Few series deliver feel-good vibes as consistently as Hinowa Kouzuki and Waka Miyama’s Elegant Yokai Apartment Life. The supernatural slice-of-life manga’s ninth volume is now out from Kodansha Comics, and it collects chapters 41-45. The new characters introduced in the previous volume (Naomi Chiaki, Haruka Aoki, and Konatsu Yamamoto) get significant page-time and development here, and their roles in the story are becoming more well-defined. Are their various plot lines managed effectively? Is this volume good?
Every time I’m about to read a new volume of this series, I look forward to seeing more of Miyama’s art. Once again, they don’t disappoint. The characters’ faces and body languages are always very expressive, which is crucial for sentimental series like this one. It’s especially helpful where the new characters are concerned, as their behaviors convey a lot about them. Most of them haven’t had their pasts explored deeply, so everything the audience needs to know about them is delivered in the here and now.
With that said, my favorite aspects of this series’ visuals continue to be the shading and the patterns. They’re all very polished and pleasing to look at. Miyama does a good job laying out lighter and darker tones in ways that keep page compositions well-balanced. The thin line-work combines with the lovely inking to create a great sense of atmosphere that conveys both the series’ sentimentality and its supernatural subject matter. All the details throughout impress, from the tiny striations in the patterns to the intricate (though just occasional) nature imagery. All in all, this series continues to deliver great eye candy.
As previously mentioned, the manga’s newer characters receive a lot of spotlight here. Aoki is perhaps the most interesting, as her overbearing nature leads to thoughtful analysis of how good intentions don’t automatically lead to desirable results. In certain circumstances acts of kindness can actually be damaging to their recipients. This is a new topic for the series, and it provides a breath of fresh air from the usual, more upbeat emotional themes. Yamamoto gets the most backstory out of the new characters, and the added context helps flesh her out to be more than just a stuck-up snob.
Unfortunately, Chiaki’s portion of the narrative are much less consistent in quality. While we get some nice scenes of him as a troublemaker-turned-mentor early on, the volume’s final chapter falls extremely flat. After Chiaki catches a student using their cellphone to cheat on a test, he calls for a school-wide assembly to address the issue. This results in a long debate between students and faculty over what punishments and policies are warranted versus draconian with regards to in-school phone use. The whole chapter reeks of suspiciously convenient plot points, and the conflict just isn’t compelling. It may be theoretically possible to make virtually anything interesting, but turning high school cellphone policies into riveting drama isn’t a challenge that Kouzuki and Miyama have pulled off successfully.
Overall, Elegant Yokai Apartment Life Vol. 9 delivers everything I’ve come to expect from the series. The artwork is great, especially where shading and patterns are concerned. There’s also some great analysis of how acts of kindness can sometimes result in the recipients being hindered rather than helped. Unfortunately, the last chapter consists almost entirely of a boring debate about cell phone use in schools. With that said, the rest of this volume is strong and it’s definitely worth reading.