The Morose Mononokean Season 2 Episode 2 With Irina and Karandi: We’re Making New Friends

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The Morose Mononokean is back for its second episode and that means Irina and I are back to discuss what’s new for Abeno and Hanae as we pick up from that surprise first episode cliffhanger.

I was looking forward to this episode. Not so much because the cliffhanger had me on the edge of my seat but I find the Morose Mononokean universe comfy and cozy. It was a wonderful way to spend an afternoon as the outside world is grey, windy and freezing!

I agree, definitely a great way to spend some time (morning for me but given it’s already in the high thirties and just getting hotter, I’m not leaving the air conditioning today).

The Morose Mononokean - Hanae

I wasn’t really surprised to learn that Hanae wasn’t really in danger (while it was possible it didn’t seem likely this early on). Then again, given how season one dealt with its cliffhangers I wasn’t really surprised this one diffused pretty quickly. What I did like was that even though the threat more or less sorted itself out, we transitioned very quickly into seeing Hanae helping find the gold-shiny thing and this linked back to his previous efforts at finding a ring. Hanae has some odd quirks and eventually they are going to have to explain why a seemingly normal human can pull this kind of thing off.

The Morose Mononokean - Hanae finding the ring

The one thing I didn’t like was that the episode felt the need to flash back to Hanae finding the ring. Realistically most people watching this will have seen the first season and that was a moment that stood out for Hanae because it was particularly strange. Then again, how did you feel about it, Irina?

Actually, I appreciated it. I had quite liked that episode in the first season but I probably wouldn’t have recalled it if it weren’t for the flash back. Since it was just a short scene, I really didn’t find it dragged down the narrative at all.

What struck me most was the disconnect between the beast and it’s voice. I really didn’t match it’s looks and for some reason I loved it. Just hearing that sightly whiny bored tone coming out of a regal liger made me happy. I could no longer take him seriously but that’s ok.

The Morose Mononokean Episode 2 Hanae and Beast

I have to agree about the voice. At first I was wondering who was talking and then I realised it was the beast.

Of course, regardless of what we end up learning about Hanae he is a complete goof. The Goro Express moment is an excellent example of Hanae at his silliest though it does get him where he needs to go. I was actually surprised when the whole delivery seemed pretty straight forward. I kind of expected more from the actual handover of the document.

I don’t know if you’ve had dogs growing up. To be honest I was an adult when I got my first dog but Buddy is pretty big and I’m pretty small so he does come up roughly to my waist. If I could ride him I would never walk again. I have Neverending Story envy.

The Morose Mononokean Episode 2 Hanae riding the beast

Yes the hand off was very easy….suspiciously easy…. The again, he is on the authority of the legislator and that may carry some weight.

Maybe. The Legislator continues to be a great character in the show. It is so hard to know how seriously we should be taking him and whether or not things work out for him by coincidence or really careful planning and manipulation. His interactions with Abeno are great because Abeno is usually such a hard character to read because he’s either stoic or annoyed (usually at Hanae). When the Legislator is playing with him though we see a somewhat wider range of responses.

I think we discover more about Abeno and Rippou when they’re not together. We don’t quite know the end game here. A lot of Yokai seem antagonistic to humans which is why Hanae has to be so careful so I wonder where the Legislator actually stands. Asking a question like *if you could save only one, would it be Yokai or Human? Is super ominous. Does he think it may come to that?

The Morose Mononokean Episode 2 Rippou (The Legislator)

The again, they are framing the story to make him appear sympathetic for the most part.

That question is a little bit leading only I have no idea where it is going.

I wasn’t overly sold on the Hanae getting sick at the end as a final complication for the episode though. It did give Abeno an excuse to leave to fetch something to fix him which allowed the conversation between the two yokai, but it just felt really contrived to me.

The Morose Mononokean Episode 2 Abeno looking at Hanae

I actually thought he was faking it for a while. I also wondered why Abeno felt it necessary to put on a tie to run to the convenience store. The whole scene was a bit unbalanced but I did enjoy the party leading up to it.

I always loved the running gag of Shizuku being jealous of Hanae because Koura wants to use his body parts for medicine. It’s so delightfully weird.

Delightfully weird is an excellent description.

Then we get that final moment with the other yokai discussing the new employee. I wonder if Hanae’s life is about to get more interesting?

