The Morose Mononokean Season 2 Series Review

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

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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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.

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Karandi James
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Natsume’s Book of Friends Volume 13 Review

It has been awhile since I’ve written a Natsume review and I’ve now got quite the stack of books to catch up on as I’m now at volume 17 and hungry for more. That said, I absolutely loved volume 13 (big surprise).

I will admit, my most recent trip to Japan was great as I picked up quite a bit of Natsume merchandise including a Nyanko pillow, a small Little Fox plush, a figure of Natori, and the first five volumes of the manga in Japanese because if I ever get some quiet time I’m going to work on my translation skills again and see if I can get through them. So at the moment, I am very much surrounding myself with Natsume and I cannot get enough.

However, for now I’ll get into reviewing volume 13 which I was really excited about because it brings Natsume face to face with Matoba again.

Chapters 52 – 54: Behind the Chains

This is a story I particularly loved in the anime as it brings Matoba calling on Natsume and asking him for a favour. Only in true Matoba fashion it isn’t so much asking as demanding and when that doesn’t work, threatening. Natori is aware Matoba has approached Natsume and is working away in the background, and Nyanko is as usual being sassy when Matoba is present but working hard to protect Natsume despite the exorcist charms making him somewhat weaker than normal.

There’s a lot to love about this story as it brings great characters together, provides more insight into the world of exorcists as well as the different ways the Matoba go about it compared to someone like Natori, and it also shows us Natsume’s incredible natural talents. The search for the yokai possessing exorcists works wells enough to hold all of this together but that particular issue is so much less interesting than the tension that exists every time Natsume and Matoba are anywhere near each other.

The art is nicely done as usual with some excellent chapter introductions but scenes of the guests in the Matoba house are a little messy in terms of details and the faces of background characters aren’t particularly amazing. It is a minor complaint in amongst a great story but worth noting.

Still, this story didn’t disappoint and the volume wasn’t done.

Specials: Nishimura and Natsume, Kitamoto and Natsume

After the sensational exorcist focused story for the majority of the volume, the second part goes firmly into the slice of life aspects of Natsume and what this volume shows is that there is great balance in the story between these more human moments that hit the emotions hard, and those tense and exciting moments where the supernatural takes centre stage.

These are two characters that, while they have a presence in the anime it hasn’t been very prominent. These two stories are really a great chance to see how these two very normal and ordinary school friends came to be friends with and understand, to a point, Natsume and accepted him for who he was. They are touching and heartwarming stories and just the perfect thing to read to leave you with a smile.

I probably don’t need to reiterate, but this series is so fantastic to read. I’ll cover something else next week but then I’ll be back with my next Natsume review.

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The Morose Mononokean Season 2 Episode 13 With Irina and Karandi

The Morose Mononokean Post Title

Here we are at the end of the season and it is time for one last chat with Irina about The Morose Mononokean (at least this season and fingers crossed that we eventually get a third). We’re over on Irina’s site today so to check out our full discussion about The Morose Mononokean Season 2 Episode 13 hop on over and be sure to leave us a comment.

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Natsume’s Book of Friends Volume 12 Manga Review

Natsume's Book of Friends Volume 12 Cover

Relying on and Reaching Out To Others

We all know Natsume is a bit cut off emotionally. Volume 12 does an excellent job of showcasing the relationships he’s forged as well as pushing him to realise he cannot do everything alone and nor does he really want to. It is a great collection of stories and with Natori showing up for the final three chapters I was pretty thrilled with this volume.

Chapter 47 Answer Instead

This is perhaps the weakest story in the volume, though it is still pretty interesting. A yokai who mimics human voices asks Natsume for his help in finding another yokai who can restore paper so that he can read a note left by a human many years ago. As usual, Natsume gets very caught up in helping the yokai but it ends up being a pretty sad story.

Or maybe bittersweet would be the better way to phrase it.

The yokai lost his chance because he feared the outcome of making a real connection with the human girl and that sets the scene for the remaining stories in the volume.

Chapter 48 Name of the Mysterious One

It wouldn’t be a Natsume story about connecting with others without dealing with Reiko’s life. I really liked this story when I saw it in the anime and here it was just as fun to read and just as heart warming.

Natsume encounters an elderly lady who turns out to be a yokai, or maybe a former god, it is a little unclear. Whichever way, the woman asks for Natsume’s help in finding a powerful yokai to return a mirror to. As more of the story comes out, Natsume realises that the one the woman is looking for is Reiko.

Once again we see and hear about the lonely life Reiko had as she was unable to connect with either yokai or humans. And once again, we see how far Natsume has come in separating himself from that path.

