When strange problems occur with no explanation in feudal Japan, it takes a medicine seller with no known name and a sealed sword to find the reason behind them. With a large box on his back and an outfit filled with technicolor designs, he travels to different parts of the country finding incidents caused by supernatural perpetrators, evil spirits classified as mononoke. Only after discovering its form, truth and reason, the seal on the sword will be released in order to remove the troublesome mononoke.

Toei Animation continued the tale of the mysterious medicine seller with their 2007 anime series “Mononoke.” The studio reunited the some of the creative team from their previous 2006 work “Ayakashi: Samurai Horror Tales.” “Ayakashi” consisted of three story arcs, in which the third titled “Bake Neko” or “Goblin Cat” is where this particular medicine vendor originated. With director Kenji Nakamura taking the lead again, they made five story arcs and a total of 12 episodes.

mononoke

Each episode dove into a colorful version of Japan, gradually leaving its feudal self towards westernized and industrialized modern life. Artists adorned building walls with illustrations similar to Edo period woodblock prints and many of different Japanese patterns on nearly everything else. The many unique visual elements along with the traditional play storytelling style might be disorienting to viewers at first, but after getting used to the flow, it is quite amazing. The texture and pattern overlay is similar to the 2004 anime “Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo” and Cartoon Network’s 2007 series “Chowder” though the artistic staff of “Mononoke” had a more cohesive theme with their choices of combinations.

Many aspects from “Ayakashi” carried over to “Mononoke” including the mature content of the stories. Some of the themes included infidelity, sexuality and revenge. While the animators used artistic symbols to show some of the graphic scenes, it would be best for viewers to be at least within the age range of older teens. While the medicine vendor finds the spirits fueling the conflict, both he and the audience discover the dark part of human nature that can be as cruel as the evil ghosts.

The full series of “Mononoke” is available for on Crunchyroll for streaming. Publisher NEW VIDEO also released a complete collection in DVD format for those interested.

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