Wow, what a series. Mononoke is the spinoff/sequel of the Bakeneko arc (eps. 9-11) in Ayakashi ~ Japanese Classic Horror. This is not to be confused with the final arc in Mononoke, which ironically, is also called Bakeneko. Although the original Bakeneko tale was brilliant, Mononoke is just as enticing, beautiful and well written as its predecessor. This series lets its art tell the tales. It is not afraid to experiment and has its own distinct style. This is a truly wonderful series especially visually and thematically.
Story: This anime is broken into five different stories lasting about 2 to 3 episodes each. Every one of
these stories features a different supernatural spirit; many of them rooted from Japanese folklore. It is up to the Medicine Seller to uncover the Katachi (shape/form), Makoto (truth), and Kotowari (reason) of the spirit. Now, this sounds like your average, spirit-of-the-week sort of deal, doesn't it? But it isn’t. That's one aspect that makes this series so great. All the stories are unique and do not feel like a rehash of the same story as the previous. Even by the final arc, I was still shocked and entralled by its revelations. So yes, there are unexpected twists in every arc. Each tale also holds very thoughtful themes. You would expect a series about supernatural ghosts to be about the, well, dead spirits, but that's also not the case. Most of the stories are quite deep and to some degree disturbing. In fact, Mononoke is very thematically based on human nature, since it's the humans and their actions that transform the spirits into these vengeful mononoke.
Art: I’ll say it now. The art style may put off some people, especially based on first impressions. I thought the art was absolutely gorgeous, fitting, and unique. Mononoke uses an art style that resembles the Japanese "ukiyo-e", filled with vibrant and colorful backgrounds, textures and designs. Because of this two-dimensional, almost paper cut-out appearance, the anime uses a lot of camera movements and symbolism. This is why a few of the stories may need multiple viewings to get the full meaning of everything. In this way, I feel Mononoke uses its art to its full potential to present the story. I also loved how the style in each arc deviates just a bit so that each story distinguishes itself from the others.
Sound: Sound plays a very important role in this series. Because the art style somewhat limits what it can show on screen, sounds are used to reinforce that. It sets up the tense atmosphere, adding suspense and leaving you anticipating for more. The voice acting is very well done, especially hearing those screams of terror and shock. Other than that, I didn't really like the opening and ending songs. I actually liked the Ayakashi OP and ED better.
Character: There is only one reoccurring character in all the stories and that is the ever-so-awesome Medicine Seller! Yes, he is nameless and simply known as “Kururi-uri-san/sama/insert other honorific” or medicine seller. Although not much is known about him, I think it's very fitting since it adds to his mysterious nature. He does, though very subtly, develop. In all honesty though, I found it incredibly enjoyable watching him make deadpan comments while the other characters are freaking out over the weird happenings/hauntings. Lastly, the story-only-characters get a good deal of development despite each story being 2 to 3 episodes in length.
Enjoyment/Final notes: I finished the series in 2 days, meaning I watched about 6 episodes per day. So yeah… I enjoyed it a lot. And as mentioned earlier, some arcs may take a second or even third viewing to get everything. I know I will watch it again. It's such an excellent anime and was so worth the watch.
My initial impression of Mononoke was literally, "...". After giving it a chance I am glad that I wasn't quick to judge and saw it through. Mononoke is a collection of short stories revolving around mysterious spirits/creatures known as, from the title, Mononoke. The writing and directing of the series are excellently done and really immerse you in the story itself. Each arc is a new story with new characters that are well fleshed out in the beginning of each segment. The Medicine Seller, Kusuriuri, is the only recurring character and is mysterious as always with each new arc.
The artistic styling of Mononoke is truly
one of a kind, the colours are amazing and with HD encodes it truly shines. Each new environment is unique, colourful, and captivating. The colours and use of quick camera movements add to the suspense. The animations themselves are intentionally very stiff at times but as the action speeds up they become very fluid and top notch. The backgrounds are rarely stationary, but appear as though you are observing a painting at the same time. Often times the animations of common things such as snow or water are displayed in a very unique way that makes you simply want to get lost in it.
The sounds of Mononoke are fantastic. There is often times complete silence, but that only adds to the suspense. The OP and ED are very nice, nothing exceptional, but nice. The use of sounds, such as screams, thumps and other such frightening sounds are extremely realistic. I hate to admit it but I was genuinely frightened at certain points.
Apart from the Medicine Seller, each arc sees the introduction of new characters. Each character usually represents a different Japanese stereotype. Samurai, priests, monks, government types, children, and many others. Kusuriuri's alternate self, I won't give anything away, is almost worth watching the story for on its own. The Medicine Seller is a very sarcastic person and often times at a very serious moment he'll crack a joke that is totally absurd and you can't help but laugh.
At only twelve episodes Mononoke is well worth the time and although it is very, very Japanese in respects to content, it doesn't take away from the enjoyment in the least. As I mentioned before, Mononoke is excellent at generating fear out of the simplest of situations with very little audio. The characters are all very genuine and are often times in tears and losing their minds in a very believable manner.
I've wasted enough of your time, now go watch this show. You definitely won't regret it.
When someone talks about the genre of horror, immediately a few things come to mind: blood, violent motion, bone and flesh torn asunder, gore essentially approaching abundant forms of shock value. These are what characterize the images that litter the horror genre today. However, one cannot discount the impact of simpler techniques. Muffled voices, the bloodcurdling scream, the manic dip toward insanity; these are all subtler methods which give rise to the imagination and thus leave a more impressionable impact. Mononoke adopts such techniques in each of its standalone stories, and it may not be surprising that these implementations are often left unappreciated. Yet, by
adapting these horror tools along with an artistic presentation, rhythmic score, and strongly representative story, it is no wonder then that Mononoke is an excellently produced work.
Before we embark on Mononoke's journey one may first need to understand the very concept of Mononoke. One of the basic types of Ayakashi (tl. "unnatural spirit") is formed from the soul of a living or non-living material. Oftentimes, regret causes this, and when an Ayakashi is merged with strong human emotions such as vengeance, sadness, or fear, it develops into a Mononoke (tl. "hostile spirit"). This is the foundation for conflicts in each story and what typically stems from each Ayakashi's backstory.
The story itself follows a Kusuriuri (tl. "medicine seller") who travels from one place to another exorcising each Mononoke he comes across. The anime presents five standalone arcs. Each one consists of 2 or 3 episodes, which may sound as if there is not enough time allocated to serve each story properly. Fortunately, this uncertainty is untrue. Each arc is thoroughly interesting, bizarre, and complex; viewers will be astonished by the profound impact each short story relays.
Every arc meticulously refines its pace in order to provide characters enough time to adapt to their roles. Once the primary conflict is staged and the Mononoke is revealed, Kusuriuri puts himself to the task of unraveling its Katachi, Makoto, and Kotowari (tl. "Form", "Truth", and "Regret") — the three requirements for him to release his "Sword of Exorcism". What makes Mononoke a highly commendable work is its highly structured format, as well as its exploration of every character's motives. Kusuriuri simply can't draw his sword and exorcise the Mononoke until a predetermined set of conditions is followed. Moreover, whilst watching Kusuriuri reveal a Mononoke's Form, Truth, and Regret, we come across a saddening tale of how it came into existence. Mononoke does an excellent job in attracting viewers with its harrowing tales, and its precisely carved narrative makes it an unforgettable experience.
