What They Say:
Ashiya Hanae’s life is turned upside down when he’s possessed by a yokai! His only help comes in Abeno Haruitsuki, a handsome young man known as the “Master of the Mononokean.” But his aid comes at a price, one that has Ashiya working as his assistant to pay it off! Can they stop bickering with each other long enough to help the yokai trapped in this world?
The audio presentation brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo while the English dub is done up in 5.1, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. Though the series has a few moments where it plays a bit bigger than the rest of it, the bulk of the show is straightforward dialogue material. There are some nice little incidental moments of sound effects and music that gives it a bit more life, but it’s largely the back and forth between the cast. That doesn’t help the 5.1 mix out in a big way but both tracks handle the source material well to give it a lived-in feeling and plenty of placement and directionality as needed, particularly with some of the yokai. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2016, this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78: in 1080p using the AVC codec. The thirteen episodes are spread across two discs with nine on the first and four on the second. Animated by Pierrot+, the show has a really great design quality about it that’s helped by its color palette. While it’s not a big action show with what it wants to do it has a clean and appealing look that lets the character stand out and the yokai creative, colorful, and very fluid in some of the motions they have. The detail is pretty strong in this series with great backgrounds accented by the color design while the character animation, which does keep most everyone in the same outfit through, look very good with the detail and overall design. The encoding captures all of that very well with a solid feeling through and some great color definition that shows through.
The packaging for this release comes in a slightly thicker than normal Blu-ray case with an o-card that replicates the case artwork. This is one where there’s not much in the way of difference between the two as the color design is muted by intent but both look great with the two leads together back to back in non-standard way while showing off a dreamlike aspect of it, which is reinforced by the logo design. The colors are good and it blends well to the back cover where we get more dreamlike artwork. The premise is covered well here as are the extras and there’s a small but serviceable selection of extras. The technical grid breaks down both formats clearly and accurately while the case itself doesn’t feature any inserts, though we get a good reversible cover that features two more panels of Japanese artwork that’s very appealing.
The menu design for this release goes for the simple approach where we get a static image that features a nice pairing of our two leads, plus Fuzzy between them, set against the watercolor background of blues and purples. Abeno’s stare and Ashiya’s smile represent the characters well and there’s a good bit of color here that gives it some life which allows it to stand out nicely. The logo along the left works well while below it we get a block with the navigation – which is a big change from the stripe navigation we usually get along the bottom. We do get that with this release but just in the pop-up form during playback. Everything is simple and easy to access with clean setup for languages and quick loading times throughout.
The only extras for this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based n the manga by Kiri Wazawa, the Morose Mononokean is a thirteen episode TV series that aired in the summer 2016 season. Animated by Pierrot+, the show has a strong visual design to it that will make it appealing even if a lot of it is very familiar to long time anime fans. Comparisons to Natsume’s Book of Friends is very easy to make here, just with different people running about in it. The original manga kicked off back in 2013, so it is fairly new, and it’s still ongoing with nine volumes after the anime wrapped up so it did well enough to survive serialization in Gangan Online. I went into the show with little knowledge about it beyond the base concept and enjoying the watercolor style artwork of the Japanese release and I ended up having the kind of mild and enjoyable slightly uplifting experience that it intends to be.
The series focuses on Hanae Ashiya, a high school student who comes across as your basic nice guy with nothing about him in terms of personality or interests beyond that. While walking home with groceries, he sees a stuffed animal on the sidewalk and sets it into a plastic bag on the guardrail for its owner to find it. What he didn’t realize was that it was a yokai, a cute little fuzzy piece, that ends up glomming onto him in a big way and weighing him down after that. Luckily for Ashiya, he discovers a paper at school about an exorcism club of some sort and that introduces him, awkwardly, to Haruitsuki Abeno, a high school student himself and the current master of the Mononokean that allows travel between places through it. Abeno’s paper was actually about finding a new employee to help out with exorcisms but there’s something about Ashiya that gets him to help and that allows Ashiya as a human to end up as an employee of Abeno’s.
What the show does is very familiar as we get the base personality issues at play here, where Abeno is dour and kind of frustrated by having an employee like Ashiya while Ashiya is curious and lightly outgoing with what he does. That gets Ashiya into trouble as he’s starting to understand the yokai world, made more problematic because Abeno is a terrible (if standard) employer in that he doesn’t actually tell Ashiya anything other than “don’t do that” most of the time. It’s not like he gives him any real training. But Ashiya ends up helping out more often than not because his personality makes it very easy for him to make friends with various yokai they come across in the human world but also during his stint in the Underworld where we see where the yokai are exorcised to. Abeno plays a familiar role and Ashiya plays just as familiar of one, but Ashiya comes across as more engaging and accessible. More so because of how poorly Abeno handles, well, everything.
The stories are straightforward with the truth about Fuzzy and what’s involved in helping him to some fun stuff with Zenko, a younger girl that was raised in a temple that has her own issues with her father and a connection to a yokai there that she gets caught up with for several episodes. The individual yokai they deal with almost all make appearances again later in the season when we get the inevitable more-serious storyline, this one involving Ashiya losing his ability to see the yokai and how that changes everything now that he’s not involved with Abeno anymore, but that’s all standard fare. It’s well-executed and animated and it survives because of Ashiya’s personality and accessibility, but there are no surprises with it. Just familiarity wrapped in an appealing package. And that, frankly, sums up the show. It’s not bad by any stretch and those new to this kind of sub genre and those who embrace all of ti will find plenty to enjoy here.
While I’ve seen a fair number of these types of shows in the past and some have had very long runs, I really did quite enjoy The Morose Mononokean. It has some nice little touches to it that gives it an identity of its own while playing in a whole lot of familiar. I’m simply more frustrated by a lot of standard conventions of anime these days where the characters have no lives beyond the immediate element that drives the story as it reduces them to very one-dimensional people that are harder to connect with. Ashiya is a familiar leading character but other than his getting involved with Abeno we don’t know much about him, and similar for Abeno even with a touch of flashback. The yokai stories are nicely put together and there are some really great sequences with them and I just loved the visual design overall. It just doesn’t have enough weight to really make it stand out in a big way.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Textless Opening & Closing Songs
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: January 16th, 2018
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.