Tuesday’s Top 5: Male Yokai

Continuing on from last week where I looked at my top 5 favourite female yokai, this week we have my top 5 male yokai. I must admit, my first draft had a lot fox yokai on the list and even the revised version hasn’t really fixed that issue. Apparently I like foxes. Anyway, as always, I’d love to know who you would include on your list so please leave a comment below.

Please Note: There may be some spoilers below.

Honourable mention this week goes to Kappa from Nurarihyon.

Number 5: Yahiko from The Morose Mononokean

Okay, I nearly chose Fuzzy from this list but ultimately had to go with Yahiko. Seriously, this fox is so cute and his desire to play hide and seek is adorable (okay, potentially deadly but still pretty cute). Admittedly, the fact that Yahiko was introduced as a potential big bad and then quickly degenerated into the little brother type character that just wants all the attention is probably the reason Yahiko isn’t further up the list.

Number 4: Kuro from Blue Exorcist

Yeah, I know technically they want to say Kuro is a demon but I’m still including him as a yokai. There really isn’t much to explain with this choice. Kuro is my favourite character from Blue Exorcist. Fiercely loyal and yet definitely a cat, Kuro manages to steal pretty much every scene he is in.

Number 3: Yasaburo from The Eccentric Family

Our fast talking, trouble seeking tanuki, Yasaburo had to be on the list. He’s just such a great character even before you consider the fact that he is a shape changing tanuki. As the third of four brothers he is pretty content to drift through life looking for things to make his days ‘interesting’. Despite that, he’s pretty loyal to his family when it matters and most of the time he cleans up the mess he makes (mostly). I absolutely adore spending time with Yasaburo.

Number 2: Tomoe from Kamisama Kiss

Now, how could I overlook Tomoe, the fox who serves as a land god’s familiar. He is rude, occasionally foul mouthed, and extremely short tempered, but also incredibly loyal and ultimately a fairly lonely character seeking acceptance. Not to mention incredibly powerful and needs to be given how often his human-turned-god master Nanami gets herself into trouble.

Number 1: Miketsukami from Inu x Boku

So what beats a fox familiar, well a 9 Tailed Fox secret service member who uses a sword apparently. Told you there were a lot of foxes on this list. Seriously, the guy is adorable both in his normal suit and when he transforms into a yokai. If it wasn’t for his creepy stalkerish tendencies (I guess he calls that loyalty) he’s be nearly perfect. About the only thing he lacks is the ability to actually have a normal human interaction and eventually he might learn to get around that.

There is my list of my favourite male yokai characters. I’d love to know who you would have included.


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Tuesday’s Top 5: Female Yokai

Seems like October is an appropriate time to bring out lists on yokai and similar topics so my Top 5 today is focussing on female yokai characters. I started with quite an enormous list of characters and narrowing it down was difficult but eventually I picked my 5 favourite female characters that also happen to be yokai. Next week I’ll turn my attention to the male yokai but until then, I hope you enjoy the list today and I’d love to know some of your favourite female yokai characters so please leave me a comment.

Please Note: There may be some spoilers below.

Honourable mention this week goes to Zashiki-Warashi from xxxHolic.

Number 5: Aokuchinashi from Natsume Yuujinchou

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For a one episode character, I have to admit, I kind of love her. First she tries asking for help, then she threatens to curse Natsume, and ultimately her conversation with him helps him to understand more about himself and his grandmother. I’m really glad she met Natsume and I absolutely love her episode. We’re never really sure exactly what kind of yokai she is (though apparently she’s a minor god) but that’s a minor issue.

Number 4: Kejourou from Nurarihyon no Mago

Of all the members of Rikuo’s inner circle, Kejourou probably gets the least attention and the least development, but I absolutely love her. Her calm and cool demeanor occasionally being thrown off for a petty tantrum, and her incredible contributions to many of the major fights make her one of my favourite characters ever (not to mention her really amazing outfits). There’s just something very cool about her and I really feel she needs a lot more appreciation. Again, we never find out exactly what kind of yokai she is but her hair is amazing both in appearance and as a weapon.

