The Morose Mononokean II
Episode 6

by Rose Bridges,

How would you rate episode 6 of
The Morose Mononokean II (TV 2) ?

Perhaps last week's episode wasn't a fluke. The Morose Mononokean II seems to be headed down some dark roads, compared to how cuddly it's been up to this point. There's only one outright ominous scene this week, unlike the creepiness that shadowed the Executive's presence throughout last episode, but it makes an impact in what it suggests for our story going forward.

Ashiya's grumbling about powers last week were not for naught. It turns out that as a human who can sense yokai, he does have some pretty strong abilities over them. What's more, the first time we see him use this power, it's completely unintentional. He's having a nightmare about the Executive, and mistakes Yahiko for him. While Ashiya was using his ability in self-defense, it terrifies the innocent Yahiko—and Ashiya doesn't seem to know where it comes from or how to control it. He's already feeling out of sorts because of his weakened yokai-detection abilities, and this just throws a whole new batch of uncertainties into the mix.

But perhaps more importantly, it helps to justify the yokai's fear of humans. We find out later that Ashiya's ability is called Influence, and it essentially means he can put yokai under his psychological control by suppressing their independent thoughts and making them obedient. If it's strong enough, he can even kill them. It seems not unlike the mysterious pressure ability that the Executive used on him. Abeno suggests it can be an important part of self-defense against yokai who do mean him harm, but it's hardly useful for that if Ashiya accidentally uses it on his friends. And having an untrained human with that ability loose in their world? It's easy to see why yokai would be so wary of him now, and why their Executive (effectively their head of state) would want him banned from the Underworld or even killed.

It's interesting how little Ashiya's new Underworld ban comes up in this episode, especially considering how much of this week's drama is related to it. His suppressed detection abilities are implied to be due to his trauma from the Executive suffocating him. Abeno can tell this pretty quickly, suggesting he take a day off from work to recuperate, assuming he doesn't want to be around yokai when he's feeling like this. Of course, he couldn't be more wrong. Ashiya may not always be the brightest bulb in the box and he has no chill, but he is caring, dedicated, and a hard worker. He's not about to slack off over a few dizzy spells or a school trip.

Luckily, they manage to have both. Abeno suggests that instead of their usual work (after a montage of completing some of it), they both go on the trip with Fusshi annd Ashiya's other friends. He'll be able to relax more (at least until that Influence scare) and get in some practice on his yokai detection skills. I also really wanted to see these two in a new setting; I'm actually disappointed we didn't get to see them indulge in more vacation activities. They do have a lot of fun once they're there; Yahiko talks along, and Abeno has them compete in hide and seek. Yahiko is "it," trying to find Ashiya before he can sense his presence. Thanks to his weakened detection skills, Ashiya continually gets his butt kicked. Thankfully, he does get better near the end of the episode and prevails in the game.

There is a weirdly inspiring tone to this episode, how Ashiya goes from his weakest to his strongest so quickly. But when those stronger abilities come at such a price, it's hard to be completely hopeful about them. All this also taps into a larger reason I keep coming back to The Morose Mononokean—its vibrant world and lore. Every new turn reveals something new, and Ashiya's new abilities are no exception. Where is the Underworld located? Why do so many of its denizens keep escaping to ours? Is there an origin story to explain why they're so distrusting of humans, even before Ashiya shows any power?

Ashiya is a gentle soul, and it's hard to imagine him hurting a fly. Still, with his more mysterious and deadly abilities beyond his reach, that may not actually matter. If his powers come out by accident, they're a threat. I'm glad Abeno is able to act as a mentor figure, and it's inspiring that Ashiya gets over his other big hurdle when he realizes that relaxing his shoulders can fend off the dizzy spells and allow him to sense yokai again. I'm sure the solution to Ashiya's new problem is just around the bend, but it might take us a while to get there yet.

I'm thrilled so far with The Morose Mononokean II, even when it was simply a cute anime about fantasy animals. As it digs deeper and goes darker, I've gotten even more on board. This episode shows that the series can juggle a wide variety of tones and become more than just a cuddly feel-good show. There's a deeper, weirder story here, and I can't wait to discover it.

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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