I was and am unimpressed with most of the anime offerings this season. Among the shows I do follow, however, I think Occult Academy is one of the more entertaining series. There is little that is novel in this series: Maya is just another permutation of the tsun archetype, but it helps that she is empowered as a woman and is proactive as well. She is not someone most people would like, but she is someone most would respect.
One cannot deny the coarseness of her character: she is often violent and feisty. Yet it also cannot be denied that she has strength of character, plodding on her quest for truth despite the different obstacles laid out on her path. I have caught up with the latest episode, and I can say that the story became fluctuant when it no longer focused on Maya. To use a recent analogy, Maya is highly comparable with Evelyn Salt in the eponymous Salt: both are creative flights-of-fancy, but both are very entertaining primarily because both are carried by the strength of their corresponding female leads. Removing the focus on the central character would have made the examples mentioned both bores: Salt was smart enough to obviate this, but Occult Academy wasn’t. I think this was one of the major reasons that I thought the past three episodes were weak compared to the explosive and extremely enjoyable beginning. Instead of focusing on the tribulations of Maya towards her discovery of Nostradamus’s Key, it focused on characters like Bunmei and Kozue. The two are interesting, but it’s very difficult to emotionally connect with someone who is the sublimation of cowardice, and an apotheosis of stupidity.
I think most of Maya’s anger and vexations are justified: Bunmei really is a coward; he is also a self-aggrandizing bastard as he pursues the love of Mikaze. By displacing the focus from an admirable adolescent struggling with her father’s death and the impending end of the world, to a conceited coward whose only concern is himself, the series I feel went away from what made the viewers empathetic toward it in the first place. Most people can appreciate perseverance in the face of difficult odds; on the other hand, most people also hate overblown cowardice.
One of the best scenes of the show is that candid scene with Maya and the cellphone of Bunmei. Beneath all that forthrightness and doggedness still lay a teenager who wanted to look good and who liked to take pictures of herself. After her triumph against the supernatural during the first episode, it was still a nice glimpse into Maya for the viewers: one is reminded that while her visage reflects her knowledge and bitterness towards the occult and that while she is smart beyond her years, she is still a young woman. I loved that snapshot of humanity, because it colored Maya’s character a bit more.