Wednesday, June 23, 2010

An anime review: Mononoke

I had "Mononoke" in my wishlist for some time, but I skipped it each time because of unattractive picture on its AniDB profile. Since this week I am on vacation and I haven't downloaded anything else, I decided to use it as a quick-watch, since it got only 12 episodes. From AniDB I knew it is some kind of mystery-horror anime about some guy travelling around and fighting evil ghosts.

I will start my review from unusual side for me: the animation. This is not a classical Japanese animation; it reminded me of European cartoons from when I was a kid (in the eighties). I have recollection of some cartoon, featuring a detective, that had this same type of animation, and its name is on top of my tongue, but I just can't remember it. Anyway, it had static background (but wavy, like road in a hot summer day), but characters are not singled by brighter colors (like in e.g. "Tom and Jerry"). Movement is slow when there is a movement; mostly are characters shown in one position, then after a change of angle or scene, they are in different position. In some way, it reminded me also on "Gankutsuou", but mostly, because of colors and textures. Also, design of characters is not Japanese, and people in background are represented my mannequins. Characters look like Japanase people drawn in European cartoons. It is unusual, but it looks very nice. At first look, they look a bit crude, but later you see that there are lots of details and effort invested. I think that I noticed some use of CGI (scales).

My initial expectation about story was true. It follows unnamed Medicine Seller, traveling around. His actual call (or maybe passion) is really killing Mononokes (Mononoke is a type of ghost; it is all well explained in anime). We don't know anything about his background and chapters (five of them) are mostly unconnected (there is one repeating character in two chapters). He kills ghosts with his Sword, but to release it, he needs to know Form, Truth and Regret of the Mononoke. So, episodes consist mostly of interviews with related parties and connecting it to the whole story. Ghosts are based on Japanese mythology; I recognized few of them, even the names. In a way, it is same as "Mushishi", just with ghosts instead mushrooms, and with more (much more!) action.

Stories are very interesting and tense; I way usually surprised after the solution. There is lots of blood and violence in this anime. Themes are mostly human weakness and sins: jealousy, corruption, greed, even incest. It was disturbing sometimes, but on the other hand, you can read about similar cases everyday in newspapers.

Except opening and ending (which I didn't like), I didn't notice any song or melodies in background; there are mostly just noises and sounds. This helps in creating the mood very well. Voices of character are unique as their design.

Interesting thing, I can't say when this anime takes place. Few chapters are definitely in medieval Japan, but last chapter (that chronologically happens first) takes place in a train and features a woman reporter, typing machine and a telephone! Also, I would like to know more about the main character, the Medicine Seller. He looks and act very cool, especially his alter-ego (at least that is how I perceived person wielding the Sword). There is one anime connected with this one, "Ayakashi", so I'll definitely watch it.

In short, a very nice anime to watch when you have some free time. It doesn't have any overall plot you have to remember, but it works well with keeping the viewer amusedDefinitely worth watching; not suited for kids, though.

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