Fukigen na Mononokean or The Morose Mononokean is a Summer 2016 anime by studio Perriot Plus, based on the web manga by Kiri Wazawa. Genres include comedy, demons, supernatural, fantasy, and slice-of-life. When it comes to writing reviews, SoL shows can be difficult. It can seem like it’s all the same: it was a fairly good show but there’s not much to it. So, in SoL reviews from now on, the things I want to focus on besides art, sound, etc., are personal enjoyment plus these two items. 1) What, if anything, made this show different from other SoL shows? 2) Does the show have rewatch value and/or would you want to see its continuation? Read on to hear my thoughts.
Story: 6/10 Fine
After he’s possessed by a youkai, Hanae Ashiya goes comes to Itsuki Abeno for help. With his tea-room Youkai, the Mononokean, Abeno helps other youkai by sending them to the underworld, which is the perfect place for them. He “exorcises” the youkai attached to him with the condition that Ashiya becomes an exmployee at the Mononokean. Thus, Ashiya starts his new life of seeing and helping strange creatures and spirits. He even gets to go to the underworld.
I understand why people like Mononokean. It’s light-hearted, colorful, creative in some ways, and is one of the relatively few shows focusing on helping youkai. However, I think the way the story played out was mediocre. It’s episodic and formulaic, helping a new youkai each time. The stories of the youkais’ troubles were underwhelming. Nothing interesting ever happens. At least, nothing that startled or intrigued me. The two ending episodes are predictable and boring. Compare Mononokean to a show like Natsume Yuujinchou, and you’ll see the latter is far superior in making viewers feel a slight sense of suspense at times, as well as coming up with more creative stories for the youkai, and making us care about the main character.
An important aspect of the story was the development of the friendship between Ashiya and Abeno. Honestly, that part was pretty weak, too. The dynamic between them isn’t original at all, and though funny at times, it gets old quickly. The story made it clear, by the end, that Abeno came to like Ashiya, and maybe it’s good that audiences have to figure out why, instead of being told straightup. I personally think it’s Ashiya’s dedication to youkai that Abeno admires, and also, he just needs company, even if Ashiya is sometimes loud or whiny.
Art: 8/10 Excellent
Beauty and quality of/in art is subjective, and for that matter, so are most of these other categories. I must not have been paying attention when I watched this the first time. When I went back for this review to catch a few screencaps and briefly check out the dub, I realized how stunning and amazing the art and animation is in Mononokean. With vibrant colors, unique stylization, and many quaint and picturesque backgrounds, what’s not to love? Yes, 3DCGI is used for all the youkai except Yahiko, but for some reason, it didn’t look too jarring or out of place. It certainly wasn’t high-budget or detailed, textured CGI, but it was somehow cute, like a PBS show. Also, I liked the character designs for most of the human characters and all the youkai.
Sound: 7/10 Good
Let me mention a few of the voice actors in Mononokean. The seiyuu for Ashiya is Yuki Kaji, who has been in many anime but became widely recognized after playing Eren Yeager in Attack on Titan. Tomoaki Maeno plays Abeno and has been in several yaoi anime and some other roles, such as Decim in Death Parade. This season, he’s playing Sakaki in Midnight Occult Civil Servants. Ootani Ikue voiced Yahiko and just a few of her notable roles were the original Pikachu in Pokemon, Mitsuhiko in Detective Conan, and Sarutobi in Naruto.
The instrumental music was good enough but not something I’m going to remember. I did really enjoy both the OP and the ED, though. Opening song “Tomodachi Meter” was upbeat and fun; plus, the vocalist of the band Super Ball is amazingly talented. Ending song “Beyond the Door” was sung by Yuki Kaji and Tomoaki Maeno, so it was a treat to listen to, even if it isn’t the style of Japanese song I usually enjoy.
