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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Occult Academy Episode 2

For those keeping track of events thus far, Kumashiro Maya had to decapitate her deceased father after the latter was possessed, and a naked man suddenly appears from a rift in the sky. The episode picks up immediately where the first left off, and Maya is frightened by the spectacle. Maya runs through the nearby forest, with the man closely behind, but the man stumbles into a hole. Back home, Maya relaxes while watching a program on the paranormal. The host announces Uchida Fumiaki, who has the ability to bend spoons using only his mind. He manages this, but Maya throws the remote at the TV in frustration.

Maya decides to take a picture of herself with a cell phone she took from the man, and it presents a photo of a half-buried skeleton instead, which freaks her out. At the academy, Maya assumes the post of headmaster, although the vice-principal (Kawashima Chihiro) has her reservations. Maya produces her father's will, which states that his inheritance (which includes the academy) will go to his wife; if his wife cannot inherit, his fortune goes to Maya.

Maya notes that the will was kept in a safe deposit box at a bank, then casually mentions how lax the security is at the school for the nude man to suddenly appear. However, she doesn't want security strengthened, as she wants to get rid of the academy. Chihiro announces the arrival of a new teacher, Abe Minoru - and it happens to be the man Maya saw earlier. She asks (rather forcefully) for Chihiro to leave so she can speak with Minoru. With Chihiro gone, Maya attacks Minoru outright. After stating he can't save the future (and deflecting Maya's attack with a shield), Minoru identifies himself as a time agent.

He describes Earth in 2012: aliens dominate the planet, having wiped out most of it instantly. The remaining pockets of human wage a war of resistance, and they discover alien technology. A scene shows Minoru as the last remaining of several Abe Minoru time agents, and he plays it cool upon being summoned to travel back to 1999 to prevent the Nostradamus Prophecies. As a note, an alien tripod vessel appears on screen - this image derives from War of the Worlds.

In this flashback, Abe Minoru references an actual Nostradamus prophecy, quatrain 10-72, although admittedly, it's a stretch to associate this particular quatrain with alien invasion. Still, the prophecy came true, and a rift appeared over Waldstein Academy, allowing the aliens to enter. Apparently, something, dubbed Nostradamus' Key, in the academy triggered the rift, and the higher-ups want Minoru to discover it and destroy it. The cell phone he receives allows him to see what would happen if he destroys a particular object - take a picture, and the resultant change will appear.

The flashback ends with Minoru being sent back, and it's revealed that this "Abe Minoru" is actually Fumiaki. Back in the present, Maya throws stuff at Fumiaki, stating she doesn't believe in the occult. When Fumiaki insists he's the same person Maya saw on television, Maya tells him to bend a spoon. However, he takes too long, and Maya kicks him out of the office.

The next day, students discuss the occult. One student, Naruse Kozue, notes that Maya is an expert on the occult, but she professes hatred of it. Another student notes that Maya might not honestly hate the subject; Maya transferred here after her parents divorced. Meanwhile, Fumiaki conducts his investigation, winding up in various storage rooms. He meets Smile and JK while in one of them. Later, the headmaster's body is cremated, and Maya moves into her father's residence.

As Maya takes a shower, she notices a figure enter the bathroom. Pulling back the curtain, however, reveals no one to be there. Blood drips down a mirror, writing the phrase "don't get in the way." When Maya exits the shower, she sees a rocking chair creaking; as lightning flashes, the figure from before appears on a balcony. Meanwhile, Fumiaki continues searching for Nostradamus' Key, without success. He overhears the sound of glass shattering - the mysterious figure breaks through the window into Maya's house.

The woman is invisible, yet it leaves footprints due to it being in the rain. Fumiaki breaks through another window, but Maya hits him with a random object and declares him the "Great King" of the Nostradamus quatrain. As the figure continues forward (apparently walking over Fumiaki), Maya pushes Fumiaki into a secret passage, following him inside. The woman eventually breaks through the movable wall and grabs Maya by the throat, holding her up.

