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Occult Academy: Complete Series Premium Edition Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24 (23.976Hz)
  • Audio Codec: Japanese LPCM 2.0 Stereo (48kHz/16-bit)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: A (Region-Locked)
  • Rating: NR
  • Run Time: 334 Mins.
  • Discs: 2 (2 x Blu-ray)
  • Studio: NIS America, Inc.
  • Blu-ray Release Date: May 29th, 2012
  • List Price: $64.99

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Series
[Rating:4/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:3.5/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG  thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Series

[Rating:4/5]

A product of Aniplex’ and TV Tokyo’s Anime no Chikara project to produce original anime series not based on previously published works of manga or light novels and so forth, Occult Academy (世紀末オカルト学院, Seikimatsu Okaruto Gakuin, “End of Century Occult Academy”) runs over 13-episodes set at a rather odd educational facility in Japan in 1999.

The Waldstein Academy, setup for the specific purpose of training high school students in the arts and knowledge of the occult, towers high above the rest of the city limits sparkling like a palace. Teenager Maya returns to the Academy when her father, the headmaster, dies and wills the academy to her. As a youngster, Maya was once fascinated by the occult, but she has grown to hate it. She reunites with her childhood friend Ami and a new friend of Ami’s, Kozue, upon her return, taking over the position of the school’s principal, while also attending classes as a student. Upon her arrival, a strange supernatural event occurs during her father’s memorial service – a ghost possesses her father’s corpse and attacks the students, forcing Maya to immediately confront her past and her hatred of the occult.

Then, later, a naked man falls from the sky in a beam of light in front of her. The next day, she finds out that he is to be the new history teacher there. Fumiaki Uchida, aka Bunmei, tells her a far-fetched story of being from the year 2012 where aliens have taken over the Earth and nearly destroyed the planet. He is a time traveler sent back in time to find the so-called Nostradamus Key and destroy it in order to prevent these apocalyptic events from occurring. Maya is immediately distrustful of his unlikely story, but certain events soon occur that change her mind and the two decide to team up to save the world – but, they need to do it before July 21, 1999.

Occult Academy is a definite winner for reworking the high school anime series into something a bit atypical from what we’re accustomed to. Sure, there are a few of the normal cues, such as Maya’s tsundere qualities and Fumiaki’s cluelessness yet irresistibility for the opposite sex (something that, as you watch, has major implications further on in the series). Still, much of the clichés are turned on their heads in Occult Academy and used in unexpected ways.

The series, while not perfect and not always linking each of its episodes together in a clearly defined arc towards its denouement, nevertheless improves as it goes along through strong character interactions. It relies more on subtle comedy and irony than it does on puerile gags and fan service or ecchi, which are kept out of here. The creators, rather slyly, tease you into thinking some fan service may be on its way, then pull back just when you’d expect it.

It’s worth remarking, of course, that the character designs are quite gorgeous as well, even though I would have liked to see more variation in Maya’s clothing. Facial expressions, in particular, show such detail, and a wide range. Backgrounds are at times absolutely stunning, and they seem to get more elaborate as the series grows.

Video Quality

[Rating:4/5]

The AVC/MPEG-4 1080p transfer for Occult Academy looks generally strong on this release from NIS America. I didn’t see any artifacts that really concerned me, the line art seemed rather well defined, and colors were good. With that being said, there was a hint of softness that permeated the overall image that perhaps a slightly higher bitrate – the encodement lingered around the ~30Mbps mark – might have alleviated.

Audio Quality

[Rating:3.5/5]

No surround mixes or English dubs are included with this one, just the original Japanese stereo track in LPCM 2.0 (48kHz/16-bit) with English subtitles. It’s rather aggressive with the panning and, frankly, also with the volume levels. I needed to turn down my levels a few notches to listen comfortably. This does make the dynamic range seem just a bit narrow since everything is pretty much fighting for the same space at the same level of loudness most of the time, but dialogue is clear and separation is distinct.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:3.5/5]

The packaging and collectible book are really where it’s at with this set, but they have also included the four OVAs that act as a sort of introduction for the series.

The supplements:

  • OVAs – These OVAs follow the young Maya and Ami as they find and raise a poisonous creature called a tsuchinoko.:
    • Nice to Meet You, Tsucchi (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:03:01)
    • Our Buddy, Tsucchi (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:03:33)
    • You Can Do It, Tsucchi (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:03:13)
    • Goodbye, Tsucchi (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:03:53)
  • Clean OP
  • Clean ED
  • Clean ED ep. 13
  • Love Machine (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:01:36) – Occult Academy animated music video.
  • NIS America Trailers
  • Hardcover 36-page deluxe art book contains information on all of the characters, character art, background sketches, handwritten notes, an episode guide and occult encyclopedia. This will be a definite boon for fans especially given the nearly $70 MSRP for this set. That may sound exorbitant, but anime fans will know that some titles from other studios come with a price point like that and don’t contain any collectible material at all! This entire set also comes housed in a sturdy cardboard slipcover.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4/5]

This set is well worth the price of entry on the strength of its animation and the collectible bonus materials included alone, but when you factor in the strength of the series itself, the Occult Academy becomes an easy choice for anime fans. Recommended.

Additional Screen Captures

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Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Series
[Rating:4/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:3.5/5]


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