The scariest yokai~
Fukigen na Mononokean deserves all the love it receives and so much more. When the first season of the animated adaption of Wazawa Kiri’s manga series introduced viewers to Ashiya Hanae (Kaji Yuuki) and the dour master of the Mononokean, Abeno Haruitsuki (Maeno Tomoaki), they were classmates whose lives didn’t intersect in the slightest. Who would ever guess that the excitable and often exceedingly friendly Ashiya would become Abeno’s strongest connection to humanity?
This series, like many before, deals with the struggles of day-to-day life in a world where yokai are very real. As the master of the Mononokean, Abeno is tasked with sending stray yokai to the Underworld, where they can replenish their strength and be among their own kind. Since the series follows an episodic structure for the most part, each episode tends to focus on a newly introduced client with a problem for Abeno and Hanae to solve so that the client can be exorcised to the Underworld without any regrets. It was through those interactions that Hanae got to know yokai better, even befriending a handful of them, which led to him becoming more and more embroiled in their world. And that was what the arc of this season focused on – the consequences of getting involved where humans aren’t wanted.
Throughout the politics and conspiracies Hanae gets entangled in, the strength of his bond with Abeno continues to grow. Ultimately, Fukigen na Mononokean is about relationships, with those two as the fulcrum. They carry the weight of the series on their burgeoning friendship, as they go about their duties for their otherworldly clients. One of the best, most poignant episodes of the series involved a young bird-like yokai that couldn’t be exorcised until it learned to fly, and though I won’t spoil anything beyond that, the tale was heartwarming beyond measure, as many of Fukigen’s stories are.
To do an animation involving yokai justice, usually shows will utilize pastels and flowing lines in order to attain a relaxing, dreamlike atmosphere. Fukigen is not one of those shows. Instead, it employs crisp lines and vibrant colors that pop at the viewer, though naturally the Underworld is much brighter and more colorful than the human world. There are curling clouds on the mountains shaped in traditional Japanese style, torii gates, and Shinto shrines drawn in exquisite detail. With that said, a minor gripe might be that the backgrounds are often nondescript, usually making heavy use of fog to fill the empty space.
Although this season was, for the most part, a series of tangentially connected stories, it’s not a recommended starting point. Many characters that were introduced last season make recurring appearances, but once you have a grip on who everyone is, Fukigen is a relaxing and atmospheric gem of a series about family, friends, and putting in the effort to understand a new or different perspective. Hopefully, this series will attract enough attention to garner another season, and encourage studios to keep adapting quirky, out-of-the-box material like this.