The Morose Mononokean Volume 4 Review Discussion
The Morose Mononokean:
Reviewed by: Linny
Synopsis: Hanae Ashiya has been suffering from bad health ever since a fluffy demon decided to attach to him. At the end of his rope, he stumbles upon an ad for exorcists placed by Haruitsuki Abeno, the owner of a tea shop named the “Mononokean”. Though Abeno does turn out to the solution to his problem, he then demands that Ashiya pay him a fee of a million en (en being the official currency of the spirit world) for his services. Being a broke school student, Ashiya is forced to work for Abeno and in doing so,explore the curious world of demons and exorcisms.
Review (Warning: Spoilers to Follow):
So we kick off this volume with the return of a character, Zenko from Volume 2, which didn’t surprise me as she seemed fated to play a bigger role considering how personal her encounter with Ashiya was. I was, in fact, mildly surprised that she didn’t immediately feature regularly starting from her first appearance itself but I’m glad the story proved my gut feeling to be true eventually. This time around, she seems to have fallen prey to a much more sinister demon’s mischief and things seem darker than they’ve ever been as this demon seems to have a personal history with Abeno. This hinting of an intimate past connection definitely made the new demon stand out immediately, especially as Abeno seems so completely unaware of someone who seemed to have been close to him. Once again, that’s not a unique concept but it’s definitely one that can be intriguing if played out well and for the first two chapters, it does succeed in adding to the mystery and supernatural tone.
Adding a stoic and practical Zeno to the team to introduce and deal with this new playful demon definitely adds some extra personality to the cast. However, she lacks a bit of impact thanks to her muted character. Her expressionless face is a good depiction of her actual nature. She’s quiet and almost numb to everything that’s happening around her most of the times, but that makes for a nice contrast when she reveals her caring and her authoritative side. If you find or found yourself struggling to warm up to her, she does seem to be in the volume mainly for the sake of plot, and of course, over protective dad jokes, so you don’t have to worry about her appearing incessantly as a main cast member.
Going back to our new big bad demon this volume, this was the first time I truly feared for the safety of the cast members as the illustrations made this new demon seem a lot more malicious through its facial expressions. The hearkening to the past made it feel like it was harboring some grudge against Abeno, which was most likely only growing worse when Abeno made it clear that he had clearly forgotten having ever interacted with the demon. Then, as per usual, the series made things light-hearted by having said ferocious demon throw a tantrum like a child when Zeno refused to play its games during school hours and even having the malicious entity finally calmly agree to Zeno’s conditions to wait till after school. This immediately broke the spell for me as it made the demon feel like nothing but a spoiled brat, rather than an all powerful being who wouldn’t ever take no for an answer.
The next chapter pulled me back in as seeing the three teenagers wandering through a huge graveyard sent tingles of anticipation. As this is a playful story, you kinda have it figured out that nothing truly terrible is going to happen but it was amusing to watch Ashiya lose his cool when having to deal with the possible presence of ghosts. It also had some nice twists and build up, once again, if you’ve read a lot of these kind of stories, they won’t knock you off your feet but it all played pretty well and will likely delight new readers.
Which brings us to the next chapter, Chapter 16 which in all honesty was the most disappointing chapter for me personally as it tried to be extremely dramatic and filled with suspense but to me it just came off as people switching natures and personality at a poorly timed and sudden pace, all for the sake of raising tensions. Also, the book cover summary itself claims to touch on Abeno’s past but in all honesty, it barely even qualifies as a brush than a touch. If you were hoping for some shocking reveal, there really isn’t one so before you get your hopes up, I’m sorry but I have to quash them. The constant attempts of the series to make its cast seem in mortal peril is starting to wear out even further as a lot of similar pasts incidents have ended on such a jovial or silly note that the reader starts to just wait for the goofy resolution rather than being in actual fear, something I’ve been saying repeatedly for a while now. While the new big bad demon in this volume had given me temporary hope of an extremely dark story, chapter 16 got rid of it all with its unbalanced execution. It of course ends on a sentimental and silly note, introducing a new demon seeking the Mononokean on its last page. I do think the series does these introductions and leeway into new stories pretty well, how it mingles dialogues and situations to have them effortlessly flow together. It seems to do these more often than others that I’ve read and while it isn’t mind-blowingly amazing, it does leave an impression and gives the storytelling a unique style.
No volume would be complete without a smaller story involving minor demons and their personal problems and exorcisms and in this one, we have devoted bird like servant demon who wishes to have his beloved princess and himself exorcised after she falls into a depression that threatens her very existence. This story has a lot more comedic one liners and though it does have serious notes, there’s no fear of malicious harm befalling our human characters ever and of course, it ends on a happy note. I have to admit I burst out giggling at the thought of someone having a jet for a lover and I feel like this story is certain to have others chuckling or grinning. While I generally enjoy stories and in particular this series for having a strong tinge of darkness, The Mononokean seems to be at its best when it sticks with its lighter plots. That is not to say that its darker parts are its undoing, but it definitely seems to handle comedy better than suspense. I do think that for faithful readers, the teasing of a dark story at the end of every volume is in danger of completely losing its impact as we’ve had one at the end of all 3 volumes before this, with each one ending on a brighter note that you’d expect given its previous buildup. Of course, the Mononokean is still more than just a comedy, having almost every single story have strong notes of emotional outbursts and danger but it definitely feels like it would best suit those who enjoy playful stories with a supernatural premise and thriller elements.
The Morose Mononokean is available digitally via Crunchyroll.com.