The Morose Mononokean II
Episode 11

by Rose Bridges,

How would you rate episode 11 of
Morose Mononokean II (TV 2) ?

The plot thickens this week on The Morose Mononokean II. While the bulk of the episode is taken up with a heartwarming yokai-of-the-week adventure, the series carefully plants the seeds for further revelations about Ashiya's father. But before we get there, let's sink into the sweet tale of Komon the koala yokai, and her little bird brothers who are less than eager to leave the nest.

As we learned last week, Komon raised a group of baby-bird yokai to prepare them to return to the Underworld. They're all ready to go—except for one. The fifth brother, Chungo, can't seem to figure out how to fly. So Ashiya and Abeno are stuck trying to teach this baby bird—giving us a great visual of Abeno flapping his arms like wings, and everyone discovering that Ashiya's voice can reach the bottom of a ravine. (Of course it can.) So no one knows quite what to do when Chungo suddenly develops flying chops upon seeing his surrogate mom take a tumble.

I was unsure at first if Chungo was faking it, or if he suddenly got up the nerve once he needed to rescue Komon. People can power through difficult things when their survival—or that of their loved ones—is at stake. But we quickly learn that Chungo does know how to fly, but he pretends he can't because he doesn't want to leave the nest. He cares too much about Komon, who remembers Aoi warning her not to take too good care of these baby brothers. If they like it too much, they won't want to leave.

So Komon does her best to help them part with their home, by literally taking it apart and moving it elsewhere. She even insists on getting rid of nostalgic items, like a sock they loved rolling around in when they were younger. (I like that we see Abeno's sentimental side when he insists on "rescuing" the sock to give to them later. Of course, he still says this as matter-of-factly as possible.) As she waves goodbye and the brothers pile into the Mononokean, the scroll translates their speech for the humans—and Ashiya learns the real reason Chungo didn't want to leave.

The five bird brothers wanted to thank Komon for being such a loving parent to them, but they couldn't tell her because she doesn't understand their language. So they hatched a plan that one of them would stay in the mundane world. The chosen brother—Chungo—had to fake being unable to fly so he couldn't leave with everyone else. I guess the hope was that eventually, Komon would realize she doesn't need to be alone and accept her bird companion. So Ashiya and Abeno figure out if this is really what Chungo wants or just a part of his brothers' plan. We get our answer when Chungo goes flying off with the sock.

He chooses Komon, and while Komon is surprised to see him sleeping beside her, she also accepts it. There's a sweet message to this story, though one that The Morose Mononokean is hardly subtle about. Ashiya remarks that nobody really wants to be left alone; we all need a friend. Komon relished the companionship of these baby birds, but she ignored that feeling, partly out of stubbornness, but mostly out of a desire to do what was "best" for the brothers. It took one of them reaching out to her insistently to get her to see the light.

So that's the cute episodic part of this week's adventure, but along the way, we get some tantalizing hints about Ashiya's father. Komon knew him, describing him as a previous employee of the Mononokean. What's even more fascinating is what she says next, that he was a "dangerous fellow who killed and imprisoned yokai." We see a silhouette of a man fighting a giant spider yokai; it's not clear if that's Komon's memory of him or the impression Ashiya and Abeno get, but it's still striking.

This makes me wonder about all the suspicion directed Ashiya's way earlier in the season. Maybe this is the reason behind the Executive's distrust of him? If he recognized his surname, would he be worried that this boy would turn out like his father? That could be why he attacked him and forbade him from entering the Underworld. It also makes me wonder if Ashiya's powers are similar to his father's. Then there's the other big question; if his dad did "go bad," what led him down that path? Is this why Aoi had to select a new apprentice in Abeno? I think this episode raises more questions than any before, and those are only the beginning.

I mean, just who or what was Ashiya's dad? When Abeno asks the Mononokean if it had human employees before him, it insists that it did not. This could be a lie, but it's more likely that any memories of him are sealed off somewhere. The Legislator does tell Abeno that the information he's looking for is "classified," so much so that he would arouse suspicion just by grabbing the files himself. (Specifically, he insinuates that the higher-ups would see it as evidence that something is wrong with the current situation, which further suggests a link between Ashiya's abilities and his father's.) So Abeno must undertake a dangerous journey to the White Sand Prison to gain the files himself. And there's the other possibility: what if Ashiya's father isn't human? And if so, what does this mean for Ashiya himself?

With The Morose Mononokean, you come for the sweet supernatural adventures with a new colorful yokai and heartwarming message every week, but you stay for the tantalizing long-term mysteries, and the question of Ashiya's dad may be the most tempting one of all. That's because it's not just about expanding the show's world or deepening its characters, but it also has the potential to wring out some strong emotions depending on how it's handled. If The Morose Mononokean keeps going the way it has so far, I am confident it will stick the landing.

Rating: A

The Morose Mononokean II is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Rose is a Ph.D. student in musicology, who recently released a book about the music of Cowboy Bebop. You can also follow her on Twitter.


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