Final Impressions: The Morose Mononokean II

Season aired: Winter 2019

Number of episodes: 13

Genres: Supernatural and Comedy

Thoughts: The Morose Mononokean was an anime that I did not expect to find a second season, but I found myself happy with the news either way. Ironically enough it was not the human characters but the dog spirit, Moja Moja, that stole my heart with its loyal and adorable nature in the first season, and I couldn’t wait for all of its the cute moments. Yet, this time around, it is actually the two human protagonists, Abeno and Ashiya, that won me over for the anime. I believe that is a good thing.

Adorable and a pokeball (Source)

 Without spoiling anything from the first series, The Morose Mononokean is very similar to Natsume’s Book of Friends but more comical than emotional. It follows the adventure of Ashiya, a kindhearted and loud high schooler who suddenly awakens the ability to interact with ayakashi. As he navigates the spirit world with the trained but same aged Abeno, master of the Mononokean, Ashiya learns to love and help these spirits.

I am personally a huge fan of the spirit-related genre. Having grown up in the Eastern culture, I read myths after myths about spirits who are playful but never truly malicious. It’s very different compared to how Westerners’ traditional supernatural stories go, so there is always something homely to me when I watch anime centered on the East’s traditional view of spirits. However, even with my personal bias, I sincerely think season 2 did a better job than season 1 did.

For one, there’s an actual linear plot. While season 1 was mostly about episodic adventures with ayakashi, season 2 shifts its focus to a question that has been plaguing me from the beginning  – where did Ashiya get his ayakashi seeing abilities from and why did it awaken so suddenly? Thankfully this was addressed directly in the second season with good storytelling techniques. There was a logical lead into Abeno’s curiosity and suspicion on Ashiya’s abilities, and it paved the road for the excellent mystery about Ashiya’s father (who was noticeably absent and never mentioned in the first season) and how that father plays a role in Ashiya’s abilities.

The mysteriousness of Ashiya’s father (Source)

Aside from the linear plot in season 2, any episodic stories related to the ayakashi have also gotten better. In fact, I found myself crying on several episodes completely unplanned because while the anime had never let its happy, uplifting atmosphere go, it also leaves me defenseless when emotional things do happen. Ashiya and Abeno’s relationship was also significantly developed in season 2 due to spirits finding out about Ashiya’s presence; they aren’t as happy about the involvement of a “normal” human being in their affairs. With these new dangers, the two main leads’ relationship is elevated beyond  the stereotypical bantering style as not only Abeno becomes constantly worried and caring about Ashiya’s mental and physical state, Ashiya as well strives to become more powerful in order to help Abeno’s duties. Their friendship in the first season was cute, but their friendship in this second season has grown to become genuine and emotionally investing.

However, the pacing can be quite slow. There will be episodes where a cute story happens, but nothing else plays a significant role to the story. The animation is about as middle ground as middle can go, and while I personally loved the cast of voice actors and the roles they play, I can see how the characters are forgettable to others. In other words, The Morose Mononokean is an anime with a lot of personal taste. I still hold true to my opinion that it is enjoyable and cute, but I can definitely understand if the anime doesn’t click with others.

Rating

I am planning to rate all my anime based on the anime rating system that Japanese anime critics use. I will have 5 categories, each with the top score of 10, and then a final multiplier of 2.

Plot: 7

Characters: 7

Voice acting: 7.5

Art/Animation: 6.5

Soundtrack: 6

Total: 34

Multiplier: 2

FINAL SCORE: 68

 

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