Aesthetically, Mononoke is one of the most finely detailed pieces in existence. From vibrant and colorful backgrounds to highly detailed characters and costume designs, Mononoke has crossed every barrier in this field in order to achieve excellence. The pasty color palette may seem an odd choice for a horror anime, but make no haste; it merges perfectly with the setting and culture of this work. The backgrounds are perforated with different textures all of which that complement each standalone narrative.
Generally, Mononoke can exist in any form and in this anime they are designed explicitly (and sometimes intentionally vaguely) in order to vary with respect to their arcs. Toei Animation has done a wonderful job in designing every character intelligently and distinctively in correspondence to their personality. Kusuriuri's design in particular manages to stand out on every frame. Moreover, his climactic transformation remains one of the most excellent aesthetic achievements in anime: it produces such a profound form and with fantastically surreal animation.
Matching the astounding art, what makes the characters so memorable is how they are portrayed. Not only are they emotionally distraught and relatable, groups of them often form a well-represented allegory. Mononoke is also an eclectic social commentary, ranging from remarks on corruption within governmental policies to more localized analyses of vengeance and despair.
One role which continues to outshine all others is the recurring character Kusuriuri. Unnamed, unrevealed, and from beginning to end an unknown, this enigmatic figure is the lone consistent tool from story to story. He breathes ambiguity, and his role always wedges into the plot should it ever begin to stale. He also does not share any form of development, and yet his indecipherable status always mystifies viewers in order to keep Mononoke's harrowing atmosphere at its greatest.
The Opening and Ending themes may seem peculiar, but they are certainly stylish, and as unhinged periodic pieces, they imperceptibly suit the series' direction. However, what marks Mononoke is not the music but the sound effects. Each opportuned implementation pervades the room with mystery and sheer awe. Mononoke also takes inspiration from kabuki plays, which is an interesting spin as much of its presentation follows panelwork very typical of this theatre current.
Perhaps above all, Mononoke is an experiment on convention. Its presentation offers a instantaneous, visceral reaction, and its story takes great efforts to rely on its atmosphere to tell the tale. However, it allow follows a highly structured narrative, which roots its foundation in order to prevent stories from becoming too insane. As a waltz through the Ayakashi mythos, Mononoke is one series never to forget.
This review is the final product of a team composed of members from the "Critics and Connoisseurs" club. The writers were:
The wooden curtain opens with a sinister smile revealing the first scene:
A wave of vibrant, whirling umbrellas cascade down the street; the rain continues to pour in assorted shapes, accompanied by the patter of hollow conversations latching on to the sounds of its perpetual fall. On top of the path rests a towering hotel embellished by color, wood, and ruse. Slowly, an enigmatic wanderer appears at the gate of the inn, with a wooden box strapped on his back requesting to stay there. He is identified as the medicine seller. Shortly after, a young pregnant woman, dressed in desperation, finds herself at the same inn;
seeking shelter and protection.
There is, however, something amiss in the rainbow-tinted inn, and right away, its secrets provoke the senses; they seem to be everywhere – in the walls, in the unseen guests, in the corridor. After a heated argument between the innkeeper and the girl, she finds herself in an isolated room, lathered in opulence but infested by shadows of all shades. Following this unsettling vision, the show starts to bare its true face. There is something indeed amiss here and the Medicine Seller’s true purpose is brought forth: he came to hunt the horrors that plague the inn, otherwise known as “Mononoke”.
That is the basic premise of the 12-episode series titled Mononoke. The series is divided into five arcs, in which, the Medicine Seller (or Kusuriuri) attempts to seek, hunt, and exorcise these otherworldly spirits known as Mononoke. Essentially, Mononoke could be defined as a class of spirits, however, the ones Kusuriuri is concerned with are closest to humans, because they manifest from humans. These are corrupted entities that seem to bring sorrow, suffering, and destruction where they go and to who they haunt. Thus, this is a tale of the unknown, of mystery, of psychology and pathos, of ancient lore, and lastly, of horror that may disguise itself as a series of ghost stories, but only superficially.
One of Mononoke’s greatest strengths is its ability to intertwine the aforesaid elements with subliminal insight that gives it its multi-dimensional form. Most supernatural stories will focus on the imminent horror factor, or inducing temporary fear simply by virtue. Mononoke does something completely different. Rather than focusing on the external fear synonymous with the spirit(s) and their curses, it looks inward, to the living, rather than the dead. This is meticulously explicated by Kusuriuri’s methodology. In order to exorcise any Mononoke, he needs to first recognize its Form (physical), Truth (circumstance), and Reason (motivation). Much of this is revealed through digressing into the psyche of the parties involved in each arc, where Kusuriuri exploits the inner turmoil of each respective character and how that turmoil projects itself on to the Mononoke in ways that are not just terrifying, but often times, heartbreaking and utterly human.
Really, it’s the “human” element of the series that makes it so compelling which is mostly through the manner it incites and decrypts human nature and its capacity to wander in the dark. It’s carnivorous, yearning for fear and emotion; yet, it isn’t done through manipulation, shock value, or contrivance. Rather, Mononoke opts for psychological precision. The show doesn’t aim to deliver some insane amount of singular “character development” but rather uncover what lies in the dark, and thereby showing the ability for what is presented as good, innocent, virtuous to be equally bad, tainted, and sinful. Consequently, the show is heavily driven by its themes and self-contained plot rather than individual characters.
The aforesaid will lead many to flock to the notion of “bad characterization” or not enough “character” “development”, but one needs to contextualize what a work is actually trying to do/achieve before arbitrarily applying a set of self-drawn commandments. Characters can be utilized in many different ways as can a story be told in multiple ways. The characters of Mononoke are outwardly static, including Kusuriuri but that does not mean they are superfluous. They are internalized or “developed”/personified in many ways, whether it be through human analytics brought forth by yours truly ~the Medicine Man~ or the interactions, actions, and reactions that are revealed as a product of surfacing truths and unearthing secrets. Mononoke functions as a collective exploration of the temporal realm through the supernatural and both are interlocked by these ordinary characters that are deeper than they may initially look. Essentially, the characters are immensely important, for it is through them and their stagnation that the show is able to conduct its psychological experimentation.
Each character’s predicament is sealed by fate, but the stories aren’t about the end; they’re about how such an end could come about and the choices that led to it. By dissecting the unknown, Kusuriuri finds himself in the middle of intersecting realities that are as terrifying as they are tragic. What makes all the stories consistently effective is the finesse with which the show handles each character’s state, and the mononoke that transpires from them (whether they be a projection of corrupted desires, or a product of unrequited yearning, or a manifestation of unspoken crimes). Therefore, the “unknown” or “horror” isn’t really about the monsters or ghosts, but what creeps inside seemingly ordinary folk, and the will that could innately exist to ignite suffering. Through these various arcs, the characters in those arcs, and Kusuriuri himself, Mononoke presents accounts that are deeply disturbing and equally enlightening.
Furthermore, this also reinforces the unacknowledged strength of episodic structures. Mononoke shows that the quality of the plot or other elements isn’t internally compromised if the work lacks a continuous/overarching plot or a constant cast developing linearly and consistently. Its anthological nature fares well for it and its intentions for it turns out to be far more vicious in its horror, tragic in its drama and stylized in its art that every piece of it comes together effortlessly. It fully embraces the power of the medium and extends its boundaries far beyond traditional story-telling into a work of innovation, wonder, mysticism, and art.
