When I sat down and took a look at the offerings for the Summer anime line-up, Elegant Yōkai Apartment Life seemed like it would have plenty of potential to be a feel-good type of show. While I was hoping that it would be reminiscent of Natsume’s Book of Friends, I always remained realistic in the sense that it wouldn’t be quite as extraordinary as Natsume’s. However… I never anticipated that the show would turn into a colossal and incoherent waste of my time.
The series revolves around a kid named Inaba Yūshi. After his parents die, he moves in with his Uncle. But feeling like a huge burden to them, he decides that when it’s time to go to high school, he’s going to move into the school’s dorm to make life easier for his family. As middle-school graduation approaches and he prepares to make the big move, the dorm that Inaba originally planned to shift into ends up burning down. Desperate to find a place to crash for the next six months as the dorm’s rebuilt, Inaba exhausts all avenues available to him, until one evening a mysterious looking kid offers him a suggestion. This leads to Inaba finding residence in a room within an old and gloomy looking house that turns out to be the home of numerous kinds of yōkai, or supernatural creatures and people.
My first impression of the anime was that it felt a bit unoriginal to me, but there were charming characters and some minor plot development that had me intrigued. My biggest question after sitting down and watching thirteen episodes of this is: what the hell happened to those characters and where did the plot go?
The first couple of episodes for the series, shows us Inaba as he moves into the apartment and begins to get situated with the yōkai occupants of his new residence. The humour was awkward and sometimes a bit forced, but the different supernatural characters with their anecdotes on life felt genuine and feel-good; exactly what I was hoping for. Yet, regardless of this small fluffy quality, the show is laced with predictable tropes, one right after another.
Upon living at the haunted apartment, he moves into the school dorm when its finished. But soon after moving out, Inaba misses the camaraderie and homey atmosphere that came with living with the yōkai. Predictable. When an altercation with some schoolmates occurs, he realises what he gave up and moves back. Predictable. There are many more instances of it. My excitement plummeted very quickly, being replaced with boredom.
In spite of being unimaginative and boring, that wasn’t where the show went wrong. Early in the series there is a vague mentioning of the main character having supernatural abilities, which piqued my interest even more. I felt that it would offer more depth to the seemingly straightforward and somewhat bland nature of the story. But aside from a quick reference to it at the end of an episode, we don’t see anything else pertaining to his “abilities” until four or five episodes later. This is where shit starts to hit the fan.
For the sake of not giving any major spoilers, all I can really say is that the anime begins to severely deviate from the original concept into a whole other type of story. Instead of it being about a guy living with yōkai and learning from them, growing and maturing as an individual, it ends up being some kid who now has to learn to train and manage powers that have manifested out of nowhere. The yōkai turn into more of a background atmosphere than anything else. The transition from point A to point B was jarring, unexpected, painfully forced, and utterly terrible.
The climax that arises as a contrast to Inaba’s fresh powers was horribly written and entangled in disjointed storytelling. While I was watching, I honestly felt as if each episode was written on the fly without much thought or consideration for the overall narrative at all; as if the writers themselves didn’t quite understand or know what they wanted to do with the anime.
I mentioned earlier that we had charming characters. As Inaba struggles with his abilities and what he’s supposed to do with them, these charming characters are only seen a handful of times. Whenever they are shown, I will admit, were the moments that I found most pleasant. Their humour and on-screen presence was much more gratifying than dealing with Inaba.
Another facet that annoyed me immensely was the pointless scene where Inaba’s cousin drops by to visit him. It’s pretty obvious from the first episode that his uncle’s family feel Inaba is somewhat of a burden to them. His female cousin is always depicted with having a mean, sour attitude. Nonetheless, one afternoon she hunts him down and has a breakdown about how Inaba doesn’t visit the family any more and about how she’s always cared for him. This scene doesn’t trigger or address anything else in the series up to the present episode. I don’t know if it will be addressed later, but it was a complete and total useless scene that had absolutely nothing to do with narrative. I felt (only slightly) that it’s a set-up for a future romance, however, Inaba has another person who’s quite open about them possibly being a couple. Did I mention that this scene came out of nowhere with no context to it whatsoever?
After watching episode 13, and seeing that the series would be continuing onwards through the Autumn season, I decided to drop it. I wasn’t enjoying it and found myself to be wholeheartedly frustrated with everything that was going on. I suspect Elegant Yōkai Apartment Life is the reason I fell into an anime slump to begin with.
Aside from the writing, the animation quality was pretty decent during the first half of the season. There wasn’t anything extravagant or special about it, but it was aesthetically pleasing enough and consistent. Yet as more episodes released, I noticed a significant dip in the details of the artwork. Characters had uneven eyes, certain design details would be missing from one scene to the next–it all took on a seemingly rushed appeal that made it even more challenging to enjoy.
One of the main reasons I don’t watch as much anime as I used to is because the severe lack of originality makes it difficult for me enjoy many titles. I have been learning to appreciate certain tropes when utilised with unique traits, because I know that some tropes are worth watching. It also keeps me engaged with the medium, which is what I really hoped for with Elegant Yōkai Apartment Life. But alas, it just didn’t happen. Storytelling-wise this was one of the worst damn shows. Granted I didn’t watch too many simulcasts during Summer, but trust me… it goes from zero to what-the-fuck very quickly.
2 rice balls outta 10.