The Morose Mononokean
Episode 7

by Rose Bridges,

How would you rate episode 7 of
The Morose Mononokean ?

This episode of The Morose Mononokean begins with a brief retread of the previous episode, where Abeno and Ashiya discuss finding the ring back at the stream. This interaction mostly serves to further establish the relationship between the two leads, especially the shippier aspects. Ashiya seems very happy at the idea of Abeno not taking fault with his handling of the situation, which causes Abeno to blush.

As much as The Morose Mononokean seemed to eschew fujoshi-baiting in the earlier episodes, it has fit that mold more and more as it's gone on. It's hard to imagine how a relationship between these two would work, but the show certainly wants viewers to imagine it, ramping up the subtext as the story focuses increasingly on its leads within this colorful, sometimes adorable, sometimes creepy world. Luckily, if that aspect of their characters doesn't interest you, there's plenty more to offer in this episode.

This episode marks the return of Zenko, the girl living in the shrine from episode 3. This is nothing new for The Morose Mononokean, considering how Fuzzy started out as an episodic character and soon became part of the main team. Zenko was bitten by a fox yokai (or "yoko") and now has the ability to see yokai. That doesn't change the fact that she wants the bite to go away as soon as possible, since it has the power to suddenly cause her pain, so she calls on her friendly local exorcists to take care of the problem. Luckily, the yoko appears before they can even call for him; unluckily, his condition for fixing Zenko's problem is an endless game of hide-and-seek.

This initially seems like a variation on other more heartwarming episodic adventures earlier in the show. Fuzzy just wanted to play, so recognizing that aspect of his needs was key to getting him literally off Ashiya's back. The yoko just wants to play too, right? The characters eventually give in to his demands, following him around the graveyard as he disappears into gravestones. They do this even when Ashiya has to stay after class, though of course he comes rushing there later, after the sun has gone down.

On that note, I like that The Morose Mononokean continues to reference Ashiya's (and to a lesser extent, Abeno's) school life. It's very easy for shows like this, about Ordinary Teens who suddenly inherit some magical destiny, to let their mundane lives fall by the wayside as they get caught up in their mystical duties. It's an understandable pattern; the magical parts of these shows are usually the main draw, and as the plot gets more and more complicated, it makes sense to cut down on unrelated parts of the show, but that doesn't make it the most emotionally honest way to write about teenagers. It doesn't matter how many other responsibilities or activities they have; teens are always at least somewhat conscious of their standing amongst their peers. Social life is a major source of enjoyment, stress, and growth for teenagers, so it takes up an outsized part of their mental energy. I love that The Morose Mononokean has never forgotten this, continuing to show how Ashiya's school life has been shaped by his increasing absences and preoccupations. This episode even references his early worries about his reputation; his classmates now refer to him as "Hanae of the Nurse's Office."

Ashiya does eventually end up at the graveyard, where the yoko has been forcing his two friends to play hide-and-seek for hours. Combined with the setting, this gives the scene a more sinister tone, especially after the yoko turns into Abeno and Ashiya calls him on it, only for him to transform back and say "one more time!" What finally breaks the pattern is when Ashiya grabs a hold of him and demands that he stop, and the real Abeno finally remembers that the yoko is named Yahiko, and that they have met in the past. Yahiko changes into his human form and taunts Abeno about this before transforming again into a giant fox, reminding him of the previous master of the Mononokean, Aoi, and the rumor that Abeno murdered his master in order to get the position himself.

The Morose Mononokean leaves off there, which is a pretty strange move for this show. Even with its previous cliffhanger at the end of episode 4, the series still felt hopeful. Episode 7 suggests that Abeno is really in hot water, and perhaps we'll get answers to some of the questions the series keeps withholding from viewers. It also does a lot to build investment in those questions. I didn't think it was at all likely before that Abeno killed Aoi; maybe it was a misunderstanding with the yokai not understanding human death. Now, I'm not so sure. The framing of the final scene, especially Abeno's alarmed reaction, suggests there might be some truth to the rumor—or another dark explanation.

The Morose Mononokean is good at many different things, in a way that allows it to appeal to a wide array of viewers. There's subtext between the two male leads that can draw in fujoshi, but it also has cute yokai characters, a sharp sense of humor, and a big heart. Increasingly, The Morose Mononokean even has mystery elements, leaving viewers eager to find out the truth about how Abeno got his position or why Ashiya might be "dangerous." Shows like this usually only have one or two gimmicks, but The Morose Mononokean seeks to be a yokai comedy for everyone.

Rating: A-

The Morose Mononokean is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Rose is a music Ph.D. student who loves overanalyzing anime soundtracks. Follow her on her media blog Rose's Turn, and on Twitter.


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