- Genre : Supernatural, procedural, mystery, action, urban fantasy*, yokai!
- Episodes: 12
- Studio: LIDENFILMS
Are you the type of person that’s driven by a need to help others? Arata is, this is why he became a civil servant in the first place. He’s just the type of guy that wants to make sure everyone around him is safe and happy. Even if the others in question happen to be “Anothers”. Yokai and the like from all around the world. These creatures are invisible to most people which is why the fine folks of Midnight Occult Civil Services employ only those rarely gifted few who can see them. But with the arrival of Arata, for the first time, they can also communicate with them. Well, this changes everything! But will it be for better or for worse?
Did you like my joke? It was the only family-friendly civil servant joke I know… Feel free to share considerably less family-friendly civil servant jokes with me! I love those.
I followed Midnight Occultist’s general reception from a distance as it aired. Since I knew I was going to watch it at some point, I tried to avoid spoilers so I didn’t look too closely into it but from what I could see, reviews were mixed at best and the season seemed to have a lot of ups and downs. I started the first episode with the knowledge that I may end up dropping this before getting to the second.
I realized pretty quickly that this was a show on a budget. You can actually see the fiscal restraints quite clearly. And I won’t say it managed to handle that obstacle as well as other shows. The animation is lacking, and art quality goes through some dramatic dips. A lot of the visuals are uninteresting, and I can’t say I thought much of the soundtrack. Basically, the show looks a little cheap, there’s really no avoiding it.
That doesn’t mean it has no production strong points though. The character designs may be simplistic and not too varied, but I quite liked those face designs. It’s an unusual style I don’t see too often, and it really gave Midnight Occultist its own personality. The voice acting was pleasant enough, a bit too eager at times but I found it more charming than annoying. Moreover, although the soundtrack may not have been my cup of tea (mostly I didn’t notice it at all), I did really like the OP. I’m surprised I don’t see it more often in those favourite 2019 OP lists.
All in all, Midnight Occult Civil Servants is probably not a production that will amaze you. I doubt it will repulse you either though. As such, I figured the ambivalent reception I had noted must come from the story elements. The fact is, for all its failings, the production values do remain constant. What you see in episode one is pretty much exactly what you’ll get in all 12 episodes. There are no real ups and downs on that front.
The basic premise is what had made me single out the show in the first place. I’m a huge fan of both Yokai based stories and police procedurals. There were still a lot of ways for Midnight Occult Civil Servants to go wrong but if anyone was going to like this show, surely it would be me!
It was! I liked this show! I really enjoyed it a lot. I could tell that the writing was often weak, with little nuance or depth. The budgetary restraints meant that exposition was often the preferred mode of information sharing and characters are a bit shallow. And I still had a lot of fun.
My Yokai biased played a role, a lot of the stories weaved in and modernized figures from a wide array of mythologies. Kohaku (Huehuecoyotl of Aztec fame) was a major character and trickster gods are always fun. We also saw Greek and Roman myths, as well as traditional Eastern European (we never see those!) mingling with classic Japanese lore. This alone would have kept me interested in a while but Midnight Occult Civil Servants has more to offer.
Those shallow characters were still all likable folks and very shippable. I did wonder if the mostly male and occasionally touchy-feely cast may have been part of the problem for some viewers. Once again, the narrative flaws are apparent from the beginning and even improve over time. The only elements that appear and disappear are more for lack of a better word “intimate” moments. I cannot stress enough that there is nothing romantic in this show at all. Well, the Yokai fall in love a lot but it’s very secondary.
Finally, the story is structured as a series of cases/mysteries which can take anywhere from 1 to 4 episodes. This keeps the pace brisk and the plot focused, making it easy to just binge a bunch in order to find out what happens next. I know Midnight Occultist wasn’t a great show, yet I still really looked forward to watching the next episode. Something I can’t say for some truly excellent anime I’ve seen.
After having finished the series I looked into it a bit more. It seems Midnight Occult Civil Servants is based on a manga (shocker) which seems considerably more appreciated by fans. Normally I don’t overlap my anime and manga reading (i.e. I either read the manga or watch the anime but rarely both) in order to take in more stories but this show managed to intrigue me enough to break that tradition. I am most likely going to seek out the manga soon. I can see how the premise and stories hold a lot more promise than the anime could deliver. If the manga manages to do better, it would truly be worth reading.
Favourite character: Theo
What this anime taught me: Urban fantasy may be my new favourite genre
Sometimes I wonder if beer thinks about me while I’m at work…
Suggested drink: Whisper
- Every time anyone calls Arata “Abe no Seimei” or Seimei – take a sip
- Every time Kohaku causes trouble – shrug
- Every time Arata passes out – take a sip
- Every time we get transported to the Heian period – take a sip
- Every time anyone says “Ears of Sand” – listen
- Every time Theo has a lollipop – get a snack
- Every time there’s a possible BL moment – Just me? I blame Given!
Every time Kyouichi’s host past comes up – take a sip
- If he has bleached blonde hair – laugh!
- Every time they mention having to write a report – take a sip, it will help