Anime Best in Show

Review: Midnight Occult Civil Servants Episode 09 – Best in Show

Quick Summary

In Midnight occult civil servants episode 9, "The Dream Demon of the Haunted Apartment Block", Arata Miyako is assigned to a metropolitan occult division to foster better relations between the city and precincts. At first, Arata gets along well with the two men he's working with, but as time goes on, one of them, Satoru Kanoichi, just seems off. They've heard of Arata's ability to understand the Anothers, but they seem to react differently than Kyouichi SakakiSeo Himezuka, or anyone else from his team. Is Arata safe when he's working with them? Just what is Satoru's problem?

Note: This post may include spoilers, so be cautious. 

Best Moment in the Show

Satoru epitomizes a particularly dangerous form of evil: one that is bureaucratically sanctioned and one that draws the praise of those who don't have a strong moral character. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream

The best moment in this episode was a reprehensible act. I'm calling it my favorite moment because of what it could mean for the series. It could elevate the series from something that's merely interesting and thought-provoking to something that does what art should do: hold up a mirror to our world and helps us understand it a little better.

Arata had been assigned to the Tokyo Metropolitan Nocturnal Culture and Environmental Department as part of an exchange program. He was investigating an Another who played games with children in their dreams. If the children lost, they had to stay with the Another while their bodies remained asleep. Obviously, this was a big problem. Arata, using his Ears of Sand, was able to convince the Another to give the children back in exchange for Arata taking him to a place where he could not feel lonely.

As he brought the Another out of the building, he met the two co-workers from the Metropolitan division. One of them, Satoru Kanoichi, seemed the type to try to hide his cynicism, but otherwise, seemed competent enough. 

That is, until he used some talismans to immobilize the Another. Then he stomped it to death (19:38).

When Arata called him on it, he called Arata a "naive idiot" and lambasted him for associating with Anothers like Kohaku. He also said that Arata was untrustworthy and was looked at as an unwelcome aberration by most of the others in their line of work.

By the end of the scene, I was furious on Arata's behalf. How will he react to this? The show's standing on the edge of greatness, and I really hope it takes the next step.

What's that next step? It's my experience that there is nothing more dangerous than a human who wears a facade of the greater good, but who is in reality acting out of fear. It might be one of the most insidious and lethal traits affecting our world today. If Midnight occult civil servants can give us an interesting perspective on this phenomenon, it'll far exceed my expectations! 

Otherwise, it could still remain interesting, which isn't a bad thing at all!

4 thoughts on “Review: Midnight Occult Civil Servants Episode 09 – Best in Show

  1. “If I could talk to rats and find solutions other than extermination I’d take them.”

    Have you ever read David Brin’s work? He wrote the Uplift Series, and in one of the books, the human MC got trapped on a Jophur starship. They’re a race antagonistic to humans. In one scene, MC was hiding in what amounted to a forest (basically a part of environmental control), and he reflected how he was like a universe onto himself. Even something as simple as a dust mite on his skin had more in common with him than anything on the Jophur ship. He began to feel a responsibility to his little Earth-born friends.

    I’ve never been a big advocate of up and killing animals, but after that scene, I started thinking about animals a little differently. I consider rats members of our mammal family.

    Applying that to sentients like the Anothers, and the idea seems even more compelling.

    “Of course, they’ll be back later to bother you again (or more likely, someone else).”

    As much as I detested Satoru Kanoichi’s actions and reasoning, that’s the one argument of his that I can’t easily counter. Any given Another could return to causing trouble (sometimes serious trouble) for humans.

    Interestingly, the same argument could be applied to humans.

    “I’m not sure, though, if the show actually buys into the hierarchy, and we’re supposed to think of this as an result because rats are inferior in some way. I wouldn’t be too fond of that direction.”

    That’d be my take, too.

    The show also hasn’t addressed what would happen to Satoru if he tried to stomp an Another like Kohaku.

    1. I’ve heard of Brin’s Uplift series; it’s among the classics I’m curious about but haven’t read yet. The scene you describe, though, raises a question for me: what’s the impact of perceived similarity on ethics? I’m not naturally loyal, but there are several points of connection here: it’s easier to understand creatures similar to you, and the corollary is that similar creatures are more likely to have similar values.