Lightning flashes intermittently, but it shows the woman's true appearance, and she's ghost-like. However, her stranglehold on Maya is interrupted by a brick that loosens from the wall. A bright light emerges from the hole in the wall, making the ghost disintegrate. The hole contains a notebook maintained by Maya's father; Maya retrieves it and begins reading. It turns out that Maya's father researched Nostradamus' prophecies in an attempt to locate the key that would prevent them from passing. The notebook contains various wards to protect against his enemies.

Fumiaki photographs the notebook, but this only comes up negative. Maya slaps him twice, once for his taking the photo, and another for getting upset when he mentioned her thoughts on occult research. The next day, Fumiaki assumes his role as Japanese history teacher, and he notices Maya in the back. He speaks with her in the principal's office; Maya states she has changed her mind about the matter, and wants to search for Nostradamus' Key and her father's killer. She wants to team up with Fumiaki to research the key, although she knows the risks involved. When the two are about to shake hands, Fumiaki asks if Maya actually likes the occult, which earns him a swift punch from Maya.

And so, the episode ends. Maya still has a professed hatred of the occult, but Fumiaki stumbled upon her actual interest in it. Her apparent interest in what her father's notebook says attests to her general curiosity over the occult. We saw (through flashback) that she loved the occult as a kid, but her father became consumed by his research and neglected his daughter as a result. With Fumiaki in the picture, she's more willing to entertain the notion of the paranormal, although Fumiaki's claims are still a little specious (despite the fact that he did emerge from a beam of light in the sky, completely nude aside from goggles). Fumiaki hasn't demonstrated that he's a "time agent" at all - he comes across as a complete dingbat. If he is indeed the same Fumiaki we saw bending spoons in the television spots, he somehow lost that spoon-bending ability at some point. That raises a question - how did he lose that power? It's clear that whatever supernatural abilities he may have had no longer exist by 2012; his bumbling behavior doesn't correlate well with the assertive, confident time agent he presented himself as. The dramatization of his going into the past shows him to be a sort of calm, collected man, willing to do whatever it takes to prevent the alien invasion. When we see him in action, he's not very sure of himself or what to do. He may be misrepresenting himself on some level.

Maya's certainly more assertive and headstrong. She knows what to do, and she won't deal with any nonsense from anyone, Fumiaki included. Chihiro realizes this about Maya; shortly after Maya's father's body is cremated, she shows concern to the mystery man driving the limo about Maya's intentions. Is she working behind the scenes, or is she simply concerned over Maya attempting to destroy the academy from within? Either case, Maya does change her mind about her intentions. This shows she's willing to accept the risks inherent in her father's research and track down Nostradamus' Key. She has her father's notebook (which contains protective spells) and an oddball time agent to assist her in her endeavor, so she won't be alone. The importance of protection is illustrated nicely with the unnamed intrusive spirit. Whoever was after the father will go after the daughter, and they will stop at nothing to prevent the daughter from continuing the former headmaster's work. Still, having a ghoul stop by unannounced seems strange, even if it's to demonstrate the dangers of occult research. This ghoul appears out of nowhere, without any real connection to either the academy or to Maya. The ghoul simply attacks without provocation. Maybe it's the academy being a lightning rod for spectral activity. It's not called Occult Academy for nothing. Without any backstory, however, we're left with a ghost that simply exists to provide some immediate danger.

Either case, Japan does have its fair share of ghosts (yūrei). The decrepit appearance of the spirit suggests it's a generic yūrei, and I'm not certain if it's anything specific. Ghosts usually have some reason for remaining in the mortal realm; this one likely is a Waldstein Academy resident, considering it manifested itself there. As a whole, the episode does a good job with showing how important it is for Maya to look into the occult. That Chihiro would consider stepping in to prevent Maya from causing trouble means that the academy is listening, and they're not very pleased with what they're seeing. Maya definitely has her work cut out for her, and she'll need to remain serious if she intends to find Nostradamus' Key.

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