And, elementally, nowhere else does this concentrated sublimity appear more than in Mononoke’s visual presentation. The best way to describe the art and animation of Mononoke is: idiosyncratic. It is so particular and unique that I’d be willing to wager it exists only to tell the stories that Mononoke did.
Right off the bat, the art style may come off as incredibly gaudy, over-the-top, and immensely theatrical (Curtains open and close at whim supported by decisive gongs dictating the flow of various scenes; highly sensitized color palettes are constantly at the forefront, clashing in folly, but never jarring; costumes and getups are so lurid that they seem to have fallen right out of a stage set; faces are painted with perfect expression that each frame seems like a change of masks, rather than emotion). Yet all of this works beautifully. Mononoke reminds me of something running in an aged-Kabuki theater, at least aesthetically, which is actualized through the bizarre sets of color, costume, and personalities, the artistically-tuned performances, and the emphasis on extravagance.
Mononoke’s visuals are a feat in and of themselves, but the real laudable aspect is how that art is integrated into the narrative. The reason I stress to call this work, a work of “art” (besides its literal merits) is because of its ability to use its elements to create something whole that transcends its own platform and deliver – with individuality, acuity, and sincerity – its subject and themes with clear prowess and understanding (of itself and its ambitions). Take its approach to horror for example. Even though the art-style is the last thing from traditional horror, given how theatrical it is, the way it infuses horror is with complete subtlety.
To elaborate, each arc is extremely claustrophobic, as in, the framing or setting of the arcs always occur in a juxtaposed manner. Whether it be stuck in a room of a humongous hotel, or a ship on the open seas, or a prison cell, or a train car speeding through a tunnel, the unsettling feeling of being “boxed-in” never leaves. It produces this inescapable void from the get-go and maintains that in the background, but it’s by far one of the most prominent things it does to invoke and sustain fear and discomfort. Not only are we forced into the corners of depraved minds, but we are confined there, with an evil that has the capability to exist everywhere, and within everyone. Furthermore, its usage of color is one of the best I’ve seen. Works of horror will generally opt for a gloomy, desolate mood which favors subdued grays, blacks, with the exception of red for obvious reasons. Mononoke on the other hand probably utilizes every color on the spectrum but does so effectively. I would never have imagined that such a palette could ever tell stories so terrifying and do so with the power that they do. Combined with its psychological propensity, the visual direction of the series is one of the best I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing; both as a work of Horror, and as a work of Art (and for once, we don’t have to separate the two).
Mononoke is a superb show, but it isn’t for everyone. It is unconventional in every sense of the word. It relies heavily on its own art, such as the barrage of interconnected, but flashing painting like images, or color-doused symbolism to tell its story. Not everything is spelled out here, and a lot of the stories feel like stories within stories since they do stem from various Japanese lore (such as about the concept of Mononoke itself, or what certain acts/paintings/symbols signify). Yet, it is accessible enough, universal enough, that it still communicates the stories of these people, spirits, and time wonderfully. Additionally, as much as I have praised the art, this style can be off-putting to many since often times it might prove to be distracting enough to deviate from the actual narrative. The cut-out style of many backgrounds is a good example of this. Lastly, people under the impression that this is a run-of-the-mill horror featuring gore porn or cool fights/deaths, let me be the first to convey that is not the case. The horror is more personalized through the tragedies of each situation, not through spirits killing randomly (as one would find in a Hollywood tale of biblical possession).
Truly, there is no better way to watch Mononoke, than as if watching a play. Yet, good art has the ability to transfer fiction into reality, and acquaint its consumer with its own feelings and dilemmas. In effect then, the shadows that lurk on the stage also lurk off-stage. And as the wooden curtain closes with the last gong and a similar smile, and the once busy street full of spinning umbrellas is left barren, Mononoke will also leave you with shadows of your own; standing on what you thought was a stage.
This is like Die Hard, but with angry spirits, a medicine seller, in Edo-period Japan.
Ok, so it’s not like Die Hard at all then. Well, actually...
They both involve antagonists, usually out to terrorize or for revenge, who force the hero to hole themselves up in an interior location with troublesome civilians, while using their wits and skills to battle to an explosive and emotional resolution. See?
Here's where Mononoke carves itself an identity to make itself stand out from John McClane’s frolics with Euro-trash in cramped quarters: (we're all ignoring the 4th instalment, right?)
Mononoke is a visual splatter of psychedelic imagery that's like the
creation of a prodigious savant child born from Stanley Kubrick, or Darren Aronofsky, take your pick. The colours just jump out at you no matter where the scene is or what's occurring, they're alive and part of the narrative.
A narrative that’s kept lively through snappy editing. Scene and shot transitions flow, snake, and leap all over the place, using every cinematic method available. There's even flip-book mimickery; character reactions told through pages turning one after another furiously, for no reason other than to jar the viewer and emphasise the stark dialogue being delivered.
Our hero, the medicine seller with ears from Middle-earth, surely has stark delivery. Only willing to speak when he has a reason to, if only more anime characters were like this. There's no filler to be seen in this show, whether it's absent from the dialogue or story.
But for a show so dependant on scaring the viewer witless through bizarre imagery, narrative coherency isn’t so important, mood is. The use of colour is actually a really smart way to affect our mood, because scenes that are so bright and vivid actually work in a way that you wouldn’t expect.
"Why am I getting freaked out by this empty room, even though it’s decorated so colourfully? Oh wait, because Yasaharu Takanashi's score is making creepy noises and I thought I just saw an Oompa Loompa in that corner for a moment but it must have been my imagination..."
The set-up to each story arc is eerie, the climax visceral, and the resolution always emotional. Mononoke is a brilliantly written, edited, and directed Edo-period-and-beyond horror that is inspiring in its design and delivery.
12 episodes. One medicine seller. The odds are against Kusuriuri. That’s just the way he likes it.
Emotions, it's a powerful thing that lurks in human. It can manipulate your feelings, actions, and thoughts. Love, Hate, and other emotions can easily enter your inner-self, creating something we called Demons. Mononoke portrayed how atrocious human emotion can be, and how great an episodic anime can tell a story.
The series started in feudal Japan (probably in Edo Period), Mononoke its evil spirits that born from human emotions. There's one person that able to slay the Mononoke known as Kusuriuri or Medicine Seller, he has a mystic sword that can slay the spirits, but in order to slay it, he have to discover the
three essences of Mononoke. The Form, Truth, and Reason of the Mononoke.
At first, I thought the story concept will create a dull storytelling, but I was wrong. The story consists of 5 unrelated short stories. Each story has their own way, it has unique differences and unpredictable plot twists and makes me speechless because of it. They didn't recycle the same idea but they developed them to create intense storytelling. For a horror anime, Mononoke didn't need blood, gory action, and many other overly-used horror elements, it just need a suspense story. Mononoke successfully created that each story.
The animations have a dark but full of different color. They trying to achieve the real horror elements and they succeed. The characters emotions were nonetheless the best they could offer, manic, panic, fear, laugh. It has various different expression drawn fluidly. Some people may found the art quite disturbing, but if you look in a different perspective it is a brilliant effort indeed.
The sound setting was a total fit to this anime. I really amaze by the voice actors who can bring such emotion to the screen. Another good point is the sound effect, from screaming, pounding, whispering perfectly done which created a plus sign for the horror element. Opening song Kagen no Tsuki sung by Ryouta Komatsu and Charlie Kousei have succesfully portrayed the combination of old western music and old eastern music and classically fits the anime. While the Ending song Natsu no Hana sung by JUJU brings a tender yet calm moments after a terror comes. I also found out the back sound quite good indeed, its have dark feelings that increase the intense more demonic.