The Morose Mononokean Episode 2 - yokai

I bet it is. That final yokai we saw only in silhouette was considerably more threatening than what we usually get from this show. They might be ramping up the stakes a bit and I’m here for it.

The final thing I want to raise was that Fuzzy was absolutely adorable this episode. Much like Platelet sightings during Cells at Work, I could happily watch this show just for Fuzzy moments. Is there anything else you want to look at?

This episode was clearly a setup for the future events of the season. I don’t have much to say about it out of context like this. I did however get a few random thoughts while watching:

  • Although Yahiko isn’t the cutest little fox yokai I’ve seen, he’s still pretty darn cute.
  • “Hindsight” isn’t really that complicated a word
  • Where did the tail ring go when the beast transformed into a humanoid form? Just curious….
The Morose Mononokean - Beast in human form

That’s all I have!

Although this wasn’t the most eventful episode it still served the story well. I am looking forward to next week as I was to this. I also realized that it was over before I knew it which is always a good sign.

All three of your random points make perfect sense, particularly the one about the tail ring. I was definitely wondering where that went.

I’m with you in that I’m definitely looking forward to next week with this anime.

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Karandi James
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The Morose Mononokean Season 2 Episode 1 Review With Karandi and Irina

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The Morose Mononokean is back and Irina and I have decided to come together to cover this season. Check out our first post over on Irina’s blog: The Morose Mononokean Season Episode 1 Review. Hope you love it!

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Karandi James
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Castlevania Season 2 Series Review: Oh Look, We Got The End Of The Season

Castlevania Season 2 Promotional Image

I mentioned repeatedly in my season 1 review of this that it really wasn’t a season. It was a taste test. A preview or introduction to a series that hadn’t been fully made before release. Here, with the so called season 2, we get the rest of the season bringing the total episode count now to 12 which is pretty much a standard season. So other than a prolonged gap during which time I forgot most of the pertinent details forcing me to rewatch the first four episodes before getting into this, was there any real purpose to this? All I can figure is that they really weren’t sure of their market and wouldn’t commit the resources but that’s a really terrible way to deliver a story as all it really did was make the faults of this second season more apparent.

See, there’s a flow to stories. When you get caught up in them, it is easy to miss small details or to stop yourself from asking hard questions or picking at the edges to see what falls out. But once the story has had a jarring pause and you’ve had months plus a rewatch to contemplate, it is much harder to become immersed in the world. Particularly when the series itself seems to be doing everything possible to stop you.

Castlevania Season 2 Camilla and Hector

Now, that isn’t to say Castlevania is bad. Because, it actually is quite a fun little romp of a story provided the copious blood and guts being splashed around aren’t a problem and the clear sequel bait endings for the surviving cast members doesn’t annoy. If this had come out in a solid chunk and I’d binged the 12 episodes altogether, I’d have had an absolute blast and while I still probably would have noted a few of the flaws, I don’t think I would have been as disappointed.

I was going to try to start positive but I realised that every positive I have for this season comes with a caveat so we’re just going to have to wade right in and hope we don’t sink.

If you like your blood and violence (and if you made it through the first four episodes the answer to that is probably yes), then season 2 is going to deliver. However, there’s a different kind of feel to it. Whereas season 1 had kind of a cruel humour with its demons running from the city carrying an infant (the excess of this imagery just made it more amusing than horrific and maybe that’s saying something terrible about me) and Trevor’s whip cracking removing eyes and the like. It was excessive but fun. It was almost pushing things to the absurdist level as it rained fire and blood down upon the masses. Season 2 sadly lacks any of this kind of edge and instead we are left with vampires tearing through small packs of fleeing humans and a few fights between various demons and Trevor, Sypha and Alucard. These conflicts are still bloody but nowhere near the same level as the city slaughtering madness that the first four episodes threw at us.

Castlevania Season 2 Trevor

And that seems to be a reoccurring theme of season 2. We get more of things given there are more episodes, but at the same time it is less. There’s less impact, less care, and generally less involvement. The church that was such a threat in season one gets some mentions but otherwise are completely absent from the conflict. The vampires spend more time squabbling amongst themselves inside the castle and Trevor, Sypha and Alucard spend an inordinate amount of time investigating the museum that is Trevor’s family vault. With the three main groups separated for vast spans of time (and the church more or less vanishing) there’s a lot of waiting for things to get moving. It doesn’t help that the vampires barely attack anything during the run of the eight episodes here so unless you are fresh on the memory of season one you may not even really remember why we should care about Dracula’s whole kill all the humans plan.