Number 3: Yuki-Onna from Nurarihyon no Mago

Yuki-Onna is obviously a snow woman and so pretty much freezes things, particularly when she is annoyed. She’s completely devoted to Rikuo but that doesn’t stop her freezing him from time to time. Still, for all her ditsy silliness in the day to day, when it comes to a major battle, Rikuo knows that Yuki-Onna has his back and is dependable. She gets one of the coolest moments of the final fight of the first season, and really, there’s just something about her hair that makes her pretty awesome.

Number 2: Karuta Roromiya from Inu X Boku SS

The spacey, pink-haired, food-obsessed body guard who also turns into a giant skeleton thing. She had to have a place on this list. I kind of love that even in her human form she is pretty amazing the few times she is spurred into action, though to be honest, mostly she just wants to eat good food and be left alone. Though, don’t ever mess with Watanuki or you will definitely have Roromiya’s less nice form to deal with.

Number 1: Hinoe from Natsume’s Yuujinchou

Another yokai that I don’t know what kind she is supposed to be, other than a compulsive smoker and drinker, Hinoe has become a reoccurring character in Natsume and one I deeply love. For all her occasional cattiness and her sillier moments when she is letting loose, she is often an advisor and a voice of reason and regularly she provides Natsume with what he needs. Plus, for all her aloof attitude as she looks down from where-ever she has currently perched smoke in hand, when Natsume is in trouble she has come running more than once.

And there you have it, my list of top 5 female yokai. Who would you have included on yours?


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Nurarihyon no Mago Series Review: Fascinated by Fear

Overview:

Rikuo is one quarter yokai and tries to live his life as a normal human. The problem is, his grandfather is the former supreme commander of yokai and his house is literally overflowing with them. That and his grandfather wants Rikuo to take over as the next commander of yokai. Despite this, Rikuo still fights to keep his human life separate until some dangerous yokai come to town endangering his friends.

Review:

It should be no surprise by now that I absolutely love stories about yokai and Nurarihyon certainly hits the mark. With some silly school comedy elements, some ho-hum romance, but a fair decent amount of action and supernatural antics, this show isn’t perfect by any means but is a pretty enjoyable ride. There is another season, and I will review that separately, but this is definitely a show that’s worth giving a go.

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That said, I’m going to start with the negative. Both opening songs are just plain wrong. The first one isn’t too bad. It kind of fits the show, but it doesn’t feel finished. It’s like they get to the end of the title animation and the song just kind of gets cut off. Every time it is jarring and kind of undermines what is a not-great but not-bad song. The second one however does not fit the show. It kind of highlights the silly school antic side of things in its tone and by that stage of the show, the school segments of the show are pretty small. When you are gearing up to watch a yokai vs yokai fight sequence and the opening is some lighthearted tune about sunshine, there’s a real disconnect.

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My other major negative is the way the human characters are treated. Rikuo has friends at school and even belongs to a club that apparently seeks out yokai but mostly that’s just one character’s obsession and the others all just kind of tag along. Early on, this is used helpfully to introduce a monster of the arc kind of feel but later, the human characters are pretty useless to the plot and yet just keep hanging around. Realistically you could have halved the number of students and they could have served the same purpose and gotten more development and screen time. Then again, this show wasn’t great at balancing things, which for a show that focuses primarily on the main character trying to find balance in his life, is kind of ironic really.

You could also criticise some of the animation, the choppy pace early on, and a number of other things but mostly these don’t interfere with enjoying the show.

Plus, there is a strong second half. Once we’ve been introduced to the idea that Rikuo has a night form that he can take and we’ve seen him in action a few times, the show finally introduces the main antagonist of the series, a yokai from out of town who has come to overthrow the Nura clan. With Rikuo’s grandfather missing in action and no one else to lead the defense, Rikuo is forced to step up his game and from then on the story really doesn’t take a break.

