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Shadows House

Entry updated 9 August 2021. Tagged: TV.

Japanese animated tv series (2021). Based on the Manga by So-ma-to. CloverWorks. Directed by Kazuki Ōhashi. Written by Toshiya Ōno. Voice cast includes Takaya Hashi, Akari Kitō, Yū Sasahara and Shino Shimoji. Thirteen 24-minute episodes. Colour.

"Living Dolls" awake in the children's building of a large manorial estate, to be told they have been created as servants and companions to silhouette-like nobles called Shadows. These have black and featureless bodies; the Dolls' duties include accompanying them and providing expressions to match their mood and voice. Shadows, who refer to themselves in the third person, emit soot when upset: the Dolls must clean it up, as accumulated soot can form Monsters. The viewer quickly deduces that the Dolls are actually mind-wiped children (see Memory Edit). The main characters are the Doll Emilico (Sasahar), cheerful, resourceful, kind and clumsy; and her Shadow, Kate (Kitō), who suspects the situation is wrong.

She is correct: Shadows are "a form of morph, a parasitic fairy skilled at mimicry and imitation" (see Shapeshifters). The manor is ruled by Lord Grandfather (Hashi), who has devised a way to give morphs personalities and so become Shadows. Morphs mimic the appearance of a comatose Doll, subsequently interacting with them, acquiring their personality – eventually absorbing them, creating a "perfect being" whose ambition is to live as a noble on the mansion's third floor with Lord Grandfather. These "perfect beings" are frightful snobs.

Emilico, Kate and three other pairings of Doll and Shadow are tested for their fitness to enter the manor; a second-floor noble's machinations serve to bond them as a group. Nevertheless, one Shadow fails; her Doll, Ram (Shimoji), is relegated to becoming a veiled servant – a shy but intelligent character, she goes on to help the remaining pairs when they are accepted into the first floor of the manor. As is often the case with a manga-based Anime, the first season ends only on a minor climax, with no second season confirmed.

The show's setting is Victorian in feel, with occasional Steampunk influences and a decorative art style. Much is still left unexplained, particularly the history and true nature of the morphs. Emilico's personality, that of a typical plucky child heroine, is perhaps a little too Clichéd, but the other characters are varied and interesting. Shadows House is one of 2021's stronger anime series. [SP]


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