      Imagine, for example, a sentient AI: they might not even have the same notion of what constitues an individual. I mean a subrouting might run independently and then briefly re-intrage to exchange data… [You might check out Ian MacDonald’s [i]River of Gods[/i] as good AI SF – those AI really are aliens.]

      But what does this mean: for example, creatures that live in a kill-or-be-killed world might consider mercy an insult. What then? If ethical systems clash and if even communication is hard because of a basic lack of understanding, then what?

      To get back to the show: the way you fear the unknown shows what you intuitively understand:

      ****Interestingly, the same argument could be applied to humans.****

      That’s the core point here, isn’t it? Miyako said as much, when he said “that’s like convicting a criminal before he commits the cirme” (or something). It’s where you put the borders: you find less support if you’re playing bigot among “fellow humans”, so you cast the web a tad wider: the harder to understand, the sympathy for fear and pre-emptive strikes. It’s the typical fear-and-doubt strategy: helps sell war as well as microsoft products. So:

      ********The show also hasn’t addressed what would happen to Satoru if he tried to stomp an Another like Kohaku.**********

      That depends how effectively a threat he could be. As long as he’s not a serious threat, Kohaku might think he’s cute when he’s angry. We’re talking about a god-level Another here. Who knows. Take a look at how we treat pets, and then compare this to how Kohaku treats Arata. The more your world-view depends on hierarchy, the more such treatment would feel like a basic insult. And to be sure, if I was Arata, Satoru would be right: I wouldn’t be on his side. I don’t think humanity matters the way does, and to me his world-view boils down to concentric-cirlces around an ego-center.

      1. “Imagine, for example, a sentient AI: they might not even have the same notion of what constitues an individual. ”

        I think this is probably the reason I haven’t found a compelling story with an AI. Unless we program them to be so, there’s no reason they would share much in common with us at all – including concepts of individualism. I’ll try to check out River of Gods — thanks for the recommendation!

        “That depends how effectively a threat he could be. As long as he’s not a serious threat, Kohaku might think he’s cute when he’s angry. ”

        Good point. But I suspect (though can’t prove) that there are Anothers whose power and offensive capabilities are inbetween the little dream Another and the god of destruction. Would Satoru use the response from a powerful Another to justify a war? There’s certainly precedent in our history. Okay, there’s precent in the last 24 hours.

        “I don’t think humanity matters the way does, and to me his world-view boils down to concentric-cirlces around an ego-center.”

        I’d probably phrase it a _little_ differently, but I sympathize strongly with your sentiment. From my perspective as an American, it’s the difference between mindless nationalism (‘Murica!) and an honest attempt to live up to the principles of the founding documents (liberty and justice for _all_, not just my current tribe/concentric circle membership).

        I’m really interested to see where the show takes these ideas. I hope they take them somewhere worthwhile!

  2. That was such a brutal scene. People have speculated that the scar on his head may have something to do with his attitude, but that’s besides the point, IMO. There’s this moment when this guy asks Arata if he would talk to rats. I’m not sure, but I felt this was supposed to sound like an unfair comparison. But my reaction was an immediate “yes.” If I could talk to rats and find solutions other than extermination I’d take them. There’s a very basic gulf between me and people like this: I don’t think humans are special per se, and living with other creatures is always better than living against them. You’re talking to someone who’s found a way to drive away pesky horse flies: they’re easy to catch while they’re biting. You take them firmly but not so firmly that you squish them, and then you hold them under water for a second or two. They’re hardy and can take this. You then release them and fly away in a straight line (their wings are amazing – very water repellent or something). Of course, they’ll be back later to bother you again (or more likely, someone else).

    This guy’s attitude is if you’re not part of the exclusive club I’m proud of (“humans” here), you don’t matter and we can do to you what we want. (And we can remove your priviledge to be part of the club – and you won’t matter either.)

    I’m not sure where the show falls in yet: comparing Anothers to rats is not an insult per se. It’s one because of the attitude behind it. I’m not sure, though, if the show actually buys into the hierarchy, and we’re supposed to think of this as an result because rats are inferior in some way. I wouldn’t be too fond of that direction.

Please let me know what you think!

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