We can say that, since their arrival in the manga at the end of 2020, the Noeve Grafx editions have already stopped surprising forever, both by launching an atypical masterpiece like Velo, and by daring to offer jewels for too long avoided in our country like Welcome to the Ballroom, and reviving the cult mangaka Yumi Tamura (too little known in our country for many years) with the excellent Don’t Call it Mystery. And for 2022 the publisher is showing insane ambitions (one could even say disproportionate, given the number of ads so high that it will be impossible to keep up), including the launch, last month, of a new collection that is as intriguing as it is intelligent, in particular because it goes against the current market by cutting prices to make known in our language often long and famous works that, without it, certainly would never have arrived here.
This collection, called XS, will therefore aim to finally discover series that are sometimes cult, but so special or so long that their success in France was not guaranteed. And to do this, the publisher was able to negotiate with the Japanese rights holders (in this case the publisher Kôdansha for all the first 9 series concerned in this year 2022) in order to design a low-priced collection: each volume it therefore costs only € 3.95, with no time limit! To do this, Noeve proposes a production without dust jacket, but whose covers have flaps, and with a paper that remains sufficiently qualitative. The publisher also promises the presence of the color pages of the Japanese editions when there are (in this case there is one on the opening page of the volume), selective paint effects on the covers, and a print of the back cover as well. so as not to lose any of the images of the Japanese edition. Finally, the usual Noeve Grafx (publisher’s trademark) cards will, for the XS collection series, be available via points swap on their future website. And just to say it clearly: the quality is largely there for only € 3.95! With a clean design, a selective varnish that attracts the eye, an excellent handling made by the flexibility of the matte paper and an excellent quality print quality, Noeve has been able to reduce the less essential things (the overcoat on the head) to have fun and make us happy. .
For the first batch of three titles launched this spring, the publisher invites us to discover the famous comedy Hôzuki the Stoic (aka Hôzuki no Reitetsu, a name well known to animation enthusiasts), the sci-fi fresco Coppelion (which was expected a few years ago, especially at the time of the airing of his animated adaptation), and the work that interests us here: the fantastic slice of life Elegant Yokai Apartment Life. Still running in Japan since 2001, in Kôdansha’s Shônen Sirius magazine, with the title Yôkai Apartment no Yûga na Nichijô, this series currently has 24 volumes. By Hinowa Kôzuki (screenplay) and Waka Miyama (drawing), it had an animated adaptation in 2017 which aired in France on Crunchyroll.
The series tells the story of a teenager named Yûshi Inaba, as he greets his closest friend Hase at the end of middle school, in order to complement the famous business school he was aiming for. So far it cannot be said that the boy has had a very happy life: his parents died in a car accident three years ago without leaving him a substantial inheritance, so he had to move in with his uncle and, above all, his cousin Eriko who always made him feel he was not welcome. The high school years are therefore promising for him as he will be able to go and live in boarding school and thus stop being a burden for his uncle! But unfortunately a violent fire decimated all the dormitories of the college, which could not be rebuilt for six months. And even if Yûshi promises to find a place to stay with his own means, the fact is that his very modest finances do not allow the unfortunate boy … at least, until a strange being approaches him on the street to advise him to go to the Maeda real estate shop, before disappearing as if by magic. Arriving at this agency, the teenager is offered a small room of 13 m² for a negligible amount, but inside “Kotobuki Sô”, the house of long life, which is said to be haunted by ghosts. And on the spot, he barely has time to acclimate that he must actually notice that in addition to the humans occupying certain rooms, the league is also populated by ghosts, youkai and other spirits! But while fear could have swiftly invaded him in the face of these unknown beings, the so-called Akine and the few other humans living in the area reassure him: in this vast residence, they all live together in harmony. And this, even though each of these supernatural beings may have a story of him, not always very happy.
It is with a skilful mix of speed and clarity that the mangaka duo manages to immerse us in the basics of a slice of life like no other, since our hero will soon have to start living with both humans like him but also with unusual beings that go from ghosts to youkai and other types of spirits. And here, beyond a drawing that is sometimes still perfectible in the regularity of the faces but certainly fascinating in its expressiveness, in its drawings and in its immersive setting of the large building, the charm operates from the beginning, above all thanks to the creation of a palette of characters already as rich as they are varied.
On the human side, they range from the jovial teenager Akine endowed in some cases with very useful gifts of exorcism, to the young and talented novelist Reimei Isshiki, passing among others from the enigmatic medium Ryû. but according to the school life of our hero, the human cast will be enriched quite quickly by other high school students as well as the friendly Tashiro, a young girl already in the center of one of the chapters.
And on the non-human side, it couldn’t be more promising thanks to the variety of characters already parading before our eyes and some of which are already taking on some prominence, such as local chef Ruriko whose appearance is surprisingly limited to two hands, and more more than the little boy Kuri and his dog Shiro, two ghosts whose horrible and tragic story will already have something to move easily, as well as crystallize the bond that unites this child and his brave animal.
First of all an exhibition volume, this first volume is therefore already conducive to several successful developments, and this also involves the evolution of Yûshi in the pages. Because far from being really scared by this unusual setting, the teenager is lucky enough to have some humans by his side like Akine who, from the beginning, allow him to understand the place and start his new life in a pure spirit. of coexistence which, on several occasions, will already prove to be particularly lively and warm. Of course, the teenager inevitably asks himself some questions: why is this house populated by ghosts, youkai and other spirits? The answer is very interesting, particularly evoking how humans have lost connection with things in nature over time and have seen their world shrink when it is much larger than it appears. And given the first developments of Yûshi, the rediscovery of the immensity of this unsuspected world could very well be at the center of the story, having already at heart our hero not to refuse anything he discovers, and thus to broaden his horizons and his understanding of the world.
Upon arrival, Elegant Yokai Apartment Life presents itself as a real nice surprise for this exciting first volume. If it is often a pleasure to dive again and again into the worlds linked to yôkai, the one proposed by Hinowa Kôzuki and Waka Miyama already finds a charm of its own thanks to its very well set up setting, its emotions that can be very varied, and its gallery of characters that already promises to be earthy. Furthermore, as regards the edition of which we have already praised several merits, we can also underline the cleanliness of the characters, as well as the particularly convincing translation by Pierre Giner.