Jun 23, 2008
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.
Reviewer’s Rating: 10
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