Kodansha Comics’ Elegant Yokai Apartment Life is one of my favorite currently running manga, largely because of its emotional poignancy and beautiful artwork. The series is based on light novels by Hinowa Kouzuki and features artwork by Waka Miyama. The first three volumes impressed me greatly, but while the fourth was very good, it didn’t quite live up to the high bar set by its predecessors. Does Elegant Yokai Apartment Life Vol. 5 return the series to its previous heights?
This volume’s first half wraps up the school plotline that began in Vol. 4, in which Yushi’s teacher Miura was possessed by a misogynistic Id monster. I appreciate that Kouzuki and Miyama address the social issue of violence and hatred against women here, and they do so tactfully. This plot also provides ample room for Yushi to continue maturing and to confront flawed authority figures in a way we haven’t seen him do yet. On the downside, this part of the volume feels a bit rushed. Miura’s character is built up a lot just to be gotten rid of quickly. With that said, the background information regarding his past isn’t delved into deeply enough to make full sense of his present temperament. Overall, Miura comes off as being important enough to warrant more page-time, while also lacking the depth necessary to be a compelling villain.
The volume’s second half is more consistently enjoyable than its first half. This is largely because it shifts the story’s focus back to the titular yokai apartment. Many of the series’ best characters populate its rooms, and it’s nice to get back in touch with them. These later chapters also deliver the sort of poignant character analysis I’ve come to expect from the series. Though Yushi gets some compelling development in the Miura story arc, it’s his time spent training afterward that is most satisfying to read. These chapters also contain plentiful examples of Kouzuki and Miyama’s ability to convey poignant moral lessons without hitting the reader over the head. The volume’s last few pages are especially good, as they set up a cliffhanger that makes me eager to read Vol. 6.
Artistically, Miyama impresses as always. The characters and backgrounds throughout this volume charm with the series’ signature attention to details: shiny hair, cute facial expressions, memorable yokai designs, convincing interplay of shadow and light, realistic foliage, and more. My main misgiving with this volume’s art pertains to the action scenes in the first half. Their flow of motion is more stilted than the rest of the volume’s events. The first half also features fewer engrossing small details than the first half, as the school environment is slightly less lovingly rendered than the yokai apartment. It’s not that the art in this volume’s first half is bad; it’s actually quite impressive–it’s just not as impressive as the latter half’s visuals.
Overall, Elegant Yokai Apartment Life Vol. 5 is a fun read. Its artwork shows lovely attention to detail, and Yushi continues to receive engrossing character development. Unfortunately, the volume’s first half is somewhat disappointing due to pacing issues and a comparative lack of visual detail. Nonetheless, this volume meets the bar set by Vol. 4: one of high quality, but that doesn’t quite reach the same heights as the series’ first three installments.