The Morose Mononokean II
by Rose Bridges,
How would you rate episode 5 of
The Morose Mononokean II (TV 2) ?
This week's episode is called "The Tiger," even though the titular tiger isn't really our focus. That honor belongs to our mysterious new character, the Executive, who's definitely the scariest and most threatening of our three animal government officials. Even his animal form is terrifying, as an evil crow who reminds me a little of the Raven from Princess Tutu. Even in human form, the Executive still looks a little creepy. And his power, which leaves Ashiya choking and cling to life, is deeply disturbing. This is the darkest episode of The Morose Mononokean yet, and it's leaving me breathless wondering where we'll go from here.
And yet it starts with a very cute and typical problem for these guys: Fuzzy has gone missing! It turns out that he was arrested and taken to the Underworld, accused of theft. Ashiya immediately suspects he was wrongly arrested in place of an angrier Fuzzy lookalike he saw stealing things when he was last in the Underworld. They take the Mononokean there and Ashiya finds and turns in the bad Fuzzy, but it turns out that that wasn't the issue at all. The Justice had sent out a warden for the master of the Mononokean's assistant, meaning Ashiya. Arresting Fuzzy was just a different case of mistaken identity than they thought.
This is at the behest of the Executive, who hates humans. That's why he was spying on them through Egen in episode 3. When we first learned this, I figured it would go the way these things usually do in The Morose Mononokean, where the yokai's distrust of humans is due to some bad past experience, and all it would take is a good time with Ashiya to dissuade him of these misconceptions. But of course, the Executive is far too powerful and set in his ways for that, so Abeno and Ashiya end up leaving with their tails between their legs. Ashiya is banned from the Underworld to keep the Executive from killing him, as well as assuaging the Executive's legitimate fears about humans messing with this safe place for yokai. He goes home right away, with Abeno left behind to finish up his current visit with the Legislator.
At first glance, this sudden dark turn in the story gives us plenty to worry about. On the other hand, I appreciate that The Morose Mononokean II has chosen to mix things up now. I love the generally soothing tone of this show, but I'm also excited to see where it will go with a story that has greater stakes and more bite. It's clear this isn't the end of this storyline, since there's no way that Ashiya is going to be banned from the Underworld permanently. He's our point-of-view character, and so much of what makes The Morose Mononokean fun and colorful is exploring that rich otherworld and its variety of sentient creatures. I also loved learning about the way the Underworld runs itself. I want to know how it came to this system of government that just involves three yokai in different roles. How is the Legislator different from the Executive if there isn't a legislature, for instance? Is the way the Justice conducts things just deciding for himself—as one-man judge, jury, and (if necessary) executioner? None of that seems fair to me, and I wonder if there are discussions in the Underworld about how this could be handled better. I'm also eager to see how Egen's school fares. Maybe if she gets it up and running to better educate the yokai, there will be more demand for change in their governmental representation.
And what the Executive's damage with regard to humans? Does he have a bad history with them? And can his opinion of Ashiya at least change? The Executive even acknowledges that he's heard about Ashiya's good performance as an assistant to the master of the Mononokean, but that doesn't change his opinion of Ashiya as an existential threat to the Underworld, at least so long as he visits it in person. He's also disturbed by how much Abeno does to protect him, chastising him for not living up to the high standards of his job set by Aoi. Still, those last comments about Ashiya being a good worker gave me pause—but I am guessing it will still be a while before we get there.
The most interesting thread comes from Ashiya's comments at the end. He's still mystified by the Executive's powers and deeply curious about them. He even wonders if as a human who is able to see yokai, if he might be able to use similar powers. I don't follow what led Ashiya to that conclusion, but I'm sure he's not bringing that up for nothing. Things are about to really get interesting in this storyline after this major curveball. The show might not be as sweet as it used to be, but things are about to get a lot weirder and more intriguing.
The Morose Mononokean II is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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