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Tonari no Yōkai-san
Episodes 1-3

by James Beckett,

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

How would you rate episode 2 of
Tonari no Yōkai-san ?
Community score: 4.2

How would you rate episode 3 of
Tonari no Yōkai-san ?
Community score: 4.4

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I'm not sure if I made this point clear enough in my preview guide entry, so allow me to reiterate once again: Tonari no Yōkai-san is just an absurdly delightful show. My wife can attest that I have produced some truly embarrassing sounds of cuteness-induced panic every Saturday for the past three weeks, and there is no sign of that stopping anytime soon. Moreso than the kidney obliterating adorableness, though, is the fact that Tonari no Yōkai-san is such a treasure trove of wonder and gentle awe. It's a cliché at this point to claim that a show's setting is so magical that it makes you want to pack up and move there yourself, but I honestly don't know of a better way to describe it. Watching this show every week is like taking a vacation to visit the worlds of your favorite childhood storybooks, all combined into one.

The number one reason for Tonari no Yōkai-san's success is the quiet but supreme confidence of its stellar worldbuilding. I have to be honest and recognize that a lot of the inherent novelty and magic of the setting is being amplified by the fact that I wasn't born and raised in a culture where all of these yokai and spirits would feel familiar at least as cozy fairy tales and local legends. Still, even if I had more than a slightly-above-passing knowledge of things like tengu, nekomata, kappa, and the like, I reckon that I would still be completely engaged with how effortlessly this series is crafting its sense of place and purpose. Despite taking place in a relatively simple and sleepy rural town, Tonari no Yōkai-san makes sure to stuff every single frame of every single scene with details that make the place feel truly alive and lived in. Of course, the newborn yokai like Buchio would have to deal with the hassle of government paperwork; naturally, human and non-human girls alike, such as Rain the kappa and her friends, would visit the very real bathroom ghost, Hanako-chan, for romantic advice; and it only makes sense that an old guardian tengu like Jiro would have to reckon with the (again, quite literal) ghosts of his past when his parent-body tree comes under attack by the vengeful spirit of a snake goddess that he once did battle with over a century ago.

I'm not normally the biggest fan of slice-of-life shows, but Tonari no Yōkai-san was so damned charming that I was more than happy to give it a shot; imagine how happy I was, then, to discover over the last three episodes that this is a show that has much more ambition than just being a fun hangout anime. It is equally strong regardless of whether we're just chilling with Buchio, Literally the Greatest Character Ever Produced By the Medium of Animation, or if we're getting swept up in the surprisingly climactic battle for Jiro's soul that forms the running dramatic story of this first three episodes.

To the series' credit, all of the stakes in the world wouldn't amount to anything if the story wasn't anchored by characters we cared about. Once again, Tonari no Yōkai-san has proven itself more than capable in this regard. I could write thousands of words about how obscenely sweet and loveable Buchio is…and I almost certainly will by the time this season is done, especially if he continues to use his nekomata powers to save his loved ones from harm's way. Jiro's role as the guardian of Engamori has already proven to be a great source of suspense and action but his role as the surrogate father figure for poor Mutsume quickly becomes the soul of this story. Even the side characters are all excellent! It's fun to get little side-stories involving the younger characters like Rain and Ryo, and the show has even managed to wring a few tears out of me thanks to the understated performances from characters like Buchio and Takumi's mom. As for Yuri the kitsune instructor…well, she could come around to yell at me for my crappy magic skills any time she wants.

I cannot understate just how good this series has been. I've been racking my brain for things to complain about, or even to nitpick, and the best I can come up with is that the big climax of Jiro's rescue from the snake ghost lady might have benefitted from one episode or two of build-up. That's honestly all I've got, though. Everything else, from the pitch-perfect tone to the wonderful storytelling, to the smooth-as-silk pacing — it's just been aces, man. If you haven't watched Tonari no Yōkai-san yet, fix that problem immediately. Make sure to tell your friends and family to do the same. I suspect that this will continue to be one of the spring's most essential new shows to keep up with.

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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