Meet Emilico, a cheerful living doll, and her mistress, Kate, a member of the noble Shadow family. The Shadows all get a living doll to aid them in their daily lives and most importantly to act as their faces—members of the Shadow family are made of pitch dark soot, so they need someone else to communicate their expressions.
Shadows House unfolds quietly in the first half, presenting itself as the wholesome story of Emilico, the living doll, and Kate, a member of the esteemed Shadow family, as they get to know each other and strengthen their bond. We soon find out that there is a sinister truth behind the existence of this family, composed of shadow creatures, and their mansion. This is where the fun begins! We love that Shadows House doesn’t rush its pace and instead, introduces us to the main cast, establishes the relationships, and then moves on to the main arc. Let’s take a look into what we loved about this seinen series.
We had our qualms about the term “living doll”, thinking early in the series that the people serving the Shadow family are actual humans, but we were not prepared for the backstory of the Shadows. What happens to the living dolls after debuting alongside their masters, and achieving harmonious collaboration, is creepy, to say the least: the Shadow takes over, like a parasite, the living doll, to make use of their bodies as their own. Not only that, but the Shadows brainwash the local villagers through the soot fumes emitted from their Manor, who then gladly hand their kids over to become the next living dolls. Talk about a metaphor for the ruling class and the unsuspecting masses...
We have watched other anime series, like The Promised Neverland, that introduce us to an unjust system that takes advantage of its weakest members, or even Parasyte the Maxim, where a human becomes one with an alien parasitic organism, to name a few. Shadows House shares these themes, but it is unique in its atmosphere, dark yet cheery, sinister with fun moments, a Victorian-inspired playground with a modern feel. The atmosphere is strengthened by the tapestry-like art style and the fitting soundtrack.
Our reservations about another adaptation by CloverWorks, the second season of The Promised Neverland, led us to keep our enthusiasm in check. The plot of Shadows House was also altered slightly to fit the anime format, towards the finale, but as anime-onlies, we are happy with how things got wrapped up in the end, giving a temporary resolution to the secret rebellion of Kate, Emilico, John, and the rest of the new members of the Shadow family.
We loved Emilico and her gang and we hope the adaptation of the popular manga continues with a second season. Now that the new members of the family opposed Edward and Grandfather’s rule, we sense that this is only the beginning. Until then, let’s read the manga!
The plot twists, compelling characters, and beautiful, atmospheric animation won us over. But, what did you think of Shadows House? And, what are your theories about what happens next? Let’s discuss in the comments below, thanks for reading!