Yuuna and the Haunted Hot Springs
Due to his abilities as a medium, Kogarashi Fuyuzora's childhood has been anything but easy. As his financial stability isn't the greatest, he has to resort to Yuuragi Inn for his living arrangements, and he immediately found out why that place is so cheap: his room is haunted by the spirit of a girl, Yuuna Yunohana, a ghost spiritbound to the place.
As lore goes, spirits are only bound to the world if they have past regrets that are unsolved, but Yuuno remembers nothing about who she was, or even how she died, much less what those regrets are. However, since lingering spirits have a tendency to turn into demons if too much time passes, Kogarashi takes it upon himself to help her pass on.
Yuuna and the Haunted Hot Springs already had some positive word of mouth from the start, so I was a little annoyed when it wasn't made available in Scandinavia, which is increasingly becoming the norm now that more streaming services are entering the arena. That's the nature of competition, I guess. And the fun thing about region restrictions.
But I digress. The reason I was interested in Yuuna and the Haunted Hot Springs, disturbing parallells to Love Hina aside, is that it sounded like a fun romp of the slightly naughty side. What I didn't expect, though, was Yuuna and the Haunted Hot Springs being as old-school as it is, for both good and bad.
One of the good parts is easily identified as our main character, Kogarashi Fuyuzora. The guy is a far cry from the dull, nondescript milquetoasts you'd see in a lot of harems, until they would get replaced by their player characters in whatever isekai offering we'd get. Reminding me a lot of a shounenized version of Natsume (of Natsume's Book of Friends fame), maybe with a little dash of Outbreak Company's Shinichi Kanou. The guy is a part of a group that's hopefully slowly coming back, even in the harem genre: likable male leads with lives. As fun as How Not to Summon a Demon Lord was, the show leaned more into a... shall we say non-human character type... with him, mostly for comedic reason -- which worked -- but whose standout points was still the small moments of humanity that shone through at key moments.
Granted, Yuuna and the Haunted Hot Springs doesn't at any point take itself as seriously as How Not to Summon a Demon Lord sometimes did; it's got naught but a comedic bone in its body, and Kogarashi never really delves into his real feelings hidden behind whatever personae he's fronting because he is 100% sincere about himself at all times. Part of that is because the latter could get pretty nasty at times, while Yuuna and the Haunted Hot Springs seems to lean more towards the lighthearted shenanigans of shows like Ranma 1/2, especially seen in the double-episode arc where Kogarashi has to rescue Yuuna from a somewhat overeager suitor and his marriage plans for her. But even beyond that, Kogarashi is just a really nice and supporting guy who doesn't seem dead set on holding grudges, but still isn't afraid of voicing his opinion on matters surrounding the people in his life.
And then we have Yuuna, our titular ghost. Of all the characters in this show, she's the most secretive. Not intentionally, of course, because as she states, she simply doesn't remember what her life was like before she died. Unfortunately, we don't really learn a lot about her during this season, since it serves more as a character introduction for everyone. This show does drop some hints that she was most likely another medium, much like Kogarashi, since apparently, her spiritual powers -- which is what she uses to drop Kogarashi in the outside spring area most, if not all, mornings. She is bound to the inn, which is another source of mystery, but she can still travel places by her own volition, seemingly without any ill effects. But you kind of have to take her at face value for this show, since that's all we really get for now, and I can't really hold it against a show for telling us something it's not really supposed to before the appointed time.
The downside is that the comedy is more of a mixed bag. The show sadly leans on the "male lead must go through a lot of trouble because of the girls" trope a bit much, mainly when -- due to the fact that he shares a room with Yuuna -- often wakes up because Yuuna herself wakes up in the morning in a rather compromising position with him, and through the sheer forces of her supernatural feelings of embarrassment, sends him flying out the window and into the nearby spring. Since that is never done with a sense of malice, however, I could live with that. Sagiri Ameno, however, became more of a hurdle during the opening episodes, though, as she acted more like the main reason why I made the Love Hina comparison earlier; she's far too quick to blame Kogarashi for things that are pretty much out of his control, and while one could argue that finding a guy on top of a girl with one of his hands on her chest is most certainly a case of sexual harrassment, she tends to refuse to listen to reason even after the other girls explains the situation to her. She is basically the part of the harem core group who's initially a "man-hater" (show's words) due to inexperience in socializing with guys, and is a character trope I wish would just die already. I'm happy to report, however, that Yuuna and the Haunted Hot Springs mostly tones that down for the majority of the show, and even has her converse normally with him for the most part, and even asking him to come with her for a job later on despite this supposed dislike for men.
