Hidden gems are everywhere, lying around, waiting to be discovered by fans – and once you’ve found them, you can’t help but want more. Mononoke is exactly one of those gems that most fans give themselves for not meeting sooner. Although a very overlooked show, it could possibly be the best psychological horror anime out there. Although there are only twelve episodes to enjoy, with gripping stories and its extraordinary art style, the series has managed to become a cult classic that takes its viewers on a journey down the tunnel of horror.
The Original Animated Series Mononoke was animated by Toei Animation – known for its iconic masterpieces like dragonball, A playand Sailor Moon — and aired in Japan in 2007, from September to December. Just recently, during the 15th Anniversary Festival, it was announced that Twin Engine was creating a feature film, commemorating Mononoke. Seeing that, more than a decade later, Mononoke still has a dedicated fanbase that eagerly awaits new content speaks volumes to the obvious greatness of the series. here’s why Mononoke remains such a compelling anime series, even after 15 years.
The main protagonist of the series is a mysterious man known as Medicine Seller, who was also introduced as Kusuiruri in a prequel named Ayakashi: Classic Japanese Horror. Traveling through the Edo and Meiji periods in Japan, the drug salesman searches for Mononoke whom he can kill. To kill them, however, he needs to know the essence of the Mononoke, meaning its form, or physicality, its truth, or purpose, and its reason for existing. Once he collects all this information, he becomes able to defeat the Mononoke with his magic sword.
The series does not have a continuous plot or storyline, but instead is split into two or three episode arcs that vary from a woman who falls in love with a Mononoke to a murder mystery at sea. As the drug salesman searches for the Mononoke, viewers enjoy the gripping yet poetic stories and get to know multi-dimensional characters, despite having very little screen time.
The most intriguing thing about the series, however, is its unique art style – a Gen Urobuchi fan art style. Puella Magi magic madoka already know. Mononoke is visually stunning; not in the usual anime-aesthetic way, but rather, echoing the Japanese Ukiyo-e art style that flourished in the Edo period. Like Ukiyo-e, Mononoke tries to reflect the images of the floating world, inviting its audience into a state between dreams, nightmares and reality. This purgatory-like location captures the supernatural existence of malevolent spirits while fitting perfectly with the eerie and thrilling vibe of the show. While it seems odd to juxtapose a colorful and visually stunning art style with supernatural horror, the fast-paced camera movements, haunting soundtrack, horribly colorful mood and atmosphere preserve and even heighten the suspense.
Mononoke is basically a must-have cult classic for anyone who wants to experience something different from the norm. Whether you like stories featuring battles with the supernatural, historical dramas or psychological mysteries, the series will have you hooked. Some arcs are understandably weaker than others, however, to animate and produce such bold work at a time when anime was much more conservative – in terms of art style – is commendable. Fortunately now, 15 years later, the series will have the chance to embrace old fans and become a staple on newcomers’ watch lists.