A very curious anime. And it’s spectacular! A rare mix of comedy and horror, this anime is full of fun little bits and pieces that amount to an extremely enjoyable overall feature. Some of these aspects are purely entertaining, while others have a bit more intricacy to them, so this show can satisfy the tastes of both the weeb and […]
A very curious anime. And it’s spectacular!
A rare mix of comedy and horror, this anime is full of fun little bits and pieces that amount to an extremely enjoyable overall feature. Some of these aspects are purely entertaining, while others have a bit more intricacy to them, so this show can satisfy the tastes of both the weeb and the stuffy academic alike.
As of December 2021, this anime only has one season, and it could go either way as to whether it gets another. While I personally loved this show, its reception was mixed if overall positive. And the story is not at a cliffhanger or anything like that either. I hope it does get a second season. It probably could go on too long, but as of now I would really look forward to more.
Some gross horror below, so if that’s not your cup of tea don’t continue.
You know I like it when there’s very few characters. Briefly I will reiterate why I like it. First, it’s easy for the viewer to keep up with. The flipside of very few characters is of course too many, and that makes following the show very hard on the viewer, regardless of the memorability of the characters. Having fewer characters avoids this problem. Second, it takes more writing skill to write for a very limited number of characters, in some ways. Dialogue becomes supremely important, as does character development. When good writers use a small number of characters, the result is always special.
Here we have three characters, and two really who spend any significant time in front of the viewer. There are the occasional side characters who contribute and of course the ghosties, but the side characters are also limited, play their role, and then move on, and the ghosts can hardly be called characters. So two and nearly three characters. Hence they all get a lot of camera time. And Miko-chan, the centerpiece of all this, gets the most, and she really deserves it!
Miko Yotsuya enjoys a normal high school life, until one day all hell breaks loose, almost literally. Suddenly Miko’s life is assaulted by these monstrous, ugly creatures that she quickly determines only she can see. Right away she decides not to give in to her fears and, more importantly, not to let the monsters know she can see them. There are some really interesting things going on here with all this in this character.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. Sora Amamiya is a goddess. You all know her very well as Aqua from KonoSuba and Akame from Akame ga Kill! (one of the most unlikely combos imaginable for the same VA), among other notable roles over the last decade plus. Her tone for this character is fantastic. Miko is not very excitable in the first place, and Amamiya-san deadpans her tone perfectly. But when the scares come, Amamiya-san really shines. You can hear the choked back fear amidst the normally unflappable tone, and it is perfect. She does a perfect job neither overdoing the fear in her voice nor making us doubt if Miko really is afraid by making her voice too unmoved. It’s hard to describe in any terms other than perfect for this anime and character. And she sings both the opening and the ending, which are both great too and I’ll get to later. She was the perfect choice for this anime, and she excels as only she can.
The design for Miko is spectacular. Choosing to make her super steady in the first place was a great choice both by the writer, directors, and of course Sora Amamiya. Her appearance I’ll get to more in the Artwork section, but here I will note that her expressions and overall mien are perfect for this kind of show. But what I like most about her design is her courage.
Courage is easy to talk about in literature, but more often than not we see it in unbelievable or unrelatable contexts. How many of us have used our still-developing Quirks to fight an uber-evil bad guy while falling out of the sky while holding a little girl on our backs? You can imagine what that might feel like, but not the courage it would take to do it. And while the fears Miko has to face aren’t something we encounter everyday, most of us can relate to the idea of fearing the dead, or the undead, if you will. And to see Miko not just face it, live with it, sleep with it, freaking share the bathroom with it, but on top of that to not react to it outwardly—that’s badass. It’s great for her character and it’s great for audiences. This stood out to me from the first supernatural encounter to the last minute of the final episode, and I loved every second of it.
Miko is one of those characters that absolutely can carry the entire show by herself. To go Hollywood on us, it’s like Castaway even though it isn’t. This character is very alone, and carries the weight of the entire series on her deign and performance. And this character can do it. A lot of that has to do with Sora Amamiya, but the rest is design and execution by all those involved in the creation of this work. As unremarkable a character as Miko is in some ways, she’s subtly remarkable in others, so much so that I am forced to acknowledge her place among some really high-quality female anime characters. She’s not taking any Monogatari spots anytime soon, but she’s an unexpectedly great character, and deserves recognition for it.
