• remind me tomorrow
  • remind me next week
  • never remind me
Subscribe to the ANN Newsletter • Wake up every Sunday to a curated list of ANN's most interesting posts of the week. read more


by Rebecca Silverman,

Shadows House

GN 2-3

Shadows House GN 2-3

As Emilico and Kate begin to venture out of Kate's rooms, they begin to discover more and more about the world they inhabit. Some of those things are fun, like Emilico meeting fellow living dolls, but others are terrifying, like the dangers posed by the coagles, dangerous soot monsters who are a very real threat to the living dolls. As the girls and their agemates prepare for their debut, the mysteries just keep piling up. What awful truths are awaiting Kate and Emilico as they continue forward?

Shadows House is translated by Taylor Engel and lettered by Lys Blakeslee.


It's amazing what's there if you really look. As Shadows House moves into the territory covered by the end of the first anime season, namely the so-called “debut” that all young Shadows and their living dolls must attempt, it's becoming increasingly obvious that there's a lot more going on than any one of them can see. These two volumes are full of important bits of information hidden in plain sight as Emilico and Kate begin to broaden their world within the House, and the trick is to sort through the details until you find the puzzle pieces you're looking for.

Volumes two and three are much more plot-packed than the introductory book, making it feel as if creator so-ma-to has settled on a real direction for the story. Where the first book definitely had a lot of the hallmarks of the CGDCT genre, these two volumes move us firmly into mystery/fantasy territory. For Emilico, this means that she begins her “lessons,” which smack of a bit of “indoctrination” rather than anything more purely academic. She's assigned to a group of other dolls, led by Rosemary, a cheery older girl. Rosemary's sunny nature not only mirrors Emilico's own (minus some of the latter's naivete) but also sets up the revelation of the predatory nature of Shadows soot to be all the more alarming. The dolls' cleaning regimen isn't just a byproduct of the story's Victorian world; it's a necessary action in order to prevent the formation of soot monsters, known as coagles. While we can still certainly read this as a commentary of the state of Victorian cities during the great age of coal-powered everything, seeing Rosemary overwhelmed by a conglomeration of coagles has a much more sinister symbolism as well: it shows us that the soot which makes up the members of the Shadows family is predatory.

That's something that would be easy to brush under the rug given the Shadows we primarily interact with in these volumes. Kate always treats Emilico with respect and is keenly aware that something is off about her home, and as we get to know her agemates, we can see that most of them are also at least partially caring about their doll companions. Volume three is where the two boy Shadows, Patrick and John, begin to shine, and John is the standout Shadow of these books. He's not dumb, per se, but impulsive to a fault, coming across as a Shadow version of Emilico with Shaun as his Kate counterpart. John rarely stops to think, but when he does, there's a very real sense that he could figure things out if given the right circumstances, and that meshes well with his goofier side. If Emilico thinks outside the box, John's barely aware that there is a box, and his first reaction to discovering its existence is to simply blow it up.

Patrick, on the other hand, is uncertain to a fault. During the first part of the debut, administrator Edward notices that Ricky seems to lead Patrick rather than the other way around. When he is forcibly separated from his living doll, he panics – although his default reason is “how dare he,” unlike John and Louise, this is merely a coverup for his very real anxiety. One of the standout moments of volume three is when Emilico discovers Patrick before Ricky does and offers to free him; when he refuses her offer, she instead does her best to make him feel calm and safe. The image that accompanies this, of Emilico hugging the crate where Patrick is imprisoned while he holds the daffodil she's dropped through the air hole, is symbolic of her major strength as a person: she gives others permission to be themselves while letting them know that everything will be okay. We see this in her interactions with Rum as well, and Edward's chief frustration with Emilico comes down to this part of her personality.

Edward's arrival on the scene at the end of volume two is the marker that the story is kicking into high gear. He's the person in charge of the Shadows' debut (and honor he feels keenly), and he's already got a very clear idea of how he wants things to turn out. The other adult Shadows plainly have some reservations about his methods – the whole convoluted maze game seems like overkill to a few of them – but Edward himself doesn't seem to understand that his own ambitions may be a bigger issue than Kate's intelligence and questioning nature or John's impulsivity. Edward and his interactions with Ellie and Jay, is also the single biggest clue to the truth of the Shadows, and interestingly enough, anime viewers will note that he appears much younger here than in the adaptation. That actually does a lot for his character, making him seem more justifiably ambitious and like his machinations are coming from a place of immaturity rather than thwarted desires.

The world-building continues to be excellent here, and it's evident that so-ma-to did a lot of research into Victorian material culture. The between-the-chapters pages show impressive attention to detail in the clothing and basic norms of day-to-day life, and volume three's notes on formal gardens are absolutely spot-on. The level of detail in the backgrounds is also stunning, and if the characters' heads look a little too big for their bodies, it at least lends them a doll-like appearance that really works with the plot.

Shadows House, now that it has hit its stride, is a fascinating mystery/fantasy hybrid. The clues are all being laid out for us to sort through, and the story is gearing up to let us put our sleuthing to the test.

Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : A-

+ Story really picks up, worldbuilding continues to be excellent. The clues are all there if you can find them.
Heads don't quite fit on bodies, story flow isn't quite smooth.

discuss this in the forum (1 post) |
bookmark/share with: short url
Add this manga to
Production Info:
Story & Art: so-ma-to
Licensed by: Yen Press

Full encyclopedia details about
Shadows House (manga)

Review homepage / archives