Shadows House Volume 1 Is Interesting Despite Some Pacing Issues [Manga]

Shadow House Volume 1 cover art of Emilico and Kate Shadow in the mirror facing the same direction

Shadow House Volume 1, created by Somato with translation by Taylor Engel and lettering by Lys Blakeslee, from Yen Press, has a fascinating premise for its story. A noble family known as the Shadow family lives in a mansion. They have no features, so they have servants, “living dolls,” who exist as their faces. Kate Shadow’s servant is Emilico, and as the pair get to know each other, secrets abound in this house. Though the pace drags for about half the manga, Shadow House Volume 1’s pace speeds up as different characters finally come along, and every piece of information raises more questions.  

The volume consists of twelve chapters, most of which are about Kate and Emilico’s interactions. Seeing a character with no features is an adjustment. Indeed, the Kate Shadow is all Black; there are no discernible features; they are a physical shadow moving around. So it is hard to tell what Kate thinks or how she feels. Emilico cannot either, though she realizes that when Kate streams of soot—like steam rising from her head—when upset. While also being Kate’s face/living doll, Emilico cleans up the soot that accumulates all over Kate’s room. 

Shadow House Duo Emilico & Kate Are Not Interesting Enough Yet

Living dolls receive poor treatment in the household. The mansion is gorgeous with victorian style structure and appearance. Yet Emilico’s room is small, with only the essentials; her uniform, a sink, a board covered with papers listing the manual for Emilico to follow, and a coffin. Emilico’s coffin has an opening for the head to let air pass through, so you do not know if the Shadow family only makes living dolls think they are not human. Even Emilico thought she did not need food because regular dolls do not need food. 

Shadow House Volume 1 cover art of Emilico and Kate Shadow in the mirror facing the same direction
Shadow House Volume 1 cover art

Watching a character clean daily while musing about her elite mistress is dull. So the first half of Shadow House Volume 1 is challenging because too much is unknown, and there is little character development. Although, that is also why you continue reading. You need answers about how Emilico is a young girl but called newly born. It is unclear if Emilico came with a set of preset skills for comprehension or if she received any training. Also, Kate referring to herself in the third person is weird and off-putting. I kept thinking about the horror movie Valentine and how the man said things like, “Jason likes your dress.” It is not attractive but annoying and douchey. 

An Unknown World With A Lot Of Mystery

Emilico does not see the rest of the mansion. But when it is time to clean the mansion, she learns there is a lot of staff, including living dolls, butlers, and faceless dolls—they deliver clean clothes and rolls to living dolls. Emilico and Kate do not have a normal relationship compared to other Shadows and their dolls. Dolls have to be the Shadow’s face, so when they encounter Sarah Shadow with her doll, Sarah calls them failures because Emilico makes faces on her own, not based on Kate’s emotions. Sarah’s living doll perfectly mimics her expressions.

Shadow House Volume 1 raises more questions about the Shadow family and keeps you reading for answers. However, the story needs to pick up, along with the characters, because I struggled with this volume. The pacing is tortuous in the beginning, but Shadow House Volume 01 does leave you wanting the next volume, at least for now. I am curious to see if the shadows took over the people the used to follow somehow to take charge. Just spitballing!

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