Monday, October 15, 2007

Anime Review: Mononoke

(or, It's Fangirl-ing Tiem Nao)

My anime watch list is getting shorter and shorter, what with Death Note and Darker than BLACK already finished. So you can imagine my chagrin when Mononoke finally ended its 12-episode run, which is a shame: this series clearly deserves more love, and more episodes just like its tamer - yet just as awesome - twin Mushishi.

Mononoke's semi-episodic tales revolve around a mysterious, gaudily-garbed man known only as Medicine Seller (or kusuriuri-san, druggist, Apothecary in some fansubs). He wanders around in the pretext of selling medicine, but he actually is in a quest to kill Mononoke - evil spirits that feed on emotions. To exorcise them he needs to discover what the Mononoke's katachi (form), makoto (truth), and kotowari (reason), in order for him to unsheathe his spiritual blade.

One of the major selling points in the anime is its artsy-fartsy visuals, which is highly reminiscent of Gankutsuou, Gonzo's take on The Count of Monte Cristo. However, that is not to say that you'll like it immediately; you'll either love it or hate it. They did manage to pull it off, with its psychedelic storybook-style illustrations and effects that do well in depicting emotions.

For instance, the Nue arc has the entire backdrop and all of the characters, save for the Medicine Seller, in drab monotones. But whenever the main characters in the Nue arc sniff the scents in a smelling game, their forms become brightly colored, only to once again fade into black-and-white when the scent leaves them.

Aside from the visuals, Mononoke also shines with its stories that mainly focus on people having to confront their darker pasts or emotions that they hide deep within themselves. That's the main formula of the anime: encounter with the Medicine Seller, people get killed, Medicine Seller determines the deaths are caused by Mononoke, MS (let's shorten his name now) determines the katachi, makoto, and kotowari of the Mononoke, and exorcises them.

It may sound routine, but flat-out boring it is not. Some of the stories are heart-rending, particularly Zashiki-Warashi arc, which tackles abortion (no, this is not pro-life propaganda, bitches) and the Noppera-bo arc, a confusing yet profound tale of a woman who allegedly killed the abusive family she married into.

About the characters, there is only one recurring cast - the Medicine Seller, of course - save for Kayo who made her first appearance in Ayakashi Bakeneko, where the MS also made his first appearance before getting his own series.

Making the MS very interesting is crucial in the anime, as watchers won't have anyone else to really root for after an arc ends. They did not fail in doing so, fortunately: saying that the Medicine Seller himself is not boring to watch is a bad understatement. We have someone who dresses in bright, happy colors (yes, a lead who is not emo and does not carry any baggage, thank goodness...o wait he does lol), who talks with stranges pauses in his speech in order to emphasize what he's saying, and lugs around carrying various things in his mysterious box, including what could be live octopi and porn magazines. They're supposed to be medicine, people. Medicine.

The anime suffers from a mediocre end, and doesn't really give the series its much-deserved kick-ass ending, as if the finale is just another arc. Does this mean that we'll get to see a second season, then? We'll see.


Caroline said...

i saw the first episode of this show and was blown away! its so beautiful and the characters are really cool. i was wondering if you knew if this was for sale anywhere and if it is if you could tell me where to buy it. i think there are two versions, "Bakeneko Ayakashi" and "Mononoke and Ayakashi" and i like mononoke and ayakashi better but have no idea if its even for sale. o ya and i love mushishi too. you have good taste in anime ^^