In terms of character, we have only one role that keeps the story rolling, and the person is the Medicine Seller or Kusuriuri. Kusuriuri-san stands anonymously to the end. There is little known about him, but his calm and collected nature makes Mononoke more interesting and enjoyable to watch. Each episode has their own characters, those episodes only characters have a great development despite being shallow because 2-3 episodes length.
Mononoke stands as a unique figure that has to be the role model to keep the horror genre stands top. The unpredictable plot twist, intense, drama, and even art and sound settings make this anime enjoyable. If you seek for an anime that depicts the horror genre successfully in a different way from it should be. Then you might have to check this anime.
Deadly monsters, haunting spirits, and supernatural entities that are beyond human to even describe with words, are but a few examples of what makes horror an appealing genre to many. There are definitely great examples of works of horror that can be considered true masterpieces in its genre, however it is certainly one of the easiest genres to not succeed in garnering true terror within its framework. Especially with anime, where there are only a handful of noteworthy horror shows and the rest only come up with predictable scares and horror tropes being used way too much. Mononoke fits, unfortunately, to the latter; but only
by a very slim margin.
To expand on that last point, Mononoke is not what you would you call a terrifying show to watch. It would be more accurate to describe it as “startling.” It doesn’t try to disturb you with its overly-bombastic imagery, it instead wants you to seek out the subtle artistic prowess that it has to show before it then starts to suck you in to the horror by surprise. The execution of all of it feels very right and nicely paced out so that they feel less tedious and uneventful to go through. Many horror anime, and especially horror movies today, think that if it throws in any kind of ominous or thunderous music, blood splattering gore, or your every day horror cliche left and right that they can call their show a true horror show. In reality, they make it the opposite of their intention because you’re already used to it after the twentieth time it has happened half way through.
Mononoke proves that you don’t have to use any of those aspects in a horror to define yourself as one. The one thing that almost everyone can agree with is that the true source of horror is the “unknown.” The fact that you can’t see something, yet you feel a presence within your surroundings can be one of the most truly terrifying things to experience in real life or in film. Things of this nature was put into full effect when H.P. Lovecraft first based his stories around this concept. You can see, quite clearly, that Mononoke does the same inflections of some of the stories Lovecraft put into his short stories, and does them to brilliant effect. The only obvious difference is that Mononoke actually shows the supernatural entities whereas Lovecraft never did.
How the show is set up is by the obvious inclination that this is a separate story based off of the character, “Medicine Man,” from one of the short stories from Ayakashi – Samurai Horror Tales. Before I discuss how the show structures its plot in each of the arcs, the one important notion to mention that really makes Mononoke a truly unique experience is how much creative detail it gives to the setting of historical Japan. Along with House of Five Leaves, this is definitely one of the closest that anime has gotten, in recent memory, that truly captures the pure essence and atmosphere of what Japan was like during its later modern period. Obviously, without all of the supernatural elements to it, the artwork that is put on display feels like an ancient painting done by past painters from Japan that really strengthens the atmosphere and its impact on the creativity put into the horror. Not only the artwork, but also the little tidbits they put into the show that include various Japanese folklore that they tell us at the end are very inspiring and fascinating to experience.
Onto the plot arcs themselves, they are, unfortunately, not the very highest point in terms of interesting storytelling. With about five different stories put into one show, only two of them stick in my mind as completely memorable or thought-provoking. The one that can be considered great is the first one because of how it introduces us to Mononoke’s world and its concepts of the Mononoke, and is definitely a great introduction into the show. The second arc consists of a very gripping story about each individual’s goals of getting out of the mess that they have been brought to and each of them have this really detailed back story makes them not just this throwaway character that our main protagonist steals the show from. Unfortunately, the rest suffer through, what I would call, overused tropes from the previous two episodes. Of the three last arcs, two of them both involve a group of people that Kusuriuri, our main protagonist, tries to investigate concerning the disturbance of Mononoke. It is almost as if the writer could not think of a new kind of formula he could put into his stories so he decides to reuse similar tropes to his previous stories and put in a completely different spin on that original idea. It doesn’t matter if the plot is completely different from the previous one, it still follows the same formula and it feels repetitive and almost predictable.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say they are “terrible” to go by, not at all; it just feels mediocre compared to the previous ones. With that said, what really makes the plot worthwhile to experience, for better or for worse, is Kusuriuri, or the “Medicine Man” as he’s typically called. Similar to how great Ginko is in Mushishi, Kusuriuri has this aura around him that makes him very attention grabbing. The only difference is that you don’t really know much about Kusuriuri’s personal life, but only what he does in his job. His smart, fast-moving mind makes him a competent protagonist to root for only by how calculated he lays out his plans in getting the Mononoke and helping the people that need his help the most. It is one of the rare instances where the lack of personal development of one character doesn’t hold back the quality of the character and just from how much he views the world from his own eyes and gives us his take on the mysteries involved in the plot. The unknown archetype adds to his depth and characterization so much more than almost any of the characters in Mononoke, who also have well-developed characterization.
Whether you want to call the animation, provided by the most lauded Toei Animation, “experimental” or “classic art,” it nevertheless feels very dynamic. Toei has always wanted to stick to original roots when concentrating on their animation skills in most of their productions and this is by far one of their best. The fluid motions of how the characters move, react, and illuminate feel very human-like and provide a significant degree of hard-work put into each frame of animation. What is even more fascinating is how the animators put a lot of creativity into the actual Mononoke, which is evidently influenced by Japanese folklore. Even though you don’t see them for more than, say, five seconds, those five seconds will be burnt into your memory for years to come.
Mononoke is a different breed of horror that many anime have not attempted to replicate even in the past. There hasn’t really been a horror film or show that never makes you scream out in terror, yet in your mind, you feel almost as if you had gone through a night terror that you don’t remember screaming, in sheer anguish and fear. While the show never really compiles to a significant detail of groundbreaking story, it surely is a sight to behold in grasping what can be done with an absolutely gorgeous setting with beautiful sets of animation to go with it. Let it be said; when it comes to creating great horror, there should never be boundaries that restricts what it wants to show in terms of true fear. Otherwise, it would not be horror, one way or the other.
Have you ever got to the point in watching modern anime where you're lacking that refreshing series? Do you sometimes feel the medium has become watered down and need something to reevaluate your interest in anime? To those of you who feel this way, your Lord and Savior has arrived. Enter Mononoke stage right. A bizarre 2007 release by animation giant Toei Studios (One Piece, Dragonball, Air Gear), Mononoke is unconventional, haunting, suspenseful and dramatic. Coupled with the most striking and unique art style I've come across in ages, Mononoke seeks to create a theatrical masterpiece through its uncanny vignettes. The verdict? Well, you’ll just
have to watch it and see for yourself.
I want to preface my review with a mild disclaimer: this anime is not for everyone. If you find yourself to prefer very structured shows with your standard anime-isms (fanservice, lots of fight scenes and JPop soundtracks), I would not recommend devoting your time to Mononoke. This series is a large departure from the common anime stereotypes. It will not hold your hand, as there is a lot of mental deciphering to be had. It’s more accessible than shows like Serial Experiments Lain and Texhnolyze, but there is some ambiguity about it. Mononoke’s story is divided into 5 “plays”, each with their own beginning, climax and ending. Each anecdote features a similar character, Kusuriuri, a self-proclaimed medicine seller, who is drawn to the environment based on the presence of a mononoke, or spirit. Some stories involve possession, while others focus on the looming presence of a ghost seeking revenge on its killer. Each performance begins mostly innocent and quickly escalates into a mind-bending mix of trepidation and human psychology. Suspense is intricately woven into each tale via vivid imagery and ominous sound effects, some of them truly unsettling. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.
