When it comes to Kodansha Comics’ ongoing series, Elegant Yokai Apartment Life is easily one of my favorites. Hinowa Kouzuki and Waka Miyama’s feel-good supernatural manga has continually impressed me with its charming aesthetic and the sincerity with which it handles subject matter pertaining to growing up and becoming a better person. Sure it sometimes get a bit hokey, but that comes with the territory. The series’ latest installment, Vol. 11, came out recently and it follows Inaba as he goes on a school trip to a snowy mountain. Of course, there are some paranormal shenanigans going on and he has to try and find the source. Is this volume good?
Visually, this manga continues to be a treat as always. A lot of the humor comes from Inaba’s interactions with his classmates, which feature a lot of great facial expressions and solid comedic timing. The page layouts are are also well-done. The flow of events from panel to panel is clear and easy to follow, and the pacing is strong. With all that said, it’s Miyama’s shading and inking that most impress. This manga’s world is just beautiful. From blank white expanses of snow to deep black inks, everything is just plain pleasing to look at. The rendering of light and dimension in the more detailed panels is well-done, while more comedic moments often feature a simpler but more exaggerated style that works effectively. There are some occasional wonky-looking panels where characters’ proportions are a bit off, but other than that there aren’t any major issues with the art.
The writing in this volume is also solid. As previously mentioned, the time Inaba spends with his classmates is enjoyable to read about. It’s nice to see him interact with characters whose personalities are so different from those of the yokai apartment’s residents. Several of Inaba’s classmates comment on how he talks like an old man stuck in a young man’s body. Given the character’s propensity toward sentimentality and negatively judging his peers’ actions, there’s definitely some truth to the comparison. It feels like the series is poking fun at itself a little bit here, which is always nice.
The mystery around what’s haunting the hotel is also well-paced, and the volume ends on a good cliffhanger. We get to see a bit more of Chiaki’s goofy side here, which is fun. The opening chapter is also notable for its character development of Kuri and its discussion of what enables spirits to move on to the next afterlife.
Unfortunately, there are also a number of moments throughout that fall flat. While a lot of the best scenes involve characters chitchatting with each other, so do a lot of the worst scenes. The flow of conversations can get wonky, with characters’ reactions and statements not always logically following what preceded them. There are also a lot of sound effects signaling group laughter that come across like cartoon laugh tracks due to how forced and unwarranted they are.
Overall, Elegant Yokai Apartment Life Vol. 11 is a good read that excels at what the series usually excels at: lovely art and charming character interactions. Unfortunately, there are some wonky proportions throughout and the dialogue doesn’t always flow believably. If you’ve enjoyed the series thus far then you’ll likely have fun with this installment, but it isn’t the manga’s best.