Seikimatsu Occult Gakuin
A-1 Pictures continues to be an interesting studio. Most famous as the home of Yutaka Yamamoto, exiled from KyoAni and the helmer of the excellent Kannagi adaptation, A-1 has consistently produced good-looking series, and this one is no exception. Writer Seishi Minakami has worked with Satoshi Kon in the past, and his sensibilities are evident - both in the creepy visuals and the interesting ED, complete with live-action actions in Paranoia Agent style poses of repose/death. The animation style strongly reminded me of Madhouse's theatrical works - vibrant, bright, with richly detailed backgrounds. Character designs are by Gatou Asou, whose work on Seirei no Moribito is the stuff of legend.
Plot-wise, it's still a bit of a muddle - time-jumping between 2012 and 1999, doomsday prophecies and a girl named Maya (a pretty good gag, that). Most of the action takes place in 1999 at a school of the occult, dedicated to the works of "Gustav Waldstein". Maya's father was the principal of the school and has apparently passed away, victim of a summoning gone terribly wrong. Maya - who had not been back to the school in six years - has returned to attend her father's funeral. The principal's assistant plays a tape the professor made before his death, an evil spirit called a Lamie is summoned, and all hell literally breaks loose. What results is as reminiscent arkerof "Ghostbusters" as anything, with fanservice, a portly "Spirit Diviner" maya dubs Porco Rosso, and lots of ectoplasmic goo. Oh, and at the end a naked guy shows up in a beam of light. Catch all that?
None of it really added up - but it doesn't really have to. It was a fun thrill ride, sort of a darker, occult version of Kamichu - sharing that series' relentless energy, outlandish humor and gorgeous animation. Asou's character designs are superb and the writing promises to be a mix of dark humor and action that could be very successful. I look forward to more episodes of this one.
Nurarihyon no Mago
From Studio DEEN comes this manga adaptation, one of the series I've most been looking forward to in a lean summer. And the first ep was pleasant enough - mostly dealing with the introduction of the large cast and basic exposition of the premise. Echoes of DN Angel in that - our hero Rikuo is a 12 year-old middle schooler (voiced by Fukuyama Jun) who just happens to be next in line to rule the powerful Nura Demon Clan. This nets him a mansion, a grandfather with a football for a head and a squadron of demon subordinates - none of which the boy wants any part of. No, Rikuo would rather spend his life as a normal human boy - in fact, his demon incarnation (also voiced by a much more convincing Fukuyama Jun) has only showed itself once in four years. There are hints of GeGeGe no Kitaro in the kawaii demons that make up much of the clan,
and an all-star class of female seiyuu including Horie Yui and Hirano Aya. The BGM music is excellent, though yes - it does sound a bit like a "Harry Potter" ripoff.
The first episode was mostly a school-life comedy, really, though I suspect the demon politics side of things will become more prevalent. There's not too much original in this premise, but it seems refreshingly low-key for a shounen series. I enjoyed the banter between Rikuo and his demon underlings, and the interactions between they and the grandfather put me in mind of the underrated Shounen Onmyouji. The OP was forgettable, but the ED was adorable - a catchy GeGeGe-esque ballad sung by the trio of female seiyuu. This first episode went set the heart racing, but it was fun and certainly offers enough encouragement to bring me back for another.