Irina: Random fact about The Morose Mononokean: the review for season 1 was my first ever post! You don’t need to look it up just take my word for it. At the time I thought that writing posts about anime was some form of magic. It seemed so crazy that you could consistently just watch a series and say something about it… It still does occasionally. Coming back to the series is a bit like coming back to the roots of I Drink and Watch Anime. It’s where it all started. No pressure or anything.
And what better way to celebrate that than with one of my first and most consistent sources of encouragement and inspiration: Karandi! I think we don,t need to introduce her here… Karandi (great title for your post there) is one of the best people to work with and I strongly recommend you take every opportunity to do so. Make some up if you can.
Karandi: Thanks Irina, I’m really glad to be collaborating with you again. It is always great fun and I’m really glad we’re discussing The Morose Mononokean.
I: Well here we are, two and a half years later, and as you said on Twitter, it’s like we never left. Aside from a very brief recap montage at the beginning of the episode, it basically just follows season 1 as if no time had passed at all. I wonder if people who don’t have access to that first season will be confused.
K: While season one didn’t blow me away, I really enjoyed its kind of laid back story-telling and the characters. Plus, there were a lot of ideas that had been introduced still to be explored so I’m really glad this came back for a season two.
And this really does just throw us back into the story. I think the opening sequence with Hanae and Fluffy chasing a yokai and Abeno waiting to send it back to underworld really fills in enough of the details about the character relationships and their purpose for those who have watched season one to be reminded of where we are, though as you said, people who haven’t watched season one are going to have to play catch up for a bit.
I: The episode follows Hanae (a young man who can see yokai) who is still working off his debt to Abeno (a young exorcist), when they get called to the underworld to help the Legislator with some paperwork.
K: I love the split reactions between Hanae and Abeno to this. Abeno really just wants the Legislator to leave him alone and do his own work while Hanae is inclined to help, and once money is offered, Hanae is fully on-board. I also liked that they used this opportunity to confirm that Hanae isn’t just going to quit once his debt has been paid. While that might have been the catalyst for him taking on the job, he’s genuinely drawn to this world now and he isn’t planning on ditching Abeno. Maybe Abeno will even start paying him better? Seems unlikely.
I: Those two have always been an odd couple and it seems they’ve gotten even more comfortable with each other. It works fairly well.
All the main characters seem to be back. I have always loved how Hanae’s mom expresses herself through the language of flowers and was happy to see the gag reprised! Anything pull at your nostalgia strings?
K: I’m all for Fuzzy (Moja). While he doesn’t have the personality of a stand-out animal companion like Nyanko-Sensei (alright, given the subject matter Natsume comparisons are almost a given), I absolutely love his interactions with Hanae. For a character that doesn’t speak, he is incredibly expressive and just so cute.
I: Is it just me or was there a slight animation boost? Abeno and Hanae seemed a bit more detailed and consistent than before.
K: I do think the animation got better or at least this first episode seemed to be at the upper end for this anime. And I love the rich use of colour in this anime and how they contrast the normal world and the underworld. There are some bold colour choices here but it never ends up being hard on the eyes or feeling excessive.
I: Oh good – I thought I was projecting hopeful thinking on my screen.
I had forgotten just how gorgeous the underworld is!
K: I’m kind of hoping this season explores the underworld more and the characters there. And this first episode kind of plunges us straight into that which is why I’m really happy with how this has started.
I: I really enjoyed the new OP and ED. That mix of traditional sounding music and pop beats was really intriguing to me and I think it fit the show well.
K: Hmm… The OP I really enjoyed but the ED I found a little bland (though that may have been more visually than the music, I’m struggling to remember the ED from the sound point of view).
I: I was also impressed by the voice acting this episode. Was season 1 much better than I remember it or something? Junichi Suwabe was in my Top 5 voice actor post so it’s not surprising that I really enjoyed Rippou’s performance but I think everyone else more than kept up.
The episode was a lot of fun. A basic light supernatural Slice of Life (to me it played like something in between Natsume and the Flying Witch). I don’t have much to say about it but I just liked it. I was smiling through all of it. What were your thoughts?
K: This brought us straight back to the characters doing their work and we went straight into a story in the underworld with one of the more interesting characters from last season, the Legislator. I’m really liking how this has started as it seems to be doing exactly what I wanted from a second season, which is more of the same but just giving us a bit more information and insight into the underworld and the yokai.
Though, I still want to know more about Hanae and they flashed back to his previous time in the underworld when he was attacked so I kind of hope they plan to explain what happened then because I am incredibly curious.
Also love that the first episode ends on a cliffhanger. A lot of the episodes in season one were self-contained but the stories split over more episodes just felt like they were a bit more memorable and more interesting.
I: I did not expect that cliffhanger right off the bat!
I was pleasantly surprised by this episode (I’m not sure why I expected it to be worse) and I am looking forward to the rest of the season.
K: Part of me wondered if the story was going to stagnate and just have the characters continue to help yokai without getting into looking at their lives and development, given season one kept hinting at all these ideas about these characters but didn’t explore them. Season two seems to indicate it is going to explore some of these ideas and that makes me excited (more-so than I was just at the thought of a second season which I thought would be pleasant but not overly noteworthy).
I: As you mentioned, right at episode 1, we are getting a lot of what I wanted from the first season. The complex politics that seem to govern the underworld are already being brought into the storyline while at the same time we got a hint of Hanae’s human friends. Now they just need to tell us a bit more about Abeno.
On a side note, the cover art for the mangas is really beautiful. Those colours are amazing!
K: Are the mangas in English? Why am I asking that… I still have the Natsume manga and about a dozen other light novel series to finish reading.
Well, I’m looking forward to episode two and to collaborating with you this season and hopefully some of our readers end up watching this series and following along as well.
Please come back next week – or rather meet us both over on Karandi’s blog for episode 2.
I actually really like Abeno but somehow didn’t end up using any pics of him in the post. So here they all are!