Characters: 7/10 Good
I started off this review thinking all the characters were pretty boring, but really, that feeling only comes from the presentation of the two male leads. Thinking about it again, there are many other characters, mostly youkai, who were funny, cute, memorable, or relatable. Zenko was a blessing to this series. I absolutely loved her calm and candid personality and the cuteness factor she brought. I thought Joumatsu the bird-like youkai and his Princess were hilarious and adorable. Koura and her newt-tailed assisant Shizuku were so much fun. Everybody loves Fluffy; he’s like the perfect pet. Though he’s a bit annoying, I still love Yahiko and I think he’s an interesting character. I think he stayed in the human world (or Mundane World) primarily because of Abeno.
Even Abeno and Ashiya have very good character concepts; it’s just that their interactions with each other were so… so like those from a hundred other animes I’ve seen. There’s the one guy who is sullen or aloof, but reliable, and capable of courtesy and professionalism. Then the other guy who’s impulsive, sweet, sappy, and kind of wimpy, or at least unreliable. I’ve seen this exact type of duo so many times I’m tired of it. As stated, though, they have good character concepts: Abeno the experienced ally of youkai, and Ashiya the seemingly ordinary boy who can suddenly see youkai and has hidden powers. What makes Abeno special is that he exorcises yokai for their sake, and really couldn’t care less about humans. This is both interesting and humorous.
What Makes this Show Unique or Different?
Three main factors make Mononokean stand out in a good way. They are Abeno’s character, the anime’s art style, and the story’s element of unsolved mystery. I don’t think I’ve come across another youkai anime where the characters specifically focus on helping the youkai for the sake of the youkai. Natsume in Natsume Yuujinchou tries to help youkai sometimes, but it’s not his job or something he thinks he always needs to do. That’s what makes Abeno interesting. Mononokean‘s art and animation are beautiful with some unique stylization. Lastly, there are the mysteries of the backgrounds of both Abeno and Ashiya. How exactly did Abeno end up Master of Mononokean, and what happened to the former master, Aoi? Who is Ashiya really, and why does he show strange power in episode 5?
Does It have Rewatch Value?
Yes, I think so. Even if this doesn’t get a high score overall, it’s better than your run-of-the-mill SoL shows, in my opinion, and rewatching it at least once lets you enjoy details you may have missed or forgotten and the beauty of the visuals. The atmosphere of the show is uplifting, so I say keep it on your list as a mood-boosting anime. As far as continuation, yes, I’d be happy to watch more of this story, though it’s lower priority than others on my current watch list. Morose Mononokean did finally get a second season, I heard, so I will definitely watch that when… well… soon?
Note: there is also a Funimation English Dub of the first season of Mononokean. I watched a few episodes and overall I don’t think it’s too bad. Though, it’s a toss-up of which voice now grates on my nerves more: Ashiya’s Japanese voice (Yuki Kaji) or his English one (Aaron Dismuke). If you can tolerate those, it’s worth it to rewatch and compare the dub and sub.
Enjoyment: 7/10 Good
To summarize, the things I enjoyed in Fukigen na Mononokean were the beauitful visuals, the light-hearted atmosphere, the youkai characters, and the way Abeno doesn’t care about humans. Also, there’s the mystery of who exactly Aoi was and how they disappeared/died, as well as the hidden powers of Ashiya and who he really might be. This show is relaxing and brings me a smile.
Total Score: 7.0/10 Enjoyable
Typically, SoL type anime is in the 6s category, not counting certain favorites and classics (Natsume Yuujinchou, Azumanga Daioh, Yuru Yuri, and others). From Winter 2019, I absolutely adored My Roommate is a Cat, and gave it a 7.2 in my review. So I’m pleasantly surprised Morose Monokean made to a full 7.0. It’s just as good as any current/recent SoL despite being several years older. This seems to be an underappreciated and little-known series, so even if it hadn’t been about helping youkai, I’d watch it and recommend it. Give it a try, if you haven’t seen it! Join me next time on Anime Rants! Mata ashita!