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Robert Llewellyn, the actor who plays Kryton on Red Dwarf, does some great electric car reviews on his streaming video show Fully Charged. In a way it is the anti-Top Gear show, since the things he is looking for that define a good vehicle are pretty much the opposite of what Jamie and the gang want to see. If you were thinking of upgrading your archaic gas guzzler for a modern electric vehicle his site is an excellent place to start. Since he has a huge collection of detailed reviews, each filmed from inside the car in question while he took it on a test drive (sometimes going quite a distance), you can get a pretty good idea of the pros and cons for each model.

One of the most interesting and surprising Anime’s I have seen in a while is Time of Eve (Eve no Jikan) from Studio Rikka. The visual quality is amazing, and uses 3D environments with traditional 2D character animation to very good effect. But it is the stories themselves which make this series special; each episode focuses on a character (human, robot, or android) and explores their relationship with a member of the opposite phylum. This wonderful little series started life as webisodes in 2008, and was migrated to TV in 2009. They have made a theatrical version which hit the big screen in Tokyo and Osaka this spring, and you can watch the TV version streaming online at Crunchyroll. I really hope they do a second season of this one, and release the movie to the US soon.

Yesterday when I logged into Crunchyroll to watch the next episode of Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu (so far, a series I associate with Genshiken and Welcome to the NHK in its expression of the Otaku lifestyle), I found a little flag telling me that episode 1 of the Occult Academy was available for viewing (it aired in Tokyo yesterday as well, so it is fresh!). So I felt the need to check it out and report back here, and if you want to watch it yourself, the direct link to the Occult Academy is here.

The story opens at the school commonly known as the Occult Academy in 1999, where the Dean/Principle/Headmaster has just died. He founded the school to help train people in non-standard modes of reality ranging from magic and astrology through telekinesis and UFOs. His daughter, Maya, arrives late for the funeral and in an angry frame of mind. When her father’s spirit-inhabited corpse gets out of the casket and starts attacking the students, Maya goes into action to protect them with a physical counter attack. While doing so, she hands out whatever disinformation she feels will best deflect the people she is speaking with from believing in the Occult as something supernatural, an equally important defensive move from her perspective. There are two brief segments, at the very beginning and the very end of the episode, where we catch a glimpse of something different than the main body of the program; a brief glimpse hinting at the time travelers from 2012 and their agenda.

This is only the first episode, so it is difficult to actually comment on the quality or give it any accurate rating as yet. The premise is first class and has a lot of potential, but as to whether the writers can convert that into an ongoing storyline that will build on the promise and deliver a riveting series that glues us to the screen remains to be seen. Likewise with the characters; in this opening episode we were introduced to Maya, several of the students, and the vice principle (or whatever the correct term is for the schools second in command). The only character explored in enough depth to get an initial peek at their motivation and personality was Maya, but that is not surprising in a 22 minute episode with 14 minutes of action sequences and 4 minutes of background and setup exposition.

Animation quality can only be inferred, since the available stream data density was not good enough to match a standard definition TV screen, but the actual animation itself looked pretty good within those limits. Not new or groundbreaking, but definitely solid and workmanlike in its delivery and quality. The animated Maya looks awfully familiar (think Eureka7), so I feel confident when I get to reading the credits in detail I will discover a few old favorite names. As for the music, it didn’t offend me, but I need to hear the intro and outro songs three or four times before they click in my head and I come to a conclusion. The incidental music, meaning the background audio that builds a mood for a specific scene or enhances the transition from one scene to another, did not stand out enough to distract me from what I was watching. That is half the job for incidental music, but because it did the first half so well, I didn’t notice if it did the second half and actually add to or improve the overall viewing experience. Again, with another two or three more episodes to base a judgment on I should be able to come to a conclusion. What can I say, my ears are a bit slow on the uptake.

Final conclusion: this one looks very promising indeed, and unless it takes a virtual header into the bottom of the quality pool I will see it through to the end of the first season. I will also tentatively recommend it, and keep my fingers crossed that I will continue to do so by episode 4 or 6.