Come for supernatural fun, stay for earnest character development of protagonists trying to find their way in the world. Waka Miyama’s Elegant Yokai Apartment Life (based on novels by Hinowa Kouzuki) is one of the most heartfelt titles out there right now, prompting me to come back again and again to see what Yushi’s up to. Is Vol. 12 good?
What’s it about?
According to the official synopsis from Kodansha Comics:
With the class trip in full swing, as usual Chiaki-sensei finds himself pulled every which way by girls and boys alike. However, the series of mysterious incidents surrounding the popular pundit continues, until at last Yushi faces off against the unseen menace! But when Yushi’s lack of exorcism powers nearly do him in, he’s rescued from a ghastly demise by an unexpected savior! Sometimes, it’s the things we take for granted that have the power to change the world.
Art-wise, Miyama continues to deliver what I’ve come to expect from the series. The characters’ faces and movements are nice and expressive, effectively conveying a variety of emotions and thoughts without needing any narration to spell things out explicitly. The flow of motion and time across panels is also solid, effectively slowing the pace down for brief moments of serenity and then picking right back up for gags or sudden horror.
Speaking of horror, the most memorable visuals are definitely Miyama’s renderings of the four spirits haunting the hotel. One particularly notable panel is a close-up on all their faces swirling around each other in a black fog. Even though this is a supernatural manga it doesn’t actually enter scary territory all that frequently, so it’s nice to see Miyama get to tackle that sort of subject matter. With that said the more comedic moments also continue to impress, such as Yushi’s stiff and wide-eyed reaction to an unexpected hug from Chiaki-sensei.
Story-wise, this volume is at its best in its first half to two-thirds. This portion of the book wraps up the school trip plot line, with Yushi watching after Chiaki-sensei as his health continues to deteriorate while they’re at the haunted hotel. As previously mentioned parts of these chapters enter horror territory, which ups the stakes in fun ways. Much of the series has focused on the yokai Yushi lives with, who are almost universally harmless. Now, however, we get to see more dangerous sides of the spirit world that, though supernatural, have origins grounded in the dark realities of human society. The relationship between Yushi and Chiaki-sensei is also very well-written; both their awkwardness and affection are effectively conveyed. All in all their bond is probably my favorite of any Yushi has with his various role models.
With that said there are also a number of cons, mostly in the story’s latter half. The series continues to fumble a bit with its moral exposition moments. While the writing in these sometimes works, a lot of them feel unearned here. The bones of the emotional arcs leading up to them are there, but the execution can be a bit lacking. Plus, one could argue that a little more subtlety at times wouldn’t hurt. Besides this, there’s also a brief scene where Yushi uses his magical powers near other people and the circumstances under which they don’t notice require the reader to suspend their disbelief quite a bit. There’s also some rather rushed pacing in the last few chapters, as well as some humor that treads a bit into homophobic territory– hardly what one would want from such a feel-good book.
Is it good?
All in all, Elegant Yokai Apartment Life Vol. 12 is an enjoyable read. The art is nice as always and the book veers a bit into horror territory, which is a neat change of pace. With that said, the latter half has a number of problems that hold the book back from being as much of a feel-good experience as it otherwise could be.