It's this sense of sincerity that makes Yuuna and the Haunted Hot Springs such an enjoyable show to watch, and this extends to the remaining characters as well. Like the caretaker of Yuuragi inn, the zashiki-warashi, Chitose Nakai. She might look like a little girl, but she's nevertheless a spirit who's been around for quite some time. Unbeknownst to everyone in Yuuragi inn, she attends a nearby school as a middle-schooler, and the principal of said school is in on that. If I understood it correctly, Chitose once acted as kind of a guardian spirit for the principal when he was a little boy, and after said boy grew up to become the middle-aged man he currently is, repaid her by basically giving her the chance to experience what it's like to be a part of that social circle that is school.
Rounding off the rest of the resident cast, we have Fushiguro Yaya, resident maneki-neko-ghost possessed girl, now catgirl, and Arahabaki Nonko, who covers the "drunken, sexually aggressive older(ish) woman" part of the whole roundup. We fairly quickly learn that Nonko is an oni, and as such is immensely physically strong. Unlike Yuuna and Sagiri, Yaya and Nonko has yet to take a romantic interest in Kogarashi, but while Nonko might be a bit outside Kogarashi's age range, Yaya might come around later. This is a harem, after all. But fret not, the school Kogarashi is attending also comes with a more obvious member of his harem; Miyazaki Chisaki. She's kind of the class idol, and aside from Yuuna starting the day by using Kogarashi as a body pillow, is also the girl Kogarashi's the most accidentally intimate with. Which brings us back to the downside, as the two go through their typical old-school harem "accidental grab -> accusation of being a pervert" routine. The interesting part here is that Yuuna went with Kogarashi to his new school, which brought its own set of problems, given that only Kogarashi could see her and all. But despite Kogarashi making a complete fool of himself on his very first day, Chisaki is still quick to warm up to him -- partially due to a poltergeist problem with her plushie collection, and she also becomes Yuuna's first human friend after her death. Erm... Yuuna's death, that is. Chisaki is still very much alive throughout all of the first season, and I don't see that changing anytime soon. But yes, take a look at the leftmost screenshot right below this paragraph, and keep in mind that Chisaki can't actually see Yuuna; her touching Yuuna merely stems from the fact that Yuuna herself offered to let Chisaki touch her because she was curious what Yuuna looked like.
And no, it does not lead to an accidental breast grab. The scene wasn't really "ruined" before Kogarashi checked in on them again, and of course had to walk in on the two in a partial state of undress, with predictably painful results for him.
Like I said, the comedy is a mixed bag.
What I really like about Yuuna and the Haunted Hot Springs is that it has the same kind of unassuming, but still clearly noticeable character progression as more quiet slice-of-lives like Hidamari Sketch. Yes, Chisaki thinks of Kogarashi as a pervert at first, but she slowly figures out some of the things that goes on around her, and this leads her to more easily believe in ghosts of Yuuna's kind, which allows the two to become friends without either of them having to rely on Kogarashi to communicate. I mentioned Sagiri slowly opening up to and treating Kogarashi more like a normal person, but coupled with the fact that, again, Kogarashi honestly feels more like a real person than a bland shell for people to project themselves onto, and the connection between him and the girls feel like more than just "main lead does generic nice things -> girls love him because he's nice". Or rather, it's not so much the actions that speak louder than the words, but the connections that lends weight to the actions the characters do, which deepens the relationships.
Well... I might be overselling the drama here. Again, the show is what it is, but it's always nice to see when shows that tries to appeal to the more intimate urges of ours also makes an effort to appeal to our better sides. The first show coming to mind that also did this would be Monster Musume, although Yuuna and the Haunted Hot Springs leans more towards power fantasies like High School DxD, except it's not as much about actual fighting in this case. Rather, it's Kogarashi's abilities that allows him to communicate with Yuuna in the first place, and while it's not a common ability among people, he's also not the only one. It does beg the question why he was placed in Yuuna's room if everyone knew she was there, but I suspect that was part of someone's plan, and everyone in Yuuragi inn are fully aware that it's probably not good if Yuuna lingers in the living world for too long, her powers notwithstanding.
