The Morose Mononokean

Morose MononokeanHanae Ashiya is on his way to his first day at high school when he stops to help a cute fluffy creature that turns out to be a yokai. I have written about a few anime movies and series on this blog that feature yokai, but if you are not familiar with the term suffice to say they are spirit creatures from Japanese folklore. Japan has a fascinating and rich folklore history, so I strongly recommend reading up a bit about yokai if you haven’t heard of them before. Fuzzy, as Hanae eventually nicknames the yokai, latches on to him, and the more Hanae tries to get him off the bigger he gets and the more he drain’s Hanae’s energy. This is not ideal for a teenager who is starting at a new school. Although nobody else can see Fuzzy, he gets bigger and heavier until Hanae can barely walk, and he ends up spending his first few days of school in the nurse’s office because he keeps passing out under the strain. Luckily he finds help in the form of a schoolmate, Haruitsuki Abeno who has knowledge of, and connections to the underworld, and shows Hanae how to deal with Fuzzy. Much like a dog, Fuzzy just wants to be treated with kindness by his new master, and to have a game with a ball.

This is the beginning of a new working relationship between Hanae and Haruitsuki. Not only is Hanae useful because he can see yokai, but he has a strong moral core, sometimes able to think about problems in a different way to Haruitsuki. This is frustrating for Haruitsuki at times, because Hanae doesn’t always follow the rules, but his compassion and determination are the key to solving many problems in a way that Haruitsuki would never have considered himself.

Devoid of soppy romances, cute main characters (well, apart from the fuzzball), horror, anything much in the way of jeopardy, or many of the other things I enjoy, this is not the kind of anime I would normally tend to choose, but my wife loved the look of Fuzzy and was insistent that we watch this one. My good friend and co-writer in the Junkyard, Mike, very kindly posted over a Blu-ray set of the first season at Christmas, much to my wife’s delight. At first I thought that her reason for watching was going to evaporate after the first episode, with Fuzzy exorcised to the underworld, but luckily he comes back again after a couple of episodes, when Hanae visits the underworld himself (it’s a great bit of animation, bursting with vivid colours). Each episode features a different yokai that needs help in some way, sometimes having an impact on the life of a human. My favourite of these was actually in the second episode, with a sort of parasite that looks like a giant bush, stuck and unable to enter the underworld, and facing the prospect of seeing his many little children go to the underworld without him, while he faces death. It sets the tone for the series, with Haruitsuki doing the best he can, while accepting that he cannot help everyone, but Hanae refusing to admit defeat. The other episodes are variable in how much they held my attention. I loved the trip to the underworld, and one of the yokai they meet there is a cute girl with a newt’s tail, who is a fun character. The scarecrow-like yokai who was unable to save his friend from a fire is another good one, and his plight really tugs at the heartstrings, as does the eel-like spirit of an old man who has died and wants to find his wife’s missing wedding ring. Less successful is Yahiko, a fox-like yokai who talks and behaves like an annoying brat. The first series concludes with a two-parter that sees Hanae lose his second sight, while all the yokai he has saved attempt to work together to find a cure for him. It’s an effective conclusion, a celebration of all the different characters we have met throughout the season, and a reminder of the difference Hanae’s simple determination and kindness has made.

The first series is a run of 13 episodes of about 25 minutes each. A second season was shown last year, which I have yet to see. I’m not in too much of a rush because, although I found plenty to enjoy, this is still not quite my cup of tea, but what it does, it does effectively. If talking statues and animal spirits are your thing, then this might just be the series for you. If not, Hanae’s kindness and Fuzzy’s cuteness will probably draw you in anyway.   RP

About Roger Pocock

Co-writer on Author of Editor of
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