Friday, February 10, 2012

Review: Mononoke (2007)

Mononoke (2007) is a Japanese historical horror anime that takes place in ancient Japan during the Edo period. This show continues (as a sequel and adaptation) the story of the medicine seller from the "Bakeneko" arc of Ayakashi: Samurai Horror Tales, as he continues to face various dangerous demonic spirits. It contains 12 episodes.

The show initially takes place during the Edo Period. Ancient Japan used the four class system, Samurai being the highest class and merchants (such as the medicine seller himself) being in the lowest class. Only Samurai were permitted to carry swords. Thus, the characters are surprised that the mysterious medicine seller, Kusuriuri, carries a sword and exorcises vengeful spirits (mononoke). The last arc takes place during the late Imperial period (1915-1945) in the early twentieth century.

Kusuriuri carries around a large wooden box filled with medicine and holy tools. Among them is an enchanted sword that is used to slay the mononoke. He always proceeds in the same manner, using his knowledge of the supernatural world to learn the spirit's Form (katachi), Truth (makoto) and Reason (kotowari). Once he has all three answers, then he can unsheathe his sword, transform, and exorcise the demon.

The show is divided into five story arcs:

  1. Zashiki-warashi (ep. 1-2)
  2. Umibōzu (ep. 3-5)
  3. Noppera-bō (ep. 6-8)
  4. Nue (ep. 9-10)
  5. Bakeneko (Ghost Cat) (ep. 11-12)

I continued this show from Ayakashi because I was amazed at the mystery narrative and highly-advanced styling in the animation. It also gave me a deeper appreciation of ancient Japanese art and prose in storytelling. The five story arcs are not connected to each other, but are all equally scary and deeply psychological. Japanese horror is unique from American horror in that it tends to focus on the psychological and tension-building aspects and tends to involve demons, yokai (creatures), and poltergeists (think of the film, The Ring). Each story arc never bored me, which saddened me more when this show camee to an end. The pace and style of Mononoke makes it a great and enjoyable anime that is unfortunately underrated and largely unknown. Although I have not seen the DVD for this anime, it is available in original Japanese and English dub versions. Overall, it is a definitely must-see horror anime.


Ending Theme: "Natsu no Hana" by JUJU

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