Another important point to mention is that Mononoke doesn’t center itself around the personified spirit in each tale, but moreso on the people affected by its presence. There isn’t a lot of strong character development or backstory to be had, but that’s not the point of the series. Mononoke illustrates the very depths of human emotion, the places people don’t want to show others. These are instinctual, raw and terrifying feelings put on full display within each episode’s structure. It’s less about the individuals and more about the human psyche overall. Mononoke’s scenes take place mostly in a stagnant area, causing an effect of isolation to be instilled on the characters affected. This aids the writers in being able to exemplify the state of someone in mental peril. Viewers witness a mental breakdown from beginning to end. It may seem long and drawn out, but it’s impactful and unsettling nonetheless.
Though its strong, theatrical approach to storytelling, the best advice I can give to watching it is in segments. Watch each story individually, and don’t binge it. That way you can really feel the impact of each play as it unfolds, and nothing will blur together. Episodic shows like Mononoke and Mushishi can be difficult to recommend because you can’t watch them like normal anime. Although Mushishi is one of my favorite anime, I had to take my time with it because of its languid, atmospheric nature. A similar point can be made with regard to Mononoke. It’s so different from other anime that it almost needs its own genre.
Kusuriuri as a character is enigmatic and entertaining. The way he constantly introduces himself as a medicine seller, only to almost instantly display his true abilities is mildly amusing. His exorcisms take something as impenetrable as the mononoke and deconstructs it down to a form, a truth and a reason, in order to expel it from existence. His past is unexplored, adding to the shroud of mystery surrounding him. I can’t say I cared for him in the earlier portions of the series, but as the anime progressed, his presence in each tale was a comforting familiarity in the chaos of the unexpected.
The rest of the characters were all extremely unique. The character models were detailed and often exaggerated (i.e. the boy on the train). They wore their emotions on their sleeves so to speak, as their bodies would become red when frustrated or distorted when terrified. I especially enjoyed the episode with the fox-masked mononoke and how he would constantly don a new mask to portray the feeling that was present in the atmosphere. The character’s relatability, although in a vastly different setting, was instrumental to getting the show’s message across. Displaying how certain personalities would respond in certain harrowing situations really left an impact on me.
The art style in Mononoke is unlike anything I’ve seen before. The colors are vivid and characters are remarkably distinct in their features. The lucid sequences involving the unveiling of the various spirits are some of the most beautiful scenes I’ve witnessed in an anime. The way the shots cut sporadically and blur fantasy and reality within a dream-like atmosphere are stunning. Honestly, I’ve never seen fear and emotion better depicted than in the animation here. I know that may be a shocking statement for some, but the purely poignant aura the animators created in Mononoke is nothing short of brilliant. I can understand how some viewers may get caught up in the amount of “things” in the background, possibility even distracting them from the associated scene, but it was a minor inconvenience for me.
Sound is also a masterful feat in Mononoke. Although I can’t say I necessarily loved either the OP or ED, the tracks did fit the series well. The OP captured the whimsical nature of the art and the ED wrapped up the “plays” with a melodic ballad. The sounds effects were the strongest part of the anime’s OST. Whether it was the crunching of bones, or blood-curtling screams, the sound designers must have had an immense amount of fun with Mononoke. The background music is rare but efficient, subtly adding to the corresponding scene as needed. The voice acting is a real gem as well, with strong performances by Takahiro Sakurai as Kusuriuru and Yukana and Tayo (the wide-eyed girl from the train).
My enjoyment of Mononoke is largely based on my ability to take the series slow. As mentioned above, this is NOT a binge anime. Experience the plays one at a time, by yourself in the dark, much like I alluded to in my Mushishi review. If you truly close all expectations and stereotypes off, you’ll find one of the most remarkable anime series in existence. Mononoke captures human emotion and psychology in one fell swoop, creating an atmospheric masterpiece with an intricate art style to go with it. This anime is a work of art, a drama for the ages, and one I’ll most certainly remember as an instant classic.
Mononoke is a collection of horror fairy tales, a thrilling blend of mystery, murder and the supernatural. The main and the only recurring character is the Medicine Seller, a laconic man of whom we learn almost nothing, and who, throughout the series, only using his knowledge and a handful of tools, battles the various Mononoke.
The team at Toei Animation accomplished something quite unique - they brought a painting to life. The stationary, ever-present texture of marbled paper, reinforces the illusion of a canvas across which the characters move, in all their watercolour glory, somewhat reminiscent of Ukiyo-e prints. The art is highly stylised with
its unique character design and rich, breathtaking backgrounds. This visual feast should be savoured and experienced again - it's hard to soak in every detail, particularly if you have to read the subtitles at the same time.
Perhaps having a peculiar taste for darker stories, where the horror is implied rather than shown, here paired together with exceptional style of the animation enabled me to tremendously enjoy this series. And, hence the high scores I gave.
Mononoke, the sequel of Ayakashi: Horror Classics
Story: 8.4 - Art: 9.6 - Sound 8 - Character 8.4 - Enjoyment: 7.5 - Overall: 8.2
Kusuriuri is just an "ordinary" medicine seller (not really.) He travels about Japan, searching for spirits called Mononoke. In order kill them, he must learn its truth, form and regret/reason. He meets a lot of interesting characters, though the adventure switches about every 4th episode. ^-^
Art: The artstyle is incredible. If you are looking to try something new, bizarre, and amazing, I really, really recomend this anime!
This anime can also be greatly disturbing to some viewers, while it is very amazing to the
majority, and most people will be amazed by the horror of this anime! It will be an amazing trip!
Character: Mainly Kusuriuri. (Just him.) If you love calm, cool characters who keeps their cool almost at all times, like L, Jin, and Sakamoto, you will love Kusuriuri! He is pretty much calm at all situations, even at death threatening, violent situations!
I try to write as concise as possible, but if you're still too lazy to read (like me), here is a shorter version: if anime means anything to you more than just pure entertainment or an activity to kill time – do check out Mononoke. You WON’T regret it.
I got pulled in the "anime/manga zone" in junior high and I've loved it 'til now. I know some people who share this interest and lots who don’t. But this is the type of anime that I’m not afraid to show it to anyone, say my 32-year-old brother who has absolutely zero interest in Japanese animation.
This is the type of series that actually makes you use your head to watch. It doesn’t give you answers, it provides you with opinions. In my most humble language, Mononoke is Japanese animation at its peak. A truly captivating and memorable series.
Now if you're reading past that line and are ready to embark on the once-in-a-lifetime experience namely "Mononoke", you might wonder: "Surely there are many awesome series out there with exceptional plot and cast, but what makes this series so damn special that I should watch it?"
Well, to start off - Mononoke's protagonist is someone who - throughout the whole series - doesn’t have a name; to be more precise, his name is never revealed. He is simply known as “the medicine seller.” But watching the show, you will realize that the name is indeed not needed. In fact, the aspect of the nameless protagonist adds to the mysterious identity of his, and to the ghostly atmosphere of the stories presented.
And if I forget to mention, Takahiro Sakurai did a splendid job voicing this awesome main character.
