Shadows House (Seasons 1 and 2)
A girl wakes up with no memories, in a gloomy castle run by the Shadows (who have human form, but just appear as silhouettes.) The girl is told she's a Human Doll, and assigned as a servant to Kate, a Shadow girl. Kate gives her the name Emilico. Kate is very compassionate, and independent-minded, qualities which don't endear her to Shadows Upper Management (i.e., the Shadow adults; Kate, her Shadow peers, and their Dolls all live in the Children's Wing of the castle.) Suspected of being a rebel (especially by an adult named Edward), Kate must carefully navigate through Shadows House customs and politics to reach her goals; for she really IS a rebel, wanting to take down the cruelty behind the system created by the Shadows (especially when its true nature is revealed); and her kindness and respect for Emilico have won her at least one loyal ally and friend.
There are two things I look for in exercises in fictional world-building, whether that world is vast, or smaller as it seems here (there's no evidence shown that the influence of the Shadows extends beyond the castle and a nearby village): attention to detail, and attention to character. For attention to detail, I'll note that about half my questions about the Shadows were answered (and my suspicions about the Dolls confirmed) by the end of Season One, and most of my remaining questions by the end of Season Two. The show evokes much of the atmosphere of claustrophobia and menace that the first (and MUCH better) season of The Promised Neverland did, but THIS show has been able to sustain those feelings for two whole seasons now, though Shadows House is still not ready to wind things up. Still, one thing is clear: while becoming an adult is hard, in Shadows House it's by invitation only- and it's an invitation you MIGHT want to turn down. (I'll also note that since it's set in a dimly-lit castle, Shadows House has a Gothic feel to it that The Promised Neverland's Grace Field House didn't.)
One of the ideas here is that the Dolls, besides being the Shadows' servants, are also supposed to be their Faces, capturing their moods, and the expressions they WOULD have if we could see their expressions at all. There is also a tendency (which Kate didn't honor) for the Shadows to give their Dolls names similar to, or based on, their own. Kate doesn't try to make Emilico be like herself in any way, and so their traits complement each other: Emilico is exuberant and energetic (the other Shadows sarcastically call her "Sunshine"), while Kate is cautious and reserved; Emilico is athletic, while we see that Kate is physically weak. Though I guess Emilico's having to clean not only her mistress's quarters, but help with cleaning the castle as well, ensures that Emilico gets plenty of exercise. Lots of cleaning is required, too, for the Shadows emit "soot" (and emit more of it when stressed); and this soot is a key ingredient in the show's plot.
The soot, you see, is toxic to the Human Dolls in large amounts, though in controlled amounts it's actually useful to the Shadows' objectives. But the soot, if it accumulates, can literally take on a life of its own. I guess if our "dust bunnies" came to life, and started attacking us, we would have more incentive to clean thoroughly, too. (One of my two complaints about the show is that these creatures made of accumulated soot, called "scorches", look more silly than menacing.)
I have to admit that I liked Kate more than the forthright, gregarious Emilico, but only because my own personality is more like Kate's; others will much more easily identify with Emilico. Kate, by the way, has an ardent (if clueless) suitor named John, who's impetuous and a chronic blunderer, though sometimes blunders give one more information than being cautious ever could. (When John mentions "common sense", Kate is incredulous: "John is aware of common sense???"). John's right-hand Human Doll, named Shaun, is much more sensible than his master, and he and Emilico become close confidants.
Our old friend Rie Kugimiya voices a Shadow named Barbara (and her Human Doll, Barbie), apparently the chief Star Bearer. (The Star Bearers are like the trusties in prisons, inmates who are allowed to perform certain duties for those managing the place.) Currently Barbara is pretty disagreeable- and of course we know that Rie does "disagreeable" quite well- but we see that Barbara wasn't always so, and I thought Rie captured the range of the character's moods- from her once cheerful self, thorough the shocking events that changed her, to her present personality- pretty convincingly.
I guess this is as good a place as any to air my other complaint. Anyone who's watched an old movie serial knows that when the next chapter picks up from the apparent disaster that ended the last chapter, we'll see that the hero, at the very last second, escaped the fire/explosion/plunging car that we're led to believe must have done them in. Shadows House does something like this- there will be some confrontation or trap which surely looks like the end for Kate and/or Emilico, but we'll discover that some elaborate preparation was done that saves the day- and I wasn't convinced they always really had time to elaborately prepare.
Kate has become another of my favorite anime girls, and she surely is the Best Girl That You Can't Actually See. The show is always intriguing, but we're still at the stage where the more that's revealed about its little world, its history, and its denizens, the more we're drawn in. The first two seasons of Shadows House may have been mostly stage-setting, but I'm eager to see the rest of this saga unfold. Unlike SOME shows I could mention, it keeps up its suspense throughout. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: Rightstuf rates the Blu-Ray 14+. There are some (apparent) suicides, some other deaths (of both Dolls and Shadows), and the Shadows employ basically water torture to clear the Dolls of "scorch" poisoning (rather graphically shown.)
Version(s) Viewed: Crunchyroll video stream
Review Status: Full (25/25)
Shadows House (Seasons 1 and 2) © 2021-2022 Aniplex, CloverWorks
|© 1996-2015 THEM Anime Reviews. All rights reserved.|