An escaped pet snake terrorizes the police station and a car thief steals then returns a baby that was locked in a car. That’s all that happens in these two episodes. I was surprised when about halfway through episode 3 it became apparent that was the entirety of the plot. Your local news station wishes they could stretch out story ideas this long.
I haven’t seen any more of the Full Throttle-ness from the first episode; no high speed chases or shootouts. It’s pretty much been: a small emergency occurs, the whole station gets involved, Miyuki acts girly, Natsumi acts butch, and the day is saved. Where’s the COP action??
I realise Ray was right in his earlier assessments: this series is all about the character types. Honestly though, I hope they develop further. Right now Miyuki is always girly, Natsumi is always manly, Nakajima tries to be manly but wusses out, it’s up to the Chief to act indignant, and the other women in the office have their own roles.
I like slice of life, and I would reason that means I like stories where nothing really happens. However, that’s only if there are strong and varied character types, and it’s fun to see the interaction between them. So far I haven’t seen them stray too far from the stereotypes these characters represent.
I hope things pick up with the next couple episodes. I’m certain a series like this would have a big-explosion laden finale, but I’m not sure I can hang on that long.
In the final arc of Mononoke, the Medicine Seller involves himself in the murder of a young girl whose body is run over by a train in a metropolitan city. As the seven suspects involved in the murder find themselves in the train, in the same car, whisked away to a ghost world, the Medicine Seller pieces together the murder while the Mononoke picks off the travelers one by one.
Another fascinating story and a decidedly good one to end the series with. The period setting threw me for a bit of a loop at first. Unlike previous stories which felt firmly planted in pre-industrialized Japan, this arc featured a metropolitan city, trains, telephones, and fashionable Western clothing. While it made sense to me that this arc could have taken place in a recently industrialized Tokyo, and other stories in the more antiquated countryside, I’ve seen it suggested elsewhere that this arc implies the Medicine seller existed over several decades, if not centuries.
While I think the mannequin imagery was interesting, I couldn’t quite understand its purpose. Initially I thought it was simply an interesting way to highlight the main characters in crowd scenes. However, in the final episode there were several scenes where a main character would phase in and out of being a mannequin. Perhaps that was a way to show they were not entirely important to that flashback?
This was the final episode of Mononoke, and while the Medicine Seller’s pronouncement at the end left the series vaguely open to a continuation, the fact that Mononoke is a spin-off from the Ayakashi series leaves me hopeful that more will be coming.
The Medicine Seller finds himself in a countryside estate, along with three other suitors whom are vying for the hand of a woman renowned as a master incense creator. Things soon go awry of course as ghostly figures are seen, a hidden treasure is revealed, and a murder comes to light.
I can honestly say this was the creepiest Mononoke story yet. From the stark black and white setting, to the manner of the deaths, and more. Until the last fourth of episode nine, it also portrayed the Medicine Seller as something of a psychopath, devising clever schemes to uncover murderers and then kill them in turn, all with his usual calm, quiet demeanor.
On a side note, the “battle” between the Medicine Seller and the Mononoke was quite more “battle-like” than usual, and I felt the transformation sequence hinted at more depth to his “battle form”. While I’m thoroughly enjoying the exploration of this series’ bizarre setting and the quiet plays that take place, I wouldn’t mind seeing them delve further into the Medicine Seller’s powers and where they came from.
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Kaname Okimura, a student at Prefectoral Umineko Shougyou High (“Umisho” for short), is the captain of the school’s swim team in spite of his paralyzing fear of drowning. The club is a magnet for all kinds of oddball characters, including a new transfer student, Amuro Ninagawa. Amuro is the fastest swimmer the club has ever seen, but she’s a bit naive and frequently enjoys swimming in the nude to Okimura’s chagrin. She also strangely reminds him of a childhood seaside accident…
Umisho is everything you’d look for in a harem anime: heavy on fanservice, odd characters, and absurd humor. We’ve got Kaname, your typical harem main character, surrounded by a bevy of girls and the body parts they rub against him. This includes Amuro, the star swimmer who is blissfully innocent of her preference for swimming naked. There are a couple standouts from your typical harem anime stereotypes. Mirei is a shy, well-endowed female swimmer who has an odd appetite for the perverse things she gets put through at the hands of the boys on the swim team. Maki is the hyperactive underclassman, but there’s a running joke where she’s called “Makio” and a vaguely Super Mario Bros-esque theme plays while she’s around. (I’m hoping they take this further, even if they have to avoid overt references to the Nintendo franchise.)
While there’s certainly nothing wrong with it, I decided to pass on Umisho. I’ll admit I’m not a harem anime fan, but I was interested to see where they took the swim team premise and if they did anything interesting with it. It turns out to be simply a setting for fanservice, and the “What?? How does he have that much power?!” battles between the swimmers. The plot we see coming from a mile away, the animation is good, and I was happy with the voice acting. At the end of the day, it’s a harem anime, a pretty good one, but that’s what it is. (I’m sure Mike has a bit to add here, if he can put down Seto no Hanayome long enough and switch to another anime about swimming =) )
If this genre is your cup of tea, you should enjoy Umisho. There’s ten episodes out now, more than enough to make a decision on.
I’ve been following Hidamari for quite some time now. I know Mike spoke a while back about those simple shows you end up going back to instead of watching “deeper” stuff. Hidamari fills that role for me. It’s a nice, sweet slice of life series with a couple laughs to keep things interesting.