Hana Yurikawa is the perfect supporting character for Miko. Hondo Kaede from Zombie Land Saga (Sakura) and Keijo (Kazane; don’t get me started about that show) does a great job with this one. Her enthusiastic voice is great for the enthusiastic but perpetually hungry—and blissfully ignorant—Hana. She does a great job highlighting the spotlight on Miko and her situation, and does so while adding a lot of the comedy in this show. What on earth is a “butt bun” anyway?
Yuria Niguredou, supposedly “Julia” but hit with the Japanizing beam, disappears into the background a little, but does play an effective role. Very unremarkably in a late episode, she suddenly becomes aware that Miko can actually see what she’s also seeing. Knowing that Yuria could see some, but not all, of the things Miko was seeing, we the viewers waited a while for these two to actually let each other know they were on the same page. It took several episodes of wondering when they would actually talk openly about this, and then suddenly, out of nowhere, Miko opened up to her about it in the normal course of their daily lives. It was kind of a surprising moment, but done effectively. Ayane Sakura (Ochako Uraraki, MHA; Nao Tomori, Charlotte; Yotsuba Nino, The Quintessential Quintuplets), one of my favorite VAs, does a good job once again with the doubtful and reserved voice of this almost chuunibyou character.
I like how the thing with the cats and the two characters involved in that was played off. Zen Toono becoming the girls’ substitute teacher was kind of strange, but the unexpected worked particularly well in this show, so it was fine. His character enabled the final brave act from Miko, and his little subplot was effective enough, helping Miko’s main storyline and giving us some context about the ghosts. So it worked. You should all be very familiar with this VA as well, Yuuichii Nakamura. As in, Gray Fullbuster (Fairy Tail), Tomoya Okazaki (Clannad), and more recently Gojou Satoru (Jujutsu Kaisen). I guess this could be called overkill to cast such a seiyuu in this limited role, but those are all supporting roles if you think about it, albeit really prominent supporting roles. Either way, I like it. His sinister voice is perfect for those shadowy good guys.
A really great set of characters highlighted by Sora Amamiya as Miko contributes greatly to the quality of this show. Every character has a specific role, and between design and director and VA execution, they all nailed it. it was really fun to watch and listen to for each episode. Easily a 9 out of 10.
Let me get the most curious artwork aspect out of the way quickly. Fan service? Sexy and horror were never that far separated, but I don’t think any of us expected any fan service in this show. There wasn’t very much, but there was enough to get people’s attention, at least early on. Maybe that’s the only reason it was there, to attract attention initially. It’s very mild and doesn’t really even tip the scale, but I had to mention it because all of us noticed.
There are certain artwork aspects we should all expect to be perfect in the horror genre. Chief among these in the ghost horror genre are lighting/shadowing and the appearance of the ghosts themselves. The creators of this anime got the lighting perfect. It’s never supposed to be dark, but it doesn’t have to be. The shadows are very shadowy, if that makes sense, and it’s just as it should be. Light areas are very bright, as they should be. We are talking about comedy horror here, so I’d expect light and shadow to compete effectively, and they do.
The other thing is the ghosts. I was unsure about this show from the beginning when i looked at the ghosts. For the sake of argument, let’s throw these ghosts in a big bucket called “gross horror.” Because these creatures are hella megadeath ugly. And I don’t know if that’s really scary or just gross. My response was less one of fear but instead just of pure revulsion. Maybe these two things aren’t so unrelated, but it caused me to be a little confused. The show put me on edge, but less because of fear than just general desire to not see those creatures. They made me uncomfortable because they were ugly, not because they were scary. Perhaps I’m thinking too much about this, but they didn’t seem to fit the definition of “scary” to me, and that makes me wonder. This kind of ugly creature obviously means “scary” to the original manga artist, and that makes me curious.
Oh well. I presume this could be called “scary” any way you look at it. I certainly wouldn’t want to be encountering these monstrous forms everywhere in my life. Their grotesqueness is almost too much, in an artistic sense. There’s a shred of humanness in the least human of them, but most of them are more animal than human. I never understand this. Insects usually have a kind of scariness about them, and certainly a warped human form is one of the scariest things out there. But these creatures are hard to describe in any terms. They’re just messed up. Things aren’t where they’re supposed to be. Their eyes are warped and wrong. Their mouths are wrong. They have too many limbs. Is all that supposed to be scary? Again, it’s gross, it’s ugly, but I don’t know if it’s outright scary.
