[Description]: A breakdown of how the various unconventional elements of Occultic;Nine play into one another in order to become more engaging. I explore how visual and narrative techniques that might compromise a show’s appeal by themselves strike an unpredictable harmony with one another through Occultic;Nine’s presentation.
The first thing to understand about Occultic;Nine before diving into what makes it compelling is also likely the first conclusion that you’ll come to upon starting up the show – that it is thoroughly unhinged. Its characters speak at a blistering pace, its focus darts from location to location at the drop of a hat, and its visual style is unapologetically strange. Its subject matter further stresses these bizarre qualities, ranging from mass suicide, black magic, and fortune telling to radio waves, ghosts, and code decryption. All these things coalesce in the form of a wild and rampant science-fiction mystery.
On their own, many of the elements of Occult;Nine’s presentation and storytelling would seem discordant and even irritating. We see the worst of this early on as it lays the groundwork for its narrative throughout the first two episodes. The stories are disconnected, the pacing is all over the place, and the scattered and chaotic way it introduces each of its characters drowns the viewer in ceaseless noise. It’s a tough show to start into in part due to its mismanaged early content but also because of how hectic each of its qualities are.
What makes Occultic;Nine work is that each of its components are as deranged as the last. Were the characters to speak as fast as they do but the subject of their conversations be mundane or something even bordering on normalcy, they would be downright irritating. If the camera angles swung every which way but the tone didn’t match the speed of their transitions or the crudeness of their perspective, they would feel awkward. It’s because of how fast-paced and frenetic each aspect of the show is that the presentation becomes so captivating. These elements snowball together in a way that never allows for a dull moment or anything less than the bizarre which is important to the show’s pacing. Occultic;Nine is all about momentum.
Starting with the most obvious of Occultic;Nine’s eccentric elements, the characters are weird. Not just because they speak to each other in a never-ending torrent of half-nonsense but because they are in and of themselves, strange people. Chief among them is Gamon Yuuta, a self-proclaimed NEET and owner of the paranormal discussion blog ‘Kiri Kiri Basara’. As the primary source of most of the energetic dialogue, he sets the pace for each conversation he’s involved in, talks about odd subjects, and is generally just kind of a loud person.
While there are a handful of more measured characters than Yuuta such as Sumikaze Touko and Aikawa Miyuu, he certainly isn’t alone in his idiosyncratic characterization. Narusawa Ryouka quite literally bounces around the room throughout every conversation, makes up nicknames for half the cast, and joins Yuuta in his crazed endeavors in what could only be described as a sing-song manner. Kurenaino Aria spends most of her time talking to someone nobody else can see and in contrast to his father who studies paranormal phenomena, Hashigami Sarai has swung a little too far towards one extreme in his pursuit of realism and become a little strange himself.
Between the intrinsic eccentricity of all these characters and the subjects of the show being what they are, what results are frenzied, chaotic conversations about things that hardly make sense at the time they are brought up, if ever. The dialogue is littered with details that keep the conversations meaningful but they can often be lost within the torrent of words being bandied about. They aren’t easy to recognize for what they are when you hear them. These characters, their often hectic style of conversing with each other, and the strange topics they cover are what set the pace of the show. It’s the beat that the rest of the show follows and the reason Occultic;Nine’s resulting presentation is such a whirlwind of an experience.
What’s important to understand about the cast of the show is that their eccentricity extends beyond merely their characterization – it manifests in how they move. Though the show is very dialogue-heavy, there is a great deal of scrambling around, motioning of hands, posing, and darting about. In the same way that the characters set the pace of the show through their dialogue, they match it rhythmically with their energetic movement and animation.
If there was any element of the show that could measure up to the idiosyncrasy of Yuuta and his friends it would be its visual style. The cinematography is exceedingly busy and pulls out just about every angle you can think of – sideways, upside down, point of view, from the floor, from the wall, spinning in circles, and more. There’s lots of unnerving obstruction of view, lights that flicker and sway across the setting and characters, and more dutch angles than anybody should be comfortable with. Many of the colors are fairly bright despite the often dimmer aesthetic of the show and the lighting is often quite stark as well. Another interesting stylistic element is that you’d be hard-pressed to find a panning shot. Occultic;Nine cuts rapidly from shot to shot just as fast as its characters move and the conversation shifts.
An additional benefit to this lively cinematography is in how well it plays into the tone of the show and each given scene. The drastic shift in perspective angles supports the characterization of these outlandish characters but also provides a sense of unease – an apprehension within the scene that something isn’t quite right. It’s a sensation that dutch angles and off-putting points of view are excellent at capturing. There are a good number of horror elements present within Occultic;Nine’s presentation and so these moments go a long way in portraying some of the most unsettling imagery and sequences I have seen in a long time.
The final piece of the puzzle in regards to Occultic;Nine’s erraticism is its music. Given the supernatural, sci-fi mystery premise of the show, you might expect for the music to be rather brooding or even dramatic. Sometimes this is the case, however more often than not it’s very upbeat and energetic. Perhaps more so than the tracks themselves, it’s how they are used within the context of the scene that causes the soundtrack of Occultic;Nine to lend itself so well to its other chaotic elements. The juxtaposition of such a soundtrack against some of the more ghastly developments and imagery present in the show such as murder, suicide, blood, and gore gives the music a kind of psychosis. Just as characters like Yuuta parade about in their lunacy, the soundtrack of Occultic;Nine hammers on aggressively in the face of death and horror. The soundtrack often feels unconcerned with the implications of the scenes where it appears – disconnected from the reality of the situation in the same way as the characters and their dialogue.
Tying everything together, with all of these elements playing into each other, Occultic;Nine becomes a recklessly fast-paced, dialogue-driven, visually frantic whirl of a show. These things build on one another to give the show a pronounced sense of drive and speed. What then becomes so quintessentially important to the show’s presentation, in-line with each of its other eccentricities, is that the speed of each scene is just as important as when it stands still. When a truly important moment or something particularly horrifying rises to the surface, the show comes to a screeching halt. The abruptness of this change places additional emphasis on these scenes and accentuates their gravity by allowing them to interrupt the frenzied pace that the viewer comes to think of as routine.
What’s more is that this technique isn’t purely for the sake of underscoring Occultic;Nine’s most important or striking scenes but rather another quirk within the presentation. There are instances where the characters, the music, and the movement of the scene will all halt mid-sentence purely for the sake of being strange. This approach of building a scene up through vigorous dialogue and rapid visual cuts only to interrupt it is as offbeat as all of the show’s other aspects. It’s sudden and discordant with the style of the scene and that’s exactly why it works so well as a technique. It’s because these things don’t gel conventionally that they work so well alongside one another. Features that might normally wrench a viewer out of a scene or outright irritate them instead augment what becomes quite a thrilling presentation.