Reviews: Ayakashi and Mononoke

Anyone who knows me will know that there was one major factor in my decision to watch these two series. Was it worth it just for that? Well, yes…the medicine seller (薬売り) was a very interesting character…mysterious from beginning to end, and the voice Sakurai created for him reflected that very well. Anyway, before I get off track…

Ayakashi ~Japanese Classic Horror~, as it’s title proclaims, features three Japanese tales. “Yotsuya Kaidan“, perhaps the most famous Japanese horror story every, tells the story of Oiwa: of her betrayal, murder and finally, her revenge, “Tenshuu Monogatari” is based on a Kabuki play which tells of the tragic love between a goddess and a mortal, albeit with various changes, of course.    “Bakeneko” basically covers the background legends of the titular ghost cat as it destroys a family, and introduces the strange 薬売り mentioned above.

The first two stories didn’t hold my attention much. A measure of that would be that I didn’t even notice that Midorikawa Hikaru and Kawashima Houko were in Tenshuu Monogatari. To be honest, I didn’t even think much of the changing character (and background) design until I got to the Bakeneko and read somewhere that the three arcs had different animators behind them. The Bakeneko designs were crazy though – reminded me very much of the textures of Gankutsuou.

The designs for this arc were quite…ugly.

This one was much more pleasant, but I didn’t particularly enjoy the tale.

This textured design is quite nice, all things considered. Like 和紙 in a way.

The large amount of notes about the series were also a bit irritating to read (perhaps I should have watched this when I didn’t have so many series on my plate) but in the end, this series was very informative – e.g. the fact that ‘O’ in ‘Oiwa’ is simply a prefix that you attach when addressing or referring to a woman of noble birth by name. Well, not everyone will enjoy it, I think, but I do recommend giving it a go, especially the Bakeneko arc. 7.5/10

Mononoke features more stories of the mysterious 薬売り, as the Bakeneko arc has been praised as the most nteresting of the three. (Frankly, that was the only story that could have had a spin-off anyway). This time, his targets range from some 座敷童 to another 化け猫, this time haunting people in the early 20th century or thereabouts.

Perhaps unexpectedly, this series is best characterised as mystery/thriller. In each arc, we’re treated to a new situation in which a mononoke (a kind of ayakashi that is quite malevolent) is, for some reason, making its malevolent presence felt. And as a series of mysteries, it is very successful – I always wanted to find out the truth (真) and the reason (理) for the mononoke, although I didn’t always understand the latter. This is a series I probably need to rewatch after I’ve done a bit more research…time willing.

The only recurring character in each of the 5 arcs is the 薬売り, although Kayo from the first series does show up, whilst the new 化け猫 arc characters are surprisingly similar to those that appeared in the first series – if I’m not mistaken, the seiyuu ‘reprise’ their roles too. (And if you listen carefully, Midorin and Hou-chan also show up again, in a different arc.) Not surprisingly, there is very little character development for the 薬売り, but that’s perhaps part of the the appeal of the series. According to some of my students, however, he is quite an interesting character to cosplay, with his strange clothing and all – sorry, I didn’t think to grab a pic.

About karice
MAG fan, freelance translator and political scientist-in-training. I also love musicals, travel and figure skating!

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