In its way, Youkai Apartment no Yuuga na Nichijou may be the oddest series off the summer 2017 schedule. It’s not as though it’s especially outlandish or provocative, but it’s definitely idiosyncratic. It very much has its own way of spinning a narrative, and it’s an odd mix of middlebrow comedy, seriously dark drama and heartfelt reflection on the magic and mystery of youth. The Japanese have always struck me as having a more idealistic view of childhood and adolescence than most Western cultures, and I think that’s very much reflected in the way Yuushi is presented in this series.
I remain convinced that Yuushi-kun’s arrival at Kotobuki-so was not a coincidence, but fate. I don’t know if they were expecting him per se (though it does strike me that way at times, like this week) but there was definitely a guiding hand involved. Everyone seems to take a hand in his upbringing, most specifically Akine of course in that she’s the one training him to be a mage. This time around that means filling his summer break with chanting sutras while being doused with the coldest water yet – so draining, in fact, that’s he’s unable to stand when she’s finished and has to be carried princess-style to the bath, first by Fukase-san and then by Ryuu-san (who practically fight over the honor).
This idea of an adolescent as a gem waiting to be polished isn’t unique to Japan, but seems most elemental there And like a gem being polished Yuushi is losing bit of himself – when he weighs himself after a week of training he discovers he’s lost a rather alarming 10 kg (over 20% of his body weight). There’s a curiously rambling tone to the depiction of Yuushi’s struggles – almost as if we’re feeling the same sense of disorientation he is. Maybe I’m giving Youkai Apato too much credit here, but it’s oddly effective despite being rather off-putting at first.
Once more it’s to Isshiki-san that the responsibility for encapsulating the distilled wisdom of the week falls. This time it’s all around the idea of being lost as a privilege of the young – in effect, that you can’t find yourself until you’re lost. This is what Yuushi is experiencing, the disorientation and disquiet of not knowing what’s happening to him and whether he wants it to be. But everyone’s experience is different here – for Ryuu-san and Akine, there was never any uncertainty about where their lives were headed, so their challenge was simply to confront their own struggles with their fate and overcome them. For someone like Fukase it was the exact opposite – until he found what he was called to do (painting) he was a troubled and troubling child.
In the end Yuushi does find himself – for now, anyway. It’s a kind of out of body experience during training (Akine calls it divine inspiration) that seems to reveal to him that he’s on the right path. All of us should be so lucky, of course, but that such things are possible is a major tenet of Buddhism and as life philosophies go, it’s had a lot more staying power and general traction than most. This frees Ryuu-san to leave, but the interesting part is that he’s stayed this long because he wanted to be there for Yuushi during his struggles – which epitomizes the general theme of the episode. Ryuu even gives Yuushi a parting gift – a third eye. While that’s sure to complicate future trips to the optometrist I’m certainly it will come in useful – though at times it will likely show Yuushi things he’d be happier not to be able to see…