The 2017 anime adaptation of Elegant Yokai Apartment Life offers viewers a new way to experience a beloved story which began as a Light Novel series by Hinowa Kozuki (2003), and then a manga (2011).
It's easy to see the appeal to this story, Inaba, our main character, is an orphan & wants to leave his relatives where he feels he's become a financial burden. But after there's a fire in the student dorms at school, he finds himself scrambling to find a new place to live.
Luck lands him an affordable room in a stately boarding house. The catch? It is full of yokai.
The first few episodes have a similar feel to The Kawai Complex Guide to Morals and Hostel Behavior, with Inaba wanting a low key high school life, but getting tossed into a boarding house full of wacky residents instead.
We follow Inaba through his decision making process on whether or not to stay in the boarding house. We also get to learn the back story of some of the Yokai inhabitants, a la Morose Mononokean or Natsume Yuujinchou.
The plot splits time between boarding house drama and school life drama.
It's all very Slice of Life, entertaining, heartwarming, & familiar -- in a comfortable way. The residents, both yokai & human, feel like friends.
Lots of humor is woven into the story.
Then episode 6 hits you with a totally new plot line, which if you haven't read the source material (like me) might blindside you a bit, because it drastically switches up the tone.
Inaba finds that he could potentially become an exorcist, joining the ranks of the other human residents in the Apartment. The situational humor of earlier episodes stops, and shifts onto the very minor, slightly useless, spirits which Inaba has at his command.
It took me a few episodes to acclimate to the new plot, which takes us a little further from slice of life territory into action/mystery, but clearly this new plot is a better framing tool to extend the story.
I enjoyed the first half of the show more. I'm a fan of slice of life with large casts. And in the second half, the plot becomes heavily centered on school drama, which was less fun than boarding house drama.
The characters in this anime are slightly generic, including our hardworking and earnest main character, Inaba.
Upbeat female senpai, and housemate, worthy of admiration, Akine.
Wise author who only wears traditional clothing, Isshiki.
Best friend, who is wealthier and higher achieving, who Inaba can turn to for help; but who honestly would have made a more interesting main character, Hase.
Heavy drinking, sexy, older female (ghost), Mariko.
Older cool guy, with good hair, Fukase.
That's only a few. This show has a big cast, including characters who only show up for a certain arc.
The art is so clean, it's almost sterile. The outlines are heavy, everything is symmetrical, and bright colors contrast against the often dark backgrounds. It really reminds me of Brothers Conflict (2013), which was done by the studio Brain's Base.
It looks great when panning scenery though.
The Anime that Missed it's Time to Shine
Overall, I think this anime would have felt more innovative, and done better, if it came out years ago.
The Light Novel was published in 2003. Natsume Yuujinchou wasn't published until 2005. Mushishi ended in 2002, and wasn't released in anime until 2005. Kawai Complex.. ran in 2010. The Fruits Basket anime came out in 2006.
So really, Elegant Yokai Apartment Life was before a lot of the stories which I'm inclined to compare it to now. It feels very of that time ^^.
I'm giving this anime 3/5 stars because I KNOW it really is a middle of the road sort of watch.
That being said, I liked it! I think it's worth the watch, once you know what you're getting yourself into. And knowing it's history gives it more weight. The manga is still being published in 2021 at 22 volumes!
Expect a comedy, slice of life, with an exorcist adventure tossed in.
Did you watch this anime while it aired? Have you read the novels or manga? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section down below!
Thanks for reading!
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