The Fall 2022 Preview Guide
Housing Complex C
How would you rate episode 1 of
Housing Complex C ?
Community score: 3.4
What is this?
Kimi lives in a small, low-cost housing complex located in the seaside town of Kurosaki where trouble seems to follow her wherever she goes, and horrific incidents begin to occur. Is an ancient evil stalking the residents of Housing Complex C?
How was the first episode?
The “C” is for Cthulhu! Get it? Don't worry; if you don't, Housing Complex C will make damn sure you do by the time its premiere is over. This is going to be a four-episode mini-series, after all, so it's not like the show can afford to be subtle.
Yes, this is an anime that would make ol' H.P. Lovecraft proud: it's got a spooky country-side setting, plenty of slimy fish people, and a whole apartment complex full of (seemingly) everyday folk whose minds are bound to be shattered by the otherworldly horrors that lurk beneath the tainted soil of their home. Unfortunately, H.P.'s favorite aspect of Housing Complex C would probably the paranoia and distrust that some of its characters have for foreigners, but we can only hope that this is one Eldritch Horror trope that the show is going to end up subverting (especially since Japan hardly needs more media that fosters anymore of the not-so-latent xenophobia that already makes life there needlessly difficult for non-native citizens and visitors).
Then again, Housing Complex C is also clearly having a very good time being the kind of grimy, B-level trash that probably isn't going to think too hard about the deeper meanings of the clichés it is appropriating, so I don't want to get my hopes up too much. Since the show is going to have only a scant few weeks to tell its spooky tale of fish-people and creepy kids, though, maybe it'll be one of those cases where the cheese outweighs any problematic implications?
If it seems like I'm being rather vague in my analysis here, it's because this premiere feels very much like the first thirty minutes of a movie, rather than an episode that can stand up very well on its own. There's a long tradition of horror stories that take place in a single building and feature a large cast of quirky characters (REC, Sweet Home, Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead), but by the time the episode is done introducing our two young heroines, the many adults who occupy the housing complex, and the host of new neighbors and “foreign” workers that have come to disrupt their lives, the credits are already rolling.
At the very least, the episode looks pretty good, and the sound design is appropriately squelchy and ominous, so even if there is virtually no chance of the show actually being scary, it could make for a decent splatter show. Time will tell, but I suppose the worst-case scenario is that Housing Complex C doesn't end up holding up to the three-episode test. By then, it'll basically be over anyway, so there's not much to lose in at least checking it out.
Housing Complex C is trying very hard to be creepy and intriguing – maybe too hard. In this first episode we have an insular rural community made up of mostly the elderly, one way too perky kid who takes everything just a bit too far, a secret cave off a WWII-era bomb shelter, a creepy shut-in, a mummified dog, xenophobia, and Cthulhu. Several of these things begin to come together towards the end of the episode, but mostly this just feels overpacked for a premiere, and I'll fully admit that the Islamophobia exhibited by one of the characters left a very bad taste in my mouth. Is it in character for an old woman who's never met a foreigner in the year 2000? Yes, but I'm not sure it's strictly necessary with the rest of the story.
I may, however, be having a knee-jerk reaction, because the main point of the incident seems to be less a specific prejudice and more that Mrs. Wada is afraid of any and all things different. Imagery in the beginning of the episode and the ending theme suggests that there was once a religious site where the housing complex now stands, one dating back to antiquity. Therefore the idea of rituals and “strange” practices stands to be a theme, one that indicates that fear is the primary driver of disaster. And disaster certainly isn't far from anyone, as we see in glimpses of close calls, from Momo's fear of her shut-in son Hideo to Kimi's near-miss plunge from a balcony. In fact, the latter is only averted because one of Mrs. Wada's hated foreigners catches the little girl; while the symbolism feels a bit on the nose, it also is worth thinking about.
Mostly, however, I didn't find myself thrilled with the symbols and plotline, to say nothing of how gratingly cute Kimi came off – she feels like a child written by an adult who has never (or rarely) interacted with one. Yuri is a little better, but too mature-feeling for a 10-year-old, like the writers are trying to strike a balance by painting the two girls as halves of a single character. Add in the universal shroud of gloom over the imagery and the fact that Kimi's dub voice felt sort of nails-on-a-chalkboard to me and this just isn't pulling off what it wants to. Raven of the Inner Palace is looking like a better bet for a supernatural mystery this season.
Well, I can't fault Housing Complex C for a lack of ambition. Most horror series with only four episodes to work with would probably strip things down, but this first episode sees fit to pack a ton of different details and moving parts into its central mystery. Granted, that doesn't mean it executes any of those ideas particularly well, but it's got a vision and is going for it with full gusto. Just a shame it's not scary in the least.
All that busy ambition means this episode struggles to really build tension or dread the way you'd want from a horror story. The essence of horror is rarely in the actual monsters, but in the eerie silences at the end of conversations, or the flitting glance of something at the edge of the frame – little moments that build up a sense of dread in both characters and viewer. There's just no time for that here, as every scene has to jump immediately to the next, fast-tracking character introductions and throwing blatant exposition at the audience because there's just no way to build it organically when there's three other elements that need to be established. Even attempts at subtlety end up being way too obvious, like how they never give a clear shot of Kimi's apartment and we never see or hear her mother speak. The result is that we have the blueprint of an effective horror story, but the actual structure is too clumsily constructed to elicit much more than boredom.
Which sucks, because there are certainly elements here that could make for something scary. The setting of this dilapidated, isolated apartment complex is a great breeding ground for creepy atmosphere. They're cribbing quite openly from Lovecraft, even having an obsessed shut-in character researching Cthulhu mythos, and plenty of modern stories have flourished by riffing on those concepts. While I'm not a huge fan of the show's art style, there are some effectively directed moments in here that could have been scary with some room to breathe. This is not a project doomed from the outset like some cheap horror movie, and I can easily imagine a version that capitalizes on its strengths.
Unfortunately horror just doesn't operate like other narrative styles. Execution and presentation are everything, and there's just nothing scary in this first episode. So instead we have a lot of theoretically spooky ideas smashed together in an awkward pile.
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