The Morose Mononokean Series Review – A Sweet (and sometimes dark) Supernatural Tale That Will Grow On You

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The Morose Mononokean Overview:

The Morose Mononokean starts when Ashiya Hanae picks up what he thinks is a bag on the side of the road, however it turns out to be a yokai who becomes attached to him (quite literally for awhile). Desperate to be free of it, Ashiya turns to an exorcist (who turns out to be a class mate).

Now, Ashiya has to work to pay off his debt and in the meantime he is learning about the yokai who live in the world.

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The Morose Mononokean Review:

It’s never fair to judge a show by comparing it to others. Mostly because even if it is not as good as another show, that doesn’t stop it from being a good show. Unfortunately, right from the beginning this show reminded me of a cross between Natsume Yuujinchou and Ghost Hunt and it didn’t really do either of those shows justice.

So, other than my disappointment that The Morose Mononokean didn’t follow along with my predetermined view of what it should be or match up to some of my favourite supernatural anime, what is there to say about it?

Plenty really if I was to be fair given The Morose Mononokean takes awhile to get going but actually builds up a pretty compelling supernatural world and the characters are a lot more complex than you’d initially give them credit for. Certainly there were times during my first episodic viewing when I got a bit frustrated with these characters and the anime’s tendency to have a cliff-hanger ending only to resolve the conflict within about a minute of the next episode, but basically I quite enjoyed it.

Ashiya and Abeno both work in the lead roles despite starting out being very basic tropes. Ashiya’s a little shouty at times and suffers from that affliction that hits so many protagonists of having to have everything fit within their narrow view of the world or fight against it (leading to awkward apologies when they realise that not everyone who isn’t following their moral compass is actually doing something wrong).

Abeno on the other hand is a little too stoic and needs to try communicating occasionally to avoid unnecessary misunderstandings. That said, the two together kind of balance each other out nicely and if the show had only had one or the other it could have been a train-wreck right from the get-go. Both of these characters are needed.

The problem The Morose Mononokean really faces is that both of these characters keep being set up to have an interesting past or some sort of secret and none of this is ever dealt with in this first season. We get a little tiny bit of Abeno’s history but we are still missing a lot of pieces and any foreshadowing that Ashiya has some sort of hidden power comes to nothing (though would have been actually kind of cool).

Admittedly, season two helps a little in this regard continuing on the development of these characters and filling in some of the missing pieces, but seriously it just left me needing a season three.

The yokai that are introduced are all kind of entertaining in a monster of the week kind of way, however as the show is obsessed with not actually villainising anyone or anything there is little to no tension in the encounters no matter how bad they try to make a situation look early on.

After the first two or three false alarms you just kind of expect that there is in fact no danger and that it will all solve itself no problem. That said, Fuzzy is one of the most adorable characters I’ve met for sometime and honestly probably deserves a place on my list of anime that contain a cute monster character.

There’s also a raft of support cast (including class mates, Ashiya’s mother, the Legislator, etc) who are introduced but have so little screen time that their overall impact is pretty negligible even though some of these characters might have been really interesting to learn a bit more about.

I know I said this a number of times during episode reviews but it always felt like this show was keeping us at a distance from the actual story. It was as though they wanted to give us a taste of this world but then wouldn’t really let us get into it.

From a plot point of view it is very monster of the week. There’s the overall relationship between Ashiya and Abeno and Ashiya working for Abeno but otherwise they take on a job, run around a bit, argue a bit, and then solve the case (usually making a friend) and then they move. This is a fairly standard plot structure for these type of shows and it works well enough but every now and then an actual sense of danger or drama might have helped.

Visually it isn’t anything special but I found it kind of pretty and I liked the character designs. The underworld particularly was quite striking and I enjoyed the scenes that took place there. Basically, everything works and it is pleasant enough but The Morose Mononokean isn’t trying to impress with its animation.

All and all, this is a watchable bit of entertainment but it isn’t particularly good or bad. My recommendation is to watch it on a rainy afternoon when you just want to relax and it will succeed at amusing you. Those who are particularly fond of yokai anime will get a lot more out of it, but The Morose Mononokean just can’t hold up to other titles that do very similar things.