But, we’ve just gotten to my big issue with this second season. Dracula. In season one, the time we spent with him was not great but it was well used time. They built up a very strong impression of this character who was literally larger than life. His love for his wife, his fury at her loss, the pain he felt and his anger being distributed amongst the masses in a slaughter that wasn’t justified but understandable. Here, well Dracula is just a hollow shell waiting to be killed (as more than one character points out). There’s a clever line from Alucard about this whole massacre thing just being a really long suicide note, and he’s right but that just kind of makes Dracula’s character seem even more hollow. The fire and fury is gone and we never even got to see it fade. We went from this extraordinary and imposing menace to the guy who spent nearly eight episodes sitting in his chair staring at the fireplace and occasionally having one on one chats with the various minions who were all scheming around him as he sat more or less oblivious or indifferent.

Castlevania Season 2 Dracula

Perhaps if we’d seen this transition and the slow loss of his connection to the war he started and the drive he had, it might have played out more emotionally. However, the transition happened off screen. One season we see him in one form and now here he is a different and much less interesting one.

They do fill a lot of the screen time with his followers though. The majority of the vampire characters are either glorified extras or just annoying, with Camilla being a notable exception. That said, her character remains more or less on the side of things and ultimately hers is a story unresolved so there’s little satisfaction to be found in this one. Also, her sudden swearing at various points might have been amusing but it kind of seemed vastly out of character for her (plenty of other characters swear and that’s fine, but it just sounded so wrong coming from Camilla – and not just because she was female but rather because it seemed like it didn’t fit with the rest of her persona). The two human generals Dracula acknowledges could have both been interesting but instead they come off as fairly cheap characters with contrasting ends just for the sake of it.

It might be fair to say that none of these characters left an impression, except that even when they are just stuffing around in a library, Trevor and Sypha have real chemistry and the addition of Alucard’s comments and provocations actually just worked really well. Every moment spent with the main group (and admittedly, there weren’t enough moments spent with them) was purely fun and once the fighting started things got very good very quickly. It’s just a shame that there’s so much down time focusing on things that aren’t really all that interesting first.

Sypha - Castlevania

I mean, there are questions about Sypha’s seemingly unlimited magical reserves and Trevor not being totally dead because even though he’s from a family of monster hunters he is actually a human, and Alucard just kind of does whatever because apparently half-vampire means worse than a full vampire though how that works is unclear… but none of this matters. This group is awesome fun. Let’s see more of them.

All and all, watching both season 1 and 2 of Castlevania together won’t be a bad watch. There’s plenty to enjoy – again though with a warning about the blood and gore, it is definitely a feature. However, this isn’t something that is unmissable and it probably won’t be remembered for long. But hey, whips, swords, magic, vampire killing… It is all good fun just remember not to ask too many questions.

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Karandi James

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DEMON CASTLE DRACULA X: NOCTURNE IN THE MOONLIGHT ORIGINAL GAME SOUNDTRACK

March Comes in Like a Lion Episode 30: Can I Read Subs Through Tears?

Review:

The answer to whether or not I can read subs while tearing up is clearly no because I had to rewatch the second half of this episode and subsequently had my heart crushed and trampled a second time in the space of an hour. Fortunately I was out of tears so the second time it just left me with a dull ache in my chest and a general feeling that as unfair as life is, true strength is moving forward in whatever way you can against whatever odds you may face. And then I found new tears. Sometimes, as much as I love this show I also hate that it hits my emotional buttons so incredibly well.

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Fortunately, this show isn’t just about breaking its audience into pieces. It starts with Rei’s teachers giving us what we needed after last week. A tirade against Hina’s homeroom teacher. A voice of anger in the face of such unreasonable unfairness. It is silly and over the top at it succeeds as a point of needed catharsis for an audience that has been dragged emotionally through the mud with Hina’s troubles for weeks. The situation still isn’t solved, but for once this acts as the lighter point of the episode with Nikaido’s story being the soul crushing one for the week.

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It is really, really affective. For weeks the school and Hina have been the darker points in the story with the shogi hall being a place where things have been going well for Rei and the place where some needed comedy has been injected into the story. This week, we leave the school and the comedy behind as we find out that Rei has made it into the final of the newcomers tournament (a triumph in itself) but Nikaido has not achieved the same. We also learn that Nikaido’s always poor health has taken a turn for the worse.

