The episode opens with a classic creepy horror movie sequence, only to be revealed to be just that—a television horror show that Miko is half-heartedly watching as she waits for her brother to finish in the bathroom. “What would you do in that situation?” asks the presenter. Buddhist mantras, prayer beads, salt, ignoring the entity—all these suggestions are made. Talk about foreshadowing! Strange handprints, shadows and sounds seem to follow Miko around the next day at school until finally, as Miko stands alone and drenched at a bus stop, her smartphone loses it and starts texting her pictures of herself while Siri (or equivalent) refuses to understand Miko’s nervous exclamations. The photos become distorted until they take on a ghoulish expression and when Miko looks up, she is faced with a terrifying sight—a towering, rotting spirit oozing black mist, which she promptly ignores. Brave girl! It seems to work, as the thing wanders off and fades away…but not for long. All that night and the next day, the ghouls continue to dog her, lingering for longer and longer and putting Miko on edge, to say the least. She keeps it to herself, but it’s clear that she can see them.
Oh boy. That wasn’t what I was expecting. The tone was a lot heavier and more ominous than I anticipated, meaning that the comedy moments did not integrate well at all for me, but instead felt flat and even a bit cruel toward Miko, at least once the horror elements were fully revealed. I couldn’t laugh at her huddling in the school hallway after her friend Hana surprise-greeted her a day into her haunting, but instead felt rather queasy for Miko. The salacious crotch and butt shots, though clothed, were equally out of place and unsettling in their objectification of an already vulnerable teen, presumably for our viewing pleasure. Then again, horror as a genre has never been known for its sensitive treatment of young women, so maybe I shouldn’t be surprised at this.
The art, on the other hand, is clean and compelling, and the contrast in style for the ghouls (reminiscent of Junji Ito) works really well. There is something unusual about the way Miko’s eyes are animated that is quite fitting, given the centrality of seeing to the show’s premise and indeed title. There are also some very cool shots of reflections in eyes, mirrors, and water, which hints at the sophistication of the storytelling that may unfold. But I don’t think the art and music (which is also decent) are enough to salvage this one for me, as the episode did not hit a convincing or entertaining balance of genres, to my mind. This ain’t no School Live! I may give it one more chance because I am curious about the girl with the pink-tipped hair (and I do also feel for Miko), but then again, I may not.
Mieruko-chan can be streamed on Funimation.