Posted by Lenlo on 9 August 2019 with categories: Currently Watching:, Mononoke, Throwback Thursday

Welcome one and all to another season of Throwback Thursday, this time covering the 2007 Horror series Mononoke! There is a lot going on here, so fair warning, this series is going to get weird and probably a bit creepy. But if your ready to come a long for a 12 episode wild ride, then let’s get into it. And remember! This is based off the last arc of Ayakashi: Samurai Horror Tales, so check that out as well!

Starting off, I think it necessary to explain my mindset going into this series. You see, recently I have been burning my way through the entire Monogatari series. So expect to see a lot of comparisons between the two, with how similar the subject matter is. So much so that I wouldn’t be surprised if this inspired it. You see, Ayakashi came out in early 2006, with the first Monogatari novel releasing later that same year. Then a year later you have the offshoot of Ayakashi’s last arc, Mononoke releasing. With a style very similar to what we would later see in Shaft’s Bakemonogatari adaptation. That series finally starting in 2009. There is plenty of time between each of these for them to inspire each other in a myriad of ways. Which considering their subject matter is very interesting to me. But enough with the history lesson, onto the series.

As far as production goes, Mononoke is not an action series. It’s not going to be a bombastically animated series ala Mob Psycho. However, what Mononoke lacks in raw animation it makes up for with sheer style. Every aspect of this production just oozes it, from every pore. First up, the texture/art style itself. As if the entire series was printed on paper or is projected onto said paper. Then there is the colors/texture itself, which reminds me of Gankutsuou. With the textures being laid in the background as the characters move over it. My personal favorite of it all though is the actual direction. The prime example of this being “round, round, round, round” as the camera rotates around the character. It’s such a Monogatari cut that I had to check if Shaft had worked on it. They didn’t, but I am sure it inspired them.

Another aspect of Mononoke‘ production I enjoy is the play/theater like setup. Each arc is structured as if it was a play. Each one standing on their own, yet not doubt largely independent of each other. We often see the sliding doors close in front of us, the viewer, between scenes as well. Reinforcing this point. Sure, it’s not something we haven’t seen before. However that doesn’t mean it isn’t done well here. I think it meshes very well with Mononoke’s very dramatic style that is laden throughout the series. Of course it wouldn’t work when just thrown over something like My Hero Academia, because the series isn’t built around it. But something like this or Monogatari? Their styles seem almost built for such a presentation. Combine this with, once again, the art style and I think you have something unique.

Now, onto the actual story itself. Once again, similar to Monogatari, Mononoke focuses on ghosts. “Mononoke”, who haunt a location or person, and uses cleansing them as a metaphor/gap filler for solving a problem/mystery. In this particular case we seem to be dealing with the spirits of children. Ones who have passed in this building, or more specifically, this room. There was a lot of attention drawn to the red sash the mononoke wears, and how it connects to the pregnant woman. Both when it first shows up, and near the end when our Medicine Seller blocks them from reaching her. So the question then becomes, why did they die? The Proprietress specifically lead the pregnant woman to this room, as if they had done this before. So it seems to me that this wouldn’t be the first they have killed.

There is also the story of the actual Pregnant Woman and the assassin. However I don’t think that is particularly relevant. They seem to be the plot device through which this is all initiated. We may learn a bit about her circumstances, but to me, the focus is clearly on the room and the inn. The Proprietress and the General Manager, both of whom are complicit and probable murder. The last character worth looking is, of course, the Medicine Seller. As I said before, Mononoke is an offshoot of the final arc of Ayakashi: Samurai Horror Tales. Mononoke still gives a good introduction to it all, but for the rather silent Medicine Seller, any content is helpful content. Especially since we won’t see his Inner Self until next week, so I will hold off on looking at that until then.

The last bit worth mentioning is his sword, and how it works. To unsheathe it and slay the Mononoke, not exorcise which is important, he must find out 3 things. He must learn its “Shape”, or what it looks like. Its “Truth”, the reason it was created, why it exists at all. Finally, he must learn its “Reason”, the motives behind it’s actions. Basically, he has to solve the mystery surrounding the mononoke like mystical private eye. It’s a convenient excuse not to jump straight to a combat sequence every time he meets a mononoke. Pushing this more towards a Thriller/Horror series than the more dramatic Monogatari series. Because of this, I think we can expect a much more philosophically focused series. All about the issues of society and mankind, etc etc. Basically, you all like to vote for some high brow shit, is what I am learning.

