Should You Watch Elegant Yokai Apartment Life?

Summer Anime 2017 Episode 1 Review
elegant apartment youkai life summer anime season 2017 episode 1 review
Should you watch Elegant Yokai Apartment Life? (c) Studio Shinei Animation

Elegant Yokai Apartment Life is a light-hearted show about a young man named Inaba Yushu who has longed to get into a residential high school so that he can move out of his uncle’s house. Unfortunately, his high school’s dorm burns down, which results in him moving into a yokai apartment house. Shenanigans have been set up and will doubtlessly ensue.

There is a lot to like in this premiere. For starters, after the moody filters of Saiyuki Reload Blast, the bright color palette is a treat for the eyes. There are many shots of cheerfully pink sakura petals flowing against a vivid blue sky; the greens are lush, the blues deep in hue. I also like the character design showcased in the opening and closing themes; we haven’t really met many of these characters yet, but there’s a shoujo influence there that I really enjoy.

Our protagonist Inaba is a fairly bland hotheaded type, whose idea of celebrating his middle school graduation is having a friendly brawl with his best bud (a fellow we see a lot in the opening and closing themes, so we know to look out for him, though he doesn’t feature much in this episode). Inaba is clearly good enough at school to get into his top choice, though, so his uncle’s family’s antipathy towards him is mysterious at first.

Later, in a well-timed bit of exposition, we learn Inaba’s parents died in a car accident when he was young. His uncle’s family didn’t have the money to take him in, but did so anyway. Inaba doesn’t want to be a burden (and his cousin’s a real piece of work), so he decided to live in a school with a dorm. But when the dorm burns down, his family’s annoyed reaction to the idea of his continued stay motivates him to hustle even harder for a room to rent. This is all pretty effective at making me feel for Inaba, whose otherwise bland Boys Will Be Boys personality would leave me cold.

Inaba, prompted by an extremely obvious ghost, does find a miraculous room to rent: ten minutes from the train, spacious, utilities included, in a building that provides dinner as well. But Inaba doesn’t seem to realize what this ghost was. The gorgeous room he rents in a big, atmospheric, ivy-covered building is filled with furniture and books, including one by his favorite author, Isshiki-sensei.

Isshiki, who is definitely a kitsune, wanders in and introduces himself cheerfully, followed by a sprightly fellow high school girl named Akine. Everyone goes down to dinner, and Inaba can’t help but notice that… uh… there are ghosts and yokai about. But he doesn’t comment on it, aside from increasingly widened eyes. Later, when he chooses to investigate, he realizes that a group of men playing mahjjong all have glowing red eyes and the little boy and his dog from dinner earlier that day are literally transparent.

When Isshiki places a hand on his shoulder to invite him to the baths downstairs, Inaba jumps about ten feet in the air. But he joins Isshiki in the cavernous baths anyway and meets the landlord, a massive yokai whose movement causes a minor tsunami.

This should be a really tense sequence of events, but it’s just so obvious that ghosts and yokai are about. Elegant Yokai Apartment Life makes attempts to build atmosphere by including shots from the perspective of hidden, unknown watchers, but we never see any particularly overwhelming or interesting yokai, so these attempts fall flat. Since I wasn’t blown away by the atmosphere, I had time to be annoyed at Inaba’s sputtering and inaction in the face of the blazing obvious.

Some have pointed out that the design of the yokai and ghosts is uninspired, and there’s truth to that. Spooky floating woman in white with long dark hair? Shambling zombie with red eyes? Giant blobs? Birdy blobs? It’s all a little infantile and does a disservice to an intriguing premise.

In the morning, Akine returns from her night shift at the hospital. In open daylight, an evil spirit stumbles towards her, and she purifies it. Turns out she’s an exorcist, which is actually pretty cool. Isshiki asks Inaba what he plans to do, and his kitsune eyes slit open just enough to reveal a hint of otherworldly gold before he and Akine head back inside. We close on Inaba’s shocked face as some yokai frolic about inside the apartment building.

Let’s face it: this is not the next Flying Witch or Natsume Yuujincho . But Natsume Yuujincho is on Season 6 or something crazy like that, and Flying Witch ’s measured, deliberate pace can feel glacial in spots. For someone who wants a brisk supernatural anime without the sturm-und-drang of Noragami , Elegant Yokai Apartment Life might be a very palatable alternative.

I’m certainly interested in meeting the neighbors, though my continued interest in this show will depend on whether or not the plots, neighbors and yokai are more compelling than Bland Ol’ Inaba. Who knows, maybe Bland Ol’ Inaba will level up. I’ll need a few more episodes to find out.

Elegant Yokai Apartment Life airs on Crunchyroll every Monday at 11:30 a.m. EDT here. Will you be watching? Let us know in the comments section below.

 

Join the Discussion
Top Stories