The series continues to entertain and prove that it knows how to use its large cast.
Title: The Morose Mononokean
Genre: Supernatural, Slice of Life
Publisher: Square-Enix (JP), Crunchyroll (U.S)
Artist: Kiri Wazawa
Serialization: Gangan Online
Translation: Mika Stifler
We appear to be caught up to the Japanese release of The Morose Mononokean, huzzah! By this point (five volumes and a few, uncollected chapters) the story seems completely comfortable with itself. It’s settled into a nice rhythm of Ashiya and Abeno encountering different problems and mononoke, but the tone is never wildly different between tales. I do wish the series was a little more daring at times and that it experimented with slightly longer stories every now and then — to date the longest story has been three chapters which still feels quite short. Everything has been well-paced so far, so it’s not that I feel like Wazawa is cramming too much in too little space, but longer stories give you more freedom to play around with more elements — a bit of experimentation is always a good thing. I am a bit worried that the story might start to become repetitive in the future but again, after five volumes I’m still rather charmed by the series so that concern is (mostly) unfounded so far.
The manga is holding together not by having a central plot but rather through its characters. The story has shown that simply having a sizable reoccurring cast (and knowing how to use them correctly) is enough to create continuity and it’s working rather well. Many of the earlier mononoke pop back in for at least a few pages here and there and Zenko, the girl from the temple story in the second volume, is now a very regular side character as well (her deadpan surpasses both Ashiya and Abeno’s which is rather impressive!). Ashiya is still a likeable main/point of view character as he transitions from being scared of demons to being rather fond of many of the mononoke and unhappy at the idea of losing contact with them. He’s still a newcomer to this world however, and that naïveté means that he’s often the perfect, if unintentional straight man, most of the time.
The story has also been releasing regular snippets of Abeno’s past which has really helped flesh out his character as he becomes just a smidge friendlier to Ashiya. One gets the impression that Abeno isn’t mean per se, just that he doesn’t know how to deal with people outside of his duties and that Ashiya’s exuberance makes him harder to handle than most. Like the rest of the story, Abeno’s past is more low-key than angsty, so these character building snippets slide easily into the main story. However, the story still hasn’t explained how Abeno became the Master of the Mononokean so there might be a more morose flashback still to come.
I’m rather excited to see how everything so far translates to the upcoming anime, especially the art and coloring. I really like Wazawa’s bright cover images but I wonder if those tones and the saturation might be just too vibrant for a full television series. But at this point we’re just going to have to sit tight, wait for more news, and for more chapters too.