Tokyo is a pretty magnificent place, but do you know what truly lurks there?
Mayonaka no Occult Koumuin (or Midnight Occult Civil Servants) is a supernatural mystery anime that aired during the Spring 2019 season. Produced by LIDENFILMS (who also produced Koi to Uso and Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo), the series follows the latest recruit of Shinjuku Ward Office’s Nighttime Regional Relations Department – Miyako Arata. It’s not long until Arata (voiced by Fukuyama Jun) is thrown into the deep end of his work, however. Whilst encountering a yokai at Shinjuku Goyen Park, he’s suddenly being referred to as Abe no Seimei – the legendary Heinan era exorcist.
If you’re looking for a show that’s quick-paced and has lots of fighting scenes, this isn’t the show for you. It’s also not the show you’re looking for if you want a show with the greatest animation you’ve ever seen. However, Mayonaka is a show that’s still underappreciated for what it is – an easy-to-watch supernatural mystery show with a fable-like message.
Admittedly, the show’s story is very episodic. However, without it being episodic, there would be no way for the show to come together towards the end of the series. It follows a similar routine to that of an action show featuring a new enemy every week, yet it never felt boring. There was always something, whether it was the development of the characters or the individual yokai (or Another as they’re called in the show), that managed to hook me in. It was always interesting to watch.
The show doesn’t feature any major action scenes, but that’s replaced by Arata’s negotiation skills. Having to negotiate with each Another, rather than resort to violence, is a concept that seems rather new in this fictional Tokyo, but this is what was rather fascinating. Watching Arata use his special ability to be able to understand non-human speech to try and negotiate with different Anothers to keep the peace between Anothers and humans certainly made me curious about each Another. They all have their personalities and quirks. Surely Arata couldn’t negotiate with all of them? Although this seems to be the rather explicit moral of the story – don’t use violence before trying to talk things through – it certainly does seem to be an important message to have. Of course, this isn’t the only message forced onto the viewer by the show, but it’s certainly the most prominent one.
One thing I liked about the show that kept bringing me back was the range of characters. Arata, as a new recruit, is a protagonist that is just as clueless about the Anothers as the viewer – something I think does make this show very easy to follow. To guide him, however, we have Sakaki Kyouichi (voiced by Maeno Tomoaki) and Himezuka Seo (voiced by Irino Miyu) who are, respectively, the team’s shift leader and an inventor. Two very contrasting characters, we get the cool and collective type as well as the often over-dramatic eccentric type, making a very good duo in the process. Between these two, we get comedy and we also get drama, but the comedy can sometimes be a little repetitive and the drama, I feel, is something we don’t get enough of. With this and a lack of information really about the staff, I can’t help but feel that the anime misses out a lot from the manga.
The show focuses then on the Anothers – those of non-human occult existence. It was quite a surprise to find out that the series doesn’t just focus on Japanese Anothers, but takes supernatural beings from a variety of different countries and cultures. Although the most popular one is the infamous Kohaku/Huehucoyotl (voiced by Toki Shunichi), the Aztec god of music, dance and mischief, there are Anothers from other places such as Scotland, as seen with Cu Sith.
Despite its episodic nature, Mayonaka does reach a climax when you reach episode nine. The show presents an antagonist in the form of Kanoichi Satoru (voiced by Sakurai Takahiro) – a member of Chiyoda Ward’s Nocturnal Community Relations division. As usual, nothing dramatic really happens, but there is some difference between Satoru and Arata and this is really where the show’s anti-violence message shines through. The climax isn’t too different from any other episode in my opinion, but it does end well come episode eleven, despite it being a twelve-episode show.
So, the characters are good, the writing can be a little repetitive… What I truly liked about Mayonaka was the music. Sound Director Tsuruoka Youta keeps his quality levels in check, making this largely sleeper hit of a show join the same animeography as Afro Samurai, K–ON!, A Silent Voice, Hibike! Euphonium. I really can’t complain about the background music; every music score matches each scene impeccably well. That being said, if you’ve been following me on Twitter for goodness how long, you’ll know that I just have a thing for the OP. Sung by Fukuyama Jun, the electronic instrumentation of dis-communicate does hype me up, even the pace of the show doesn’t match. I would go so far as to say that it is my favourite OP of the Spring season. You can listen to it here:
Mayonaka is an imperfect show. It has a good premise and does deliver, but certain aspects of the show – such as the pacing and animation quality – could be improved on. It might not be LIDENFILMS’ most popular series, but I would argue it’s one of their most underrated shows.
In terms of recommendations, I would recommend it to those who liked the premise of Fairy gone (sic.) but didn’t enjoy the delivery. To say both aired in the same season and that they have a similar premise (organizations dealing with the supernatural), Mayonaka certainly does it better than the disappointment from P.A. Works.
Where can I watch this?
Mayonaka no Occult Koumuin Folder Icon by DarkDirtyDanny on DeviantArt.