Mieruko-chan might just be the feel-good anime of the season, provided you have a high tolerance for the sight of large maggot-infested ghouls wandering the gossamer-thin boundary between the living and the dead. More so than its blend of horror and comedy, the consistent gestures towards wholesomeness are proving to be the series’ secret weapon. Count me pleasantly surprised! At its best, there’s a deft mélange of genre conventions and subversions being balanced within Mieruko-chan‘s clockwork, preventing it from feeling too scary, too goofy, or too treacly at any one moment. It’s a strange and scattershot approach, but so far, a largely successful one as well.
With Yulia’s introduction this week, we can finally put a name to the pair of pigtails. Character-wise, she’s a happy medium between Miko and Hana, which is a good way to round out the main cast. Like Miko, she’s in touch with the other side and shaped by the lonesomeness of navigating that world with neither a guide nor a comrade-in-arms. Like Hana, however, she’s rash and naïve, prone to chuuni-esque ambitions without the supernatural capital to back them up. The important difference between her and Miko is that her sight is weaker; the ghosts she does see are translucent and mostly harmless, and she doesn’t notice the sort of super grotesque ones that have been bothering Miko the most.
This adds an interesting wrinkle to their first meeting. I had been expecting Miko to jump at the opportunity to share her secret with a friend who both understood and experienced the exact same phenomenon. However, Miko still believes it’s better to close herself off, to protect both herself and Yulia. It’s a little heartbreaking—or it would be if the show didn’t dampen the blow with some hearty ridiculousness. And I’m really glad that Miko’s infatuation with wrestling is now a character trait and not just a one-off thing she used to dodge some extrasensory eyes in a panic. It fits her personality. The nonchalant chokehold also caps the scene with some strong physical comedy. Miko can think on her feet, but she definitely doesn’t come up with the most graceful solution every time.
Despite the violent escalation and misunderstanding, I’m sure it’s only a matter of time until Miko and Yulia will be able to confide in each other in earnest. It helps that they have similar goals. Yulia straight-up wants to learn how to exorcise evil spirits, so that she can twist her “curse” around into a superpower. While Miko hasn’t said it in so many words, we already have a weighty handful of examples of her sight helping others and herself. And—if you’ll allow me a moment to read too deeply into a silly horror comedy anime—this development would be satisfying on a thematic level too. We all, to varying degrees, deal with problems by ignoring them. There are plenty of places (especially on social media) where that’s probably the best course of action. However, willful ignorance can also accumulate and compound into stress and anxiety. It’s a stopgap, not a solution. Miko is going to have to confront her fears head-on someday, but she won’t have to do it alone.
Miko already knows that it’s pretty bad for her to mistake an old woman for another phantasm. I doubt the Mieruko-chan anime will ever grow that serious, but the mental exhaustion of her ESP weighing down on her to the point where she can no longer discern the living from the dead would make for a legitimately terrifying story. Here, however, it’s just another example of the series’ talent for misdirection, turning a supposed paranormal encounter into a sweet emotional touchstone where Miko’s kindness shines as bright as her smartphone screen. She takes a big risk, too! By showing the safe combination to the old woman, Miko lets her veil of ignorance slip, opening herself completely to any ghastly torments the specter has in store for her. But this is what makes her a good person and a likable protagonist. She’s willing to shoulder that burden for the sake of a complete stranger, who regains a piece of her lucidity alongside a precious memento of her late husband. And Miko, in turn, receives both extant and incorporeal thank yous. The spirit world, much like our own, is full of all kinds of characters, and they are neither universally good nor universally bad. When you think about it, maybe we’re all just looking for a little help on our way to get vored by a giant unholy alley monster.
After the premiere, I feared the series might wear out its one joke pretty quickly, but Mieruko-chan has instead improved with time, delivering my favorite episode yet this week. We got a fun new occult-obsessed character, a very cool and gross box-headed spider demon, and another legitimately heartwarming conclusion about the persistence of family. While there’s no doubt the show still has a formula, it’s a richer formula than I originally expected. I don’t mind heartstring plucking alongside some good old-fashioned blood curdling and funny-bone tickling. Halloween might be over now, but I believe the season of spooks to be year-round, so I’m looking forward to two more months of Mieruko-chan.
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