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The Spring 2024 Anime Preview Guide
Tonari no Yōkai-san

How would you rate episode 1 of
Tonari no Yōkai-san ?
Community score: 4.1

What is this?


In the rural town of Fuchigamori, the mountain breeze often blows. Everyday life there is mysterious, filled with monsters, humans, and gods coexisting side by side. They live each day with their own joys and worries in their hearts. Buchio lived as a cat until he was 20 years old and was reborn as a nekomata. Mutsumi is a human being who lives a positive life even though she is concerned about her missing father. Jiro is a crow tengu who has been protecting this town for generations. A slightly mysterious and gentle story of connections that occur in the daily life of a relaxing and heart-warming country town.

Tonari no Yōkai-san is based on the manga series of the same name by noho. The anime series is streaming on Crunchyroll on Saturdays.

How was the first episode?

James Beckett

I want you to look at this picture of Buchio the Nekomata. He's a shy little fella who was only recently reborn into his brand new yokai form, and he's still learning the ropes. He's on the hunt for a teacher to show him how to work his yokai magic, he appreciates his human family members for being so gracious about this new phase of his life, and he wears a hat when he goes out on walks with his tengu pal, Jirō.

That one picture of Buchio, right up there? That could sustain me for a thousand years. The fact that we're getting an entire series about the most adorable yokai imaginable living alongside humans? I was beginning to worry about this season's prospects, considering how iffy so many of the news shows have been, but Tonari no Yōkai-san is an anime that instantly shot right to the top of my spring watchlist within the five minutes of its premiere.

What I love the most about this show—other than Buchio, who is a perfect gift to humanity that must be cherished and protected at all costs—is how it manages to be utterly compelling, despite its very laid-back slice-of-life tone. This is because the setting and premise of the series demand consistent and fascinating world-building. I'm eager to learn what goes into teaching new yokai how to wield their ethereal gifts and how such magical creatures have adapted to living day-to-day life amongst humans. This show has me invested in the paperwork that Buchio has to fill out now that he's been reborn because our little guy has to get his records in order! On the more dramatic end of things, this premiere invites such questions as “What comfort does living in a world of spirits and ghosts offer to a girl who is grieving her lost loved ones?”

If you couldn't tell already, I loved everything about this premiere. Its art is lovely, its characters are endearing, and its world is brimming with so much mystery and promise. All of this, and the whole package, is wrapped up in seven different layers of Cozy-Ass Vibes™, to boot. Tonari no Yōkai-san has shown up out of the blue to become an early front-runner for the best new show of the season. Check it out as soon as you can.

Richard Eisenbeis

Slice-of-life shows are almost universally not my thing. Rather than relaxing or fun, I find them boring. Even the twist of half the characters being yokai living alongside humans wouldn't have been enough to keep me interested. I honestly care little for the struggles of a cat who has to do paperwork after becoming a yokai or a tengu dealing with a hot summer's day.

However, there's a second layer to this first episode—something that kept me engaged throughout. It's all built around a bit of directorial sleight-of-hand. The episode is filled to the brim with the supernatural. This makes you think that everything you see is “normal” in this place. However, this is a trick to obscure what is really happening: No one else can see what Mutsumi does. Neither the yokai nor the humans (outside of Mutsumi's grandmother) can see the deitarabocchi or her grandfather's spirit.

Mutsumi is special. She's not just acting as the priestess for the upcoming festival—learning a dance just for the sake of tradition. She is the literal priestess for this area—the connection between mankind (and yokai) and the gods—even if she doesn't realize it yet.

All of this is told through subtext and it makes this episode a thoroughly enjoyable watch. Will I keep watching week to week? Probably not—I expect the show will be quite heavy on the Slice-of-Life aspect for the most part. However, as a stand-alone episode, I had a good time.

Rebecca Silverman

A piece of me wishes I could live in Tonari no Yōkai-san's world. It's a place where maybe my late cat Fiona would have become a nekomata when she turned twenty instead of passing six months later, where the dead really do come back and visit on their holidays, and where your neighbor just may be a karasu tengu. Of course, it's also a world where Mutsumi's father has vanished into something called "the void," an event separate from being spirited away or dying because the implication seems that once the void has you, it will not let you go.

This juxtaposition of the dream and nightmare qualities of folklore is the strongest element of the episode. The deceptively gentle tone mimics the sort of storytelling that lets people think that fairy tales are for children, and we see both sides of it through Mutsumi's (better known as Mu-chan) experience of her world. She goes from the excitement of her friend Takumi's cat Buchio turning into a nekomata (two-tailed cat yokai) to the quiet heartbreak of her deceased grandfather coming home for Obon to the horror of hearing her mother on the phone with the police, creating a clear picture of the unique ups and downs of living in Fuchigamori. Parallel to her experiences are those of Buchio, who had no idea he was about to be reborn as a nekomata or what that would mean for him; certainly he never expected to have to fill out yokai registration paperwork to be officially counted as a sentient being and a member of his family. Mutsumi is our example of a child growing up in a strange world and becoming aware that it has layers she wasn't previously aware of. Meanwhile, Buchio represents the person just discovering what living in Fuchigamori means. The two storylines play off each other well.

The bright colors, pastoral tone, and gentle pacing can be deceptive. Despite the warm nature of everyone's relationships in town, there's a sense that something dark and sad is hiding in the forest. We see that literally at the very end when Mutsumi (who sees more than the average human) spots the void lurking between the trees, but it's also an apt metaphor for the town as a whole. There's more going on here in the town where gods, yokai, and humans live together, so grab your red hood and basket, and let's see who's waiting in the forest.

Nicholas Dupree

Well, this came out of nowhere. Maybe it's because it's the odd show with only a romanized title, but this had completely slipped under my radar. Yet, I was hooked within a few minutes of starting this premiere. I already love sweet and melancholy stories about the supernatural, and every new detail and development in this episode served to get me more invested and intrigued by this world and its characters. That it did so without ever breaking its warm, comforting vibes made it all the more impressive.

Yokai are such a common element in anime that they can feel rather tired, and using the supernatural as an analogy to highlight the different walks of human life is pretty well-trodden ground. However, this episode walks that traveled path with a soft-spoken charm that makes the journey feel novel anyway. I love the casual friendliness and support between the human and yokai characters, exemplified by the newly transformed Buchio coming to grips with his new life as a magical spirit rather than a regular cat. I love the lived-in familiarity that the human residents display towards the supernatural, treating ghostly horses and giant weather spirits like everyday neighbors while also showing how this commingling of mystic and mundane affects the locals' view of spirituality or death. I love the goofy details, like a cat having to apply for whatever the hell "Yokai health insurance" entails.

Most of all, I like how (for lack of a better term) human everyone feels. While we only spend time with a handful of households in the valley in this episode, they display an interesting range of emotions as they go through their daily lives. Buchio's family is supportive and curious about his new existence, quickly adapting to the family cat becoming a walking, talking family member struggling with his new abilities. Jiro is a disarmingly chill tengu working to fill in for Mutsumi's missing father while the rest of her family grapples with the tragedy. Yuri is an intense but reliable fox lady who seems to be harboring some secrets, even as she helps Buchio master his transformation powers.

There's a sincere sense of community to it all, and it's infectiously sweet even as it starts tackling darker themes. The final moments of this premiere portend some more serious drama on the horizon, which I'm excited about, but if this show decided to mostly just be low-stakes rural drama with some supernatural spice, I'd be down for it.

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