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Tonari no Youkai-san – 13 (End) and Series Review)

The first thing I feel like saying here is that I have no idea whether or not the events of this episode happened in the manga. noho’s original is still ongoing, and ending adaptations (especially one-and-done) of ongoing manga is always tricky. Even for a series that’s kind of all over the map like Tonari no Youkai-san this Bruckheimer ending is a bit jarring. That’s often a function of this sort of series though, as wistful slice-of-life shows feel pressure to have a plot-driven conclusion. Maybe this was anime-original, maybe not – the manga doesn’t even have scanlations as far as I know.

I will say that parts of the final arc were pretty effective, however. The series having done a good job of setting the stakes high, it’s easy to feel what’s at stake as this special world starts to disappear. The music (which to be honest I hadn’t noticed much before this week) was a big part of the finale. An air of moody surrealism pervaded much of the episode, which is a good look for Tonari no Youkai-san. And at least things didn’t devolve into a climactic final battle (which really would have felt out of place).

As to what actually went down, well – to be honest I’m not totally sure. Which tracks with the above. Sanmoto-san does seem to have been the key to everything. As things were shutting down and Buchio had turned back into a cat and stopped moving (a high-allergy moment), Sanmoto whispered “don’t forget”. And this wasn’t just a poetic way of signing off, as it turned out. Whether he intended it or not Takumi and the other kiddos not forgetting seems to have been the key to hitting the reset button.

Takumi, Mutsumi, and Ryou going to that “white world” was very trippy. I loved the music and imagery here, even if I don’t know what was actually happening. Sanmoto winds up there too – I guess because Takumi remembered him? And then he says that the rift has closed (how and why did that happen?) but he was unable to return to his physical form until the kids said his name. Which is kotodama in a nutshell, and kotodama was the key to everything. The implication being that all these mythical beings came into existence in the first place as an extension of the human subconscious.

The fact that Sanmoto is gone after the world resets leads me to believe that he used his spiritual power to restore it – but really, who knows? All the youkai are back with their respective humans. Buchio tells Takumi not to be afraid to try and be who he wants to be. Jirou and Mu-chan do their usual emo thing. And Rain resolves that she’s finally going to tell Ryou how she feels about him. Was it really just these three children that brought everything (except Sanmoto) back for the entire world, or is that just a symbolic representation of something larger taking place?

As for the oni thing, Jirou’s explanation to the tengu symposium is that the lost humans themselves went to the void; it was their memories that turned into oni. Why oni? Because of kotodama, he says – tengu built them up into bogeymen so much that’s what they became. OK, whatever. That means Ma-san – soon rechristened Ayumu and given a sporty haircut – isn’t actually Saki and Mutsumi’s father. Or wait, maybe he is their father, but without his memories? To be honest I have no idea, but he turns to Buchio for assistance in transitioning to consciousness, as Buchio is no longer the junior member of the team.

In the final analysis I can’t call Tonari no Youkai-san anything but a mixed bag for me. Truthfully I never bought into the whole Mutsumi-Jirou storyline and by the end I found anything to do with them reflexively annoying. That’s a problem in that it would up being basically the A-plot. The B-plot was Buchio, and that I liked far better. I confess a bias here being a huge cat person, but everything about this really resonated with me. The power of that emotional bond – wishing it could last longer – well, if you know you know. Plus he and Takumi were absolutely great together, and Buchio’s neurotic cat-person personality was incredibly endearing.

Tonari no Youkai-san took a kind of kitchen sink approach to classic Japanese fantasy, even incorporating some hard sci-fi elements. As you’d expect that was a mixed bag itself – some stuff worked very well, some not so much. But there was definitely a core of something profound here – an emotional perceptiveness in the writing that sometimes allowed it to rise above its flaws. If you were to tell me it was getting another season I’d certainly be happy about it – just for more Buchio and Takumi, if nothing else. It’s no masterpiece, but the highs were high enough that this series will stay with me for a while, and that’s no small compliment.

The post Tonari no Youkai-san – 13 (End) and Series Review) appeared first on Lost in Anime.

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