As a kid, I went through an occult-obsessed phase. I had a series of ten books that go into vast details on the supernatural and pseudosciences. As ridiculous as some of the anecdotes and ideas are, they nevertheless instilled in me a deep fascination for UFO sightings, cultural myths, horror stories, and anything related to the paranormal. Thus, when I saw Occult Academy, I was very intrigued.
Besides the different occult symbols in the opening sequence (which have mostly all been keenly pointed out by some on the internet), there is also a lot of cultural references spread throughout the anime. Occult Academy includes many urban legends. I was especially delighted to see a reference to the popular and terrifying slit-mouth woman (Kuchisake-onna).
In episode one of Occult Academy, Maya’s friend reminisces on Maya’s peculiar childhood friendship and supernatural explorations, such as the Ouija board and the thirteenth staircase. The most interesting for me though is when Maya scares her friend with a story: “And the girl said, ‘Am I pretty?’”
This is a direct reference to the slit-mouth woman (Kuchisake-onna). The slit-mouth woman has been a popular Japanese horror legend for centuries. Originating as a story about a concubine and a samurai, the legend of the slit-mouth woman survived several iterations as it adapted to different eras. The most recent version, also the version that terrified my childhood nights, revolves around plastic surgery.
When plastic surgery first became widely accessible, it was met with a lot of suspicion. The urban myth developed around this attitude. A beautiful but vain woman visits a plastic surgeon for a facial reconstruction. On the day of the surgery, the surgeon, wanting to impress the young lady, applied an exceptionally large amount of hair gel. That turned out to be disastrous. During the surgery, the woman continually gagged due to the pungent artificial smell of sterilizing solution and hair gel. The surgery was a failure and the woman left the clinic with a wide slit-mouth all the way to her ears.
Her existence soon became demonized. She travels around with a surgical mask hiding her mouth. She would ask random people, “Am I pretty (kirei)?” If the person answers “yes”, she would take off her mask and ask, “How about now?” At this point, either a “yes” or a “no” would result in death. After she kills her victims, she would cut (kire) their mouths.
The slit-mouth woman was a very widespread urban myth especially in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. It is really nice to see that Occult Academy includes not only the major paranormal stuff like UFOs and Nostradamus prophecies, but also a bit of popular urban culture.
So far, I am enjoying this series quite a bit since it is on a topic I love. Maya is also adorably obstinate. I am not too sure about the comedy though.
*After reading the comments, I realize I should probably mention that the occult is not only about the horrific. UFO’s, prophecies, superhuman, ancient civilizations… etc. are all part of it. Horror fiction simply crosses paths with the occult at times.
*Also, Occult Academy is in no ways scary. It is a comedy. The only reason I include that scary picture is because I thought it would be fun to change the pace from all the usual fluffiness.
*I think I did a disservice to the series with this post. Again, Occult Academy is fairly light-hearted. It is not creepy at all, and certainly not terrifying.
*Occult Academy Review – The World is Ending, But Who Cares?