First aired in summer 2007, Mononoke is a twelve-episode series organized in five story arcs, each centered around a different mononoke (legendary Japanese occult creatures). The five title arcs are listed as follows:

1. Zashiki Warashi (child-spirit)

2. Umibozou (sea bonze)

3. Noppera-bō (faceless ghost)

4. Nue (chimera)

5. Bakeneko (monster cat)

Each arc stands alone and presents a new set of characters in different settings and sometimes different eras. The only common thread is the presence of a nameless character called the Kusuriuri, literally the Medicine Seller.  The Kusuriuri is no ordinary merchant. Ageless, nameless, and seemingly disinterested, he travels across land and time to unravel and destroy the ties between the mononoke and their human victims.

Mononoke is a feast, both for the eyes and the mind. Visually, it is the most impressive anime series I have ever watched. The art is strikingly beautiful. The animation is unique and reminiscent of Kabuki, classic Japanese drama, both in terms of structure and sound editing. Watching felt like turning the pages of a precious picture book, each leaf splashed with a wealth of colors and cultural references.

Story wise, Mononoke is anything but a simple depiction of folklore. Complex themes of love, hatred, persecution, jealousy and revenge are presented and each finale leaves a lot of room for interpretation. The Kusuriuri himself is an ambiguous character that remains an enigma throughout the series.

I strongly recommend Mononoke to anyone looking for a different anime experience.  The best thing about its episode structure is that you can select a specific arc without getting lost or missing anything. This makes it perfect for re-watching.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

PS: If you decide to give it a try (as I know you will), please come back and let us know which arc you preferred.

Part of YAM’s Unofficial Animation Week.

By Echydo

10 Responses

  1. amy says:

    I wanna watch this… so SOOOOO bad. Is it out on DVD in the US? I love that Japanese animation does this type of stuff haha.

    • Echydo says:

      Yes you really should give it a try.
      I couldn’t find the DVD on regular sites like amazon etc. But here’s a link

      I didn’t mention it in the review but Mononoke was spun off of Ayakashi which is an anthology of samurai horror tales. It is also organized in arcs but they’re directed by different directors so the style and art varies completely from story to story. You might want to check that one too if you like horror tales.

  2. Mirella says:

    Ok you sold it to me! I must go and find it! :D

  3. amy says:

    Just finished watching this and loved it. To be honest, as I sat watching it thinking the next arc was better than the last, my favorite ended up being the Bakeneko one where they mix a little political intrigue with revenge. I also thought that one was the scariest – though that may be due to all the itching and scratching that went on.

    • Echydo says:

      @amy, Yay!! I’m so happy to hear that you liked it! It’s a very unusual anime that should get more press imo. My personal favorite was Noppera-bo but the episode I liked best (and thought to be the scariest) is actually part of the Ayakashi, Samurai Horror Tales series. It’s also called Bakeneko and I really recommend that you check it out.

  4. came here via a link Amy posted. I think my favorite arc is Bakeneko too!

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