Chapter 49 – 51 Beyond the Glass

This story involves both Tanuma and Natori and it is truly fantastic. Both of these characters know about Natsume being able to see yokai but Tanuma can’t see them himself or help much whereas Natori believes he knows better than Natsume when it comes to dealing with yokai. It makes for an interesting encounter.

Natsume unfortunately draws the attention of two yokai who imprison him in a bottle. As Tanuma tries to help him, he gets injured and the bottle is stolen by the yokai. Tanuma however isn’t going to leave it at that and tries to rescue Natsume, though fortunately Natori is also there to help of things might have gotten ugly.

The danger Natsume poses to his friends is all too clear here and yet without Tanuma, Natsume would not have made it through this encounter.

The contrast between each character, Natori, Tanuma and Natsume, is really nicely explored in this story and following on from the story about Reiko it really helps to distinguish how each of these characters are choosing to live and grow and the connections they have or sever.

I love reading these stories because they always leave me thinking, with a quiet smile, and just wanting to read more. Volume 12 is no exception and is a great, relaxing read.

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The Morose Mononokean Season 2 Episode 12 With Irina and Karandi

The Morose Mononokean Post Title

Welcome back. This week Irina and I are covering episode 12 of The Morose Mononokean Season 2. Irina is bold and in blue, and I’m in red.

I don’t even know where to start this week. This episode was just really great to watch. It felt like so much happened and yet I was genuinely surprised when the end credits started rolling because it felt like no time had passed. Did you like it?

I immediately jumped on my computer to make sure it wasn’t the last episode. This episode more than ever, I had the sinking feeling I would have to start a new manga collection. And I’m the type of cray I can’t just read them online because…crazy?

Ok short answer (too late): Yes, I liked it!

Once again, I am left wondering just how much the Legislator is manipulating the situation. Kuruo’s sudden visit to White Sand Prison and her wink as she asked Abeno to accompany her just seemed to suspect to really just assume it was a coincidence. And yet, what does she have to gain in this situation? It would really be nice to know if the Legislator is pulling the strings and if he is, what he is trying to get from it all.

Right from the first instants, where Ripou mentions that the prison is “not well guarded on the inside” I had my suspicions.

On a technical note, I was reminded how great Ripou’s voice is. He has this way of playing with inflection that makes everything sound just a little fishy. Something is definitely up.

I found Abeno’s sneaking around the prison to find the library unintentionally hilarious. For someone who is usually so straightforward and upfront, sneaking just doesn’t suit him and he’s not very good at it. I did like that he kind of panicked and took the book accidentally. It seemed like a fairly natural reaction of someone who is not used to being underhanded. Also, his freak out when it poked out of his clothes was also pretty priceless.

I was actually sort of freaked out at Kuruo mentioning that the medicine was used for torture. This season is slowly shifting the tone of The Morose Mononokean into something much more threatening.

I do agree that seeing Abeno flustered is a bit of a treat. I wouldn’t mind seeing more of that, if I wasn’t worried about him. I’ve been worrying about Abeno for no particular reason since season 1 and now everything’s converging on him.

It was really great to see those gorgeous Underworld vistas again!

There were however two things with this early part of the episode that bothered me. The first was that somehow Abeno had apparently had time to read the whole account, or at least a large part of it, which makes you wonder how long it takes to deliver medicine. But the second was just how easily he found exactly what he was looking for. Admittedly, the library was neatly ordered, but it still seemed far too easy that the first book he took off the shelf had the account he was looking for and he managed to find that account in the book with very little difficulty. It is a minor complaint but it just seemed too simple.

I agree with the second part but I’m not sure about the first. I thought he had flipped to a random page and that was all that he read. I may just be charitable.

That the Legislator ends up with the book just brings me back to wondering what he’s up to and how much he’s actually involved in everything.

I think it’s a power play. He wants to take some authority away from the other two. The Executive and the Justice also seem a lot closer to each other than to the Legislator, there may be something to that. But let’s go back to the mundane world, because they are slowly weaving the two together.

We do see these two together a lot.

I really enjoyed Hanae’s attempt at bribing Yahiko to show him what Sakae looked like. It was such a typical interaction between them with Yahiko just crushing Hanae and stringing him along. It is nice to know that despite Hanae’s awakening power some things haven’t changed.

I like Yahiko quite a bit. I shouldn’t, but I do. Seeing those two together was a fun little romp and a break in the tension.

But, then we get into the final part of the episode where Hanae and Abeno are asked to go check out a shrine by Zenko. I really want to just swat Zenko’s father. He sent them there, through Zenko, without giving them all the information he had and that just seems really reckless.

OK, three things I noticed in the last prt. First, the mundane world was awash in yellow. The palette was warm and pale. Yellow is happy, obviously sunny but it’s also associated with lies. There’s something we don’t know going on.