As in most slice of life shows each character has their own quirks. Yuno, the “main” character and youngest of the bunch, tends to forget things and can be a bit naive at times. Hiro is constantly worried about her weight and trying to go on diets. Sae is a bit withdrawn and tries to act older, but it’s often revealed how sensitive she is. Topping it all off is Miya, the goofy, hungry comic relief of the bunch. But like any great slice of life show, these stereotypes are just the basis of the characters. They exist to give you an instant hook to relate to, but the real meat of the series comes later, when you see each character’s idiosyncrasies come out and are built upon throughout the show.
Hidamari Sketch is also notable for how the creators ran with the premise. The four girls go to school in an art school, and the animators aren’t afraid to try new, simple, sometimes off the wall things with the artwork in the show. You’ll see a lot of things the characters are thinking about positioned oddly and colored strangely in the background, photographs of real life objects used for items the character interact with, color schemes, textured backgrounds, and a myriad of other chancy moves that pay off and make this series fun to watch to see what they’ll do next.
In the end though, the great writing outweighs the art gimmick, and this is truly a fun series to watch. I like getting to know the characters, and seeing how they’ll react to each new situation. Dialog is a strong point of this series too. You never feel as if a character loses their voice, and there are puns galore.
All in all I’d heartily recommend Hidamari Sketch if you’re a fan of slice of life, Yon-Koma anime (as it’s based on such a strip), comedy, or if you’re just looking for something fun and easy to put on.
Mononoke gets creepier and personal with this two episode, two character arc. A woman commits murder and kills her husband and his family. When the Medicine Seller visits her in prison and comes to uncover the Ayakashi that possessed her to perform such a deed, he learns the Ayakashi may not be entirely at fault…
This was a very intense, focused story, with essentially two characters, the Medicine Seller and the woman. Gone is the large ensemble of the previous arc, with massive character exploration and strange goings-on outside of the main Ayakashi struggle. However this change is certainly not to the arc’s detriment. In this arc I first noticed how the Medicine Seller subtly changes his personality to fit the situation. In the previous arc he was quiet and terse, while the other characters rambled and panicked around him. This time he is stuck in a cell with a quiet, withdrawn woman, and begins to talk at length about himself, being quite self-involved. It disguises his true intentions, and makes him seem just an average street peddler; almost a serial-killer type ability. I imagine Hannibal Lecter would take on such different disguises, acting whichever way will quickest get him to his victim’s liver.
This episode swung back into the series’ original, manic mood. I realised however that this mood is part of what makes these stories work as horror stories. When I think of the pantheon of Japanese ghosts and goblins, I often find them little more than humorous. For instance, I saw a live-action film about Abe no Seimei, the famous historical magician from the Heian era who battled ghosts for the Imperial court. Even though the film’s special effects were quite good, and quite a few people died, I was never close to being creeped out. The mood of Mononoke really nails that creepiness. It’s a slightly insane world, a bit off kilter, and once you realise this it really is frightening. For instance, at the very beginning of episode 6 the Medicine Seller is apparently incapacitated by the Ayakashi, who replaces his face with a mask and leaves him with no face. The No-Face ghost archetype is a common one in Japanese horror stories and one I again never found scary. That is until the slightly left of center world Mononoke takes place in featured it. I realised how terrifying that would be, if you really had no face suddenly, just a smooth, blank surface of skin. The demonic, otherworldly setting made me believe it. Creepy.
Definitely another great arc, and it features my favorite quote from the series so far, “If you wish to leave, this place is a prison. If you wish to stay, it becomes a fortress.” Mononoke keeps on chugging along.
The fifth Mononoke marks the end of the Ghost Ship arc. We’ve seen some quick-thinking ghost fighting tricks in Medicine Seller’s bag (or box rather), a whodunit detective mystery, and the trademark Ayakashi’s confession, which I suspect is one of the main draws to this series for me.
That moment of breakdown and confession is what I really like in this series. One of my favorite television shows is Law and Order: Criminal Intent, expressly because of this device. There is a scene at the end of each episode where Detective Goren, after spending time getting into the criminal’s mind as well as piecing together the crime, where he breaks down their facade, and they can’t help but confess to the crime, their emotional core bare. I kind of see now that’s the “Form, Truth, and Regret” element in Mononoke. While the Medicine Seller is learning all the details of the Ayakashi’s creation, he’s laying bare the horrible secret this person, living or dead, has lived with for so long. I suppose it’s rather therapeutic in that way.
The imagery wasn’t quite as frightening in this episode, though as a conclusion that’s to be expected. After the last episode I was fully expecting to see the ghost revealed Ring-like: draped, hanging hair with a single wild eye visible beneath or the glimpse of a bare skeleton. You know, something terribly creepy. However we see the ghost in her human form, as she was before this terrible ordeal, and the effect serves to deepen the viewer’s compassion as the last of this story unfolds.
I very much liked this episode, and if all conclusion episodes in the series are done this well, I will definitely be watching more. The odd, frenetic feeling I had from the beginning of the series? It didn’t end up in this arc. Three episodes and five characters allowed the tone of the series to breathe, and it did not feel like a “crazy scariness” was crammed into a short period for a quick result. All the strange characters and psychotic babbling had a point, and it was a great gimmick to use the fish-headed Ayakashi lute player to expose the core of each of the characters and lead into this episode.
I think Mononoke is less about the Medicine Seller’s adventures, and more about the cathartic release of horrible secrets, bound up inside the secondary characters throughout the series. That’s perfectly fine by me.