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There’s a great range of yokai and supernatural powers and these are used well to keep things fresh visually as well as provide some interesting moments in the story where they manage to turn things in a fight through an unconventional method. Admittedly, the second or third time that happens you are more or less expecting it, but they still manage to make it feel like something a bit different. Also, the yokai who surround Rikuo for the most part and act as his guards are pretty entertaining though could have been fleshed out a little more.

This show does get dark at times with humans being kidnapped by yokai and a real sense of danger permeating a lot of the fight sequences. Ultimately you know that no one of consequence will actually be killed but they do sustain some fairly substantial injuries. There’s blood and gore to be found but not so much that it is particularly shocking, though I was glad when one particular yokai finally was dealt with because at least it meant I didn’t have to worry about him licking anyone else.

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My favourite part of this show though is the central character. Rikuo is pretty stock standard in his human form. All jumps and worry when his friends visit his house as he worries about them seeing some of the yokai who conveniently hide just around corners and the like in a fairly poor attempt at humour. But he does have a more serious side. Even though he wants to be human, he does accept that there are things he has to do, so he isn’t just denying outright the yokai around him. This stops him crossing the line into whiney cry-baby territory that other protagonists of a similar style might fall into. And then we have his night form. I kind of get why the yokai are so fascinated by him. Admittedly, he’s just kind of smug and broody guy when all is said and done but everything about the presentation makes him look cool. The perpetually floating cherry blossoms, the music, the way he stands, everything is just perfect for presenting this ultra cool guy that you would want to follow. It works beautifully.

Anyway, if you are into supernatural stories at all and you haven’t checked this one out, it is worth your time. There are definitely some parts that won’t quite hit the mark, but overall this is a fun show to watch.


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Elegant Yokai Apartment Life Episode 11: Shifting Tone and Lack of Conviction

Review:

While it will become apparent from my Feature this week (tomorrow), I am really not loving this show. It was one of the few titles I was genuinely anticipating this season and the overall delivery has been mediocre at best, though reasonably uninspired is probably a better statement.

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This week finally delivers something that looks like a real conflict and even then we waste air time with the characters going crazy over food in a moment of light hearted comedy that was utterly at odds with the subject matter of the episode and made no sense given the situation. By the time we got back to the matter at hand we’d forgotten all the earlier build-up which was heading in an interesting direction.

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Then we get the end of the episode which I guess is supposed to be having us on the edge of our seats but because of the inconsistent delivery and tone pretty much all it made me do was roll my eyes at the cheap plot device to drag us into one more episode. See, Princess Principal did much the same thing this week at the end of its episode, but due to actual build up and a fairly good effort at characterisation all season, that plot device worked whereas this one falls pretty flat.


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Elegant Yokai Apartment Life Episode 10: An Attempt At Darkness

Review:

If this show wanted me to take the supernatural seriously and think that there was any kind of threat coming from that perspective, it really needed to do something earlier. So far this show has delivered nothing but the occasional thug as a potential issue as almost every situation has been dealt with in an almost non-event fashion.

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On the bright side, at least as we approach the end of the season, the show seems to be trying to step up its game. The issue is, they’ve given no precedent for the emotion they are trying for and so – like a lot of other things in this show – it is a poor fit in a show that has no idea what it actually wants to be.

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Perhaps the lesson is simple: figure out whether you want to slice of life, emotionally resonate, be a supernatural investigation show, or a comedy and actually commit to something. While there is nothing overly bad in this show, the elements have never come together and I have no idea what tone they were even attempting at this point. I’d have to say they missed the mark but maybe they were going for unsatisfying meander.


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Elegant Yokai Apartment Life Episode 9: Here’s a Set Up

Review:

So it is a new school year and Inaba is now a second year. Other than that, nothing has really changed and we’re still just kind of following him around occasionally observing things that might be interesting. Though, this episode does rather heavily and clumsily point out that something is up with the new teacher other than the fact that they end lessons mid-sentence.