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Shimada is the one who Rei confronts and demands to know what has happened to Nikaido and so we see young Nikaido through Shimada’s eyes. It is a tear jerking story and it nails the tone perfectly. Nikaido is adorable throughout and his determination not just to be strong himself, but to see his rival, Rei, be strong is incredibly touching.

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However, it is Rei’s response to being told this that really hits home as once again the show is reinforcing the changes Rei has undergone over the course of a season and a half. I’m really worried about Rei next episode because I feel at the moment while he is looking much stronger than he was, he might very well be broken soon. He has realised his complete helplessness with Hina, including the fact that even earning more money isn’t going to solve the issue, and now he is facing an inability to help Nikaido. While at the moment he has the goal of winning the tournament, if that doesn’t happen, I’m really not sure if he’s emotionally able to deal with it at the moment.

All things considered though, I loved this show. I love the imagery that has been used all throughout the episode, particularly that image of Nikaido leading Rei across the bridge with the birds all flying ahead of them. I love how the character really feel like nuanced human beings and I love that they continue to change in response to events around them. I might be a broken, teary mess after most episodes this season, but what comes after that is the feeling that I’m watching something quite special that I will remember well after it is done.


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Karandi James.

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March Comes in Like a Lion Episode 27: Emotional Ripples

Review:

Where last week hit its tone and remained consistent throughout, breaking the audiences’ hearts over and over again, this week is far less consistent and yet not any worse for it. Instead of focusing on Hina through both Rei’s and her own narration, this week we barely see Hina save for the end. Rather, we focus entirely on Rei and then Akari’s responses to Hina’s dilemma and how the impact of bullying affects everyone and not just the victim.

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Rei is first seen trying to get advice from his former homeroom teacher about how to deal with bullying. There’s some amusing moments that still manage to cut deep when Rei points out he isn’t being bullied (though his teacher assumed he was at first) but then explains the reason he doesn’t get bullied is because the other students don’t even really acknowledge he exists.

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It is interesting to see how Rei is thinking through the first half of this episode and the sheer amount of effort he will expend in order to help Hina even though a lot of his thoughts are either misguided or just confused. The earnest desire to help is there but the issue is complex and Rei can barely look after himself most of the time.

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Still it was a new side of Rei and one which was pleasant to see because it shows us just how far he has come. He sees Hina as a person, even if he is slightly idolising her at this stage. He’s made a real connection and despite the current circumstances, he is fighting hard to protect her. For someone who used to pull the curtains closed and hide in bed, this is real progress and I honestly hope it doesn’t blow up in his face and send him back into hiding.

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As for Akari, she is tormented because she feels she has failed as the stand in mother. She feels her advice to Hina early on in life was wrong, that she couldn’t help her now, that she said the wrong thing… Basically she feels completely helpless in the situation and while she can’t let that out when Hina and the rest of the family are around, she let it out with Rei. And, again in a sign of just how far he’d come, he managed to say what Akari needed to hear. It doesn’t fix anything, but sometimes an emotional salve can go a long way.

The visuals, remain stunningly on point and whoever did the sound direction this episode nailed it. With a number of tonal shifts within scenes and some really complex emotions, both the visuals and sounds managed to perfectly convey the ideas and really created a truly enjoyable viewing experience. With great character moments and dialogue thrown in, March Comes in Like a Lion continues its strong second season and remains my absolute must watch.


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Karandi James.

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Random Thoughts on Stranger Things Season 2

I should probably do an actual review on this but to be honest I’m probably not going to. The reason being that I watched about half of this, and then took a break and then watched other episodes off and on while sick and busy so didn’t really pay enough attention and to be honest I don’t feel like watching it again to review.

That doesn’t actually mean Stranger Things season 2 is bad. It actually manages to capture most of what made the first season a really enjoyable nostalgia trip without the poor video quality of 1980’s films. But I undeniably struggled with maintaining interest early in the season and ultimately just found the sequel baiting ending a little hard to swallow. While this is my favourite Netflix original story after two seasons it seems pretty clear they plan to just keep running this idea into the ground until any small speck of originality or energy the series may have had is squished completely and totally flat.

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So what was good about season 2?

The big bad was bigger and badder even if they did just kind of up the body count by killing off the extras and one character that you kind of knew early on had raised so many death flags that by the time they finally did him in you weren’t overly surprised. Still, forget what seemingly invisible enemy. Now we have an unseen threat that is widespread and getting out of control fast and when we do see the threat the word horde comes to mind.

