The time has come to review another volume of Elegant Yokai Apartment Life, and it’s quite the transition point. Yushi’s second year of high school comes to an end, old residents of the yokai apartment move out while new ones move in, and flashbacks to Chiaki sensei’s past frame his present self in a whole new light. Plus, Yushi becomes a parental figure to a mysterious supernatural creature?! There’s a lot going on in Vol. 13, but is it good?
Of all this volume’s disparate plot threads, Yushi parenting a mysterious beast is easily the most charming. Its actual species is still unknown, but it basically looks like a tadpole…with an arm sticking out of it. That sounds a bit horrific, but it’s adorable at the same time. Besides the creative design that’s a nice break from the series’s more traditional ghosts, it also brings out a side of Yushi’s character that we don’t normally get to see. Usually Yushi is a bit of a sponge, soaking up the manga’s moral messages and looking to other characters for guidance. Here, though, he’s tasked with watching over something more vulnerable than himself. All the little details, like how the tadpole affixes itself to Yushi’s stomach for comfort, are cute as well. All in all this part of the story is as pleasantly wholesome as it is visually creative.
The volume’s first chapter is also quite a departure from what we’ve seen before, albeit in a drastically different way. Specifically, we get a flashback to Chiaki sensei’s past that plays out like a straight-up horror manga. It has some of the most intense imagery in the entire series, and Waka Miyama pulls it off quite effectively. It’s also the most interesting part of Chiaki sensei’s character arc by far. He also has some actually thoughtful advice and views on life to share in the wake of the traumatic events depicted.
With that said, it’s followed up by many of the same issues I’ve had with other recent volumes. There continues to be an abundance of telling instead of showing, and while that’s a bit of a cliche phrase it still matters. There’s a very large amount of page-time devoted to characters discussing growing up and the value of friendship. This is mainly an issue because the time they spend actually going about their days without spouting such rhetoric feels small in comparison. At this point I’ve come to expect this from the series, but the execution still feels a bit disappointing.
Art-wise this installment is solid and mostly has the same strengths and weaknesses as usual. The shading and use of patterns are aesthetically pleasing and help contribute to the book’s supernatural feel. Characters’ facial expressions also continue to be well-rendered; Yushi in particular has some great contemplative looks. On the downside there are points where the line-work gets sketchy to the point that it’s incohesive with the rest of the visals, and not in a way that effectively heightens comedy or any other aspect of the narrative. These segments are never outright ugly, but they do stand out next to the more dramatic and fully-realized scenes. The musical performance, for instance, is rendered with a level of atmosphere and commitment to concert aesthetics that really helps set the mood.
Overall, Elegant Yokai Apartment Life Vol. 13 is a good read that takes the series in some new directions. There’s an unexpected dash of horror, plus we get to see Yushi act as a nurturer instead of the nurtered for once. Unfortunately, the series’s ongoing flaws continue to hold it back from achieving its full potential. Nonetheless, this is an enjoyable installment.
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