Double, double, toil, and trouble, all Miko Yotsuya ever seems to get is trouble. From the nightmarish creepy-crawlies that saturate almost every aspect of her daily life to her cute but clueless BFF, Miko can’t seem to catch a break. This would be hilarious if not for the truly horrifying creatures that go bump at all hours of Miko’s day. However, she definitely takes it like a champ! Armed with the world’s best poker face (seriously, Miko should consider competitive poker), Miko takes on both her teenage woes and the supernatural challenges one day at a time with some laughs (for us), sweet sentimentality (for us and Miko), and fear of the fresh hell these horrors raise (that’s all for Miko).
From its boppy opening theme, it was clear that this season’s much-anticipated horror/comedy/slice-of-life/ecchi (what even is this?) was going to be different from the ghastly ghouls, axe-wielding murderers, and creepy murderous school kids (looking at you, Hinamizawa) we’re all accustomed to when we think of horror. So what exactly sets Mieruko-chan apart? Why do we keep coming back for more? And most of all, why do we go from rumbling hahahas to much-deserved eeewwws in the span of seconds? Stay tuned and get ready to break down all the whys of this refreshing take on the horror genre!
Horror by Any Other Name (Hint: It’s Comedy)
Grotesque beings straight out of our nightmares lurking at every turn, that haunting question in that distorted voice: ‘Can you see me?’ Oof, Mieruko-chan has all the makings of a top-notch horror show. However, it’s horror that isn’t horrifying! But what does it mean?! Well, while the designs and nature of the monsters, and truthfully, even the (good?) Shrine spirits are all terrifying and ominous, this anime walks the line between true terror and growing discomfort very well. The premise? Frightening. The monsters? Frightening. But, are we frightened? No, because Mieruko-chan is a hybrid between horror, comedy, slice-of life, and ecchi (we were surprised by that one too).
With elements of everyday life interspersed with comedy from Miko’s own approach to these terrible creatures, not to mention the hilarious shenanigans of her oblivious squad, the anime is very well-balanced between laughs and whimpers. Furthermore, as Miko grows to understand some of these creatures, albeit from a very, very safe distance, the story unfolds to be sentimental and heart-warming to boot; with moments like a deceased spirit husband trying to aid his old, confused wife (or Miko’s teacher’s deceased baby’s spirit watching over her pregnancy). It really manages to tug on the heartstrings. However, these warm and fuzzy feelings of comfort, sentimentality, and a good laugh do absolutely nothing to dilute the horror. True to form, the monsters don’t change, and to be honest, we wouldn’t have in any other way.
Miko: Not-So Warrior Woman
Black vapour slowly unfurls, a gaunt, distorted form drags itself out of a dark corner, slowly inching towards our heroine, moaning and groaning, and Miko… well, Miko is unfazed. Or she appears to be. On the inside, Miko is just like us screaming into the void at the sight of the grotesque beings that for some reason (it’s so definitely Hana) seem to be around her 24/7. Finally, the relatable horror protagonist we all need! While most horror heroes and heroines answer the calling and take up arms to fight for the sake of the greater good, Miko does what honestly any of us would do: pretend you don’t see the gross thing and stick your head in the sand.
Stoicism is key in this strategy and just how we would avoid roaches and rats, Miko does the same with impressive self-control, showing no outward reaction to the spirits floating around. And while she isn’t totally immune to heroism and saving her friends or any other casualties, she does so in a manner befitting her stoic strategy to minimise any danger that could be instigated by calling the creatures’ attention. Talk about a breath of fresh air! All Miko wants is peace and quiet as she stays in her own lane (and really, who can blame her? ). She doesn’t care about heroics or bravery or glory, and that’s probably what’s keeping her alive!
Passivity has never looked more attractive, has it?
The Kids are Not-at-All Right
Friends. You can love’em but you can’t leave’em. Though, in this case, Miko’s odds of avoiding monsters would certainly be higher without them. From oblivious Hana Yurikawa attracting an alarming amount those grotesque beings to ambitious (read: delusional) Yuria Niguredou’s one-sided rivalry about becoming the most powerful spiritualist, all Miko’s friends seem to do is exacerbate the problem.
In Hana’s case, she’s as clueless as they come but her bright and powerful aura is so strong that the creepies can’t help but flock to her (and by proxy, Miko because codependency). With Yuria, things get a little more complicated. Yuria also has the ‘sight’ except hers is significantly weaker, allowing her to only see the moderately creepy and not the truly terrifying. Thus, she has the misguided notion that her calling is to become an exorcist, and through numerous misinterpretations, she comes to believe that Miko is a strong medium who dismisses her as a small-fry (we told you, misguided). She interprets the most mundane activities (literally tripping over) as exorcist activity and, thus, reinforces her own completely incorrect notions about Miko.
These two endearing little pests’ continued blissful oblivion just makes Miko’s life harder as she constantly tries to bail them out while they keep running headfirst towards trouble. Poor Miko! Her headaches make our bellies ache with laughter because this hilarious contrast is what drives 99% of the anime’s comedy, and we certainly appreciate these shenanigans because they beautifully balance out Miko’s petrified internal monologue to create a more light-hearted slice-of-life vibe.
Mieruko-chan manages compromise with flying colours. While it trades in heart-pounding terror for heartwarming moments, it keeps grotesque monsters and terrifying Shrine spirits in place of cheesy gags. It even gives up jump scares for some ecchi content but keeps comedic punchlines in place of a crusade against the big bads. All this and the single most relatable horror protagonist to date who isn’t stupidly impulsive or annoyingly curious or irresponsibly throwing caution to the wind. No wonder we can’t get enough of Mieruko-chan, there’s nothing quite like it anywhere!
What do you think of this inter-genre masterpiece? Be honest, would you employ the head in the sand strategy too? Let us know in the comments below!