Images from: The Morose Mononokean. Dir. A Iwanaga. Pierrot Plus. 2016


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Karandi James


The Morose Mononokean Season 2 Series Review

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The boys, and Fuzzy, are back for a more dramatic season of supernatural events.

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I had the distinct pleasure of getting to review The Morose Mononkean Season Two with the lovely Irina and I will admit, I went in with fairly low expectations. Season one of the Morose Mononkean was okay but that was all. I love yokai stories and so I’d enjoyed it but that was no real drama, no real forward driving story, and the characters all seemed to lack development. They just kind of drifted about happy to deal with the immediate issue but not to address any of the larger world questions that seemed to keep coming up.

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Fortunately, season two of The Morose Mononokean is one of those exceptions to my usual rule that sequels offer diminishing returns. Season two of The Morose Mononokean took everything that was nice and lovely from season one (the colour scheme, the relationship established between Abeno and Hanae, the yokai designs) and then added in everything I felt was missing. The end result was a season that was superior in every way and getting to discuss it each week with Irina just added to the fun as we speculated about characters and plot developments.

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For those who are unfamiliar with the premise, Hanae can see yokai and in the beginning of the first season is actually possessed by one (the one that comes to be the cute mascot character of the show, Fuzzy). Hanae is saved by Abeno who while being human, and Hanae’s classmate, is also the master of the Mononokean, which means he can open the door between the human realm and the underworld and he exorcises yokai (essentially sends them home).

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In season two we see a Hanae that initially starts off more comfortably in his role as Abeno’s assistance but a trip to the underworld and an encounter with one of the three powers there, the Executive tries to kill him because he is human.

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This is by far the most danger he’d faced since realising yokai were real and beginning his work and for The Morose Mononokean as a narrative it really upped the stakes and tension in general. It also opened the way for more exploration of the political situation within the underworld which helped to really flesh out the world that had felt kind of shallow in season one.

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By itself, this would have been enough to make me enjoy season two far more than season one, but they also began to fill in Hanae’s backstory including his family situation. While there are still a lot of questions hanging over this at the end of season two, it really helped push character development for both Abeno and Hanae. It also helped their relationship, which had always been interesting, progress further as we got to see Abeno really take on a caring role as he tried to protect and help Hanae.

The Morose Mononokean Season 2 Episode 10

Hanae’s development of powers he could use against yokai was also a really interesting progression because it opens up all kinds of possibilities, some of which unpleasant, for where the story might go. Plus, if you ever wanted to see Abeno and Hanae go head to head, you won’t be disappointed here.

The Morose Mononokean Episode 6 Ashiya and Yahiko

But it isn’t just the central duo getting a lot more development. The Legislator, Abeno’s boss essentially, was an enigmatic but interesting character in season one. While there is still a lot about him that we don’t know, he was given substantially more screen time and his meddling was far more overt in season two. The Executive and The Justice, the other two parts of the triad of power, were new additions to the cast but provided some really great moments even if they were very limited in their screen time.

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There are also a host of yokai characters who come and go from the story as normal and these were all interesting and worked in their own way. Some of these have ties to the past or two the various political factions and others are just yokai of the week characters, but all leave a lasting impression on the main characters and the audience.

The Morose Mononokean Season 2 Episode 4 Kinako

In addition to the improvements in the narrative and the character development, it seems like season two of The Morose Mononkean had a real lift in its visuals. While the rich colour palette used in season one for the underworld remained, all of the visuals just seemed crisper and characters less prone to going off model in this second season.

The Morose Mononokean - Beast in human form

If you decided to pass on this second season but didn’t mind the first, I’d strongly suggest giving it a go. If you’ve never tried the anime but you like yokai stories, definitely give the first season a go and while I know this is said all the time it really is true here, this story gets better as it goes. The only thing missing now is the knowledge that we’ll eventually get a third season to get some more closure on some of the loose ends.

Now to finish off with a gallery of Fuzzy.


Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James