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Tonari no Yōkai-san
Episode 13

by James Beckett,

How would you rate episode 13 of
Tonari no Yōkai-san ?
Community score: 4.2


Oh, thank the Anime Gods. The first third of Tonari no Yōkai-san's season finale was absolutely brutal, with us having to watch all of our beloved yokai pals suffer and die because of the trans-dimensional skullduggery brought about by the oni invasion. As we're forced to witness the terrible and sudden ends of Buchio, Jiro, Wagen, Sanmoto, Ma-san, and all of the rest, so are their loved ones. To the show's credit, it sells the terrible and visceral horror of this apocalypse, which is something I never would have expected going into this seemingly happy-go-lucky series. Much to my relief, however, the power of our human characters' love for their friends and family makes it possible for the awful damage to be reversed—and for this world of spirits and yokai to be set right once more.

This is my favorite thing about this finale—and it's also its greatest failing.

Look, I know I said I would be utterly heartbroken if Tonari no Yōkai-san ended this season by destroying all of the love and cheer it has built with its characters and world. At the same time, I cannot help but feel like this feel-good conclusion was rushed and rather unsatisfying. This would be a challenging ending to sell to an audience with a whole season of buildup but it only takes a few minutes of the kids floating in their ethereal void before Sanmoto pops up to help them save the entire world with the power of love and friendship. If we had gotten maybe one full episode where our human cast had to live in a world without the yokai and their memories, I think I might be a lot more forgiving of the way that Tonari no Yōkai-san has put our hearts through the wringer over the last couple of weeks. Still, as it stands, we've somehow reached a conclusion that makes the literal end of the world feel like no big deal. Even the ending narration, which has Takumi explaining how their school break had to be extended on account of everyone on Earth suffering reality-shattering trauma, comes across as if the kid is simply sharing his “What I Did on My Vacation” report.

It's a real shame because, on a micro-level, this is a very well-done and satisfying conclusion. Rein and Ryo are finally able to open up to each other, Chiaki gets to return home to a husband who has proven that he will fight tooth and nail to continue to live, and Mutsumi's family is starting to be able to accept Ma-san's identity as a being who cannot ever replace her lost father. We even get a lovely moment where Jiro sees that the vengeful snake spirit from earlier in the season has reincarnated into a baby with a new shot at life. I get that the life-or-death stakes of the oni invasion were the catalyst for a lot of these conclusions but I can't help but feel like the show could have found a way to unite the cast in a conflict that didn't seem quite so over-the-top.

Granted, a part of my reservation could come from the cultural elements of the series that don't reach me in the same way they might a native Japanese viewer. The finale puts a great amount of emphasis on the power of kotodama—aka the magical power of language to will things into existence—and I just can't buy the concept as an appropriate thematic thread with which to sew up the massive bag of questions that the oni invasion creates. I get how the concept is intrinsic to the magical and spiritual reality of Tonari no Yōkai-san's universe—but just because it can function on an academic level doesn't mean it makes for a satisfying ending to this story. I loved my time with this show, but I wish it hadn't bitten off more than it could chew for its big finish. Maybe catching up on the manga someday will help this whole thing go down more smoothly.


Tonari no Yōkai-san is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

James is a writer with many thoughts and feelings about anime and other pop-culture, which can also be found on Twitter, his blog, and his podcast.

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