I was a bit unhappy to see that the show then relies on the ol' "random seemingly super-strong rival comes to try to take the female lead away" story arc in what constitutes a double-episode arc, which was a really popular thing to lean on back when Ranma 1/2 movies needed to be made. Genshiro Ryuuga is considered the "Black Dragon God", a person so strong that Sagiri considers him "god class" as power levels go. Aside from being a bit of an overused plot device -- especially considering Ryuuga arrived more or less out of nowhere and left just as quickly. The guy is portrayed as being kind of an idiot, but that doesn't really diminishing the fact that he's assaulting any girl he's even mildly interested in -- not violently, but he would basically grab a woman he's interested in, and their opinion on the subject doesn't really matter as far as he's concerned.
In a weird way, it also feels like his inclusion in the show is solely to introduce us to the latest member of Kogarashi's growing harem, Shintou Oboro. She is Ryuuga's older sister, and her (presumably deceased) mother made a request of her to strenghten her clan in the most direct way possible. Yuuna became Ryuuga's target because of her strong spiritual powers, and since Kogarashi manages to save her by defeating Ryuuga -- yeah, no surprise there -- she shifts to the plan B she never thought she needed, thus probably didn't have time to... uh, flesh out (no innuendo intended): bear his kids. The dumb comedy rears its ugly head again here, as everyone but Yuuna thought she was a man until she reveals that she does indeed have a set of boobs at her disposal. Reveal how, you might say? Well, to that I say: "what kind of show do you think this is? Of course she just flops them all out for the world to see."
Huh huh. "Fleshed out."
Anyway, yes, this is indeed a harem with its fair share of fanservice and nudity. The stream is most likely censored a bit more than any eventual disc release, though Yuuna and the Haunted Hot Springs will never be as direct as High School DxD. It's a sweet little inbetweener where Kogarashi's fighting capabilities, while very significant, are still not really relevant to the show. Rather, one of the actually funny repeat jokes in the show is how, whenever he proves himself very adept at something, it turns out he was possessed by a spirit of a master in that very subject, who then forced Kogarashi to do that one thing until he mastered it. And if you think that sounds awesome, like I did, then just try to imagine Kogarashi giving you "that look". You know, the one that just exhudes "yeah, you wouldn't say that if you actually had to live it, idiot!"
Visually, the show sort of hits that middle ground where it doesn't look terrible, but isn't particularly eye-popping either. The character designs are distinct enough to make the characters easily identifiable, and while most of the girls are generously endowed, it doesn't reach the same kind of ridiculousness that tend to be the norm for more modern boobie offerings, which I appreciated. Being a fanservice show watched via a stream, I had to deal with oddly placed obstructions that didn't always mesh well with the rest of the show, but that's not really anything new. Again, the animation is pretty serviceable, so watching Yuuna and the Haunted Hot Springs should never hurt; the "worst" parts are usually seeing characters float around in a rather artificial manner, or the weird 80'ish "breast wobble" you'd see in older fanservice shows from bustier characters.
Where How Not to Summon a Demon Lord takes the isekai genre for a ride with some surprisingly well done character portrayals, and High School DxD goes all out on the shameless frontiers, Yuuna and the Haunted Hot Springs takes a look back at the various aspects of 80's and 90's harems. It picks up some of the tropes and elements that worked well for the genre back in the days, and even though it also includes some of the more tiresome aspects of older harems, it does so with a gentler and more respectful approach, and makes Yuuna and the Haunted Hot Springs work out its issues on its own. If a few groans is the worst I have to endure, I'd say the show is a success.
It's a bit of a weak four as boobie shows go, but Yuuna and the Haunted Hot Springs's heart more than makes up for its shortcomings. — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: Just about all of the violence in the show is relatively bloodless, although Ryuuga's designs for Yuuna aren't something younger people should watch. The guy might be an idiot, but he's still harrassing a whole lot of women, and he doesn't seem to care whether his potential mates actually want him for a husband.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital stream on Wakanime (European streaming service, as the show isn't available in Scandinavia on Crunchyroll.)
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Yuuna and the Haunted Hot Springs © 2018 Xebec.
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