Next comes the core concept of the series - "Mononoke." While this isn't particularly a new "term", it’d be a far cry from the truth if one were to simply think of it as “youkai” or “ghosts” or “monsters.” And even though the “mononoke” theme isn’t new, the way it unfolds through individual enchanting tales is what engrosses viewers – purposefully engaging them in the twisted emotions of the human nature presented in the series. And here is where the art and sound blend in.
In Mononoke, you are introduced to 5 different stories which share but one thing in common - dark and somewhat disturbing themes Yet, these very eerie stories are illustrated through unbelievably bright colors with “static” frames, making the whole series like a moving painting. Sounds fair?
What if I continue to tell you the show gets even “weirder” as some scenes just have absolutely no sounds. It’s just pure silent with still frames. You think I’d be bored - but no, it makes me hold my breath, feel slightly uneasy, and wonder what’s coming next. Still not interested?
Unfortunately then,…. I have nothing more to offer. I know this sound cliché, but what this show does to you is it makes you think and feel. And everybody does it differently. But Mononoke delivers its message so well that it definitely deserves the title namely masterpiece.
Yes, I am (slightly) biased in this review but who doesn’t, especially when they are talking about the things they are in love with?
So to make this review less biased, I will end it with a *flaw* that is absolutely “fatal” – it wasn’t long enough. I sure as hell wished there were more to it. Yup, that’s the flaw, you’re happy?
Mononoke is a continuation of it's sequel ayakashi japansese horro tales. Although as the story progress, Too much psychological context and slow story development WILL MAKE YOU BORED AFTER A WHILE which is disappointing because it started as a good story in the first arc (the ghost cat arc story)
The Spirits the med-man is dealing here are ghosts that have Emotional attachment to them like love,hate, regret etc.. which he must uncover all the facts to find out about what the ghost is so he can use his special ghost sword to kill it that only can be unsheathed if he knows the true form
of the ghost.
HENCE, THE LONG BORING CONVERSATIONS,LACK OF ACTION AND TOO MUCH PHILOSOPHICAL CONTEXT BRINGS IT DOWN.
I wonder what would happen if I watched this high?
Formed around four separate stories with two acts, Mononoke set up an epic an twisted tale in each of them. Each them very different in their own way, but very much the same, holding a similar type of theme: secrets. We all have them. Some secrets are small. Some are massive and can hold us hostage in our minds, whether the case this anime makes us bring out those dark secrets and makes a nightmare a reality. Illusions. It's all in the head. This is true horror and it absolutely terrified me. I
loved the cinematography and the way the camera captured the mood of the anime. It gave the every single scene strong emotion. Everyone things that horror is a scary serial killer coming after them with a mask or a dead girl dressed in white with blood all over her face haunting a house, but no. This is true horror. It's more historic too with using Mononoke (monsters) as the antagonist. There are so many legends, myths, and stories about these monsters. Many going back hundreds and hundreds of years! Goes to show that Japan can be one scary place.
Look at all the pretty colours! Terrifying, but pretty! I loved how they did a rendition of Japanese historic artwork. The style was just breathtakingly beautiful! And man did it ever tie in well with the horrific and suspenseful mood of the stories. The art...it was what gave the anime the genre we call Horro. I'm going to let you all know this is probably the most beautiful Japanese animation I've ever seen. The camera angles they used were unique and mind messing. And not only that, the style of these characters designs are just so unique and fancy! It's creepy yet inspiring. This animation almost made me feel like I was high. lol
As someone who doesn't do subbed, I really loved the VA that were used. The one who voiced Kururiuri held a strong tone who brought the character to life. The beginning and opening songs held a great beat that made the episodes even more exciting! And the music in the episodes really made the scene more eye catching, more eerie.
Kururiuri, the medicine vendor, plays with people's mind on making them confess to their deepest darkest secrets while hunting and slaying monsters around the country side. He's like a drug dealer. He puts thoughts into peoples heads, messes with them to hunt down the Mononoke hidden either inside of them or around him. He's a perfect character who can show he is not to be messed with.
Through the many other characters throughout the four mini stories, each one brought on a creepy aspect of the story. They might've not been the ones who gave the anime a horror theme, but they did give out dark and anticipating parts of their stories that were absolutely addicting to witness.
I could not stop watching this. I actually ended up jumping a few time! Blood is the colour of orange. Up is down. Right is left. It's a huge mind fuck that will leave you wanting more. I think the only reason why it isn't one of my favourites was because the lack of plot. This could've gone so much farther with just ONE mini story they used. At least twenty episodes per mini story. But never the less, this anime is totally worth the watch. Just don't watch it high. Or if you do...let me know what it's like. I'm curious.
First of all: this anime is a masterpiece, and I do REALLY mean it.
Let's start from the beginning, the story. Being composed of five arcs, the anime doesn't really connect any of them, the main character appart, which is quite unique. The style changes from arc to arc, some of them are more disturbing, others are more laughable. The last one, however, has kind of an "end". And this is what made me give not a 10, but a 9 to the story.
If everything was so perfect and unconnected, why put an "end" to it? Let we tell ourselvesl the story continues forever! >_<
art... Well, this anime's art is what I can really call Art! It isn't common, not at all, so if you like the traditional anime art, you won't like this. If you have a taste for something more artistic and unique, you'll probably love it as much as I did.
For the sound. It's perectly synched and everything. The sound AND the very lack of sound put you really in the mood of the anime. The voice acting is great, featuring some well-known guys, but what caught my attention was the fact that every voice in the anime fits it's character. Every single one. The voice of the main character is EPIC, it makes him too smexy. I'm saying this and I'm a guy, this character was really something.
Well, for the characters, I already said much about Mr. Medicine Seller, the mc of the show. He is misterious, sexy, has a sexy voice, and is very sarcastic. The other characters are perfect for their purpose: make the viewer feel sick of humanity. Almost every human in the series is particularly disgusting, what leads the viewer to feel pity for the Mononoke's fate, generally.
Enjoyment? I watched the whole series in a row, in one night, and wasn't bored for a second. I even wanted more, in fact, I need more right now, so I'll end this review and search for some similar stuff.
Mononoke appears as the continuation of the adventures of a certain character of the last arc of the series Ayakashi. To complement our viewing pleasure, some more arks were added, using an original art style and ingenious storytelling with the sole and honest objective of telling us about stories that could be our own.
The art is, by far, the most impressive part of this series. An explosion of colour that reminds us of the artistical epitome of ancient Japan, intelligent use of mixed media and a careful design for each theme make of Mononoke a treat for our eyes. Each detail is worth of admiration,
like a painting in motion. The animation is simply superb, constantly adapting to the new styles and themes that are used for each story.
The characters end up being a part of their background, in an almost absolute bidemensional existance. However, they are still highly detailed, especially considering all the intricate patterns of clothing and body styling that decorate their personality.
In continuation, the characters may be well designed in visual terms, but what makes this all unique is the way they were made emotionally. Each character has a distinct existance, even though some of them appear in later occasions. The characters of each art are truly dependable on the story they belong to, but would still make sense as indivituals outside of it. However, the astounding element from this crowd is the main and recurring character, Kusuriuri. Unnamed, unrevealed and, from the beggining to the end, an unknown creature. This mysterious man is the tool that makes the anime go further, within the same stories and from story to story. He does not have any kind of characterization however he appears to the viewer as the most palpable of characters. For some reason, he steps from an (eventual) imaginary or mistic being to someone that exists.
