Title: Mayonaka no Occult Koumuin / Midnight Occult Civil Servants
Length: 12 x 24 minute episodes
Genre: Drama, police
Year of release: 2019
Mayonaka no Occult Koumuin (henceforth, Occult) never really feels like it’s playing with greatness. Its greatest trick is in the premise – taking the normal, human world, and modifying it simply with youkai (supernatural creatures etc) roaming about – that can only be seen by certain people – and the policing of them. While the policing seems occasionally neat for episodics as our protagonist, Miyako, serves as an overworking councillor of petty supernatural squabbles, it feels like the show’s chased realism too far.
Miyako is a mostly unremarkable protagonist blessed with the ability to talk to youkai (which nobody else can do). He’s helpful to the point of almost sacrificial, but, other than downing a lot of coffee, this is largely undiscussed. There’s quite a bit of discussion, however, on how people that cannot speak to these youkai were handling youkai issues. Some of it can be heavy handed, particularly near the end were a violent officer is introduced who clashes with Miyako’s more helpful ideal, but there is definitely some interesting content found through the episodics. Just because you can speak to one another does not mean you can understand one another, Miyako finds out, as he falls prey to the schemes of the youkai and has to get creative to fix their problems.
Miyako is not alone. In his department, there’s the glasses wearing, tall manly man, Kyouichi, and then the extremely feminine researcher, Seo. They have a mild chemistry and some rapport, but it’s nothing to write home about. The head of their department, Reiji, is mysterious in his largely off-screen presence, but is ultimately not that interesting. Miyako is also followed around by the extremely androgynous trickster god, Huehuecoyotl, who is perhaps not worth as much mischief as he should be. The lack of really powerful moments between the core cast represents the big problem in Occult – it’s bland.
The structure of the series is episodic as Miyako and the crew handle the supernatural phenomena. While the gradual build-up to a conflict through carefully organised episodic ideas was very neat, it doesn’t really solve the issue that Occult is doing the bare minimum to succeed. Miyako’s colleagues and friends offer chuckle laughs at their misunderstandings and shenanigans but not often; the occasional dramatic arc is written well enough to not offend but lacks the punch; the animation is lacklustre but the art is consistent enough to never be a sore point. Put simply, there’s just not really a hook defined well enough for me to get behind the show. At best, you could do better, and at worst, you could do worst – that’s Occult’s purely perfunctory shtick. For genre fans it’s a decent excursion, and that’s it.