I suppose all that matters is for us to recognize them as scary, whether they scare us or not. Which gets me to my favorite part of the artwork in this show. Miko’s reactions are amazing! Her usual expression is one of apathy, taking the world as it comes and doing so one day at a time. It’s very calm and unbothered. Then the monsters appear. Her eyes lock, her body stiffens, tears well up at the corners of her eyes. But she doesn’t show any more than that. It’s perfect! The fear on her face is apparent but subtle. You can tell she’s genuinely afraid, but just barely. She’s supposed to be hiding it effectively, and it really does look that way. It took me a while to notice how effective this was as part of this show, but once I did, it was one of those odd little things I looked for to every time I watched this show. This was very well done by the artists.
Comedy horror is a tricky genre for any medium, but for anime, where faces are already everything, this show did about as well with it as could be expected. I tensed and chuckled with every encounter, watching Miko freeze up and talk herself through each event, and I couldn’t get enough of it. Visually this show is a magnificent success. The drawing itself is just okay by anime standards, but it does exactly what I’d want of it for this genre, and I can’t ask for much more than that.
The story isn’t complicated, but it’s full of little mysteries, and it works very well for this show. Most of the mysteries are completely unexplained, and that too is effective here.
Miko one day can see these ghost creatures. No explanation why or how this happened, or even what exactly they are. They do appear to be ghosts, the departed dead who haven’t fully “moved on,” as many legends around the world treat “ghosts.” But why they’re here, what their intentions are, what effect they have on the living, is very unclear.
So unclear in fact that one thing in particular stood out to me as the show progressed. Miko deciding early on to not let the creatures know she can see them seems like a normal reaction. The reason this seemed normal at the time was because the first few creatures she encountered seemed very focused on the question of whether anybody could see them. They would eerily drone questions like “Can you see me?” in so many words. So it made sense for Miko to deny it. Why would she want to change the status quo unnecessarily? No one else could see them, so let them drift in ignorance.
But questions eventually came to my mind. So what if she could see them? What difference could this possibly make? All of this hinged on one important mystery: could these creatures affect the living? In the current state of things, early on in the show it was unclear. Miko and others would walk right through them, etc., and nothing would change. Later on however, a little more light was shed on this. The monsters did things that, while they didn’t impact people’s perceptions, would affect parts of the world of the living. The thing hunting monsters on the train was one aspect that made this more obvious. Soon after that you had the encounter with the cats haunting the substitute teacher and that affecting Hana, causing her to be even more hungry than normal, and revealing to us that a lot of her hungriness had to do with her mana aura and how it attracted the ghosts and caused her to feel drained. So eventually it was pretty clear the the creatures had some effect on the world of the living around them.
But the big question still remained. If suddenly Miko admitted to them that she could see them, would that change their ability to interact with the living? In other words, could they suddenly cause some great harm? Was Miko is some danger if she acknowledged their presence? Despite everything that happened, this never was fully clear to me. I want to say yes, something would change and some danger would result. Why else would the shrine spirits offer “protection” to Miko those three times? That was another interesting aspect of the story.
Well, regardless, all of this made for effective mysteries. Mysteries are only effective if they are decipherable or have resolution. They don’t need both, but they need one. And here, while all questions aren’t answered, they don’t have to be. We’re able to discern and understand the mysteries themselves, and they leave us curious. It’s well done.
The ghosts themselves are of course the centerpiece of this show. They’re gross, they’re monstrous, and they definitely can effect each other! Their hostility towards each other and their curiosity about the living is one of the biggest parts of the comedic horror in this show. Their terrifying voices asking such terrifying questions is hilariously spooky! “Can you see me?” “Don’t look at him!” The conversation the one on the bus has over and over again. I honestly was tickled to death! Miko got in the wrong line at the “butt bun” bakery once and saw the ghosts getting eaten one after another. I almost lost it. Then there was the one bitch slapping people with its axe and saying “Wrong one.” That about had me in the ER laughing. I had to bite my lip in mixed company! Then sometimes they’d appear unexpectedly in odd places—expectedly. One was in the locker. I knew that was going to happen, and it did. And oh hell no, one came out of the toilet! I drew the line there. I’d go get the flame thrower, to hell with whether they knew I could see them or not! It was hilarious!
