Midnight Occult Civil Servants – Mid Season Anime Review
Synopsis: When Miyako Arata joins the Shinjuku Ward Office, he thinks he’s gotten a normal civil servant job. But it turns out he’s joined the Night Community Exchange Department, one of which operates secretly in each of Tokyo’s twenty-three ward offices. Their job is to resolve occult issues concerning non-human beings. Accompanied by his senpai and department head Sakaki Kyoichi and the occult obsessed Himetsuka Seo, they work night after night, facing off with beings whose existence defies the laws of our world.(Official Crunchyroll Synopsis)
Mid Season (6 Episodes) Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: Six episodes in and it’s become very clear that Midnight Occult’s biggest problem is maintaining a consistent and appropriate tone. Often, we will get an extremely sombre reveal or moment only for it to then be immediately followed by lighthearted images accompanied by music that completely clashes with what just happened and sometimes even with what’s happening in the montage itself. This is not only mood ruining for the story but leads to some confusion as to exactly what’s happening thanks to the drastic difference.
Tom: What’s really frustrating about Midnight Occult Servants is that a world where the Japanese Government has a small, unsung branch for dealing with paranormal entities in a lazy, bureaucratic civil servant manner is rife with potential. But the series hamstrings itself quite frequently, bogging the story down in frequent missteps. Either it’s as Linny mentioned, random tonally inconsistent montages or shifts that go against the grain of a darker storyline, or it’s dropping foreshadowing for future foreshadowing for events down the line. We don’t need the double hints or explanations that just take up extra space and damage the flow. The series also bats back and forth between being a low-key, almost slice of life take on Arata and Co.’s interactions with the “Another” (Paranormal entities) and delving into darker events such as kidnappings or raising the dead. This tonal shift might be fine if the series could stick with one tone per storyline, but every story flits back and forth between the two, making for a jarring and inconsistent mess.
Linny: Considering the big reveal that our protagonist learns about himself; aka his ability to be the only human who can actually understand and converse with the “Another”, he then proceeds to be extremely blase about it to the point of coming off as detached and happy go lucky. What makes this frustrating is that the show makes it very clear that Anothers can be very dangerous and cruel to humans, even featuring an episode where high school girls are abducted and used as tools to create a small army of zombies. Such an incident seems like it would trigger some very harsh and serious responses from the government or security forces. Yet even the civil servants who faced it move on from it in the blink of an eye. This mismatch further adds to the tonal problems we’ve mentioned and makes it difficult to understand exactly what kind of show this series is trying to be and thus, hard to pick or define the audience it is meant for.
Tom: The other issue is how often Midnight Occult Civil Servants ends on a whimper. Plenty of the storylines end in unsatisfying ways, letting events simply peter out. There’s a real lack of wit, and rarely do things feel clever, or surprising. As Spring goes you can do a lot worse, but when Midnight Occult Civil Servants is one of the better seasonal offerings it really says something about the state of the anime season as a whole.
Linny: While Midnight Occult Civil Servants is clearly meant for the Shoujo demographic, in part thanks to its pretty boy cast, almost everything else about the show has a more general appeal. While a fair amount of the stories feature the typical emotional turmoil of Shoujo series, the show never lingers on those beats for too long and often plays it off in such a restrained manner that it might not even be noticeable to some. For better or worse, Midnight Occult Civil Servants does not play out like a typical Shoujo. One could call that a positive, making it a worthwhile watch for a wider, more diverse audience but the aforementioned flaws make it a hard sell. If you were hoping for scary or intense showdowns with supernatural creatures, so far, that hasn’t really happened and the lighter sequences really undermine any tension or emotion. Or maybe you were hoping for emotionally charged interactions and romances. In that case, you’re probably going to be disappointed as emotional undercurrents are rare or played out so quickly that they fail to leave any impact. That said, Midnight Occult Civil Servants isn’t the worst show out this season and I can certainly see it finding some fans and admirers, maybe specifically in a group of anime fans that enjoy the idea of supernatural action mixed with light drama and slice of life like elements.