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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