Jump to content
OtakuBoards

Anime Mononoke


Dagger
 Share

Recommended Posts

This historical folklore-horror series is a spin-off of Bakeneko (“Demon/Ghost Cat”), which in turn is an arc of [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayakashi][u]Ayakashi[/u][/url], whose other arcs have absolutely nothing to do with either it or Mononoke. Confused yet? :p Don't think too hard about it--Mononoke stands just fine on its own.

The main character is a nameless medicine seller who is able to defeat spirits (mononoke) when certain conditions are met. The series has unconventional character designs and psychedelic backgrounds; visually, it comes off as a mix of traditional Japanese art and pop art (plus a dose of superflat).

[b]Story arcs so far[/b]

[I]Zashiki-warashi[/I] [episodes 1-2]: A zashiki-warashi is a type of child spirit said to reside in houses. In this opening arc, a pregnant woman seeks refuge at the inn where the medicine seller happens to be spending the night.

[i]Umibouzu[/i] [episodes 3-5]: An umibouzu is a sea spirit that capsizes ships. As of now I've only seen episode 3, in which the medicine seller meets an eccentric group of characters while traveling on an even stranger vessel.

[b]Links[/b]

[url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mononoke_%28anime%29][u]Mononoke[/u][/url] @ Wikipedia
[url=http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=7890][u]Mononoke[/u][/url] @ ANN
[url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5NybfsliwYw][u]Opening sequence[/u][/url]

Mononoke provides a lot of stuff to talk about. For now I'll keep this short, so here are a few quick observations.

Zashiki-warashi appear in plenty of other anime, but the cute female zashiki-warashi of xxxHOLiC and the ghastly infants in Mononoke seem worlds apart. This show finds something raw and squirm-inducing in familiar creatures & tales.

The man vs. mononoke scenarios feel more like survival of the fittest than good vs. evil. Most of the characters in the first arc are portrayed in a negative light (the innkeeper, for instance, comes off as being almost inhumanly cruel). The second arc makes you question whether the medicine seller himself is just as bad. What's his motivation?

As an Agatha Christie fan, I grinned at the whodunit homages that came up here and there in episode 3.

~Dagger~
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've decided that I really like this anime. While it doesn't take much beyond pretentious animation and a good musical score to draw me in, the storyline of Mononoke has an interesting unsettling vibe that keeps me engrossed.

Episode 3 featured Kayo, a woman who met the Medicine Seller prior to the time of the Umibozu arc. References to Ayakashi and Bakeneko were aplenty. It seemed like they actually mentioned those names more often than "Mononoke". Since I've not seen Ayakashi, I wonder if I'm missing some valuable context information. Might have to look into that one sometime soon (judging solely on the Wikipedia article, it seems similarly interesting).

Anyway, the third episode possessed a lot of the same atmosphere-building characteristics that episode one did. I wasn't floored, but that's a task better left up to the remaining two episodes in this arc. The strange dead fish spirits struck me as being much creepier and surreal than the zashiki-warashi of the previous arc; [spoiler]seeing them invade the ship with complete efficacy was a sight to behold, and their attempt at absorbing the ship into that eerie mass looming from the sky made for a tense yet gorgeous scene. And what was up with that weird fish with a human leg early on? A premonition? The medicine seller's bomb (?) was similarly awesome; I love how they handled the explosion of light, complete with that tribal-looking eye motif.

