Midnight Occult Civil Servants (真夜中のオカルト公務員) is a shōjo, urban fantasy anime adaptation of the manga that was originally authored by Yōko Tamotsu. It simulcasted during the Spring 2019 season and was produced by Liden Films with direction from Tetsuya Watanabe. There were twelve total episodes, with the thirteenth episode scheduled to release at a later date. In my First Impressions, I chatted briefly about how I felt intrigued by a supernatural show with urban fantasy elements. Natsume’s Book of Friends and Kakuriyo -Bed & Breakfast for Spirits- are anime serials that I enjoyed very much, so I’m always on the lookout for similar titles. While there was a couple of things for me to enjoy about Midnight Occult Civil Servants, particularly with its messages of diplomatic coexistence, I don’t feel that this will be a series that every otaku shall take a liking to as it can be quite shoddy overall.
Midnight Occult Civil Servants takes place in Tokyo and is centred around a special task force that was formulated to handle all occult-related crimes and cases. The main character of the show is a young man named Arata, who also happens to be a rookie member of the team, and the only person who has the unique ability to communicate with the supernatural beings, also knowns as Anothers, in their native languages; a gift he inherited from a long deceased ancestor.
My initial feelings on the series was that it was very straight-forward without being laden with heavy plotlines. While there are a couple of mildly complex cases that the unit handles, most of the show stays true to this presumption. Each episode deals with it’s a unique mystery to solve, most of which are settled within an episode or two, and then we move on to the next case on the list. There isn’t really an overarching conflict either, at least not one that the narrative gradually builds towards. It’s all quite basic and can be somewhat disappointing if you’re looking for a more intellectually stimulating watching experience, which is what I was hoping for. However, the execution of these segments is the strongest part of a series that essentially doesn’t have a lot of meat and bones to it.
There was one point while watching Midnight Occult Civil Servants where I contemplated putting the series on pause. It wasn’t unsatisfactory enough for me to drop it, yet there wasn’t anything compelling enough either that made me want to consistently binge through the series in a couple of sittings. There was a strong almost apathetic association between my brain and this anime. That indifference was difficult to balance. Yet, ultimately, I decided to pick away at it slowly when I had time in between other projects and the main reason for that was the characters and the focus the series gave to coexistence.
There is a lot of shite going on in the world right now that revolves around hating people with whom we are very different. There are so many individuals with a myriad number of disparities in their values and morals, and rather than find common ground within these differences, people would rather fight and use it as a foundation to ostracise and battle over superiority rights. It’s extremely disheartening and dehumanising. Midnight Occult Civil Servants shows us that despite the differences that separate humans and Anothers, regardless of the language barrier for example, coexistence is quite possible, and it can be mutually beneficial for everyone. During such a turbulent time of animosity, I found it welcoming and very sweet.
Because Anothers have never had a way to communicate with humans in the present time, it became vastly easy for humans to assume that all Anothers are evil or mischievous and unworthy of trust, however they still tried to maintain peace to the best of their ability. In the first episode we are introduced to two different races of beings, tengu and angels, and it is assumed that they are having some kind of turf war. However, as we watch, we realised that while they aren’t too keen with one another, the biggest source of strife was an interracial relationship. Thanks to Arata playing the middleman and sorting out what was going on, the resolution for the problems ended with very little violence and plenty of harmony. We see Arata intervene on the behalf of Anothers continuously with each episode.
His ability to communicate with Anothers is the key to their coexistence with humans. Communication can pave the path towards empathy, which can then help to create a more open-minded approach to diplomatic negotiations rather than merely jumping to extreme conclusions. That never helps a situation, but only works to either exasperate pre-existing turbulence or it can birth a whole new type of conflict that never needed to exist in the first place.
One of the reasons that people fight and get disgustingly defensive with things they don’t understand is because they rarely make the effort to try and comprehend or empathise with the other side. It’s safe for humans to prepare for the worst-case scenario by creating it in our brains and then playing it all out, prompting not necessary. That’s an excellent way to crush coexistence into the dirt. We see this later on in the episode when another branch of the special unit from a different prefecture joins forces with Arata for a case. The extremely narrow-mindedness of the individuals from that unit place the officers and the Anothers from the case into a very heated and tense situation, to the point where a very powerful Another senses the hostility and hatred and reacts terribly to the violence and antipathy it’s faced with.
These were the episodes that made me the most upset, yet they were also my favourites because they had the best emotional depth to them. I’m constantly facing prejudice and ostracism for either being a trans nonbinary person or for being gay or for being a brown-skinned Muslim. Rather than try to understand me and have discourse about our differences, people who prefer to shun me and abuse me. The reactions of the Another illustrate to us what happens when hatred goes too far, or when the mercy of the oppressed is constantly disrespected.
Midnight Occult Civil Servants is far from being a perfect anime series, but it’s also quite a bit above average as well, at least in terms of having an important message to impart. The spirit of coexistence is wholly necessary for a world filled with harmony and love, as cheesy as it sounds, and it doesn’t even require a lot from us. It merely requires a willingness to communicate with an open mind, the ability to show empathy, and for there to be a mutual respect of cultural differences. Because of these traits, I found myself quite satisfied upon reaching the last episode of the anime, even though there was no concrete finale to it.
Since each episode is focused on a separate case, there isn’t a need to have a finale that wraps everything up with a nice bow. This can be frustrating for some viewers and is why I don’t feel the title is for every otaku. If you’re in the market for something that has a distinct beginning, middle, and end, then you most certainly won’t find it here with Midnight Occult Civil Servants. You also won’t find cutting-edge animation or badass opening and endings songs you’d never dream of skipping. All of those are pretty subpar across the board. Learning about Arata’s history or personal life outside of work, or any personal information about the other cast members, is also an expectation that won’t be met. The show is strictly business for the most part; if it isn’t about the case then it isn’t mentioned or expounded upon. In that sense, the anime is one-dimensional and flat from beginning to end. If it took a bit of time to add more character depth to the members of the special unit, then it’s overall quality would be abundantly better.
If you are searching for an anime to watch that fits the urban fantasy genre with a couple of fun and charismatic characters, and if you don’t mind it being truly episodic, then I would recommend that you watch the first couple of segments and see if it’s a good fit for you. As I mentioned above, I wouldn’t pick this to scratch an itch for a thought-provoking and intensely enrapturing watching experience. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t turn it away if I wanted a title that was extremely low-key and chill; a title that I didn’t have to take too seriously or worry about not finishing.
6 magical cats outta 10.
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