Mieruko-chan (2021) Review

Some people are special and see what others don't. Miko is one such person and happens to be able to see spirits of the deceased (yūrei and reikon).

A friend recommended me Mieruko-chan for the creepy creatures. He also warned me that this show isn't a straight up horror experience. There's ecchi, slice-of-life as well as comedy - presumably to lighten the mood and make the material easier to sell (since this anime is an adaption of an ongoing manga). I was still quite disappointed because watching the anime didn't exactly make me feel scared or creeped out. Somehow the supposed horror element of this series didn't come through to me much at all.

On the one hand I believe this is because of the show's art and sound directions. While the monsters are drawn and animated very well and in a bizarre style, the rest of Mieruko-chan looks like the average slice-of-life comedy anime. Everything is drawn neatly and tidily in clean and bright colors. It just doesn't fit and the ghosts usually look out of place. Meanwhile the soundtrack tries to be creepy but doesn't help much because everything else (besides the monsters themselves) distracts too much from any horror there could possibly be.

On the other hand the way Mieruko-chan is written hinders the show from being truly frightening. It's not just that the ecchi and comedy segments are lightening the mood too much. There's a whole list of other problems:

  • This isn't the kind of horror show that leaves you on edge, thinking something might show up any moment - it's the kind where you know something is going to show up, because a monster shows up in virtually every scene.
  • No creepy places. Of course this is intended because the idea of Mieruko-chan is that Miko is experiencing the horror in her every day life, but I believe it would help if more scenes played at night and in desolate locations.
  • Do these ghosts even harm anyone? It's never shown. There are scenes showing ghosts harming each other, often trying to imply that they could harm Miko and her friends, but the writing is never clear about it. They are often shown clinging to persons with bad personality traits, but if those are caused by the ghosts or are what attracted them to those persons in the first place is left for the audience to think about.
  • Miko is living a nightmare but barely shows it. She is used to the daily terror and knows her ways out of the situations her ability to see ghosts causes her to find herself involved in. Watching Miko play around on her phone to distract herself from the monsters got old very fast for me.

The tl;dr is that Mieruko-chan fails to invoke a proper sense of danger for the protagonist and other characters. It's laudable that it's trying to be frightening in its own way, but for me the horror element of this anime unfortunately just falls flat.

Putting it together I'm not too impressed with this show. The horror is disappointing, the comedy and ecchi elements don't really stand out. In between the terror and comedy segments there are quality moments that reminded me of Natsume no Yuujinchou, but those are sparse and barely explored upon. If Miko was actually the only person capable of seeing ghosts in the show it would make for an interesting psychological mystery, but that is not the case here. Early on it was possible to consider that maybe Miko is really just seeing monsters that are not there and don't exist anywhere in the world either spiritually or physically. Unfortunately that take on the anime goes out the window as the story progresses and introduces new characters and elements that make it obvious that it's a supernatural story.

All in all Mieruko-chan feels more like a generic shounen aimed at girls and unfortunately lacks the substance to make put it above its status of "generic but good". However I recognize that I'm not exactly the target audience for this show. Despite my nitpicking this is probably worth checking out for every fan of horror and anime.

Still I really enjoyed the last couple of episodes. There certainly is a unique characteristic to Mieruko-chan that is hard to refute entirely.

(Originally posted on mal on December 19th 2021: https://myanimelist.net/reviews.php?id=427645)