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Second Impressions – Tonari no Youkai-san

The trend with this season’s early bubble candidates has been a positive one. Second episodes (Astro Note and Bartender for example) have tended to be better than their premieres. That certainly applies to Tonari no Youkai-san, which I probably liked the best of those three to begin with. The mythology was expanded nicely, and there was more tonal diversity than in the mostly sweet first episode. I don’t think this is going full despair, but you definitely saw that little hint of a darker side grow into full-on expectation.

It didn’t click with me until the character Betobeto-san popped up, but Tonari no Youkai-san was reminding me a bit of Petopeto-san. You have that same vibe of youkai and humans living side-by-side, going through the routines of their daily lives together, even falling in love with each other. Things seem a bit more harmonious here – prejudice was a major theme with Petopeto-san, and so far at least that doesn’t seem to be a factor in Engamori – but there’s a definite spiritual overlap there.

There are definitely some interesting musings on Japanese folklore taking place here. I liked the idea of “essence” that was explained to Buchio-kun. That is, all youkai come into existence because of some strong will – either theirs or someone else’s. That seems to be the case with Betobeto-san for example, who was so desperate to escape loneliness that he willed himself to step out of the darkness (fill in your own metaphoric blank here). Perhaps Buchio simply loved his human family so much that he willed himself not to die so he could stay with them. That’s a lovely lovely thought generally, but especially for those of us who have shared our lives with cats.

The flipside of this is that darkness, which seems to follow Mu-chan around aggressively. When someone asks her what she’s looking at, she can reply “Nothing” and be correct in more ways than one. The beings that make it up may be sad and lonely, but they’re also dangerous. They prey on the lonely outside their sphere and suck them in – which has Mu-chan wondering why her kind, cheerful father may have been swallowed by that darkness.  Mu-chan also has a dangerous run-in with a white snake which Jirou is in the process of hunting. This is clearly not a benevolent youkai (though traditionally it’s considered a harbinger of good luck in Shinto), and it seems to be trying to seduce Mu-chan into breaking a seal.

We also get a cute side story about a kappa girl who’s fallen in love with a human boy in her class. She gets so worked up she boils the water in her plate and has to go to the nurse’s office, in fact. Her friend drags her to see Hanako-san (wholly benevolent in this setting) for some romantic advice. That amounts to passing the baton of love, which I guess for grade schoolers (adding youkai students is about the only way a small-town Japanese school can be this crowded) is as good a courtship ritual as any.

As I noted last week, Tonari no Youkai-san just checks a lot of my boxes. I’m the target audience for this series, and while that isn’t enough on its own, in this case the series is doing more than enough to draw me in. “That niche” shows tend to do that slowly. As you get to know the characters better the slice-of-life events take on more meaning. And sometimes (as with Kyuujitsu no Warumono-san) there are depths to the series that only become apparent over time. That strikes me as a definite possibility here, but even taken at face value Tonari no Youkai-san is an engaging experience so far.

The post Second Impressions – Tonari no Youkai-san appeared first on Lost in Anime.

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