Supernatural, sympathetic, and visually stunning.
Kodansha Comics’ Elegant Yokai Apartment Life is one of my favorite currently ongoing manga. It stars a high school student named Yushi who moves into an apartment occupied by ghosts, spirits, and other supernatural creatures. While at the apartment, Yushi learns to be more open-minded, as well as how to better communicate with other people. Though the series’s yokai are what initially grabbed my attention, it’s the heartfelt writing and beautifully detailed art that keep me coming back for each new volume. Vol. 7 collects chapters 31-35, which feature new world-building information, progression in Yushi’s mage training, and the return of Yumi from Vol. 6. Is this latest installment as enjoyable as the ones that came before it?
Visually, this series continues to be delightful. Artist Waka Miyama has impressed me ever since Vol. 1, and they continue to do so here. The various residents of the yokai apartment all have fun designs, from the imaginative ghouls to the humans who have distinctive quirks of their own. The excellently rendered facial expressions and body language greatly enhance the story’s emotional resonance and hopeful tone. Panel backgrounds frequently feature beautiful attention to shading and patterns, which make the setting feel that much more vibrant. There are some particularly lovely pages early on in which Yushi and his friends see visions of a high fantasy world inhabited by dinosaur-like creatures. It’s a pleasure seeing Miyama tackle fantastical subject matter that falls outside of the series’s usual concerns.
This volume’s story also has plenty of charming details. My favorite new plot development is the revelation that the Vatican employs a shadow organization devoted to stopping mages they consider morally dangerous. Writer Hinowa Kouzuki has had plenty of wacky ideas throughout the series, and this might be their most delightfully absurd one yet. Yushi’s mage training also gets taken to the next level, as he moves beyond getting sprayed with a water hose to standing beneath a waterfall. Such moments of extremity help keep the volume humorous, as well as maintain a sense of plot progression.
When it comes to the volume’s more serious segments, I have mixed feelings. The characters are always well-written, and their voices remain consistent with those established in earlier volumes. With that said, there are times when the moral-of-the-day moments become a bit hokey. The opening chapter’s discussion of communication problems in the age of technology, for instance, doesn’t probe deeply enough to be as effective as it’s meant to be. The constant themes of hope and dealing with one’s problems in healthy ways also receive some cheesy execution. Nonetheless, positive energy is part of the series’s defining feel-good vibe, so reading this volume feels akin to eating comfort food.
Another plus is the volume’s sympathetic coverage of suicide. Yushi makes dismissive comments regarding suicidal people early on, just for Poet to point out the illogical nature of his harsh judgments. Unfortunately, the formerly suicidal character, Yumi, still feels a bit more like a plot device than a three-dimensional person. With that said, the life lessons this volume imparts are good ones, and the creative team never magically cures Yumi or makes her out to be worthy of scorn.
Overall, Elegant Yokai Apartment Life Vol. 7 is yet another enjoyable volume. This series has the most heart of any currently running manga, and reading it is both comforting and uplifting. While the writing gets a bit hokey at times, the moral messages and artwork are consistently strong. This volume also features fun and unexpected dives into the high fantasy and adventure genres. The mixture of consistently high quality with unexpected genre swerves makes this book well worth picking up.