his face when Izumi is kidnapped during their investigation, forcing him to finally admit his intentions to Theo.

Kohaku opens the gate to Hell

This isn’t a bad way to develop Kyouichi, either. When he’s brought on, Theo adds his own perspective, and the three are able to work together to find a cool way to locate Azazel. But then, what happens? Their attempts ultimately fail, and Arata is forced to ask Kohaku to take them to Azazel. And Kohaku does it. That sure seemed easier than triangulating the gravitational effects of the black sand, huh?

Cerberus admits defeat

To be completely honest, I don’t mind the idea that Cerberus is defeated with some candy, but it still plays into the same idea. It’s interesting to see Cerberus guarding the gates of Hell, and his weakness is pretty much as silly as it was in Harry Potter. His appearance was impressively short-lived, though.

Azazel fails again

I would have liked to see a bit more of the girl’s perspective in this scene. While it’s clearly monstrous, I find the idea that she was aware of everything Azazel did to her to be quite intriguing. It makes me wonder if she’s intentionally cut short so she can crop up again later.

Kyouichi's sister is blinded

Here’s what I thought was the low point in the episode. As everyone escapes from Hell, it’s finally revealed that Kyouichi’s sister has gone blind. It’s a sad development, as she doesn’t get to see how much her brother has grown. And then, the stolen body parts are immediately returned to their owners. It cheapens what should be a sad scene for me when things just get resolved like that.

Azazel goes back on his loop

And finally, I’m curious about how Azazel plays into the rest of the series. It seems like his story is largely played out, but the episode ends with him effectively starting over with a new batch of victims. Is he going to be the ultimate antagonist in this series? Or is this just a return to the status quo akin to a horror movie’s ending?

Mayonaka no Occult Koumuin Episode 4: Drinking buddies

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Arata doesn't care

This series still seems to meander in weird ways, but this episode started to get at what I like to see in shows like this. The overall drive for the episode wasn’t much, since it was just a routine checkup for a list of Anothers. However, I thought things started turning around when it got to Kio Gongen. As a general principle, I question what the show is getting at. Part of me feels like it tries to get too serious for me to accept is as a slice of life for Anothers.

Kohaku talks about Seimei

The idea that Seimei learned about the round Earth is pretty funny for a one-off comment. I think it’s interesting, though, that Kohaku speaks normally in the memory sequence, whereas Arata hears him with the Another sound filter. I wonder if it’s just because it’s a memory sequence. It could also point to Arata’s power not being fully refined yet. Or maybe Seimei was just a stronger mystic.

The group prepares to check on some Anothers

I can’t believe the work assignment for this week was basically a high school science report. The group basically got asked to go to the zoo and observe some animals.

Arata is almost whisked away

I saw this particular scene as a bit of a lost opportunity. It introduces the idea that Anothers can latch on to you if you do what they want. This idea is later perpetuated when Haguro gets abducted just for meeting Kio Gongen’s gaze. However, I would have liked to know if the drunk monkey Anothers actually had malicious intentions. Before now, no one in the ward could understand the Anothers, so it’s possible that they just misunderstood the Anothers. It might have been an interesting way to show the gap that Arata sees.

Kio Gongen wants a festival

It’s a small step, but I do like the idea that getting spirited away amounts to being pulled into a drinking game by an Another who doesn’t understand human life spans. The concept felt a bit unceremonious to me overall, so it was hard to take seriously. But it’s a start…

The drinking monkeys save the day

I also like the idea that the drinking monkeys come back to save the day in the end. I wish that the episode had touched on Arata’s behavior a bit more, though. Was he just lost because he was drunk or was that supernatural? It seemed like Kio Gongen was intentionally keeping him there, but it’s hard to tell.

Mayonaka no Occult Koumuin Episode 3: A tricky foe

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Arata finds out about kyoshi

This series is such a strange experience. This week’s episode sets up Kohaku as a generally capricious character, rather than sticking with him as an antagonist. While it’s not the most surprising thing in the world given how quickly he was introduced, I thought it put him on a similar level with Arata overall. They’re both just kind of meh characters. The episode seemed to be saying that the recurring theme of the series would be Arata dealing with Kohaku’s random tricks, which I’m not sure appeals to me.

Arata keeps learning more

That being said, I still think this series is kind of fun. The kyoshis are an interesting concept, since they seem to bridge the gap between spirit and physical. They’re definitely just glorified zombies, but they fit the bill for a low-level encounter.

Kohaku tricks some girls into his ritual

I get that Kohaku didn’t directly entrap these girls, but I still find it strange that he’s largely forgiven for it. I know the episode is trying to set him up as someone who doesn’t care, but he ends up seeming more heinous than he should be. I think I might have been more okay with it if he had tricked the girls into the ritual, but he just uses girls who were abducted by a different demon. Am I supposed to take this guy seriously?

Reinforcements arrive

The episode also seems to set up the idea that other districts exist as sources of aid, which I thought was interesting. I was hoping they’d contribute more than they did, but I like the idea of the agencies interacting with each other.

Arata remembers his grandfather's lessons

As I said last week, I have the hardest time identifying with Arata. It feels like he skates by with information he truly shouldn’t have any business knowing. It’s clear that he spent his childhood ignoring his grandfather’s stories about Abe no Seimei, after all. Given the nature of his job, you’d think he would have taken the opportunity to get a full refresher course or something.

A larger plot arrives

I guess this counts as developing the side characters. I haven’t even been keeping track of this guy’s name so far, so this makes him more identifiable. The revelation probably could have been hinted at a bit more, but I guess it’s not totally random.

