The Morose Mononokean Season 1 – From Beginning To End A Viewer’s Journey

The Morose Mononokean or Fukigen na Mononokean, aired in the Summer Season of 2016 and while I was initially a little put out that it didn’t quite meet my expectations, this supernatural story ultimately won me over with its cute character interactions and interesting lore. Here are my impressions while viewing each episode of the first season of The Morose Mononokean.

Episode 1

I quite enjoyed this first episode even though it is largely set up and getting the two characters together. The whole time watching it I kind of got the feeling that it was somewhere between Natsume Yuujinchou and XXXHolic. I’m kind of hoping it get’s its own vibe somewhere along the line but I found this very cute and entertaining. I’m hoping Ashiya develops as a character and I’m kind of hoping we learn more about the exorcist but overall this episode gave us a nice intro to the world and how things are going to play out.

Episode 2

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This one is definitely trying for the position of my favourite anime this season. It is a perfect blend of sweetness, fantasy, and just enough drama to keep things moving and interesting. Like episode 1, I’m definitely getting a Natsume feeling from this but even then the characters are a little bit livelier and have a bit more attitude. It’s definitely shaping up to be a yokai of the week story but it feels like the developing relationship between the two characters and Ashiya becoming more attuned to seeing yokai will nicely tie this all together. Loving this so far.

Episode 3

By the end of the season, I am going to be able to spell the title without checking it twice. Anyway, I am still loving this anime. This week we see Ashiya attempting to help a laughing priest by crying and we get to watch Abeno wondering if Ashiya is actually able to succeed. There’s very little that is subtle about this anime. Abeno spends a lot of this episode talking with a yokai about Ashiya and various observations are made about both characters. Meanwhile, Ashiya helps the priest’s daughter leaving us all with a shiny, happy feeling by the end. All and all it is a nice solid episode with a self-contained story while advancing the relationship between the two main characters. We also get to learn a bit more about the room itself this week. Looking forward to the next episode.

Episode 4

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So this is probably my least favourite episode of this show so far. Mostly because when you give any character a set of rules you just know they are going to break every single one so the whole thing falls into the path of beyond predictable. It’s paint by numbers and while the trip to the underworld is pretty it hasn’t been particularly enlightening so mostly we’re just hanging around waiting for Ashiya to get into trouble, which he inevitably does. And Abeno is going to be so annoyed when he catches up with him. Hoping things pick up again next episode.

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Episode 5

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Ashiya is either getting more annoying, or my tolerance for him is dropping as the episodes progress, but this episode I was finding him particularly irritating. Although, in retrospect, that’s probably because we got this awesome glimpse of a different kind of Ashiya at the beginning after Fuzzy got hurt and then Abeno showed up and he went right back to usual whimpering Ashiya. That said, I liked the episode. We finally learned a bit more about Abeno and got some hints about how he became the master (actually we probably have enough to put most of it together now). I’m glad Ashiya reunited with Fuzzy as it kind of felt like that needed to happen and I was surprised it hadn’t happened earlier. Also, the introduction of the Legislator has worked well and he looks like he could be an interesting character (or failing that an interesting plot device). Looking forward to the next episode.

Episode 6

I really hope they are eventually going to explain Ashiya. Weird power last week that got cut off and then this week a strange ability to find metal things. Not that it isn’t cool, but an explanation would be lovely. This is a nice and simple fetch quest of an episode. Find a ring and return it. Turns out the returning brings up some of Abeno’s baggage about humans not really understanding yokai (not that he’s really bothering to try and overcome that hurdle on his own). It’s a pleasant enough story and has a lot of charm. My favourite moment though is the tease that occurs right before the ending and now I really want to know what’s coming.

