The Morose Mononokean II
by Rose Bridges,
How would you rate episode 7 of
The Morose Mononokean II (TV 2) ?
This is an odd episode of The Morose Mononokean II. It's basically the back half of one and the first half of another squashed together. For the first 75%, we get the resolution to the problem of Ashiya's sensing abilities and banishment from the Underworld. (Well, mostly.) For the rest, we get introduced to a whole new yokai mystery in our world.
The episode drops us right back in to Ashiya and Abeno's retreat with Ashiya's friends. Ashiya's yokai-sensing abilities are developing pretty well. I'm surprised that given how much time he's spending with Abeno compared to his other friends, that Ashiya's pals don't make more jokes about it. We just get a little teasing when it comes time to take the final picture, and then everyone is headed home. But when Ashiya and Abeno go back to the Mononokean, they're in for a rude surprise: the Legislator.
The Legislator wants to apologize for the Executive's actions when Ashiya was in the Underworld. He seems to enjoy having one up on his fellow government official and gifts Ashiya with a game to allow him back into the Underworld. He must coose between two boxes, but one is empty. Of course, the non-empty box contains a tadpole yokai that the Justice is using to communicate with the Legislator across the dimensional barrier. Apparently the Mononokean told the Legislator that Ashiya can now sense the presence of yokai, and he used that to fix the game in his favor.
Ashiya is allowed to "conditionally" return to the Underworld, provided that the Justice accompanies him at all times. But before he can, Abeno stops him in his tracks, saying he doesn't want him to return. Ashiya questions him, wondering if he should have picked the "wrong" box and been banished forever, but Abeno tells him he did the right thing—at the very least to prove his yokai-sensing abilities. So what's up? Abeno never gives his reasons, but I'm guessing it's because of last week's revelation about Ashiya's yokai-controlling powers. Abeno likely wants to teach Ashiya how to use those before he's allowed to be around yokai without supervision, especially while Ashiya seems to be hesitant about returning to the Underworld. He still has lingering trauma about his encounter with the Executive, which puts him in a pretty vulnerable position where his powers are more likely to emerge out of nowhere. If his pal Yahiko pranking him could bring that about, there's no telling what an outright hostile yokai could do.
I hope this doesn't mean that we're not going to revisit the Underworld for a while. The episodes that flesh out the yokai world and teach us more about their colorful and quirky society are some of my favorites. I especially hope we get to drop back in on Egen's school-building prospects soon. And yet, the story behind Ashiya training his powers sounds like especially intriguing. The fact that Ashiya has such potentially terrifying abilities over yokai not only justifies their fear of humans, but makes him far less defenseless—and his long-term moral alignment becomes more questionable. I can't wait to see where The Morose Mononokean II goes with this; I just hope it doesn't mean that the audience is also on long-term exile from the Underworld. That's especially true after watching the Legislator and Justice banter on the way home. I love the dynamic between the various government officials of the Underworld, and I'm still curious about how the mysterious Executive fits into all of this.
After that, we move on to our latest yokai-in-the-human-realm mystery. Zenko has had issues with reports of a ghost near her home, which she correctly guesses is actually a yokai. This particular yokai wears human clothes and fake human hair though, which means that she looks like a ghost to humans who can't see her. So she's been scaring the pants off people when she shows up at local festivals, but as is usually the case with The Morose Mononokean, she only wants to have fun. Her name is Keshi, and she goes to the Mononokean in the hopes that they can turn her human. When she learns that they can't, she reveals that her wish is just to be a normal human for one day so she can dance at the Bon Festival. She requests that they help her effectively disguise herself so she can do that without scaring people.
I'm glad that Keshi's story seems to be taking us back to the heartwarming dynamic of last season's episodes. Still, I remain curious about where the "big plot" is going. What is the nature of Ashiya's powers, and can he control them? How will that reveal impact his ability to return to the Underworld? Does he actually pose a threat to them? And can we just go back to this show's colorful alternate world soon for any reason at all? I feel like my motivations for watching The Morose Mononokean II have shifted as the story has developed. While I still love the cute stuff, now I'm really hoping that it doesn't come at the expense of its weirder and scarier main story.
The Morose Mononokean II is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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