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Tonari no Youkai-san – 08

At this point I may as well just accept that I’m probably in for the duration with Tonari no Youkai-san. The show is two-thirds over, and it’s not as though it’s torture to follow it or anything – it’s pretty good most of the time. If it were airing on another day of the week this would probably have been sorted a while ago, but it’s not. It’s never quite closed the loop with me, but I still find what it seems to be trying to do interesting more often than not.

I think what that is, in the end, is to be a musing on mortality. More specifically death, and how humans cope with it. Long-lived youkai (and elves, in western fantasy) have always been a good vehicle through which to explore that topic. If you look at all the major character arcs, they all seem to be variations on that theme. The series started with Buchio and in most respects he’s still the most direct example, as well as the connective tissue for the rest of the cast.

Here we find Buchio going on a trip to London with Sanmoto the demon lord and his nekomata assistant Sakai, ostensibly to help with an assignment but really because Buchio is so down in the dumps. I must say Buchio has more people worrying over him than just about anybody I can remember. London is a sort of magical playground in this mythology, and Sanmoto basically cuts right to the chase of Buchio’s malaise – loneliness. He’s never had to deal with it before but he’s going to have to when he outlives his human family. He’ll make other friends, but no one will ever be quite the same to him as they are.

Jirou is sort of the bookend to Buchio, at the other end of the story shelf. He’s been dealing with these sorts of feelings for a very long time, but he’s been running away from them too. Haru, the woman in the photo and Mu-chan’s great grandmother, is a complicated part of Jirou’s past. Whether they were in love or not she was a vital part of his life, and she had a habit of losing everyone close to her (there were a lot of tragedies to deal with). After her husband died in the war, Jirou was her main source of emotional support at the very least. Then she died too – after admitting that she was terrified of death – and ordered Jirou to forget about her.

Fat chance. Jirou’s avoidance causes a rift with Mu-chan, as it causes him to try and keep a safe distance and protect himself emotionally. Which, in truth, is what people who’ve suffered a lot of personal loss do most of the time. Buchio, Jirou, Wagen and Nishiya-san – as is so often the case with this sort of show the fantasy is a veneer, a means of telling a story about the human condition. It doesn’t always work as well as I’d like, but it is a compelling basis for a series.


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