Occultic;Nine is, as the title suggests, an occult mystery tale centered around nine people from very different walks of life. Taking place mostly at night in an urban environment, shadows are prominent in the anime’s art style. They are also a key clue to the overall mystery.
[Note: This article contains major spoilers for Occultic;Nine]
The opening moments of Occultic;Nine show the frantic scene on March 1 as new reporters and gawking citizens alike gather around Kichijoji temple–the site of a mass suicide the night before. The next few episodes follow the nine cast members in the weeks leading up to the event.
Other than the occasional flashback, everything from episode four on takes place after the mass suicide. However, it’s not until the very end of episode six that we are told the truth: most of the nine are certainly dead–their bodies discovered among the suicide victims. We’ve been following their ghosts.
Yes, that’s right, Occultic;Nine totally pulls a The Sixth Sense twist on the viewers. But that’s not to say there weren’t hints. Upon a rewatch you can see that what appeared to be conversations between the living and the dead are nothing of the sort. The conversations are actually only among the living–the dead had no impact on the conversation at all.
Another hint is that none of the dead characters have reflections–though they think they do, interestingly. But perhaps the most important visual clue is the simple fact that the dead characters do not cast shadows on the ground and other objects.
For clarification, they do cast shadows on themselves–wearing a hat will put a dead person’s face in shadow–but even standing under a streetlight, a dead person will have no shadow splayed out behind them. This is shown to be true in every scene for all the dead characters.
It is a brilliant hint to the mystery. Visually, you feel that something is off but it’s hard to spot what. Moreover, there are many times when none of the characters have shadows–even the living ones; After all, there are generally no shadows cast in incredibly well lit rooms with bright floors or on unlit streets at night. Much of the time when it’s daylight, the camera is kept at a mid shot (waist up) or close up, avoiding showing the ground.
But the coolest thing about the shadows? They also are a clue to who is actually alive. Indeed, one of the nine who you might assume is dead is deliberately shown to have a shadow before the “we see dead people” reveal. In fact, there is even a quick establishing wide shot where this character alone is shown to have a shadow while the other characters do not.
And if that isn’t a fantastic bit of visual storytelling, I don’t know what is.