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Occultic;Nine Volume 1 Blu-ray Anime Review

7 min read

occultic-nine-japanese-volume-1-coverA beautifully animated jumble.

What They Say:
Yuta Gamon is a 2nd year in high school. He runs “Kiri Kiri Basara,” an affiliate blog that rounds up occult forum posts, for a shot at quick money, and challenges himself to the occult night and day to “hack and slash away!” the many supernatural phenomena existing in the world from a scientific standpoint. However, with that blog of his as a catalyst, a group of downright maniacal and insane comrades have gathered about.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language in stereo along with the newly produced English language dub, both of which are done up in the uncompressed PCM form in stereo. The show is one that works some decent sound design in this regard as it moves back and forth well and the various layers of depth needed with some of the tricks that it uses but mostly it just handles the dialogue as you want it to. There’s good movement as needed across it and the highs and lows are well handled, especially when the volume level has to fall or rise with it. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout on both tracks and we didn’t have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2016, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The six episodes are spread evenly across two discs here with plenty of room to work with. Animated by A-1 Pictures, the show is one that shows off a rich design overall with a great range of colors and so much detail in backgrounds that it almost gets overwhelming. The encoding captures this high-end look of a show near perfectly when viewed under normal conditions as the colors are really solid through and the various black levels should delight. THe series has a strong design to it overall and the high motion and quick cuts come across crisp and clean with no problems at all.

Packaging:
The packaging design for this release is pretty nice as we get a softcover slipcase for the release that comes with a single clear Blu-ray case to hold the two discs. The front of the slipcover uses the Japanese artwork with the two main characters together with the bright and bold colors while the back goes for the pink background with a different character configuration. The case artwork doe similar with a third piece for the front that’s darker while the back carries it over. The reverse side doesn’t have much besides some light lavender and a few widgets. Within the slipcase we get a nice selection of postcards on heavy cardstock that brings us the end of episode image cards as well as a booklet that covers the characters and some background pieces from the show’s design.

Menu:
The menu design is a nice and busy piece that works well with the design of the show as we get the load-up screen introducing the various characters before it settles on the static image that has the main trio of characters along the right overlaid on the mixed design orange-yellow background of widgets. The navigation is kept to the left with an amusing cut out letter approach for the text while below that is the logo which is where most of the color comes in with the blues and purples. The navigation works well and looks fun during playback as the pop-up menu but overall what we get here is something that shows off the way the series feels. The navigation itself is quick and easy to load and looks good as both the main menu and the pop-up menu during playback with everything flowing smoothly.

Extras:
The only extras included with this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the light novel series from Chiyomaru Shikura with artwork by Pako, Occultic;Nine is a twelve episode series that aired in the fall 2016 season. The show is one that surprised me in that it got a dub as it didn’t generate a lot of talk during its run but it’s also a series that surprised me in being produced as it’s only got two volumes to its name in novel form, both of which came out before the anime did. With a manga that’s slowly coming out and a game set for Japan for later this year it’s an unusual show that feels like it’s getting a strong push that hasn’t quite earned it at this point. And after watching the first six episodes that this set has it has me wondering how many people stuck with it after the first episode as I didn’t think I’d be able to.

The series is one that obviously focuses on the occult side of things and does have what I think is a central thread of a storyline to it. That involves, so far, the death of some 256 people by unusual means in a small lake/pond within the city. It’s a grisly experience that’s drawn out over a couple of episodes with people realizing what had happened as the bodies are being discovered, counted, and pulled out all while rampant speculation gets underway as to how and why it happened. Mass hypnosis, a cult, a suicide pact, or something more nefarious on the occult side are all topics that are bandied about and come across our main characters. But it also plays out in the background on TV sets and other conversations from time to time as well, giving it a growing presence and sense of dread.

The series deals with some nine different characters that have a connection through an occult blog that Yuta Gamon runs and that helps to float a lot of things that are going on. But therein lies the problem; there are a lot of things going on but little that connects or resonates because nothing gets time and the characters are paper thin. I can imagine that A-1 Pictures got behind a project like this thinking it could be an occult style Durarara or some such as it has the same kind of initial setup and feeling in a way with sprawling but interconnected stories that you’re waiting to see how they hit. Honestly, even while watching it I had a hard time identifying the characters as it progressed because it kept moving back and forth between so many with so little depth or meaning to them. Yuta only stands out because he’s kind of a central piece to it with the blog, serving as the mass attractor of weirdness, and Ryoka because I can’t help but to roll my eyes whenever she’s on with her enormous breasts that just took me out of the show.

Beyond the 256 deaths that we have here there’s little that feels concrete or cohesive that you can latch onto. Yes, there’s a bit with Miyu and what’s happening with her and her fortune telling and there are some creepy moments in the last episode revolving around a sacrifice, but little else really clicked for me and I can’t figure out the point of it. To make matters worse, there’s a really rich animation design going on here with so much detail and the use of reworked photography for backgrounds that are given the animation once-over that it’s almost an overload. But that’s more because of the sheer number of insane quick cuts that it pulls pretty regularly that keeps you from really focusing on anything because you don’t know how soon it’ll twist and zigzag in another direction. There are a lot of shows where I like this kind of approach but it doesn’t work here and it’s so overdone here to the point of frustration.

In Summary:
I watched six episodes in a row of this show and I’m hard pressed to say anything about it. It’s nicely animated with some frustrating ways of presenting it. It dabbles in the occult which could be fun but doesn’t feel like it knows how to present it in an engaging way. The characters are unmemorable because there’s nothing to them and they flit off and on so regularly that they simply don’t register as being a regular character. On the plus side, for fans of the show they’re getting a great looking visual and audio presentation and the packaging is pretty nicely done, especially for the high-quality postcards that are included. If you like the show you’ll be pleased but the whole thing just left me trying to figure out what it’s about, who the characters are, and what the point of it is.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 PCM Language, English 2.0 PCM Language, English subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Content Grade: C-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: September 26th, 2017
MSRP: $99.98
Running Time: 144 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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