Warning: Spoilers for Shadows House season 1 + season 2!!
There is little I can think of that fascinates me more than character psychology in fiction- especially anime, since that makes up 90% of the fiction I consume. There were several anime series in 2022 that featured excellent character psychology. One example is Shadows House season 2. I love seeing the dynamics between the shadow masters and their doll-like servants (who are actually human children). There are three examples of character pairs to discuss today. I’ll give a little background about each of them, as well as explaining why I think their relationships are interesting.
Case 1: Louise and Lou
The first relationship we’re looking at is toxic and sad: Louise the shadow master and her servant Lou. Shadows House sometimes treats this relationship too lightheartedly for me, but that’s because I’m used to anime series that maximize the darkest elements or take things to the extreme. In any case, Shadows House never tries to cover up or glorify the power imbalance. Louise dominates the relationship, bossy and demanding. She doesn’t know Lou is human, but I almost think it wouldn’t matter if she did. Human or otherwise, Lou might as well have been created for Louise’s use. That’s what she thinks, anyway.
Throughout season one, it’s obvious that Louise has a strange “love” of her living doll. She dotes on Lou more than most shadow masters. But Louise only loves Lou’s physical appearance, never acknowledging that she’s an actual person. In season two, this changes slightly. Louise learns to check in with Lou to make sure she doesn’t get too tired. It’s the first sign that she acknowledges Lou as a being with physical needs like rest and food. Nevertheless, the power imbalance has not been altered. Louise continues treating Lou as her slave, even using soot magic on her to control her when it’s convenient.
Basically, Louise is a terrible person who deserves no more analysis. But Lou is a different story. This character is highly interesting to me from a psychological perspective. You see, Lou seems to care immensely for Louise. Generally speaking, this girl doesn’t express much in the way of opinions, emotions, or desires. However, she shows signs of caring about her shadow master. For example, even when apart from the shadow master, Lou always takes great care to not hurt or dirty her face. That’s because she wants to look perfect for Louise. Additionally, Lou is extremely dedicated to serving Louise. She will act strong and won’t complain even when she grows pale and dizzy from exhaustion.
Some of Lou’s dedication to Louise is from the brainwashing that all the children undergo in Shadows House. But I think there’s more to it than outright, external brainwashing. There is also an internal element of Lou’s own psyche that keeps her here. To put it simply, she loves her abuser. Although Lou’s love seems platonic, she can be compared to a person who is emotionally abused by her spouse. It’s fairly common for a victim of abuse to love and defend the one who hurts them. Why this happens is a topic for another post. It’s a dark concept, but I’m fascinated this example of psychology.
Case 2: Maryrose and Rosemary
The next pair of characters have a much better relationship than the last. They are a couple who clearly love each other romantically: Maryrose the shadow and Rosemary the human. Maryrose remembers being a shadow morph before her current life of mimicking humans. Because of these memories, she knows her “servant” is a human with rights, and that the Shadows House is full of lies and brainwashing. So, Maryrose stopped treating Rosemary as a slave- although they still have to act like that on the outside, with other shadows. Maryrose also helped Rosemary find a way to avoid drinking the brainwashing coffee so she could think freely.
Not everyone will agree that this pair is a loving couple. I believe it’s fairly obvious, but it’s never stated outright in the anime. This is probably due to the homophobic social climate in Japan, which strongly discourages positive representation of LGBT+ characters in manga/anime. The behavior and body language of Maryrose and Rosemary is pretty clear evidence that they love one another. Their dialogue with each other suggests the same. The love between them is undeniable, but Shadows House was not quite progressive enough to state it in so many words because both characters have a “female” gender identity. In my opinion, it doesn’t even need to be stated when it’s this discernible.
This couple is psychologically interesting to me for two reasons. First of all, as a pansexual person myself, I always find it interesting to see minority characters who experience love differently than the majority. Secondly, their final action in season 2 is also interesting. When they are cornered by the adults of the Shadows House, it seems like their only option is to be captured, questioned, and most likely killed afterward. Instead of surrendering, Maryrose and Rosemary embraced each other and leapt out of the window of the high tower. It was a fall great enough to kill them. (Kate tried to cushion the fall with her soot powers, but it’s not clearly confirmed that the pair survived.)
Rosemary and Maryrose were going to be separated, killed, and/or have their minds controlled by soot powers. So, it was more appealing to them to die together on their own terms. I love characters who are this stubborn about their values. I can’t blame them for their desperate actions. But to be willing to resort to suicide definitely reveals some sad- and interesting- psychology. In addition, it’s amazing to me how well Maryrose and Rosemary work together. It’s like they’re in sync. They must have trusted each other entirely to pull off their plans in season 2, including the final jump. They even smiled at each other right before they leaped. It means their level of love and understanding is truly mighty.
Case 3: Kate and Emilico
I saved the best for last: Kate the shadow and Emilico the human, the main characters of Shadows House. They have a strong bond and a healthy working relationship. Compared to Rosemary and Maryrose, their relationship type is somewhat unclear. It doesn’t seem quite sisterly to me, and of course it’s never sexual. Some fans interpret the relationship as romantic, and I’m inclined to agree. But it’s equally easy to frame them as being inseparable best friends. However, you wish to interpret the relationship, one thing is very clear: Kate and Emilico love each other dearly.
Much like Maryrose, Kate recovered memories of her life before copying a human form. She therefore knew that Shadows House was brainwashing and enslaving human children, including Emilico. Over the course of the series, Kate grows ever fonder of her human companion, often worrying about her, and always planning toward the long-term goal of freeing her from Shadows House. Emilico was dedicated to Kate right off the bat, admiring everything about her. As time passed, the human felt genuinely comfortable with the shadow, and wanted to help her not out of obligation, but out of love. Nothing and nobody matters more to Emilico than Kate.
Kate initially kept up the servant-master dynamic and withheld information from Emilico. But even during that time, she treated the human girl with compassion and grace. She didn’t order Emilico do anything that she didn’t want to do. She was never condescending or domineering. As the series goes on, there is less and less of a power dynamic; in season 2, Kate is even taking over cleaning duties from Emilico. She also told Emilico that she’s human and that she needs to stop thinking of herself as a puppet. Kate does whatever she can to foster Emilico’s independence within the context of the corrupt system in which they are both trapped.
The relationship between Emilico and Kate is highly entertaining. Emilico is expressive, energetic, and spontaneous. Kate is much quieter, more contemplative, and an intelligent strategist. Considering how different their personalities are, these two manage to get along excellently. They complement each other. Even in the face of so much adversity- so many lies and so much pressure- they find solace in each other’s company. The level of trust they have with each other is also impressive. I love watching these two work together. Observing the differences and similarities between personalities is an important aspect of character psychology. That’s why Emilico and Kate’s relationship is perfect to study.
Thank you for reading~
One thought on “Shadowed Love: 3 Interesting Relationships in Shadows House”
Yes, one of the things I love about Shadows House is the variety of dynamic relationships between the shadows and the humans. I also really liked the relationship between Patrick and Ricky. I thought it was interesting that it was actually Ricky (the human) that has a more dominate personality compared to his shadow Patrick. They are the only pair I noticed that’s acts that way.
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