Tonari No Yokai-san – Episode 1 Recap & Review


Episode 1

Episode 1 of Tonari No Yokai-san introduces us to the transformation of a cat named Buchio into a Nekomata or a cat yokai. We meet a cheerful and bubbly Mutsumi Sugimoto (or Mu-chan) and her friends Takumi and Ryo. Buchio is Takumi’s cat and the three of them visit Takumi’s house to meet Buchio. Buchio is a shy and reserved Nekomata, and he is also anxious about his prospects and identity. However, Takumi’s family and everybody gathered cheer him on.

Later, Mu-chan meets a crow tengu, Jiro, who is not only her long time neighbour but also her very close friend, despite their age gap. It’s a hot summer day and Jiro gives Mu-chan and ice-cream and explains that he doesn’t want to fly in the heat as it’s equivalent to running for humans.

Through Mu-chan, we get to know that the land the live in has been shared with humans and gods alike. Somewhere along the way, there came ayakashi or yokai. Soon after, the gods went back to heaven and the yokai remained to live in harmony with the humans.

Elsewhere, Takumi’s mother helps Buchiro in filing his registration as a yokai. While Buchiro is nervous and worried about his new beginning, Takumi’s mother comforts him by saying that he’s family and that they will help him. 

When Takumi asks Buchio about his yokai powers, Buchiro is uncertain about anything. Takumi and his older brother suggest to ask Jiro for help. Buchiro anxiously visits Jiro’s house where Jiro and his father comfort him and reassure him of their help. 

Meanwhile, Mu-chan spots a Daidarabotchi and wonders if it’s going to rain. She visits Jiro’s house where Jiro is making Inari sushi to present it to the local deity. Mu-chan helps him make sushi and they pray to the local deity. While they make the sushi, we discover that Mu-chan is participating in the fire dance ritual for which she’s practicing her dance everyday. 

Later, Jiro takes Buchiro to a bake-gitsune or a kind of kitsune (fox spirit) named Yuri. Yuri is going to mentor Buchiro in the art of transformation. She tells him to concentrate and change the appearance of his paws to that of human hands. After quite an effort and on Takumi and Ryo’s encourage who visit Buchiro, Buchiro is successful in his first lesson on transformation. 

Meanwhile, it seems to be the day of ancestral offering or the death anniversary of Mu-chan’s grandfather. Mu-chan’s family is waiting for her grandfather to appear when Oshirasama or tutelary deity of their home appear as a horse. At the same time, Mu-chan spots her grandfather’s spirit going into the television room. She sadly wonders about her own father and asks the deity about him, assuming he’s dead. So, her grandfather’s spirit whispers that her father would feel sad if she assumes he’s dead. 

It’s revealed that Mu-chan’s father has been missing for a long time. Mu-chan, the next day, overhears her mother talking to the detective and runs to meet Jiro who tries to comfort her. We later learn, when Mu-chan’s mother is talking to Jiro and his father, that Mu-chan’s father might have been swallowed by the void – an imaginary dimension between the living world and the afterlife. 

Jiro later tells his father that he thinks Mu-chan knows about her father’s case because she can “see it”. He emphasizes to be there for her until she can accept that her father is gone. 

The Episode Review

Tonari No Yokai-san is just lovely! The art reminds me of Studio Ghibli along with a heartwarming story with a kind of deep subtext. The underlying themes of the anime – anxiety regarding one’s identity, grief, pain – creep underneath the loving and wholesome atmosphere of the show. 

Moreover, the anime is heavily based on the Shinto world of Japanese mythology with magical and mythological creatures as neighbourhood friends. It is absolutely beautiful and enjoyable to watch them interact with each other and support each other. Through the story, Tonari No Yokai-san is also an interesting anime to learn more about the various kinds of yokai in Japanese culture.  

All in all, the first episode was absolutely exquisite – the characters, art, even the sound of rural Japanese countryside instantly teleports us into a sense of calm and peace. This anime is highly recommended for those who enjoy slice-of-life shows with a heavy dose of culture and mythical elements.


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