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But otherwise we just hang around the apartment, Hase visits, they laugh over some fly eating plant yokai, Ryu returns… Things just kind of happen and some of it might end up being significant and some of it is just stuff. It is all kind of maddening because there have been some good ideas in this show but overall it is kind of like someone gave the most boring person on earth a camera crew to follow them around.

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Basically, Inaba lacks any kind of motive outside of his initial wanting to move out of his uncle’s house. Once that was accomplished, way back when, he’s had no goal and no reason to do anything. So we’re watching a protagonist work toward nothing.


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Elegant Yokai Apartment Life Episode 8: Today, My Friend Came Over And Nothing Happened

Review:

Given it has now taken three episodes for Hase to realise Inaba is surrounded by weird things, to learn his friend has a magic book, and then actually to show up at the apartment, you would think that something would actually happen during the visit. You would think that. Instead, he is overly courteous, showering the residents with gifts, making friends with everyone easily, has a bath and a sleep and then rides off on his shiny motorbike almost without incident.

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There’s a minor moment of maybe something will happen when the book guy brings another weird thing into the apartment but that is a moment of tension quickly killed off and then we resume the nothing happening tone that kind of predominates in this series.

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While shows like Natsume have proven that sometimes nothing really big happening can be charming, Elegant Yokai Apartment Life lacks characters you care about, an understanding of pacing, and just isn’t able to be particular charming. It punctures sweet moments with poor placed humour and more feels like a tumble of events leading to nothing.

So basically episode 8 continued this show’s trend of being pretty underwhelming.


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Elegant Yokai Apartment Life Episodes 6 + 7: Well, guess that secret is out.

Review Episode 6:

Another resident returns to the apartment (seriously, how many residents are there not living in the complex) and he happens to collect and sell books. Of course one of the books is a bit odd and Inaba and then exorcist girl (who doesn’t ever seem to actually do any exorcisms) noticed.

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Despite her taking the book to be checked out it then shows up in Inaba’s bedroom and hey, turns out it is full of spirits and Inaba is now their master. Only most the spirits in the book seem pretty useless.

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It is a pretty dull episode really, just going through the motions of introduce new character and weird object and then have the cheap comedy of the spirits in the book. However, Hase shows up at the end to save the episode. It seems like Inaba wants to tell him about the apartment but he’s struggling and then after Hase picks a fight with some thugs (as you do) they get chased and the book shows up again kind of outing Inaba’s secret whether he wanted to tell Hase then or not.

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This of course leaves the whole episode on a cliff-hanger but I’m not that annoyed by it. If the last five minutes hadn’t happened this would have been a pretty pointless and dull episode so I was just kind of happy something happened in the end.

Review Episode 7:

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Plunging boldly forward (I’m joking), the show chooses to put the Inaba and Hase conversation about the random spirit on hold while they deal with the thugs, which would make sense except they wrap that up pretty quick and then Hase still kind of leaves without an actual explanation. Nor does he offer any explanation as to his own apparent knowledge, though Inaba is a particular kind of dense given he’s impressed with a fairly rudimentary magic fact.

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Which leads us on to the cutest of the spirits summoned so far. At the behest of the apartment’s occupants, and because cheap jokes are so much better than progressing a plot according to the writers of this increasingly hard to defend show, Inaba summons Death, Thanatos and get’s this cute little guy.

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Seriously, I want one.

Outside of that, the show then goes through a spiritual training sequence that is pretty stock standard before they decide to leave us on another cliff-hanger with Hase dramatically announcing on the phone that he is visiting the apartment. Or at least, that would be dramatic if they hadn’t really shown the outcome of that visit in their preview. This show¬† makes some truly baffling choices.


