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Tonari no Youkai-san – 03

Was Jirobo’s body in good shape? I’m afraid not.

This schedule has so many bubble series right now that I’ve started to layer them in my mind. Tonari no Youkai-san is what I would call an “upper bubble” show. I’m definitely leaning towards sticking with it (unlike, say, Hananoi-kun to Koi no Yamai). It hasn’t quite closed the deal yet, mainly because there are still moments where things feel forced for dramatic purposes rather than authentic. On the whole it’s certainly doing more right than wrong. and it certainly sits squarely in my strike zone, which never hurts.

This week’s nue business starts with Buchio and his family. These have tended to be slightly lighter in tone than the chapters dealing with Mu-chan, but there were certainly hints of darker goings on here. A nue has been spotted near town, which has residents on alert (as with humans, there are good and bad youkai in this mythology). The nue is one of the most legendary youkai in Japanese folklore, a chimera (head of monkey, body of tiger – or tanuki, depending on region – tail of serpent) whose voice casts misfortune on those who hear it. Heck, one even appears in Heike Monogatari (which no doubt did a lot to boost its status).

It’s the appearance of the nue which pushes Buchio to finally master transformation, more or less – driven by his intense desire to protect Takumi. He transforms into a samurai (in legend Minamoto no Yoshiie) to frighten it off. Buchio’s love for his human family is seriously intense, and seems to be behind everything that’s happened to him – which is pretty heartwarming, actually. Later Takumi decides to try to fool his mother by having Buchio transform into him, but a mother knows (not hard in this case). That business about misfortune seems like a Chekov’s nue – both Takumi and Buchio certainly heard that voice loud and clear.

The serpent subplot that was introduced last week was resolved (for now) with alacrity. This business about tengu (mountain tengu at least) having a “parent body” in the form of a tree or rock imbued with the power of the Yama no Kami is a new one on me – it may be series-specific or I may just have been unaware of that detail. Either way that’s certainly behind what the serpent Mu-chan encountered was up to last week, and she managed to weaken the seal on the serpent enough to where Jirobo was forced to deal with things here.

Apparently Jiro – in charge of protecting the village when Tazenbou went off to war a long time ago – battled the serpent, who was trying to use the village as a nest to bear its child. There’s a backstory there too – she was the lover of a Water  God, driven mad with rage after being poisoned and awakening to find him in love with another. Jiro was, in effect, trying to sacrifice himself here to let her vengeful spirit move on – both for its own sake and that of the mountain and village. But his connections to the others were too powerful to allow that to happen.

In general, I think Tonari no Youkai-san is getting the balance between its dual natures pretty much right so far. I’d like to see a little more explanation as to just how this village got to be the way it is, and whether the whole world (or at least Japan) operates the same way. But as to the stories and characters themselves, there have been more hits than misses. It’s a fantasy in more than just the obvious sense, a nostalgic view of a rural Japanese lifestyle that’s all but extinct. There’s a place for that to be sure – at least it can be kept alive in fiction if not real life, even if it requires the addition of youkai to make it work.

The post Tonari no Youkai-san – 03 appeared first on Lost in Anime.

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