An atmospheric gothic story, Shadows House invites us to meet the mysterious Shadows Family and the “living dolls” that serve them. Adapted from the ongoing manga series by Soumatou, Shadows House was off to a quiet start, slowly building up the story behind the eerie Shadows Mansion, the soot-covered noble family, and their public faces, the living dolls.
With deceptively cute character design and a cast of young characters under the reign of Grandfather, Shadows House seems reminiscent of The Promised Neverland, which didn’t exactly get fair treatment in its last season when adapted by the same animation studio, CloverWorks. So far, we’re hooked and we do hope the Shadows House adaptation doesn’t go down the same route. Let’s see what our first impressions are.
Dolls, Shadows, Humans?
Emilico is a young living doll, whose sole purpose is to serve Kate Shadow, her mistress, and member of the noble family. It’s painful to watch her trying so hard and we root for her. Emilico genuinely wants to serve Kate but this doesn’t stop her from being curious about her circumstances. Keeping a notebook with all her realizations is a key part of the plot as the slow pacing picks up by the third episode and Shadows House starts to show its true colors.
We do know that the Shadows need a doll because this is the only way to communicate their expressions. Before coming of age, each Shadow receives a living doll to act as their social face. The scene between Sara/Mia and Kate/Emilico is our favorite so far, giving us a clue into the true duties of a living doll, which has to perfectly mirror the Shadow’s expressions.
So far, as anime-only viewers, we are unsure whether we have met any humans. Where are they? Are the Shadows supernatural creatures or a cursed human family? Are the living dolls actually human? There are hints that they are, and the implications of that, if it’s true, are chilling, to say the least.
We don’t call Shadows House a gothic mystery lightly. The whole concept of a cursed (?) family with its own set of weird coming of age rituals, complicated social obligations, and a powerful Grandfather overseeing them, is straight out of a gothic novel. Usually set in a castle or mansion, gothic mysteries serve a foreboding atmosphere paired with a sweet defenseless female protagonist. Emilico fits the bill but she also shows signs that she is more of a tough cookie than we think.
We’re super curious to find out what the mansion stands for since, so far, we get only hints from the excellent ending theme which gives strong Alice in Wonderland vibes. All in all, nothing is what it seems to be, and the mystery and horror are solidified thanks to this discrepancy. We see a Disney-like happy scene, the living dolls singing sweet songs while cleaning the house, until a horrifying soot monster attacks. A doll gets soot sickness only to return looking happy and carefree as ever. The sweet songs are brainwashing rituals, forcing the dolls to give up any doubt and devote themselves fully to their masters.
Shadows House is a solid recommendation for mystery, gothic, and seinen lovers who don’t mind a cute character design instead of the usually gritty looks of other mature anime series. It’s still early to tell where it’s going, but we’ll keep watching and commenting on it here on Honey’s Anime!
Do you have any theories about the truth behind Shadows House and the living dolls? Let us know in the comments below and thanks for reading.