The cast are still fantastic. Child actors who can mostly act (the exception being Will’s older brother who’s name I have once again forgotten). I think Nancy actually did a better job this season and Will’s character gets to do a lot more this time round and he is fantastic. The addition of Max to the party, contentious as some of the characters may have found that, was a really good choice and worked well and the other characters mostly maintained what they were known for in the previous season so more of the same which works well enough.

The 1980’s soundtrack, while pretty literal at times, is still amazing to listen to and this along with all the other nods to the era makes for a really fun watch. Though I’m still trying to believe that anyone would mistake ghostbusters for exterminators back in the 80’s.

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What was less good?

The set up process of this story. A year has passed and everyone is a little older and a little jaded by the events the year before and the cover up. There’s some trauma and there are some new relationships and some fairly fractured relationships but it takes three episodes to really establish all of this before anything actually happens with regards to the new story. I’ll admit, after the story started you realised how necessary most of that set up was, but it was kind of dull and a little bit painful to watch.

The Sherriff and Eleven have zero chemistry. Eleven is really sidelined for the first half of this series and her only interactions are with the Sherriff. While I get the story they were trying to establish here, he doesn’t pull enough emotional weight to really sell the anger as over-protection and she isn’t given enough time to establish herself as an actual person so basically we just see them go through the same cycle of eat and play happy families before he ‘lies’ and she has a tantrum leading to him throwing a tantrum over and again until she finally ups and leaves.

Which leads to the story with Eleven and Eight which again could be awesome but is most definitely just setting up potential future storylines and has no relevance here other than Eleven gets a bit of a power up because of Eight’s advice. And a make-over. Anyway…

How dumb are those scientists? I get bad guys being dumb and characters in stories sometimes making dumb choices but these guys have had an entire year to clean up the mess and not only have they failed, the mess got worse and they didn’t even notice. Not one actual researcher makes one actual useful contribution for the entire length of the series. How do these people keep their jobs?

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All and all, if you liked Stranger Things, Stranger Things 2 is enjoyable enough and the second half definitely steps it up. Still, I’m not so sure how many more seasons of this I’m going to be thrilled to see. I’d really like them just to resolve the issue and let Will and his friends get on with their lives at this point.


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Karandi James.

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March Comes in Like a Lion Episode 26: An Emotional Bomb

Review:

This episode is pure and simple emotional manipulation, however it does it so incredibly well. Actually, probably as close to perfect as any individual anime episode will get. If it doesn’t get you crying in the first part where we find out the circumstances behind Hina’s tears at the end of the previous episode, or after Rei runs after her and heals some of his own trauma from her words, or after they go to the library together, then the scene at the end where they return to the house and the Grandfather gives Hina’s actions the validation they needed (her situation still sucks but at least someone told her she had done the right thing), will get you. It is a fantastically orchestrated emotional rollercoaster that in twenty minutes will take you through sadness, empathy, reflection, grief, loss, calm, and then release.

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Though it is more how this is delivered that works rather than what. This isn’t the first show to deal with middle school bullying, nor will it be the last. However, March Comes in Like a Lion finds the perfect images to reflect each of the emotions it is trying to craft and matches them beautifully with sound and movement. There’s a real understanding of emotions at work here and it is on display for all to see.

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The choice to cover three chapters of the manga (most episodes only cover 2 and the only reason I know this is because the episode titles tell us where we are up to), was a very good call. The episode begins, narrated by Rei, the outsider. He is looking in on Hina’s pain and hearing about it and in the process reflecting on his own pain. We then shift to Hina’s narration, which personalises the issues but gives us glimpses of hope because she isn’t broken. She’s definitely feeling down but she is not out. Just a bit lost and looking for a lifeline to carry her through until she can find her own feet again. Lastly, we shift back to Rei to conclude the episode. Again, it really reflects the tone of the story, creates a compelling emotional journey and the switching viewpoint just drives home the emotions the show wants to convey.

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So yes, two weeks in a row March has made me cry. Last week was more because of where my own emotions were about life but this week the show itself just hit hard. I held out until the final act of the episode but seeing Hina’s face as her grandfather told her how proud he was of her actions did me in.

I still get that this show won’t be for everyone but if you’ve never tried the first season and you have access, I seriously recommend at least trying it.


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Karandi James.

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