DVD Review: Mononoke (2007)

Posted by Retrokaiser On Monday, October 7, 2013 0 comments

Mononoke is a supernatural mystery show about an unnamed medicine seller that likes to hunt down demons.  You might remember him from appearing in the episode "Goblin Cat" from the horror anthology series called Samurai Horror Tales (you can check out the review to that here. ).  While this isn't a horror anthology it does stay true to it's roots and keeps the same format it had in Samurai Horror Tales.  If you don't know what I'm on about then let me explain on how this show format works.  This show is portrayed like a stage play with episodes split into acts... Yeah very basic stuff.  Now since this is following the same format as Samurai Horror Tales I will describe what happens in each episode separately as opposed to a general description of what the show is about otherwise this paragraph will just be the first sentence alone.  So let's get into it shall we?  And yes I must do the traditional horror anthology running gag *ahum ahum* BOOOOOOOOOO!! (Ghost noises).  (Click "Read More" to read the full review).

Zashiki Warashi
In our first tale we see our hero check into a hotel and starts talking medicine with the owner.  We then see a very stressed pregnant woman rush in trying to get a room so she doesn't have a miscarriage in the storm that's going on outside.  The hotel clerk tries to tell her that there aren't any rooms left but she refuses to take no for an answer.  The pregnant woman gets really desperate and finally convinces them to let her stay for the night.  They set her up in a room that normally isn't available for the public to stay in but they really have no choice.  While trying to sleep she sees something very terrifying and that is a child like demon looking right at her.  That's not what she has to worry about as right after the encounter she is attacked by an assassin.  Will she survive?  Will our hero come in to save the day?

Sea Bishop
Our second tale is set on a very exotic boat captained by a merchant transporting a bunch of bishops to Edo.  Also travelling on this ship is the return one of the maids from the "Goblin Cat" episode of "Samurai Horror Tales" and naturally we also see our hero on this boat.  The cruise is going fine until somebody changes the ships course and they wind up in an area full of ghost ships and some very wicked monsters.  Lucky for them that they all know how to deal with evil demons so our unnamed hero is not alone in surviving through this hellish ride.

The Faceless Monster
Tale number three has our favorite chemist/demon hunter locked up in jail for not offering a refund for medicine that a customer wasn't happy with.  While locked up he talks to his cellmate who is on death row due to murdering her entire family and then hanging them off of trees like piñatas at a birthday party.  Our hero immediately questions her saying that she doesn't have the nature or strength to do all that and starts to suspect the work of demons is involved.  Right outside the cell we see a puff of smoke and a mysterious voice talking to the woman asking if she is ok.  From the darkness we see a demon wearing a wolf mask (dang furries).  The demon hunting chemist tries to battle the demon but loses and gets his face stolen by the demon (talk about a real face-off).  The demon takes the woman into a dream world while our hero is left in jail without a face.

Nue - The Japanese Chimera
The fourth tale is about three men at a castle with each man there for the same reason: To win the heart of a beautiful princess and have her hand in marriage.  The way the men will win the princess is by playing a game that has the men guessing scents.  There was supposed to be a fourth man in the game but he didn't even show but they find someone to fill his spot and that guy just happens to be that one certain medicine man himself (the main guy if you haven't guessed by now).  They play the game and give their answers to the princess.  The princess tells them to wait while she looks over the answers and will return shortly to pick a winner (if any of them got it right that is).  All four men decide to go for a walk and stumble upon something very shocking... The dead body of the original fourth man.  The four men return to the game room and see something that's even more shocking which is that the princess has also been murdered.  Looks like we have a mystery to solve Mr.Wattson.

The Goblin Cat
The last (but certainly not least) tale has us in a more modern Japan rather than Edo era Japan.  A new subway is opening (train station, not the sandwich shop) with the whole city looking forward to see the train in action.  The main passengers you will see in this story include: The mayor, a waitress, a milk lady, a desperate housewife, a newspaper reporter, and our main hero that should've really died of old age by this point in time.  The train starts and the ride is going very well until the train conductor spots a woman diving onto the tracks from out of nowhere and hits her.  This sends him completely mad and then we see all the other characters pop into the front carriage to check out what happened.  Once they all hop in they notice that the other carriages are completely gone.  They completely freak out and then our (still) nameless hero pops in to investigate as the train may be haunted.  Don't confuse this one with the "Goblin Cat" episode of Samurai Horror Tales as although it bares the same name you will find that this one is quite different.

This is a very episodic show as you can tell but I enjoy that about this show as a running story for this would kill the mood.  I really enjoyed all of the stories as it told some really great horror mysteries that kept me on the edge of my seat wondering what's going to happen next and being very satisfied with the outcome.  Each story does use the same formula: Main hero sits with suspects in the room until they figure out what kind of demon it is.  Don't worry though as they manage to keep it feeling fresh every time.  If you saw "Goblin Cat" in Samurai Horror Tales you will find the episode "The Goblin Cat" to be a little bit predictable but still good nonetheless.  The monsters in this show aren't scary per-se but the human characters do leave you feeling very unsettled and disturbed after hearing what they do showing that humans are indeed the real monsters.  The main character is pretty enjoyable with a serious very attitude and doesn't mess around one bit.  Even though he hasn't got a name he is a very memorable character that is sure to become a classic anime character.  If you like action heavy shows you will be a bit disappointed as there is barely any action as the shows main premise is to build-up until the final action scene.

Artwork is really unique and I can't tell if it's in traditional art or computer generated art as it has the charm and appearance of traditional art but it also has the same depth you see in computer generated artwork.  I found out later while watching the special features that it uses a mixture of the two and I must say the way they did it really goes together very well and I am very impressed with it.  Background characters are quite creepy looking as they are all faceless making them look like Slenderman (from the PC game).  Animation is pretty decent and their movements remind me of a puppet show but not in a bad way as this adds to the stage show like atmosphere.  Japanese dub is also very decent with some great voices that match up.  The main character is done the best with a very serious tone that helps add to the show and scares me a little because when he talks you know something serious is going to happen.  I'm very surprised this hasn't got an English dub as the original feature in Samurai Horror Tales had one and I would've expected them to dub this also.  Soundtrack sounds nothing like you would hear in a show like this as it sounds like something you would hear while on a cruise ship.  I oddly really liked it though as it calmed me down.
I ain't the baby daddy!
There is some very nice stuff in the special features section like a video showing show they did the artwork which was very informative and will make you say "so that's how it's done".  You also have some commercials that aired on Japanese television and text-less opening and closing credit sequences.  Overall this was a very good watch and I recommend watching it.  Great viewing.

Title: Mononoke
Animation Studio: Toei Animation
Genre: Animation/Anime, Action, Horror/Supernatural, Mystery, Avant-garde
Running Time: 276 Minutes (5 Episodes)
Distributor: Siren Visual (http://www.sirenvisual.com.au/)
Rating: MA15+ (Strong supernatural themes, violence)
Price: $49.95
Recommended: Yes


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