Mayonaka no Occult Koumuin Episode 2: An enemy appears

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Arata's past is revealed

I felt like this second episode walks back a bit on some of the goodwill I granted for the first episode. I liked the whimsical nature of the first episode, but this episode seems to switch straight into a more serious arc by introducing an antagonist. That being said, I don’t think it’s enough to turn me away. I think the premise could be interesting, but I mostly don’t know if I want to watch Arata face off against whoever this mystery Another is for the duration of the show.

Arata's power is identified

There’s a certain lack of ceremony in the way that Arata’s power is explained in this episode. Sure, the other characters mention that it’s unique for his “Ears of Sand” to work with Anothers, but I’m not a big fan of how they just put a name to it. It almost sounds like they’re saying it’s just another quirk of their job, when it seems to have a clear benefit for what they do.

Arata lets the others look around his warehouse

Along the same vein, it seems odd to me that Arata’s family has such a deep, mystical history. He’s set up as a rather unassuming guy who bites off more than he can chew by joining the Shinjuku Nocturnal Community Relations Department, but that gets immediately shifted. If I knew even half of the things that were revealed in this episode, his hiring in the first episode would have been no surprise at all. I guess it makes him harder to relate to as a protagonist.

The mysterious man appears

As I mentioned before, I’m a bit apprehensive about the introduction of this antagonist at this point. The ending animation tends to show Arata and this Another on opposing sides, so it wouldn’t be surprising if they have some past struggle that ends up being the focus of the series. I suppose the two never really seem that hostile towards each other, so it’s possible that it’s intentionally set up as a misunderstanding, though.

Suzu introduces herself

It ultimately doesn’t seem much more than a character introduction, but I liked Suzu’s introduction. It does a good job of showing how much Arata helps with the relationship between humans and Anothers. Akane initially introduces Suzu as a guardian spirit, a goddess that protects the family. However, that immediately breaks down when Arata introduces her. I think it’s a pretty good scene.

Zombies appear

So, I’m not sure what to make of the end. I guess they’re random zombies, huh? I guess we’ll have to see where it goes.

Mayonaka no Occult Koumuin First Impressions (1): Keeping the supernatural peace

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Arata finds his new workplace

I didn’t know what I was getting myself into with this series, but I was happy with this episode when I heard the music playing in the very first scene. The series follows Arata Miyako, a fresh hire at the Shinjuku Nocturnal Community Relations department. He soon finds out that his new job is to help arbitrate disputes between supernatural creatures, called Anothers. He also finds out that he has the special ability to understand what the Anothers are saying, unlike his more experienced coworkers.

Arata gets pulled into a territory dispute

As I’ve said before, I tend to like series about yokai and other creatures from folklore, so I’m looking forward to seeing how this series handles them. This first episode spends a lot of time introducing its concept, so the basic conflict is a simple Romeo and Juliet story. It’s nothing new, but I still thought it worked as an introduction.

Arata meets a fairy

I do feel like it’s a bit of a stretch that Arata goes from being unable to see the Anothers to immediately being able to understand them. I get that he’s supposed to be the reincarnations of Abe no Seimei or something, but it’s hard to accept how quickly he goes from fresh-faced newbie to showing up the veterans. I don’t think it’s a huge deal, but it did bug me.

The magic tape solves everything

I also like how the episode didn’t seem to spend too much time explaining itself. We’re introduced to Seo as an experiment goes wrong, so it’s easy to believe that he created all of the gadgets they use against the Anothers later in the episode. No need for lengthy exposition, right?

Seo can't figure out what's going on

The way that Arata’s power is revealed is cool too. We as the audience see the story from his perspective, but there are still plenty of hints to show that the other characters can’t hear what the Anothers are saying. As a result, the reveal feels earned, even if it didn’t have much time to develop.

I’m looking forward to seeing where this series will go. Its premise seems interesting, and I think it would appeal to me. I don’t know how I feel about it being in the same season as Bungou Stray Dogs, but I’m sold so far.

Koi to Uso First Impressions (1): Government issues

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I might change my mind on this series based on subsequent episodes, but I don’t see myself being able to follow a romance series very well. The series has an intriguing idea of setting a traditional romance in a world where marriages are determined by the government. I still feel like the series is asking me to take a lot of the setting at face value, like the fact that everyone would be willing to consent to arranged marriages determined at age 16 and be perfectly willing to accept eugenics as the driving force for choosing those marriages. But I don’t really know Japanese people perceive the birth rate problems in the country, so I might just have the wrong perspective.

I would have expected more of a compromise where people could choose their spouse, but the government stepped in if you didn’t find one by a certain age. It feels odd that our main character’s case of loving someone other than his government-appointed wife would be unique. As it stands, it sounds like the series is trying to suggest that the only thing stopping the Japanese people from having kids is that they’re unable to find a suitable spouse, which seems like a gross simplification of what is presumably a complex issue. Eh…I can probably look past it for this show, though.

All of that being said, the scene near the end does make me feel a bit better about this series. The corrupted notification on Nejima’s phone with a conflicting partner to the notice he receives in person suggests that there’s something more to this system. Is the phone notification his real match or is it the notification in the envelope? Additionally, the episode mentions that Misaki doesn’t have her own pairing yet despite being 16. While it feels natural for this to be the case given that the system can’t just pair up people with the same birthday, adding that to the glitch in Nejima’s phone makes it a bit more suspicious.

My reservations about the setting aside, I still thought this first episode was entertaining enough. It sets up an interesting case of expectations vs. reality in our main character’s love life. I kinda wonder how much it will dwell on the forbidden love aspect, but I guess I’ll have to see as it comes.