Saturday, October 8, 2016

BookWyrm Recommends Mononoke (Not the Princess)

Mononoke is an anime I just started and finished about a week ago and it is by no means a new anime. It originally came out in 2007 and is actually a spin off of another anime called Ayakashi: Samurai Horror Tales. (I didn't know this when I watched it which might explain some of the confusion I had). Basically it's a horror anime about a medicine seller who goes around hunting mononoke (roughly translated this means beasts/monsters in English). The mononoke are brought to life usually by a human's regrets and grudges or by a tragedy that happened in the past. They end up trapping the people involved in their tragic past in some alternate dimension that the medicine seller always seems to find his way into. (I actually saw a cool fan theory that said that the medicine seller might actually be a mononoke that goes around trying to help the other mononoke move on to the next life since he himself isn't able to anymore which explains his odd appearance.) In order to exorcise the mononoke, the medicine seller has to first find out the shape, reason, and truth concerning the mononoke and he is then allowed to unsheathe his legendary sword. This anime is only 12 episodes long and I watched it on Crunchyroll if you're thinking about checking it out yourself.

The main reason I wanted to watch this anime was because of how insanely aesthetically pleasing the animation and art style is. Even though it's a fairly old anime it still looks amazing and the added effect of placing the animation on top of what looks like distressed paper blew my mind. The colors are also super vivid which is quite an oddity for a horror anime like this. Another thing that added to me wanting to check this anime out is that I found out that Takahiro Sakurai voices the medicine seller and he's one of my favorite anime voice actors right now, mostly because I just watched two other animes with him in it and he was two of my favorite characters. (Osomatsu-San as Osomatsu, and Mob Psycho 100 as Reigen)

When I first started to watch it I was super confused. I admit that I had to look up some of the backstory behind it before I started to understand what was going on. This anime is cool in that it's a bit of an anthology with the medicine seller going around Japan and hunting mononoke in different situations with different people. The only character that makes repeat appearances in different arcs is the medicine seller himself. One detail that really confused is that in the second arc about the Umibozu one of the characters returns from the anime Mononoke derived from and they don't really explain that, so I had to look up what had happened in Ayakashi to understand some of what they were referring to. Other than that it wasn't too hard to fill in the blanks and didn't take away from my enjoyment of the series. Basically what I figured out is that this anime is a mix of both horror and mystery. In order to exorcise the monsters the medicine seller basically has to uncover the stories behind them. Why is this monster here, what caused this grudge, and who was involved? Once he figures that out the monster is killed, the arc ends, and he moves onto the next case. If you just start blindly watching this like I did you might be kind of startled at the sudden change of pace and put off a bit by the heavy Japanese mythology, culture, and tradition involved throughout the show. Despite not knowing what was going on a lot of the time I still found myself enjoying the characters and trying to piece together the mysteries behind the monsters.

All in all I would recommend this anime to people who like horror animes that make you think. It wasn't really over to top horror like Attack on Titan or Tokyo Ghoul in that there wasn't a ton of gore, but there is a fair bit of mental horror and psychological drama going on. It's not very fast paced but because it was broken up into five arcs it seemed like things were happening fairly quickly. It's definitely an intelligent series and coupled with it's incredibly detailed, insanely vivid, and extremely gorgeous animation this is a rare favorite of mine that will definitely be going on my list of good classic animes to recommend. I hope to one day check out the anime that it derived from if I'm able to find it online somewhere soon!

-Book Wyrm

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