Kusuriuri, the mysterious medicine seller, moves from arc to arc solving strange occurances that assault the other characters. The only thing common between all of this is that every problem is provoked by a monster, a phantom or a spirit, something created to specifically haunt that group of people. As he discovers more about the occurances, the events behind the appearance of the haunting unveil themselves. And the result is, most of the times, something of extreme beauty. The narration is very basic in the sense that characters reveal their actions and the chronology of the story, but each story is treated with so much care that even the most simple event is turned into poetry.
The Opening theme and the Ending theme are less than memorable. However what marks Mononoke is not the music, but the sound. The use of the correct effects at the right moments give an effect of mistery and fear. In a sense, it may be inspired in kabuki plays*. It is original in this sense but, otherwise, rather average.
A series of amazing tales that touch every theme of the Japanese folklore, leaded by one of the greatest characters ever created and crowned by a truly original art. A masterpiece in artistic terms. Watching Mononoke is like reading a poem from the Heian time: small, sometimes even simple, but so rich in detail that we can't help to "let the dew wet our sleeves"
I'll try too keep this review rather short and concise, but I'll probably just start rambling and won't be able to stop myself if I get out of hand. Since I'm such a rambler, please forgive me if it sometimes seems somewhat unorganized even though I'll do some organizing when it's done. If you're not bothered to read the whole things I wrote 3 pros and 3 cons at the bottom.
Personally I watched this before Ayakashi - Japanese Classic Horror which this is a spin-off from and you can go ahead and watch this without having seen it.
First of let me start of with that
the art was really intriguing. I like animes with a more experimental approach to the art. Not nearly as experimental and artsy as Mind Game, which remains as my favorite anime-art to date. Sometimes the art just feels like stylized art with a filter put on it, which is pretty lame. Despite that this is one of my favorite arts to date. It goes very well with the stories and really raises the mood and atmosphere rather than just being a medium of information. Not recommended for fans of the stereotypical huge eye school anime style.
The soundtrack is good though it's fairly underused throughout the series. The sound effects feel fitting. The voice actors do their jobs as they should, it feels natural and synchronized with the animation, correct tone etc.. Onto the substance of the anime.
Mononoke is composed of five arcs, all of which are only related by the recurrent main character and similar plotline. The story follows a wandering medicine seller who combats malicious spirits. One gets to observe group psychology as unsuspecting humans confront supernatural as well as life threatening situations. Note that I said observe, one never really feels 'connected' and feels for the characters. It is the result of a main character with nerves of steel and a heart of ice, I'm not saying his character is bad though, it's a very intriguing and interesting one. I really like the main character, I fell in love with him the first episode, so damn cool ^^. This is one of those odd and seemingly emotionless types. There are a few moments where he gets a little too flat (for example in the last arc). You never get a background or introduction on the arc characters, it charges almost immediately into the story. The result is as said before, makes you more of an observer instead of feeling with the characters. This deems the horror part of the story pretty useless since you won’t feel their fear as a spectator. Or I don’t know, maybe I'm just hard to frighten? I hope I don't seem like too much of a "zomg-iem-totali-not-afread-off-anithyng" type :P.
The most important part of the anime are the mystery aspects, figuring out the not so understandable main character and of course the mystery of the Mononoke - the supernatural haunter - itself. The medicine seller needs to know a mononoke's shape (Katachi), truth (Makoto), and reasoning (Kotowari) in order to combat it, as he tries to figure this out you get to know the story of the mononoke as well as the story of the people involved. The mysticism remains truly thick throughout the series. Though each arc has its conclusion, but if you didn't really pay attention and didn't try to figure it out at least partly by yourself the conclusion might not be so clear. One of my favourite pleasures while watching it was the almost surreal symbolism playing mind games with me. It's not quite surrealism though, since surrealism holds no sense at all and most usually no symbolism. This is one of the most thought provoking anime titles I've ever seen. Though I'm sure there are a lot of people out there who have seen A LOT more thought-provoking animes than me, but I'd say that I've had my fair share, I'm pretty sure they'd agree with me anyway.
Here are a few pros and cons. I tried to write what others might consider as cons and pros.
3 Pros (if you consider these as pros):
- Interesting and realistic* group psychology scenarios
*Not realistic in the sense that nothing out of this world is occurring but in the sense that the characters react as real human beings would.
3 Cons (if you consider these as cons):
- Unscary horror
- Unsympathetic characters
- You may find the conclusions blurry
回 Super Brief Anime Review:
An apparent fusion between Zen writing and Kabuki theater make for unique art style and brilliant writing prose. Only the first two story arcs seem to carry this ideal however, far outshining the proceeding story arcs. Never the less the first two arcs stand as a must see.
An exceptional anime it is perfect if you've already seen all the “good” animes out there and are looking for another good one. Just make sure to stick with it for the first 10 minutes.
If the anime were to stand as just the beginning episodes constituting the first two story arcs
I believe it is a 10/10 and this portion remains a must see. Very well written – love the succinct writing prose and deep understanding.
As I suspected however, and later confirmed the anime was indeed written by multiple (four) authors. As such while the others story arcs are ok they do not match, imo, the skill of whom-ever wrote the first two arcs.
Lately I have found that I like shows that have an overall goal for the plot and character development in stead of the episodic, story-arc-of-the-week, formula, but Mononoke is an example of the episodic formula done right while also going all-out, resulting in a very unique show.
The strength of this show is the stories so I'll start with that. As much as I like an over-arching storyline all five of the stories in this show were memorable and strong stories on their own part. Each story is given enough to flesh out character motives and back story while also giving us quite a great deal
of action when in reality they are only ever move into a few rooms. For a Japanese-style ghost story collection it requires not a lot of knowledge of Japanese culture, which makes it more accessible. (Just maybe wiki Genji Monogatari before watching the Nue episodes.) All the stories are well-paced and have satisfying conclusions. The only one I can think of which perhaps I did not enjoy as much as the rest would have to be the Sea Monster one. But even then I was fascinated by the concept of the hollow boats and the fact that one of the supposedly one-shot characters actually questioned the Medicine Seller's motives. This is probably just me being hard on it because I loved the rest so much (particularly the first and the last one.) (9)
The sound design of this show is very well done. In short, it replaces any type of body horror they could show, and somehow that is more creepy than actually showing it. For example, in episode two at an especially creepy moment, not to get too far into spoilers, they show cracked daruma dolls and strips of cloth. That image itself is not scary, symbolic, but no enough to get goosebumps over. However, with the sounds that go on during that sequence you actually feel violated in a way because even if it is just symbolic representation on screen the noise is enough to make you not want to look. (9)
It's a shame though, if you close your eyes. The art style for this show is very unique and the sheer amount of detail they put into their backgrounds is lovely. This show is probably one of the most screencap-able ones as it is fashioned to look like a painting in every frame. Also, symbolic representation is something you don't see very much in anime nowadays. My only complaint is that sometimes the characters look a little, shall we say .. off? Sometimes facial features aren't consistent and there are these odd rare cases where the characters move a little unnaturally especially in the mouth without any reason in the story to do so. It can be a little jarring, but it doesn't happen often. But, when this anime does movement well, they do it very well. I remember being really taken with is one shot of the Medicine Seller's feet while he's running through a train car on geta. (8)
As mentioned before, the real strength of this show lies in it's strong writing and atmosphere. When you are not being simultaneously dazzled and confused by the imagery, the sound is genuinely creepy (and well timed with the animation, I might add) but there is also our main character who is, in his own respects, unsettling as well, right down to the way he delivers each line. He has this genuinely odd habit of making long unnatural pauses in the middle of each sentence. His features are quite demonic even compared with the most unattractive members of the cast and his clothes aren't like what the rest of the cast wears. (Given, he does make a comment about this in one of the episodes but that was mainly to explain why he was dressed like that in that time period.) The only problem in the character department is that, given the format of the show, it can only develop a character other than the protagonist for a certain period of time. But they do do a good job with the time they have with these characters as finding out what their motivations are is essential to each of the plots. But, because the show needs to keep the protagonist enigmatic, they cannot have just one big episode where they explain his back story like so many other animes feel they need to do. While we don't have to sit through a long back story session, I do feel a little disappointed that we don't learn more about the Medicine Seller because he is, in fact, that mysterious. (7)
My enjoyment (10)
Objective score overall (8.5/10)
I'd recommend this show to, well, anyone actually. Even those who are not considered 'anime fans'. Mononoke is Japanese horror storytelling at it's finest. With impressive art and sound direction and the strength of the writing to tell very Japanese tales without having to have a PhD in Asian studies. Whether it's for unique eye-candy or for the simple pursuit of a summer ghost story, it's a good watch.