Also, the Medicine Seller's eagerness to see more spirits came as a shock to Kayo... Given his enigmatic aura and detached demeanor in the previous episodes, I was also surprised. It seems like he himself doesn't know what to expect, and yet he finds the various spirits fascinating - almost to the extent of a frightening obsession. It might also be worth noting that this attitude seems significantly removed from his mostly apathetic scuffles with the Mononoke in the previous arc. Somehow, this makes me wonder how he gained the knowledge of spirits up to this point. It seems something happened to make him quest for more information on the Mononoke.[/spoiler]

I too noticed that the Medicine Seller seems to be the only one with a genuinely appealing character design - many other characters have exaggerated facial features, lending to the stereotypical goofball appearance. For example, most men have large, spherical eyes in comparison to the "slitted" look of the anti-hero. A few designs also have a sinister quality, almost boldly bringing out that tired 'eyes are the window to the soul' rule that the Japanese seem to have (though it's probably too early to say for sure). [spoiler]In episodes one & two, the innkeeper's narrower eyes sheathed a grim and bloody past. I wonder if the minstrel in Umibozu will possess similar characteristics. Following this theory, the medicine seller will probably indeed have something dark beneath his usual calm surface.[/spoiler]
Link to comment
Share on other sites

[quote name='Kanji'] [spoiler] I wonder if the minstrel in Umibozu will possess similar characteristics.[/spoiler][/QUOTE]
[spoiler]He came off more as comic relief in episode 4. I loved how they didn't show what his illusion was--the movements and facial expressions got the gist across quite clearly.[/spoiler]

Midway through the Umibouzu arc, Mononoke keeps churning out startling new images. It would be hard to list everything that made an impression on me, but I couldn't forget [spoiler]the vomiting & giving birth to fish scenes[/spoiler] even if I wanted to. Yeesh. :animeswea

I was not expecting the medicine seller to be questioned as well. It was awesome how he accepted it so calmly.

I can't wait until Bakeneko comes out on DVD...

~Dagger~
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...
Wow. Episode 5 was a tour de force. I hadn't realized that the medicine seller had so many more tricks left up his sleeve after the first arc. His other form & the release-of-the-sword sequence were [I]so[/I] damn cool. Oh man.

One of my favorite little touches, though, was the ambiguity about Genkei's appearance. [spoiler]In his quasi-flashbacks, he looks like a younger clone of his current (rather hideous) self. I suppose that was meant to reflect the ugliness of his heart & his inner thoughts.[/spoiler] Yet at the end, it's revealed that [spoiler]he was actually a rather beautiful young man... and his sister's incestuous longing[/spoiler] starts to make a little more sense, haha.

~Dagger~
Link to comment
Share on other sites

[quote name='Kanji']
I too noticed that the Medicine Seller seems to be the only one with a genuinely appealing character design - many other characters have exaggerated facial features, lending to the stereotypical goofball appearance. For example, most men have large, spherical eyes in comparison to the "slitted" look of the anti-hero. A few designs also have a sinister quality, almost boldly bringing out that tired 'eyes are the window to the soul' rule that the Japanese seem to have (though it's probably too early to say for sure). [spoiler]In episodes one & two, the innkeeper's narrower eyes sheathed a grim and bloody past. I wonder if the minstrel in Umibozu will possess similar characteristics. Following this theory, the medicine seller will probably indeed have something dark beneath his usual calm surface.[/spoiler][/QUOTE]

[font="trebuchet ms"] This is actually one of the qualities of [i]Mononoke[/i] that I like the best. A lot of other shows have such generic faces of beauty or evil or good. It's hard to find cartoons with genuinely unique and cartoonish character design, especially in anime. Not that I hate anime style, because one of my favorite styles is just incredibly generic, but I think [i]Mononoke[/i] has appealing character design in that their character design is actually unique and good.

I just started the series (I finished the first arc), and it's really great. It's subtle (there's such a minimalistic approach to character movement) but enthralling, and it's one of those shows I can't watch more than one episode of in a day. I've never really looked at Japanese mythology, but this show has made me pretty interested in it.[/font]
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here's a link to other anime directors' English-translated [url=http://forums.animesuki.com/showpost.php?p=1140125&postcount=199][u]comments on Bakeneko/Mononoke[/u][/url], courtesy of wao.

I love Mahiro Maeda. "Psychedelic banzai!!!!!" :animesmil

~Dagger~
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...