Elegant Yokai Apartment Life
Episodes 1-3

by Anne Lauenroth,

How would you rate episode 1 of
Elegant Yokai Apartment Life ?

How would you rate episode 2 of
Elegant Yokai Apartment Life ?

How would you rate episode 3 of
Elegant Yokai Apartment Life ?

Following the death of his parents, Yushi has put his emotional life on hold for the past three years. Trying his best not to be a bother to his aunt and uncle, he has a lot to catch up on in terms of working through his grief and being a teenager. Moving out feels like the solution to all his problems, but with great freedom comes (not too) great horror when he moves into Kotobuki-so, home to all sorts of supernatural beings and eccentric humans who are all connected to them in one way or another. Yushi's stay at the Yokai Apartment Building (where the souls of the dead are stabilized) is supposed to be limited to six months, a perfect time to spend at a magical therapy center and reconnect with what he lost. Finally free of the need to smile off worries and keep others at arm's length – and surrounded by people who take an interest instead of just passively tolerating him (or actively rejecting him in case of his cousin), Yushi slowly allows himself to connect with others even when they're scary, discovering a related superpower on the way before finally regaining the ability to cry.

"Slowly" is actually quite relative for this show. From new roommate and teen exorcist Akine telling him not to be in such a hurry to grow up in episode one (he can't become an independent working adult fast enough and seems to have very little dreams beyond that), and resident psychic Ryu musing about how humanity has closed its heart (some more than others) toward life's mysteries in episode two, Yushi's already making new friends at school, saving one of them by synchronizing with and then taking her pain onto himself. Sure, he still hesitates to grasp Tashiro's hand, but ultimately, he comes through both in helping her and accepting her gratitude. At the end of episode three, Yushi's basically already at a point where he can cry and trust again, so I'm rather curious to see where this is going from here. He's obviously not going to move out in a show titled Elegant Yokai Apartment Life, but with so many episodes left, it looks like there's more to be accomplished than for Yushi to work through his grief.

Several things work in the show's favor. Despite the frequent (and sometimes too lengthy) voice-over, Yushi's backstory doesn't get info-dumped on us in the first minute and is allowed to develop organically. Yushi is given a motivation for recurring contemplation by writing to his friend Hase, whose place in the narrative is a bit of an oddity. I assumed the reason for his existence was being the recipient for Yushi to document his growth for us, but Hase(-sama) features too prominently in the ED and Yushi's dreams to just be a plot device. The convenient coincidences letting Yushi end up at the place he needs to go don't feel contrived by lazy writing. When the cherry blossoms turn from the prospect of new beginnings to a reminder of said prospects' fleeting nature, ghost child Kuri lures him in because he senses what Yushi needs.

It feels like someone put the necessary thought into these things while writing, but somewhere on the way to the final product, a lack of polish got in the way of nice ideas turning into something special. Potentially humorous moments suffer from timing that's never quite sharp enough, and for a fantastical setting like this, life at Kotobuki-so (apart from how enchanted it looks on the outside) is rather mundane. While there's some possible commentary to be found in there on how moving out doesn't magically transform one's life into a big adventure, but rather a small and tiring one of paying bills and doing laundry, the obviously limited budget doesn't help make life at the Yokai Apartment more elegant. It's all a bit too tame and undecided, until we get to episode three.

After a surprising time skip that brings us near Yushi's scheduled move-out from his temporary home, we're put through an emotional whiplash from recountings of child murder and beating a dog to death to celebrating life in an attempt to ward off darkness. Of course, this has to happen just after Yushi started opening himself up to others. There's no yang without the yin in human connection, and so he's finally able to allow himself to feel the pain and be comforted through compassion. Some weird unfitting musical choices and the limits of the animation again hamper the fairly well-constructed story enough not to hit home in full glory, but it's still rather effective – at least for people like me, who avoid dogs dying in their fiction like the plague.

I was counting on Elegant Yokai Apartment Life to pursue a route similar to the one it presented, but I certainly wasn't expecting to get there within three episodes. So where do we and Yushi go from here? From the preview, it seems we're going somewhere violent first. Despite my criticism of the execution, the show is progressing in an interesting direction, and I'm happy to be more invested now than I was after the first episode.

Rating: C+

Elegant Yokai Apartment Life is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Anne is a translator and fiction addict who writes about anime at Floating Words and on Twitter.

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