I’ll admit I’ve never been keen on anime with a strong sense of art house artistry. I’m talking about the visually strange shows with unnaturally colored objects, settings designed like an abstract picture, or characters who move and look like something from a manga instead of anime. They give a sense of arrogance that they need nothing else so long as they have unique aesthetics.
Mononoke does not have this arrogance.
The show follows an enigma known as the Medicine Seller as he wanders feudal Japan and exorcises evil spirits known as mononoke. To do so, he must uncover the mononoke’s Shape, Truth, and Reason. Despite its
mystical trappings, every mystery in Mononoke feels realistic. That is, they’re more about the people plagued by them than the mononoke themselves. Every spirit slain is prefaced by at least one other person whose secrets are revealed.
It’s this detective work on each ‘client’ that the Medicine Seller shows a penchant for exposing skeletons in the closet. His knowledge on the occult is matched by his intuition on other people, and perhaps eclipsed by his perpetual calm and facetious tone. In other words, the guy is hot shit and he knows it. How he became this way is never explained, but knowing the story behind that disinterested wit is secondary to the lives of the people he encounters.
From the inability to admit one’s fears to the paranoia of inadvertent sin, the show’s greatest strength is when it revels in its characters’ crippling weaknesses. Their every motive, every action, and every fault is mercilessly uncovered, and by the end of each mystery we know them better than we know the Medicine Seller. And yet, they’re not sympathetic but uncomfortably familiar. They’re reminiscent of the monsters we can easily be.
This is horror.
Horror is not about a bloodbath soaked with jump scares. Horror is the examination of the human condition as its furtive faults grant an uncanny power to do the unthinkable. It unleashes a despicable flurry whether we’re willingly heinous or acting out of desperation. This is something many horror films today fail to comprehend, but a truth that Mononoke lives by.
The show reinforces this truth through its visual direction. It rarely hides its horrors in the cover of darkness, forcing us to confront them where we think we’re safe. From unnaturally round eyes to a toothed mask, the show has no qualms about being too obvious in its frights. But rather than illicit groans of ‘get on with it!,’ it dredges a powerless feeling as if saying ‘we’re ruining your life and there’s nothing you can do about it.’
Adding to the visceral visuals is an atmospheric sound design. Empty hallways are lined with children’s laughter to unnerving effect. Chatter and banter play from a still picture to reflect a woman’s detachment from her own life. The rumbling of a train’s track traversing rises and falls with the tension of who the story focuses on. The show doesn’t lack music, but prefers mood. It ‘speaks’ with minimal effort for maximum effect.
If I had to point out one thing I didn’t like, it’s how each mystery varies in quality from one to the other, especially ‘Faceless Monster’ and ‘Japanese Chimera.’ The former treads ground the first two mysteries already covered, making it very formulaic. The latter either has no examination of the human condition, or one so understated that it’s out of place entirely. But the quality difference between each mystery is a pittance when the show is still good even at its worst. I might as well say ‘I didn’t enjoy this luxurious train ride as much as I enjoyed this luxurious cruise ship.’
This is what I mean by Mononoke not being arrogant. It knows it needs more than a unique look if it wants to be fondly remembered. There’s a conscious effort to want to make a good story as well as make the aesthetics its own. It knows it wants to be horror, and it knows what horror truly is. Through it all, more than anything else, Mononoke is simply an emotionally resonant piece.
Who knew a story about spirits could feel so human?
after finishing this momentous series it immediately went on my top favorite animes!!
*DISCLAIMER: TRIGGER WARNINGS: GORE, INCEST, ABORTION* also if you are epileptic, there are a lot of flashing and bright colors watch at your own risk!!!!!!!!
Mononoke is a dynamic, dramatic and suspenseful anime about a mysterious wanderer who is only known as "the medicine seller" who travels from place to place in search of the Mononoke (harmful spirits who are not at rest which can cause death, disease or injury). he has a special sword to kill the Mononoke which needs Form, Truth and Reason (in some subs its regret).
STORY 10: the basic
story is really interesting. i dont think ive ever come across any sort of anime like this before. in the anime there are 12 episodes which are broken down into 4 arcs (obviously each arc lasting 3 episodes). the three episodes are basically allocated to finding one of the three things needed to summon the sword to kill the Mononoke (one episode to find truth, the next to find form, the last to find reason then a new arc starts). I thought that was really interesting because if they were to try and fit all of that into one episode it would almost be undigest-able and the series would have gotten boring. the arcs were exciting and fresh. they were also VERY creepy and VERY gorey. if you have a faint heart or a weak constitution please dont watch!
ART 10: the art was absolutely beautiful! the colors, the drawing style, the animation, were all fantastic. first impressions are the most important and when i saw the first episode my mind was blown. it was fantastic!! the animation was very choppy at points for dramatic effect and such but as the series went on all of the jump cuts and such really didnt happen that much almost as if animation itself was going through time (because there is a time skip im going to assume the series takes place over a long period of time)
SOUND 10: sound is really important in animes like this because its a horror series so the ambient noises and music really have to be on point and in my opinion they were!! every creepy moment had eerie ambient noises in the background to fix perfectly. i was always on the edge of my seat watching this!! even the softer moments had the perfect soundtrack to it.
CHARACTERS 10: the medicine seller was displayed perfectly. the viewer really doesnt know much about him other than he is a humanoid with supernatural powers that doesnt seem to age that has the power to put mononoke to rest. we really dont know his back story and i think that fits the mysterious vibe of the anime. it really isnt even about him personally but him getting the mononoke. the supporting characters in each arc were great too! they all had their own personal stories to share and their own emotional burdens to work through. it was honestly amazing how the animators and producers packed so much into something so short
ENJOYMENT 10: i loved it. i loved the topics. i loved feeling uneasy. i loved the jump scares. i loved the characters. i loved the music. i loved the animation. i loved the color scheme. i loved the concept. i loved what time it took place. i loved the historical significance of the mononoke. i loved he idea of the arcs. i loved it all. i finished the series in like 3 hours because i was watching the episodes back to back. i never got bored or tired or anxious for something exciting to happen.
OVERALL 10: i loved it. i want everyone on earth to at least see the first episode. it was so captivating you have no idea!!! I LOVED IT!!