The Morose Mononokean II
Episode 12

by Rose Bridges,

How would you rate episode 12 of
Morose Mononokean II (TV 2) ?

The Morose Mononokean II's episodes are getting more fractured, but that may not be a bad thing. This week's installment feels like it could effectively fill two or more episodes, but the structure seems to be in service of integrating the main plot with Abeno and Ashiya's various episodic adventures. Just about every smaller part of the story this week ties into the bigger questions about Ashiya's dad. So because we're going to talk about Ashiya Sakae a lot this week, I'm going to refer again to our protagonist-Ashiya by his given name, Hanae.

We begin with Abeno in the Underworld, trying to track down the information he needs about Ashiya Sakae and his years of employment with the Mononokean. It turns out that getting to White Sands Prison is easier than he thought, despite the Legislator's riddle about how one can enter from the inside but not the outside. Koura, the apothecary we haven't seen much this season but who showed up a lot in the first cour, needs to deliver some anesthetic to the Justice in the prison and asks Abeno to accompany her. I guess that might be the solution to the Legislator's riddle: you need an "insider" to have a reason to enter White Sands Prison. So while Koura delivers her anesthetic, Abeno sneaks out to visit the library. He finds the book pretty easily; I thought for sure when this plot was announced last week, it would be a much longer and more convoluted affair. He still has to evade the notice of the Executive and Justice though, so he ends up accidentally leaving with the book. Still, once he reads over the contents, he can leave the book with the Legislator to return to its proper place.

What Abeno finds seems to confirm what we already know about Ashiya Sakae. He was an employee of the Mononokean who started doing unspeakable things at some point. He used his influence to kill yokai and committed some taboos in the mundane world. We learn from the Legislator that this may have meant banishment, and therefore the yokai who suffered this fate might be salvageable. But why did Sakae do this, and what led him down this dark road? Might Hanae suffer the same fate? Is this connected to his mind-control powers over yokai? And what does his striking resemblance to Abeno mean? There are a lot of questions still lingering, and episode 12 doesn't give us much in the way of answers.

At the same time Abeno tries to track down this intel in the Underworld, Hanae is feeling lost without him in the mundane world. When he visits with Zenko, he finds out that Yahiko impersonated his father for Abeno, but when he tries to ask him to do the same, Yahiko refuses unless he gives him candy. (Then he'll just "consider it.") Yahiko being Yahiko, he quickly turns this into a new way to force Hanae to buy him sweets everyday. Meanwhile, Zenko has heard of a mysterious malevolent yokai at a nearby shrine, so she calls on the Mononokean team to investigate.

When Abeno gets back, Hanae questions him over why he's so curious about his father, but he doesn't get many answers. Meanwhile, Hanae's sister confesses to him that ever since their mother met Abeno, she's been bringing up how he reminded her of Sakae, when she had never wanted to talk about their father previously. It's another reminder that the various revelations about Sakae have the potential to not just change the relationship between Hanae and yokai, his powers, or with Abeno and his job at the Mononokean, but also affect his entire family life. Even if they don't have supernatural powers, Hanae's mother and sister were still affected irrevocably by their father's mysterious disappearance. What will happen when he finds out why that happened? And what if Sakae isn't really dead and comes back somehow? That could change everything.

Hanae and Abeno investigate the shrine Zenko told them about, only to discover a cute friendly pig yokai named Bonta. Bonta hasn't been causing any of the trouble they heard about, but he is eager to return to the Underworld via the Mononokean. They promise to check on him the next day, but overnight the real threat materializes. A one-eyed demon spider curls up from above Bonta as he sleeps, like a twisted version of Charlotte's Web, and then disappears under Bonta's skin. Bonta's eyes flash red, and the next day when the boys return to exorcise him, he's nowhere to be found—but after his possession, we heard what sounded like Bonta crying for help in the night. As they search everywhere for him, Hanae suddenly calls Abeno on the phone, having seemingly found Bonta—but then the line goes dead.

This spider is almost certainly connected to Sakae in some way, as the Legislator sees a spiderweb on the pages of the book about him. Even before the demon-spider reveal, the episode keeps drawing our attention to the similar spiderweb hanging above the shrine where Bonta lives. In the next episode preview, it looks like Hanae gets possessed by the spider too, leading to some mysterious encounter with the spirit of his father. The big question is what this will mean about Sakae's intentions toward his son and Abeno. From what we've learned about him, Sakae is a far more sinister character than we previously expected, but that could be just one perspective. Perhaps he's misunderstood, but perhaps he isn't. So would he really hurt his son, or is he there to help him—or perhaps he's trying to win him to his cause? Whatever the case, The Morose Mononokean has set itself up for a real nail-biter of a season finale.

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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