Episode 7

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This episode brings back the girl Ashiya met at the temple and introduces a fox yokai that at first seems more annoying than anything else. I really enjoyed watching this episode as all the way through it there was a growing sense of unease. Shame the episode doesn’t resolve but it does leave off at an excellent spot if they want to make us wait for next week. Also, it’s kind of fun watching Abeno get flustered not once but twice this episode. Ashiya also get’s a moment where he actually uses his powers of observation. Anyway, great episode, a little darker than some of the previous ones, and now I need episode 8.

Episode 8

This show has done this twice now. Set up a conflict at the end of one episode only to resolve it within minutes of the next making it more or less a non-issue. Abeno’s foul mood about the jobs this episode aside, very little happened after the issue with the fox was finalised. Yes, we did get to see a young Abeno (so cute) playing with the fox in what was probably a totally unnecessary flashback and we got to see Ashiya taking the initiative on a job, but really this episode felt like we were marking time.

Episode 9

Humans doubt exorcists. There’s a revelation for Ashiya. In what was probably the least interesting episode yet, Abeno and Ashiya are called to a house by a girl who thinks her room is possessed. Turns out she’s right, but her mother is not particularly thrilled at her spending her allowance on an exorcism. Anyway, little is learned or revealed through the episode but the end then sets up the next issue for next week. As you can tell, I didn’t much love this week’s episode.

Episode 10

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Once again the ‘problem’ set up in the previous episode turned out to be not much and while Ashiya and Abeno did succeed at exorcising a yokai (helped him move on from past regret), the reason they went to the farm was actually not addressed in the end. As much as I like the look and feel of this show, from the point of view of the plot it isn’t really going very far. I do like the addition of Zenko to the group as she provides a little bit of a buffer between the rounds of Ashiya and Abeno bickering but because she can’t really see the yokai she isn’t involved at critical moments. It makes her a nice supporting cast member and I hope she hangs around.

Episode 11

I feel this episode would have had far more impact if my internet connection hadn’t continuously dropped while trying to watch it. As a result, I saw the episode in 2 – 5 minute blocks with a lot of frustrated waiting and reloading in between.

The episode picks up from last episode and we finally see Ashiya face a consequence for being an overly kind nit-wit. The question becomes will this lead to anything resembling a real conflict to be resolved or will they just wrap it up nicely in the first three minutes of the next episode (if there were any hints after the credits, I didn’t see them this week due to lack of loading). I enjoyed this episode more than the last couple despite the interruptions but I still feel this anime hasn’t quite managed to nail consistency or engage me with the characters as well as I would have liked to be.

Episode 12

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For the first time this series has decided to actually take a problem seriously and drag it out. While it almost seems certain that everything will be fine by the end of next episode, it was nice to see the characters we’ve met over the season rallying to solve Ashiya’s problem. And Fuzzy clinging to Ashiya toward the end was just kind of heart breaking.

What this series hasn’t done is given us any further information about either Ashiya or Abeno and maybe there isn’t anymore to these characters than what meets the eye but it hasn’t felt like that for most of the series so it really feels like we’re going to end this series barely scratching the surface of the mysteries that might have been. Not really fair to criticise a show for what it isn’t, but in this case the show just isn’t quite enough as it is. it is pleasant and enjoyable and the characters have been fun but there’s always something missing from the mix.

On a side note, I finally managed to spell the title right first go and now the show is about to end.

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Episode 13

The episode is called ‘The End’ and while it certainly ended the crisis with Ashiya’s vision it didn’t really offer any other insight or resolution. That and they kind of just gathered every character together and used their emotions to solve the problem. Really? Anyway, the final episode ends much the way the show has gone all the way along. It’s as if we are just continuing to skim over the top of a much more interesting story but at the same time being given enough that we keep coming back. I haven’t heard any news of a season 2 at this stage so I guess we’ll just have to be satisfied with a ho-hum story of two human boys learning to find the balance between human and yokai.

But wait…

Actually, there is a season two and Irina and I did episodic coverage of it together. If you weren’t following my blog then be sure to check it out.

Images from: Fukigen na Mononkean. Dir. A Iwanaga. Pierrot Plus. 2016


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