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Elegant Yokai Apartment Life Episodes 4 + 5: Too Much Guilt, Too Little Soul

Review Episode 4:

I do not get what the point of this is. He leaves the apartment when the student dorm is built but why? What does he gain? And given he regrets it from pretty much the first instant, why is it several months later at the end of the episode and he still hasn’t moved back? Even if we just focus on this from a plot point of view, it is obvious he has to move back or else the title of the anime makes zero sense (not that anime titles are known for always making sense). So isn’t this just a contrived filler plot to try to make us realise how happy he was at the apartment even though they haven’t really shown us enough interactions for us to get the sense that he was particularly happy there?

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The other plot involving his classmate made even less sense. Why is he feeling a sense of personal guilt over that moron’s life choices?

All and all, this show remains strictly watch if you have spare time only and the protagonist is about as interesting as watching paint dry. Some of the other characters are more interesting but they aren’t getting a great deal of screen time.

Review Episode 5:

This show thinks it understands what makes these kind of slice of life, feel good, healing stories work and on paper it kind of does. What it does not understand is how to deliver it to the audience in a way that makes us care in the slightest about what is going on.

Yokai5aDuring episode 5, Inaba goes through 4 real encounters with characters we’ve met and each one gives him some profound insight into himself or humanity leading to the ultimate conclusion he should of course go back to the apartment. Wait… what was that? His roommate is a jerk to him leading him to tears when he meets up with ghost office worker because he can’t make friends with this one guy and this is supposed to make me think… I have no idea.

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Ghost guy lays on some wisdom about humans and Inaba kind of agrees and reacts like something totally unthought of before has been revealed and then we catch up with the friend who had the punch up with him in episode 1 (I am yet to figure out how he is significant to Inaba or the story and the show does not seem interested in establishing any kind of connection other than he’s the guy Inaba was writing the letters to). He also has some fortune cookie wisdom to lay out there before we get the obligatory fist bump moment between two male friends in an anime and they part ways.

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Lastly, we get a sobbing Eriko who is all upset because Inaba must have been sad when he lived with her family. Wait, this is how we’re going to reconcile the whole miserable home life from the start thing (which other than being told was uncomfortable, we never really knew why it was so bad)?

All of this leads to his return to the apartment where the residents throw a party because clearly he has such a sparkling personality and forged such a deep connection with them they’ve missed him dreadfully.

This show wants to gives us some feels but all I’m really feeling is underwhelmed.


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Elegant Yokai Apartment Life Episodes 2 + 3: This Anime is in Need of a Better Protagonist

Review Episode 2:

Inaba is getting used to the apartment and meeting more of the residents but there are two things that stop me from really getting into this episode early on. Despite all the different kinds of yokai literally floating around the apartment complex the only characters we’re really engaging with are either human or are ghosts with pretty much human appearance. It’s an incredibly wasted opportunity and while Inaba might later on interact more with the other residents, at this point it is more like he’s just kind of hovering on the edge of the complex rather than living in it. The second reason I’m not loving it is Inaba himself.

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We get a brief glimpse of his background but he is kind of dull as a protagonist and even as a character he is more random classmate number 7 rather than someone you would pay attention to. The end of this episode kind of tried to bring in some needed drama and tension but mostly this episode was a bit of a snore.

Review Episode 3:

The third episode was far more enjoyable but I’m still not really enjoying the protagonist here. And I’m not really sure what random classmate guy is up to but I’m guessing something because otherwise he is just a really annoying character.

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This episode definitely hit a more emotional tone but they were working overtime to hit you with that. Cute kid ghost, tragic childhood and early death, pursued even after death by a mother who no longer remembers even being human… They were seriously driving home the ‘feels’ part of the story.

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All and all, this show has so far been watchable but hasn’t really managed to be anything particularly special. It would be fine if it stayed this way as I’d watch through the season, but I’d really like to see it improve and make use of the introduced characters and a setting that should be inherently interesting but is so far kind of just okay.


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