I’m not sure Elegant is the right word.
What’s the Story?
Inaba is just about to start high school and decides it’s finally time to get out of his uncle’s house and move into a place of his own. Unfortunately the dorms he’s made arrangements to stay in suddenly burns down. Unwilling to go back to his uncle’s, Inaba searches for a place to live, but can’t afford anywhere, that is until a young boy points him towards an apartment building. The apartment appears ideal, true the building is quite old and a bit strange, but the rent is cheap and it’s not too far from the school. Of course there is a catch. The majority of the other residents are…well…monsters. Ghosts and other spirits straight out of folklore, but despite Inaba’s initial concern the spirits turn out to be really friendly and welcoming. At last Inaba feels at home and with the wealth of experience around him he might just be able to navigate high school and even adolescence.
It’s hard to know where to start with this series. Thinking back over the past twenty-six episodes it hasn’t done anything all that terrible, but at the same time nothing really stands out either. This series feels pretty middle of the road, though I suppose that could also be down to my own expectations. It’s not like I had any great idea of what I was going to get with this series (I tend to jump into shows blind and see what happens), but the anime led me to think it was one thing and then it wasn’t. To me it feels like this series couldn’t make up its mind. It starts off as a gentle, slice of life story about a guy who’s recently lost his parents and is trying to come to terms with that. The ghosts are there to help him open up and grow as a person. The thing is, that storyline ends about a quarter of the way through the series.
After that the series just tends to meander around the place, having Inaba interact with various strange spirits and events while also dealing with everyday life. As a slice of life it sort of works, it’s nice and calming and Inaba does deal with some interesting issues, most of which are themed around growing up without recycling the usual pat life lessons most shows tend to trot out. No, instead we’ve got Inaba learning that people have more sides to them than they show, sometimes kindness can be more harmful than anything else and other such lessons that make him a better person.
I do get the feeling that this series wanted to be more than a slice of life though, or maybe that was my expectations leading me down a different path again. See at one point in the series Inaba gets a magic book that lets him summon various spirits. At this point, as well as with Inaba’s training to better use magic, it had me thinking the series was going to become some sort of action fantasy. It doesn’t help that the series keeps setting up scenarios like this plot thread where there’s a teacher who is clearing having issues and then he gets up getting possessed by this malicious spirit. Perfect, so Inaba uses his magic to fight and exorcise the guy right? Wrong. Inaba doesn’t really do much, he uses magic a little, but most of the spirits at his disposal are really useless and it takes another character to save the teacher.
The series has an odd relationship with threat and resolution that I’m not really sure how I feel about it. On the one hand, I kind of like that Inaba can’t solve every problem. It’s a very mature approach and goes to show that not every problem has an easy, if any, resolution. On the other hand it does beg the question, what exactly is the point of Inaba outside of being our viewpoint character? It also means that some plot threads just feel completely unsatisfactory in how they end, which again is true to life. There’s a plot thread that runs through the later half of the series that keeps getting built up and up and up, only for another character to set in and take it off Inaba’s hands and I still don’t feel like that’s the right answer. The girl still has issues and hasn’t dealt with them properly. Damn this series frustrates me sometimes.
One of the other problems this series has it that it is so slow. Despite Inaba’s continual growth, it never really feels like much has happened. It isn’t until you reach the last episode and we get a look back at the very beginning that you realise just how much Inaba has changed, despite the fact the that he’s done nothing but eat with the ghosts and stand in paddling pools. I think it comes to down to the lack of any real conflict or threat to the series. Despite things that it builds up and even times when there’s a momentary problem, it never lasts or feels like it’s going to have any great affect on the apartment. Life at the apartment carries on no matter what, which I guess could be one of its messages.
In the end Elegant Yokai Apartment Life is an okay series, but doesn’t do much to stand out. It does talk about some interesting subjects and handles them in a mature and almost true to life way, but unfortunately that means many of the challenges and conflicts our characters face lack a satisfactory conclusion. The series is also slow and lacks any hard-hitting comedy or action to really keep your interest. If you’re after something to just have playing in the background, this is a gentle and very calm series, so if that’s what you’re after maybe give this a try.
Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.