Then some unexpected things happened with the ghosts that I really liked. The first was that some were not malevolent. Some were watching over the living. The poor deceased old man who was watching over his elderly wife and who influences Miko to help her was really sweet. The yakuza guy who Miko gives the stray cat to loves cats because his poor wife loved them, and she had died along with their cats recently. And then finally the ghost of the child who died in childbirth, who now watches over its mother and little unborn sibling, ensuring that this child would be born alive. It melted my heart. I totally didn’t expect this kind of emotion from this show, and it struck quickly, unexpectedly, and very strongly. It made my heart sad but happy, and I smiled in the middle of the grossness and everything else.
The second unexpected thing was the appearance and interference of the shrine spirits. I didn’t expect anything like this to happen, and it added a lot to the story. One, it answered some questions about the mysteries of the ghosts, aforementioned, but also added some new mysteries, namely, what were these things, and what was their role? Why only three instances of help? Second, these encounters that featured the shrine spirits made for some of the more interesting anime moments in this show. They were visually some of the best moments, and definitely heavily influenced the flow of events every time they appeared.
From the little mysteries to the way the monsters influence the story to the way the human characters interact with all of it, this is all very cleverly designed by the writers. While there isn’t much story to follow, there’s lots of interesting and obvious little threads that easily grab the viewer’s attention and direct it carefully. Nothing feels random or convenient. It’s well designed and well handled throughout.
The tidbits, the “Easter eggs,” in this show are killer. Hana’s continual references to off-brand Ghibli movies got my attention every time. The “butt buns” were another. I’m still so confused about that. I loved the simple fact that animals could perceive the ghosts that Miko could see. It never played a role in the story particularly, but was just there, a funny little bit of curiosity in a very curious show.
When we hear “mou yamete,” most of us unavoidably and unfortunately think of the thing which shall not be named. Obviously that’s not the only place a Japanese speaker would use such a phrase, but it unavoidably gets our attention in the opening to this show. Sora Amamiya does a great job with the opening song, sounding desperately afraid and overwhelmed yet completely tuneful at the same time. I watched this OP every time, and that’s pretty unusual for me. I really enjoyed it for all its aspects.
Mysteries invite answers. And if not answers, then theories. I will leave the theories to others. But will answers be provided by a second season? I’m not one to say every mystery needs a resolution. In fact, sometimes it’s better if mysteries aren’t always resolved, for various reasons. But if a second season is produced, I suspect the urge to resolve some of these mysteries will be strong, and I worry if that effect will not be completely positive. The reason I suspect this is the direction the show will go is because of what people didn’t like about this show.
Generally Mieruko-chan was well-received. It got a fair amount of hype going in, and mostly lived up to that hype. But more than a few people objected to how repetitive it was. I didn’t actually even notice this until it was pointed out to me, but then I realized how the show could be subject to this charge. I didn’t notice because I was so caught up in the events themselves. I was too entertained to notice the repetitiveness! That’s a good thing: Jojo is repetitive too, and that’s part of what makes it effective. But I also can understand why someone would find this show droll. If you went in looking for chilling horror, and instead got this repetitive thing where you weren’t sure whether to laugh or scream, I can imagine that would be disappointing.
If the authors want to avoid that repetitiveness in a second season, changes will have to happen. They already broke the cycle with the final encounter with Zen’s mother, having Miko purposely tell it she could see it so that the shrine spirits could kill it. But more such things would be needed in S2 to impact the repetitiveness. Personally I don’t mind the repetitiveness, but I’m sure it would get old if it continued in this manner all through S2.
So we’ll see. I look forward to it either way. There’s enough going on in this show of interest that I can stand some repetitiousness. But getting answers to all the mysteries could end up being either a good or a bad thing, and we have that mystery itself to look forward to. So bring on S2 and more of the weird ghosts and Miko’s reactions and Hana’s hunger and butt buns!