WARNING: the following contains spoilers for The Night Beyond the Tricornered Window, Episode 1, “Encounter” now streaming on Crunchyroll.
The Night Beyond the Tricornered Window is a Boy’s Love/supernatural horror-mystery series, and just saying those terms together brings a sense of incoherence that’s hard to shake. Most Boy’s Love anime are just that: a romance between two (or more) boys. Genre crossing with BL is often done at the expense of the other genre, so to cross with a genre as distinct and stylized as horror-mystery would likely feel strange. And strangeness is definitely the feeling that Episode 1 of The Night Beyond the Tricornered Window conjures, though this is not necessarily a bad thing.
The series tells the story of Mikado Kousuke, a young man who can naturally see ghosts but is afraid of them. He is reluctantly recruited by supernatural cleaner Hiyakawa Rihito, who wants to use Mikado’s vision to exorcise ghosts. It just so happens that ghost exorcising requires their souls to touch, which feels very much like having sex. This odd couple goes on their adventures and are soon embroiled in a series of supernatural killings.
All of the marketing for the series highlights the BL element quite well: the protagonists flirt and say or do sexually suggestive things while exorcising ghostly creatures, but what the marketing does not convey is how heavy the horror-mystery element is in the series. Episode 1 makes it abundantly clear that The Night Beyond the Tricornered Window is as much a horror mystery as it is a BL, with the former taking a bigger role in the overall plot.
This is particularly good for horror-mystery fans because, so far, the series excels at building a creepy atmosphere around the ghostly planes. They are thoroughly unsettling visually, so it is easy to understand why Mikado is so frightened of something he sees every day. The boiler room scene towards the end of the episode is especially terrifying due to the realistically depicted sutured corpse and the ghostly blob without human form. When the villain is introduced at the end of the episode, her presence feels more menacing and terrifying thanks to this set-up. The sound mixing also contributes a lot to the disturbing atmosphere, adding a sense of disorientation and unease.
But when the two main elements mix, however, they cause the tone to become uneven. The creepy scenes without the BL elements are great, and the BL flirtations are fun on their own, but when the two cross paths, and they inevitably do -- as the exorcism part is also the BL part -- it gets uncomfortable. You don’t know whether to be scared, embarrassed, laugh at the ridiculousness or all of the above. But perhaps these conflicted feelings aren't such a bad thing, since Mikado must feel the same about this whole situation.
On top of the jarring exorcisms, Hiyakawa is a weird character who seems to know a lot about exorcism but little about anything else, like regular human interactions. The best part about Hiyakawa’s character is his obliviousness to societal cues, which makes Mikado a good foil to him. But there is a good reason for Hiyakawa's weirdness, though it will be revealed in later episodes.
The anime's main problem lies with the development of Mikado and Hiyakawa’s relationship -- it feels rushed and underdeveloped because of the pacing. The anime clearly wants to move the plot along faster to get to the main story. This is understandable given that there are over 50 chapters of the manga but only one season of anime. And given this is only the first episode, this shortcoming may be remedied later.
Episode 1 of The Night Beyond the Tricornered Window shows a lot of potential to become a unique horror mystery. Any discomfort partly comes from the addition of the BL elements and partly from the disturbing atmosphere, but they should be quite easy to get used to once the story gets going. As for BL fans, it is better to brace for much more horror coming soon because it will only get creepier from here.