Posted by Lenlo on 13 September 2019 with categories: Mononoke, Throwback Thursday

And so begins another arc of Mononoke, though this one is shaping up to be my favorite so far. This week we get the introduction of a new spirit and a commentary of personal perception, wrapped in a fast paced episode. There is plenty to talk about, so let’s just dive in.

Starting off, the production. Visual wise, this week wasn’t particularly different from any other. There aren’t really any big set pieces in a series like Mononoke. We won’t be having someone like Nakamura coming in for a cut or two. What Mononoke did have this week though, was some fantastic pacing and direction. Really setting this arc apart from the others, simply in how fast it is. Zashikiwarashi was short, and slowly paced until the 2nd episode. Sea Bishop was long and slowly paced throughout the whole thing. Faceless Monster however is quickly paced, right out the gate. Throwing us right into the middle of the mystery, making the setup just as important as the final reveal. After the slow pace of the last arc, it’s very refreshing, and really drags you into the series immediately. As for the content itself, I enjoyed that to.

First off, for the longest time during this episode, I couldn’t tell who was the bad guy. On one hand we have the classic Mononoke, bewitching and beguiling a woman. Tricking her into murdering her abusive family, ala Cinderella in a way, perhaps even a creation of her own mind. Yet on the other hand, I considered the Mononoke itself a possible victim. The woman tricking it into “helping” her, into freeing her from her family. As it is stated multiple times she did not kill her family, but is simply being blamed for/confessed to it. Then there was the possibility that our Medicine Seller was the villain in all this. Coming between what could have been a true love between the Mononoke and the woman. It was only by the end of the episode that this is cleared up, yet I enjoyed this teasing throughout the episode.

On a similar note, I also found the question of where they were intriguing. Throughout the episode we cut back and forth from the woman’s house to the cell to the forest scene. Even to a made up marriage room. There came a point where I wasn’t sure if these locations were real or not. I had no idea if the Mononoke itself was creating these environments to trick the woman or not. I half expected for the scene to fall away and that we would still be in the woman’s house. Or perhaps still in the cell itself. Considering the theme of illusion and self-perception, it wouldn’t have surprised me had Mononoke gone down this route. Considering we still have an episode left, it’s entirely possible it still will.

Going back to the idea of perception though, I think Mononoke tackled this very interestingly this week. Hitting it on multiple fronts. First with the Medicine Seller tackling it through rumors. How it can affect how you view a situation, and how far it may be from the truth. He then followed it up with the perception of the cell. How it can be either a castle or a prison, depending on if you want to leave or not. Only for the series to close out by looking deeper in, focusing on self-perception with the masks. The Mononoke changing its face multiple times, talking about how it isn’t human but can fake a profession. Personally, I find this theme of self perception to be one of my favorites. As it really requires a focus on characters, a sort of introspection, and can only be done in very particular series.

My favorite moment of all this was when our lead recreated his own face. The idea that if he accepts it, if he makes a new face and perceives it as his own, then it actually becomes his own. I loved that. This idea that you can redefine or recreate yourself after losing yourself. To me, this is seemingly a message for the woman. As she seems out of it throughout the episode. Unsure of what happened, unsure of herself or where she is. No real desires or anything. Seemingly, she has lost herself as much as the Medicine Seller did when his face was stolen. So this almost feels like it was directed and centered around her character. With the illusions, plays on marriage and possibly some kind of recreation of how she found her husband. I sort of expect her to start next episode in that kitchen.

What I mean is, there are two paths Mononoke can take from here. The first is the most obvious, with the Mask spirit attempting to steal her face or something. Lull her into a state of security and then do evil spirit things. The second though feels much more in line with Mononoke as a series, which often does the unexpected. That being that perhaps the Mask spirit was never real to begin with. Perhaps this is all an illusion, maybe she herself is the spirit here. Perhaps a vengeful ghost or some kind of mentally ill women. As the Medicine Seller seems to bring normalcy to a lot of his scenes with her. Breaking down the fake walls and such, like he is her connection to the real world. While the Mask spirit bears an odd resemblance to our leads alter ego. Suffice to say, alot is happening.

So all in all, how did I enjoy this weeks Mononoke? Quite a bit actually. Once again this arc is unlike any of the previous. The series seems to be doing something new every arc. Unafraid to change it up. Sure, Sea Bishop didn’t resonate with me as much as the first or this one is.Yet I would rather something that resonates this strongly, rarely, than something that is only slightly interesting most of the time. It’s a matter of engagement basically I feel. With each person finding a specific arc or scene or segment that connects with them personally. So far, for me with this theme of self-perception, that is this arc. I can’t make any guarantees until it finishes, but suffice to say, I enjoyed this week quite a bit. I am looking forward to how it closes out.

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