Posted by Lenlo on 27 September 2019 with categories: Currently Watching:, Mononoke, Throwback Thursday

As one arc ends, another begins with Mononoke. As this week we pick up on what may be the best start to an arc yet.  A perfect mix of sudden horror, mystery and art. As our Medicine Seller this week takes part on an odd incense game, uncovers a murder and hunts down a spirit. Lets dive in!

Starting off as always, this week Mononoke did some interesting things with its visuals. From the opening shot, there is a strong emphasis on color, or a lack thereof. With everything being bleached, diluted until it’s almost grayscaled. The only exception to this seeming to be when someone is feeling a strong emotion. We saw this from the opening scene, as the backgrounds are dark, but the blood is a bright orange. Tangent for a moment, that opening transition with the blood was fantastic by the way. Setting up what the shapes mean by having the man slam against the walls. Then progressively swapping between them faster and faster, then fading out the background. Leaving just a man’s silhouette running in place. This is possibly the strongest Mononoke has been yet, visually. Running right out the gate with this style.

Getting back to the point, colors and emotions. Blood aside, the only other times we see color are during the incense game, and our Medicine Seller. During the incense game, the reason why is obvious. As the suitors smell the scenes, they remember poignant moments from their past, things important to them. Gaining color for just a moment. What is interesting though is how the Medicine Seller was in color the full time, regardless of the scent or scene. This is what gave me the clue that the color was tied to more than just emotion. Rather, it was tied to honesty, or a sort of “wholeness” as a person. He knows who he is, recognizes who he is and needs no scent to remind him of that. To ground him. Meanwhile the suitors, to me, are putting on a front. Their real selves only coming with the color.

Moving on from the brilliant color direction of the episode, let’s talk about the game. Turns out, this is a completely real thing, and I never would have expected that.Though I suppose humans can make a game out of anything, so that shouldn’t surprise me. Still, the game itself isn’t particularly important. What is important about it, is how the game tells us about the 3 suitors Mononoke introduced. Such as the samurai, a bumpkin with no knowledge of scents or the culture surrounding them. Yet here he is competing for an Incense School princesses hand. Why? Or the Merchant, old and already once married with a successful business. Even the lesser noble. Not a single one of them actually seemingly care for the princess in any way, yet here they are competing for her hand. This is only compounded by what we learn later.

That being that all 3 are only here for this “Todaiji”, apparently some priceless object. What it is, I have no idea. But it is clearly the centerpiece of the arc. Most likely the mononoke itself, since one suitor looking for it has died already. What continues to be interesting with the colors though is that, once again, the Medicine Seller stands out here. Being the only individual with no interest in the Todaiji, yet also the only one fully colored at all times. To me, this speaks of ill motives in regards to our three suitors. They even went so far as to completely ignore the Princesses corpse just to search for it. This makes me think that greed is the theme of the day for this arc. How focused they are on their greed, only showing their true selves/colors when engrossed in the incense.

Speaking of the corpse, whew, Mononoke got a bit dark with that ending. Plotting to marry a corpse, with the only people knowing what happened in on it? Just to get the Todaiji? Its concerning, so much so that I am actually thrown off a bit on my prediction on who the mononoke is. You see, initially I expected it to be the princess. She was clearly setup mysteriously in the opening. Yet at her death and the mention of the Todaiji, I figured it had to be this mysterious object. The series closes on this sort of plot to marry a corpse though and I am no longer sure. Perhaps its something in between? Mayhaps her lingering father? Or maybe the princess to was engrossed with the wealth the Todaiji provides. Falling victim to the same mononoke the rest of them will. Only time will tell here.

So all in all, how was this weeks Mononoke? Very good. Possibly the best opening to an arc yet. In case you hadn’t realised by now, or you are a new reader, I love cold opens. Something to get the viewer engaged right from the start, and then unfolding it from there. When done well, I don’t think there is a better way to open. The issue is just most series can’t do it well at all. Mononoke however pulled off a great one here. Using it to lead in to what is half a murder mystery, half seemingly a parable for greed. All the while with some great color direction to really sell the whole thing. Yeah, I liked this episode. Which is funny, because the last arc became my favorite when that showed. So I suppose it’s only a god thing Mononoke is ramping up as we go.

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