The Morose Mononokean – Mid Season Review
The Morose Mononokean:
Original Air Dates: July 3rd, 2016 – ???
Synopsis: Ashiya is excited to be starting high school, but there’s just one problem: A Mononoke, or Yokai has attached itself to him and seems to be sucking his life force away! As Ashiya spends each of his first seven days at school in the infirmary, he realizes something has to be done before this little monster kills him. Through coincidence, Ashiya discovers the phone number of someone looking for exorcists to hire. Calling the number in hopes of finding help, Ashiya ends up meeting one Abeno Haruitsuki, a man who helps Mononoke pass on to the next world.
Mid Season (6 Episodes) Review (Warning: Some Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Ashiya remains a fairly likable hero, and probably one of the more enjoyable aspects of the series as he pushes his values and integrity against Abeno’s more jaded persona. Abeno, who I’d complained a bit about before feeling he’s little more than an all too common archetype, doesn’t change a whole lot over these six episodes. He remains stand offish and fairly predictable. The show gives us fleeting moments, particularly in episode six, that speak to an ongoing narrative surrounding his character development, but for now his persona remains largely stagnant.
Linny: The lack of growth and change is obviously going to disappoint those who where hoping for it as both leads remain feeling like extremely familiar stereotypes. They’re stuck in their roles even up to the mid point and what little growth either character shows is quickly forgotten by the next episode. There have been a lot of new characters introduced in the meanwhile but thanks to a constant shift of focus, none of them have made a reappearance thus far. That in turn limits the chances of the show winning people over with likable side characters due to their limited appearance and contribution to the overall story. Almost every new character is limited to the shtick they had to play with in the episode they were featured in and if you end up enjoying any of them, you do so at the risk that you might never see them ever again.
Tom: Outside of the Yokai of the week, additional characters are gradually introduced, allowing Mononokean’s world to become fleshed out. In fact, we gain another cast member, the Yokai from the first episode, Fuzzy, in a development that feels like little more than an attempt to create a series mascot. The other characters are largely forgettable, remaining unmemorable, boring and cause two episodes in particular to drag heavily as Ashiya and Abeno venture into the Yokai world for the first time. It should be an exciting two parter, but amazingly enough formed what was a particularly low point of the series for me.
Linny: The biggest appeal of this show remains its male characters, specifically those who like moe male leads like Ashiya or enjoy crushing on cold, jaded male leads like Abeno. So far, the show has been consistently exploring yokai and their personalities and world in a manner that drums up the drama but always winds up with a happy ending. Some find bliss in such predictability and constant happy endings, and for those people, Mononokean proves to be a perfect show to unwind with at the end of the day.
Tom: Despite carrying the label of a comedy, the humor remains largely underwhelming. Sometimes it produces a chuckle, a mild laugh here or there, but I often find myself only barely amused. The series sometimes strays far more into the supernatural drama territory. Coming from that are a few really cool, spine tingly developments that hint at darker implications for what’s to come, but these moments are fleeting and feel almost superfluous as the series’ focuses on one off tales and everything always ends with a perfect happy ending.
Linny: I hate to be the bearer of bad news but as someone who has been keeping up with the manga, I can confirm that happy endings are here to stay for better or worse. While the show often taunts and teases the viewers with hints of darkness, it almost always ends up being light-hearted or heart warming. It never lives up to the darkness and despair it hints at, so for those who keep falling for it , it all becomes a never ending and frustrating cycle of disappointment.
Tom: When it dips into the supernatural and fantasy elements, distancing itself from the comedy, I expect some pay off. But the trouble is the more emotional beats don’t always resonate and tend to come off as forced. Mononokean is actually at its best when its focusing on the one off stories about helping Yokai, and not trying to build up its world. Surprisingly, that world building makes for the duller parts of the experience. It doesn’t help that Mononokean has pacing issues, keeping many conversations feelings slow, dragged out, and altogether too long.
Linny: The most attractive parts of the show visually are when Ashiya and Abeno are in the Yokai world as the show uses vivid colours to depict it as compared to the muted tones elsewhere. If you are unfamiliar with the source manga and enjoy over the top expressions, you might prefer turning to the manga instead as it has the characters, in particular, Ashiya making a lot more comical faces and reactions. In fact, if you are familiar with the manga, you might feel like this anime did a poor job of portraying some of the cuter expressions as the characters seem to lack their original energy and impact.
Tom: Despite my misgivings, I’m actually very impressed by the CGI usage here. Mononokean often uses CGI to depict the Yokai and the way it manages to blend and interact with the 2D imagery is a highlight within the show’s, if not this season’s, animation. While it’s still obvious when CGi is in use, it somehow manages to feel more natural within the world, rather than an outright eyesore.
Linny: The beautiful animation in Mononokean is bogged down by a story that sometimes seems to drag on. There isn’t a lot of character development as the series proceeds though there are several hints to darker secrets and developments. However, so far, none of them have led to anything substantial. The show seems determined to coast on the appeal of its fluffier characters and is at its best when dealing with one off stories involving yokai exorcisms. Your enjoyment of the show will rely heavily on your appreciation of these factors.
Tom: As the season has progressed I’ve become less and less enamored with Mononokean. A big problem stemming from its fear to end with anything less than a happy ending. Another being the series lack of truly amusing comedy, and its sluggish slog through world building. That said, I can see the appeal and for an easier to please audience Mononokean appears to be offering a tried and true formula that should entertain those more than satisfied with its initial offerings.
The Morose Mononokean is available for streaming via Crunchyroll.com.