So all in all, how was this first episode? Well, prior to my recent binge of Monogatari for a friend, I probably would not be to enthused with it. I personally prefer payoff to setup, and am not a fan of rambling conversations that go nowhere. Its part of the reason Bakemonogatari is my least favorite of that series. However having recently finished Monogatari: Second Season, and getting used to it, I can say its not that bad. It helps that Mononoke is, in my opinion, much more tightly written than the first few arcs of Monogatari. The series doesn’t contain the ambling word-games Nisio Isin so clearly loves. It also foregoes a lot of the fan-service that Shaft so loves. So with this 3 things in mind, I expect to enjoy Mononoke quite a bit. I’m in the mood for a Horror, and I hope you are to.

8 Responses

  1. Avatar Firechick says:

    Just out of curiosity, what makes you or the others decide which anime to blog for Throwback Thursday?

    • Avatar Lenlo says:

      Glad you asked! In case it wasn’t clear, I put up a poll on the final episode of each Throwback Thursday series. There should be a link to it in the last section of Serial Experiments Lain ep 13’s post.

      As for what goes on the poll, if you have suggestions, postem here in the comments! I do a little bit of investigation first to make sure I won’t just rag on something for 3 months. But if it looks interesting, it will get added to the next poll. I have a list where I keep track of it!

      • Avatar Firechick says:

        I never did look at the final post, so I guess I missed the poll. Shame, because had I known, I could have voted for Magic Knight Rayearth. Oh well! Maybe next time!

  2. Avatar jimtim says:

    When you say this may have inspired the monogatari series do you mean the anime or the show. The style in the monogatari anime at least seems to be a clear follow up and refinement of sayonara zetsubou sensei. As for mononoke I don’t know what the style is, I think there is a term for it. I do get the feeling I’ve seen it somewhere, maybe even some western animation.

    • Avatar Lenlo says:

      I mean the the anime, as the style feels very Shaft-esque to me. For Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, I have never seen that. So its entirely possible you are correct. I just found the angles and focus in many shots, the whole style, to be… minimalist seems a good word? Perhaps scattered? It isn’t afraid to go off on its own thing, or try odd angles. Take the scene of the stairs with the beetle background. We see it from the same angle twice, in 2 different contexts, with 2 different conversations, one soon after the other. Normally a series would try to change that up visually, to make it known it’s another scene. Mononoke however used the offputting aspect of it to help build the tension, cause its a horror series.

      Monogatari may not be the best comparison, I will give you that. Its just in my head because I literally finished Second Season/Hitagi End… the day before I wrote this?

      • Avatar jimtim says:

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limited_animation

        I think this is it but its not exactly a cost saving choice buy a stylistic choice so, since the backgrounds are so rich so minimalist might be a better term. I think picture dramas are a type of limited animation and Mononoke reminds me of that (but again with rich backgrounds) not that I’ve seen any but I am aware of what a picture drama is.

        >Mononoke however used the offputting aspect of it to help build the tension, cause its a horror series.

        Agree. Love this in particular about the style. It works amazingly well for this show.

        As for Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei I can’t recommend it because I found it not that accessible for western fans. But it might be fun just to view an episode to see its similarities to the Monogatari series.

    • Avatar evafan says:

      I agree with the Monogatari being a Zetsubou follow up in terms of style, but not in ‘refinement’.

      Yes, it is less ‘rough around the edges’… But, unlike Monogatari, I find Zetsubou very honest in its style and presentation, purposefuly screwing around, embracing dadaism and telling you ‘I do not need the cool shit’, finishing it by eventually using the cool shit for ridiculous and meaningless scene (to hammer a point), while Monogatari is more of an exploitative abuser showing off the cool shit in front of everyone, not letting go until absolutely everyone leaves bored. It’s pandering in pure form, and I have a difficult time calling that art or ‘style’. In other words, stylistically, I find Monogatari to be artistic regression, rather than upgrade, due to the whole style over substance. Pardon the rant, I’ve seen the Kizumonogatari movies not too long ago…

      PS: Believe it or not, I had no idea what Mononoke Zahikiwarashi was until now. Interesting.

      PPS: ++ for Gankutsuou.

      • Avatar jimtim says:

        Firstly Gankutsuou has been on my watch list forever. I loved The Count of Monte Cristo and no adaptation I’ve seen has done justice to the book. I don’t know why I haven’t watched it. I really should.

        As for your criticisms about the monogatari series wouldn’t that be more because of the source content rather than the style of the animation? Sure what they’re doing is pandering, but it looks very, very good. Also, I didn’t exactly get the show(Zetsubou), especially the later episodes. When it did click, yeah it was better than monogatari (which I think is a pretty superficial series but another series I don’t fully understand, and don’t intend to spend time understanding, since apparently it borrows a lot from Japanese folklore). But more often than not I wasn’t able to follow what was happening with Zetsubou.

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