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Tonari no Yōkai-san
Episode 7

by James Beckett,

How would you rate episode 7 of
Tonari no Yōkai-san ?
Community score: 4.2

tonari-no-yokai-san-ep-7.png

More and more, these days, I find myself excited whenever an anime widens its narrative focus to include stories about adults with conflicts and tribulations a shade more nuanced than the usual stuff that comes from an industry that is positively overstuffed with tales about preternaturally gifted fourteen-year-olds with heroic ambitions and galaxy-threatening monsters to slay. That said, there is always the downside of getting what you wish for which is the ever-present Monkey's Paw that lies in the shadows, just waiting to curl up one of its bony fingers. All of this is to say that this, week's chapter of Tonari no Yōkai-san delivered exactly what I asked for by focusing on the decidedly complicated and “adult” concerns of its functionally immortal cast of spirits and magical creatures. Of course, instead of getting more fun stories about navigating the wacky bureaucracy of life as a working adult who also happens to be an unfathomably adorable talking cat, this week's “mature storytelling” amounts to “Buchio has an existential crisis about how he will inevitably outlive every human that he loves—and then we spend time recounting the crushingly sad story of how Wagen came to support his partner through the impossible grief of losing a spouse.”

On the plus side, Buchio spends most of “Episode 07” wearing the cutest scarf you have ever seen! On the whole, I'd say getting to see that was worth the several collective minutes I spent pausing the episode to cry and run into the other room to tell my wife how much I love her (and to check for any signs of potentially fatal magic diseases). Also, we get some very official—and classily understated—confirmation that Wagen's partner, Kazuhiko, is an openly bisexual man who even dated (and got dumped by) another yokai dude immediately before meeting his wife. Kudos for the excellent representation, Tonari no Yōkai-san!

Okay, yes, I know I'm being a little glib right now, but you'll forgive me for trying to lighten the mood. This episode is achingly melancholy and it asks its audience to deal with that melancholy in a frank way that is just… well, it's a lot. Wagen's sorrow over his lover's incurable grief is painful to see on some levels, especially since the episode does such a good job of capturing the sweet essence of Kazuhiko's life before Wagen came to life. What's more, I cannot get over how ironic our poor cat's position is: Buchio only became a nekomata because he wanted to devote his life to protecting his family but that very choice has ensured that he will have to watch each of them die long before he does.

…Damn it, I'm literally crying right now, as I type these words. Why would you do this to me, Tonari no Yōkai-san???

Wagen's story reveals a fascinating element of this show's world that has hitherto remained ambiguous: Humans and yokai can be in relationships. That was easy to assume given that we have little kappa-girls and whatnot running around. Still, the death of Kazuhiko's wife makes it clear that the union of a mortal and a monster comes with plenty of risks—the least of which is the fact that people with yokai blood can inherit a whole host of magical illnesses from their inhuman progenitors.

As Wagen and Buchio are so painfully aware of, though, that risk is a two-way street. Any yokai that gets close enough to a human must do so with the full knowledge that their relationship is doomed to end with one of the partners living with the pain of loss and loneliness for a very long while. This is where Jiro and Mutsumi's story picks back up. For one, Mutsumi makes it very clear this week that she does indeed like-like the big bird, which the show has been hinting at since Episode 01. On top of that, we're now getting some indications that Jiro had a close connection to Mutsumi's great-grandmother—so even if he fully intends to hold Mutsumi at arm's length for the remainder of her relatively short life, I don't think I was off base last week when I predicted that the story was setting up a much more intimate journey for these two.

Honestly, even though a Mutsumi-Jiro romance is doomed to make most of us feel, you know, a little weird, I also believe that this show is good enough that it makes such a story work about as well as can be expected. Stories about starry-eyed mortals and their mythical, ageless lovers are as old as recorded history, after all, and as long as things don't get creepy between Jiro and Mutsumi when she's still a young kid… I mean, we're all anime fans, here, people. It could be so much worse, you know!?

I swear, this is what I get for begging the Powers-That-Be for more “complicated” and “messy” anime. I'm sorry, everyone. This is all my fault. I should have just asked for a whole episode about Buchio using his new driver's license to take his family on a nice little trip to the beach.

Rating:

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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