Shadows House GN 2 3

Shadows Space GN 2-3

If you look closely, there is so much to see. It becomes increasingly clear that there’s a lot more going on than any one of them can see as Shadows House enters the region covered at the conclusion of the first anime season, especially the so-called “debut” that all young Shadows and their living dolls must undertake. As Emilico and Kate start to expand their universe inside the House, these two volumes are full of crucial facts that are hidden from view. The trick is to sift through the details until you uncover the missing pieces.

The plot in volumes two and three is much more developed than it was in the first book, giving the impression that author so-ma-to has decided on a clear course for the narrative. These two volumes firmly place us in the mystery/fantasy genre, whereas the first book undoubtedly had many of the markers of the CGDCT genre. This indicates to Emilico that she will start her “lessons,” which more closely resemble “indoctrination” than anything more strictly academic. She is put in charge of a group of other dolls that is led by the upbeat elder girl Rosemary. Rosemary’s upbeat personality not only resembles Emilico’s (with the exception of some of the latter’s naivety), but it also makes the discovery of the predatory nature of Shadows soot all the more unsettling. Cleaning the dolls regularly is not only a result of the story’s Victorian setting; rather, it is a vital precaution to avoid the growth of soot monsters called coagles. While Rosemary being engulfed by a swarm of coagles can still be interpreted as a commentary on the state of Victorian cities during the heyday of coal-powered everything, it also carries a much darker symbolism, demonstrating the predatory nature of the soot that makes up the Shadows family.

Given the Shadows we mostly engage with in these volumes, it would be simple to sweep that under the rug. As we come to know Kate’s agemates, we can tell that most of them are also at least somewhat loving about their doll companions. Kate always treats Emilico with respect and is acutely aware that something is amiss about her home. The two boy Shadows, Patrick and John, start to shine in volume three, and John is the outstanding Shadow in these books. He comes across as a Shadow version of Emilico with Shaun as his Kate equivalent. He isn’t stupid per so, but impetuous to a fault. John doesn’t think much, but when he does, there’s a very real sense that, given the right circumstances, he could figure things out. This fits nicely with his sillier side. If Emilico uses his imagination, John might not even be aware that there is a box, and when he does, his initial response is to simply blow it up.

On the other side, Patrick is too unsure. Administrator Edward observes that Ricky appears to lead Patrick rather than the other way around during the initial portion of the premiere. Although his natural response is “how dare he,” unlike John and Louise, this is really a cover for his very real worry when he is forcibly taken away from his lifelike doll. One of the most memorable scenes in volume three is when Emilico finds Patrick before Ricky does and offers to let him free; when he declines, she instead tries to soothe and comfort him. She gives everyone permission to be themselves while reassuring them that everything will be okay. The image that goes along with this shows Emilico clutching the container in which Patrick is being held captive while he holds the daffodil she dropped through the air hole. This is evident in her relationships with Rum as well, and Edward’s primary annoyance with Emilico is due to this aspect of her character.

The tale shifts into high gear with Edward’s appearance at the conclusion of volume two. Being in charge of the Shadows’ debut is a responsibility he takes very seriously, and he already has a very clear vision for how he wants things to proceed. The other adult Shadows obviously have some concerns about his tactics—for example, some of them think the complicated maze game is overkill—but Edward doesn’t seem to realize that his own ambitions might be more of a problem than John’s impulsivity or Kate’s intelligence. Intriguingly, anime viewers will notice that Edward appears considerably younger here than in the adaptation. Edward and his interactions with Ellie and Jay are also the single biggest indication to the truth of the Shadows. That actually helps a lot for his character, giving him the appearance that he is more legitimately ambitious and that his schemes stem from immaturity rather than frustrated wishes.

Here, the world-building is still top-notch, and it is clear that so-ma-to done extensive research on Victorian material culture. The observations on formal gardens in volume three are dead on, and the between-the-chapters sections display outstanding attention to detail in terms of clothes and everyday customs. If the characters’ heads seem a touch too huge for their bodies, at least it gives them a doll-like aspect that truly works with the plot. The backdrops are also incredibly detailed.

After finding its footing, Shadows House is an intriguing mystery/fantasy combination. The plot is about to allow us to put our sleuthing to the test while the clues are all laid out for us to sort through.

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