I love a good supernatural tale and the story of a high school girl who can suddenly see spirits everywhere she goes seemed like a good fit. I’ll admit though, it wasn’t all smooth sailing. The early episodes of Mieruko-Chan were heavy on fan-service, and not of the kind that actually feels like a service but more of the tokenistic and sleazy kind. That said, there’s definitely reasons enough to give this anime a go.
You could definitely do worse than Mieruko-Chan.
In addition to the potentially off-putting fan-service there’s also the overall sense that Mieruko-Chan isn’t really going anywhere. Early episodes are divided into clear vignettes with each setting up a situation where protagonist Miko will see a ghost and will try not to react and then there will be some kind of resolution, which in a lot of cases was simply the spirit giving up trying to get her attention.
It doesn’t feel like the plot is moving along in particular and it can leave episodes feeling a little fragmented.
However there’s some solid groundwork being done in these earlier stories and scenarios that make later episodes feels far more rewarding than they would have without them. Individual viewers will decide whether there’s enough enjoyment in the earlier episodes to make it worth their while but for those who like standard horror tropes there’s a decent enough amount of tension being built in some situations, the ghost designs are varied and pretty creepy, and there’s a couple of surprise outcomes that shake things up a bit after you get through the first couple of episodes.
Just don’t expect to be actually scared. As much as Mieruko-Chan uses horror elements and builds tension, even occasionally throws in a jump-scare, unless you are naturally freaked out by ghosts you are probably not going to find this one overly terrifying.
So where does Mieruko-Chan shine?
Honestly, my biggest surprise with this series was how much I came to love scenes where Miko was interacting with best bud Hana. Normally high-school girls hanging out at lunch or on their way home from school is not the high point of an anime for me. Yet there’s some very solid chemistry between these two characters and it makes literally every scene with them together charming to watch.
Also, the friendship isn’t just there because they want to establish Miko is an ordinary girl with friends. Hana seems to draw ghosts to her at times, which causes a major problem for Miko given she can see them, and also, Hana being completely oblivious to the spirits and keeping her that way gives Miko motivation to act throughout the series.
Unlike many anime friendships of convenience (where a protagonist has a friend only so dialogue can happen), the writers have really made both of these characters feel real through their interactions and they may very well be one of the best duos I’ve seen in a while from anime.
As the series progresses a third girl is introduced into the mix. I will say that initially my reception to Yulia was a little on the luke-warm side. Largely that was because the friendship between Hana and Miko was so well balanced it didn’t feel like there was space for an interloper.
I was partly right and Mieruko-Chan had to bring the girl back a couple of times in different situations before it started to feel a bit more natural but by the end of the season as the three girls walk down the street together it did feel very natural. Given more episodes I suspect they could really develop the new group’s dynamic and given writing these character relationships was definitely the strongest aspect of the anime they’d probably do a pretty good job.
Similarly, the couple of stories involving Miko’s family were pretty solid. One of them was actually incredibly heart-felt and the twist in that story was really well handled. I won’t ruin it for people who haven’t watched, but honestly Mieruko-Chan is always on solid ground when looking at the character relationships.
Less so when explaining the lore or rules of this world. Because lets be honest, Miko spends most of her time pretending she can’t see anything so she’s hardly looking for explanations as to why she could suddenly see ghosts or what the ghosts might want.
Also why are some ghosts human like where others are clearly monstrous looking? And some just repeat the same lines over and over whereas other seem to be conscious of their situation. And what was the thing on the train and why did he eat the spirit inside that lady?
Yeah, Mieruko-Chan is definitely hoping for you to suspend disbelief and not probe to deeply into the set-up. The girl can see ghosts. She just can. When she ignores them they mostly leave her alone.
Just don’t ask for any more explanation than that because by the end of these twelve episodes you’ll still be left with questions.
Visually Mieruko-Chan is not the prettiest anime ever and from an animation point of view it is serviceable but nothing exciting. It works best with the contrast between the brightly coloured human characters and the dark greys and purples most of the ghosts are rocking but its pretty simple and there’s not a huge amount of animation at times.
That said, there’s some remarkably good work in conveying Miko’s growing unease and desperation as a ghost zeroes in one her. Whether she’s clenching a book or the edges of her skirt, getting a small tremble in her face or just stiffening up, they really do convey her emotions very well to the audience and it is easy at times to place yourself in her shoes and realise that while Mieruko-Chan may not be scary to watch the situation Miko has found herself in is pretty horrible.
Finally, the OP to Mieruko-Chan (Mienaikara ne!? by Miko Yotsuya) is very upbeat but also conveys Miko’s overall sense of feeling a bit lost and helpless. The frantic lyrics come at you while Miko runs through brightly coloured paint splotches and kind of conveys the overall tone of the show.
Mieruko-Chan is definitely not for everyone but for those who are looking for something with a supernatural side to it you can definitely do worse than Mieruko-Chan. There’s a few fun surprises along the way and ultimately this is a story with a lot of heart.
If you’ve watched Mieruko-Chan I’d love to know what you thought of it so be sure to leave me a comment below.
Images from: Mieruko-Chan. Dir. Y Ogawa. Passione. 2021
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