With the amount of respect Japanese tradition asks for and is often depicted with, Nakamura’s ‘Mononoke’, a 2007 production following a medicine seller of feudal japan with the duty to lay rest the spirits that have clung onto the places of their inner trauma, certainly seems to follow the trend. The supposition of magical mysticism is one I find common with art inspired by mythology, and in correlation to ‘Mononoke’, it’s mass of comparisons to ‘Mushishi’ seemed to confirm my presumption. Similar to Tarkovsky’s ‘Stalker’, there exists a fog of fantastical realism over a bleak world within these texts. Not set in a depressing wasteland, but a limbo where you can’t help but admire the strange beings of their worlds no matter their textual hazard. In this sense, ‘Mushishi’ and ‘Mononoke’ exist as a representation of the Japanese mythos, but what makes the latter stand out is their slight tonal differentiation.
Although the culture of Japan certainly has a history of strict respect and conservatism, which is on display with its first encounter with a person of color (you can imagine), the eccentric yet almost horrific expression of the series defied my expectations, much in the same way the loud aesthetic may have struck a lot of the audience. Although sharing its tonal comparisons to works I’ve cited above, the powers of ‘Mononoke’ seem even more aware of your presence, making themselves clear as if mocking us through the cinematography that is almost looking upon you at points. Although this can come off as obnoxious at times, the light-hearted tone being a general inconsistency and an, if mild, issue with the series, it serves a good transition into the underlying themes of women’s oppression of the time as well as contemporarily.
These subjects aren’t incredibly well developed often, especially in comparison to ‘Jeanne Dielman…’ (not writing the full title lol) or ‘Persona’, or even a later case in the show itself that I’ll go into depth later, it did give the series a bit of depth that made the presentation feel less superficial. And that was about it for three-fourths of the series. Not to sound derogatory, but a majority of my experience was non-noteworthily enjoyable, and in this sense, the finale elevated the series’ impression and retrospective quality to a degree where I think the rest of this analysis will be about the 60 minute that ‘Baka Neko’ astoundingly takes place over.
It is in many ways a symbol for the promises the series has made and has yet to truly deliver upon until now, a perfect capsule of what the series identity is to become. I almost felt like I was witnessing a classic, yet featured in a series that has been largely forgotten since the medium’s prominence. From the structured yet uncanny cinematography being all the more frustratingly appealing to the spirit’s connection to their haunted house and the characters present in it almost having culminating intimidation, only being heightened by their sinister history of thematic relevance to the series. Not only is its presentation surprising, but the sense of terror I feel for the ghouls, as well as the ones they are haunting, was astounding, to be honest. And even if the rest of the series lacked that cohesion, the ending doesn’t come off as a lone good point, but a cherry on top. Mononoke, although lacking at times, delivers upon an aggressive an uncanny vibe that is hard to find elsewhere