Second, they really insisted on the spiderweb imagery, especially in connection with Abeno. He’s being ensnared. The web was also tinted yellow, just like Abeno’s hair…

Finally, the web and spider motifs were superimposed over an adorable little pig yokai, which to me instantly brought up the idea of Charlotte’s Web.

Wow, that is really Charlotte’s Web. I hadn’t thought of that.

Then of course the whole thing ends on a cliffhanger as we go into the final episode of the season. I will admit, this season has been a lot more exciting and interesting than season one so I am definitely anticipating that final episode.

Hence me looking up if it’s the final episode and finding out the MAL thumbnail has a picture of Sakae’s face right on there which is a bit of a spoiler…

There are two other things I enjoyed this episode. The first was Hanae’s sister and her phone call. While it is mostly disconnected from a lot of the rest of the story, I kind of like this deeper look at his family given that was missing entirely from season one. Also, with the current drama all revolving around the man who may have been his father, it is nice to see the other family members getting a bit of screen time.

The other thing I really enjoyed was the visual contrast between the underworld and the mundane world. I’ve appreciated this even in season one, but this episode did an excellent job of showcasing the vastly different colour palettes used for the two settings and honestly it just made the episode a visual feast for the eyes.

The episode had some truly beautiful scenery in both worlds. It was great to watch.

I am also going to give this episode bonus points for using Fuzzy as a projectile weapon.

I knew you would pick up on the Fuzzy attack. It was very pokemonish. I want to see Natsume just flinging Nyanko at things. I know we’re not comparing the two shows but it would be hilarious. Besides, we are then shown that a powerful yokai seems to have been sealed in a little offering shrine. What am I supposed to think about?

Nyanko Attack!

Oh, now I want to see that. And Nyanko’s reaction afterward because I’m better he would definitely pay Natsume back for doing that to him.

Anyway, one episode to go and I can’t wait.

Me neither!

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The Morose Mononokean Season 2 Episode 11 With Irina and Karandi

The Morose Mononokean Post Title

This week we are back on Irina’s blog so be sure to go check out our thoughts on this adorable little episode featuring the cutest yokai birds with ear wings. Granted, there isn’t a lot of competition for birds with ear wings but seriously this was adorable. Also some good plot development stuff and some great character moments.

Seriously though, for Irina and my complete thoughts on The Morose Mononokean Season 2 Episode 11 head over to Irina’s. If you’ve missed our previous posts they are linked to below and be sure next week to catch our review of episode 12 right here.

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Karandi James
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Natsume’s Book of Friends Volume 11 Manga Review

Natsume's Book of Friends Volume 11 Cover

It is always great when a story remains consistently this great and volume 11 of Natsume’s Book of Friends maintains everything that has been good about the series so far. While we move away from the exorcists to focus more on Natsume’s growing group of human friends and to face Natsume’s past, this volume continues to be a compelling read and fleshes out Natsume’s character and that of his friends Taki and Tanuma.

Chatpers 42 and 43: Sealed

The first story deals with Tanuma and Natsume arriving at Taki’s home during a rain shower. After some pleasantries they end up assisting her in cleaning out a store room and in the process Natsume accidentally breaks a seal on a yokai that Taki’s grandfather accidentally imprisoned. It isn’t exactly looking for a pleasant conversation.

Natsume's Book of Friends Volume 11

This was great because it does put the three of these human characters together in a way that hasn’t really been done previously. Natsume is friends with Tanuma and friends with Taki, but previously the two of them have had little interaction. As the two characters who know the most about Natsume it is great to see them together here and trying to help Natsume as he is dealing with the yokai.

Natsume's Book of Friends Volume 11

We also learn more about Taki’s grandfather and the way the yokai responded to him. While he couldn’t see yokai as Natsume can, he was very much obsessed with them and gather quite a crowd around him during his life. These yokai ultimately decide to help out in this story and that saves the day. Taki thanking them was an adorable moment even though she also can’t see them without the aid of the circle and generally speaking they aren’t willing to step in it.

Chapters 44 – 46: Long Way Home

Any of the stories that give us more insight into Natsume’s lonely childhood are really fantastic and this story gives us a double hit. Firstly we see another family he stayed with previously and how well that went… And we also see Natsume dealing with the sale of his family home and his final goodbye to it. Throw in a yokai that tormented him as a child and you have a really great story.

What really sells this is how much readers have come to love Natsume over the previous en volumes. If this story had come in earlier, it may not have had the impact it does here. But with Natsume where he is on his character journey, this seemed like the perfect moment for some reflection and facing the past and it was handled beautifully.

Nyanko-Sensei is of course along for the ride and so we get a little more of the relationship between Nyanko and Natsume, but the focus is unmistakably on Natsume’s growth.

All and all, volume 11 did not disappoint and I am read to sink my teeth into volume 12.

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Karandi James
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