Anime Review

Anime Hajime Review: Shadows House

Original Run: April 11, 2021 - July 4, 2021
Number of Episodes: 13
Genre: Mystery, Supernatural
Based on the Series Created By: Soumatou

***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Shadows House. Reader discretion is advised.***

Series Synopsis

The Shadows live in utter blackness. They have no facial features, show no emotions, and possess strange supernatural powers. To communicate, the Shadows rely on Living Dolls, which act as their face.

One of the newest Living Dolls is Emilico (voiced by Yuu Sasahara), who serves under Lady Kate (voiced by Akari Kitou).

Whether by design or by fate, neither Emilico nor Kate behave in a manner the Shadows deem suitable. Nevertheless, both aim to be a part of this mysterious household. But they soon learn there might be more against them than they first realized.

Series Positives

All and all, Shadows House was a pleasant little mystery. It had a nice balance between lighthearted fun and severe behind-the-curtains trickery. Additionally, this series was both fairly straightforward and more than meets the eye.

Now, you might be thinking, “How can a show claim to have these seemingly contradictory elements?”

Such a question touches on my point. Shadows House is not something to overlook. At the risk of upsetting a far more enormous fanbase than I realize, I would consider this series a hidden gem. And I label this show as such because it had to compete with several high-profile anime during its spring 2021 run.

For instance, Shadow House didn’t have the name power on the level of Fruits Basket The Final or Moriarty the Patriot 2nd Season. Additionally, as far as I can tell, this series didn’t have the same word-of-mouth buzz enjoyed by Don’t Toy with Me, Miss Nagatoro or Odd Taxi.

Regardless, perhaps Shadows House’s most immediate eye-catcher is its premise.

As a recap: A soot-like substance covers the titular Shadows. Thus, they are incapable of showing facial emotions, and it is tough to tell them apart. To get around this, the Shadows employ Living Dolls to serve as their “face.”

Given such a set-up, I trust you can guess how a mystery tale might emerge. Sure enough, there is much more happening below the surface. And since Shadows House had many well-obviously-there-is-more-going-on aspects, this story needed to have something deeper. This series’ response to that was its characters.

More specifically, Shadows House’s two shining stars were its protagonists, Emilico and Kate. To be frank, every other character in this show was rather bland; or, more to the point, they were what you would expect. They were:

  • Fully indoctrinated
  • Limited by rules and customs
  • Hesitant to go against what they “knew”
  • Quick to vilify anyone different or – in their eyes – inferior

Fortunately, most of Shadows House’s main cast was young, so they were receptive to the much more rebellious Emilico and Kate. Of course, when I say our heroes were “rebellious,” I mean they did not fit within the expected Shadow-Doll relationship.

As a doll, Emilico’s role was to be subservient to her Shadow. You know: speak when spoken to, seen but not heard, that sort of thing. However, Emilico was anything but that. She was friendly, energetic, quick to help, and would resist anything she deemed as unreasonable or cruel.

Naturally, Emilico’s personality would have been incompatible with nearly any other member of the Shadows household, except Kate – a shocker, I know.

Still, Kate, in her own way, was an outsider within the Shadows. Part of this series’ mystery was learning Kate’s position in the family. Many members considered her to be below their station. While simultaneously, many others thought of her as a significant threat.

What sort of threat was she? Well, that was the big question, wasn’t it?

It will be interesting to see where Emilico and Kate’s tale ends up. At the time of this review going live (September 2021), a season two appears to be in the works, although I cannot speak to a possible release date yet.

The prospects of a continuation are exciting. After all, this installment’s conclusion wasn’t conclusive. There are far more questions than there are answers.

I can say, with all confidence, Shadows House is well-deserving of a part two; it was quite solid. Don’t get me wrong, there was plenty this series could have done to be better, but it has earned another go.

Series Negatives

This section is going to be relatively short. In other reviews where I have said something similar, the reason why has always sounded like a cop-out:

“It is difficult to critique an unfinished story.”

Since Shadows House season two seems likely to happen, this show falls into that category. In terms of narrative, I am not yet sure what is a negative and what is a potential build-up to something more.

So, when talking about its story, I have nothing against this series.

What is more concerning is how little I care about any continuation. Please don’t misunderstand; I don’t dread a sequel to this show. When Shadows House 2 arrives, I will go into it with high hopes. Be that as it may, season one didn’t have much of a wow factor.

In complete honesty, I didn’t know about the upcoming season two until I started writing this review. When I had finished episode thirteen, I knew there had to be more to the plot since it had only really just begun. And yet, I am not dying to know what happens next.

Although a show doesn’t have to trigger that oh-my-god-I-can’t-wait anticipation for it to be a good stand-alone product, it’s a tad worrying when we’re talking about a mystery narrative. After all, intrigue is the point of this genre. When you are indifferent, something is missing.

To, hopefully, give you a better idea of what I am talking about, we can look towards this show’s animation.

Shadows House’s visuals were fine, but they weren’t anything to write home about. Sure, Kate’s pitch black appearance contrasted beautifully with her deep red dress, but come on, these colors inherently complement each other.

Keep in mind; Shadows House was from CloverWorks Studios, which has given us the Aobuta franchise, The Promised Neverland series (and, yes, I am including season two), and the truly well-animated 2021 show, Horimiya. This is a company that knows how to do outstanding artwork.

Therefore, by contrast, Shadows House wasn’t anything special. Fun, yes, but am I going to remember it? Well, thanks to the possibility of season two, probably. But otherwise, no.

Final Thoughts

I can’t shake the feeling I was unfair to this series. Fundamentally, I enjoyed it, or, at least, I enjoyed it enough.

Perhaps this show was the beginning of something more. Whenever part two comes along, maybe that is when this story’s power will come in full force. I am happy to bank on that optimism; I can think of a few soon-to-release sequels I feel real hesitance towards – Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation Season 2 (Fall 2021).

This series paused on solid ground, and its future is promising. That is why I can recommend Shadows House.

But these were just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this series? How would you advise Shadows House? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.

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For Anime Hajime, I’m Odyssey, and I’ll see you next time.

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