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Anime / Mononoke

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"I'm just a simple medicine seller."

Not to be confused with Princess Mononoke, the Miyazaki film.

A spin-off of the third installment of Ayakashi: Samurai Horror Tales, made by Toei Animation. Unlike its predecessor, these ayakashi have merged with powerful human emotions to become mononoke, which are even more dangerous and hard to combat.

The story follows our mysterious, nameless medicine seller in his travels and the various people — and monsters — he encounters. To slay each mononoke he must first discover its Shape (form), Truth (origin), and Reason (motive), which often proves far more difficult than it sounds. The 12-episode series is divided into five arcs.

The animation style is done in Unmoving Plaid similar to Gankutsuou (although to a lesser extent—there are actually some solid colors here and there, for example), and though it may take some getting used to, the way the series utilizes it is both beautiful and chilling.


A manga adaptation of the series started around the same time in 2008, covering the "Bakeneko" arc. A separate manga covered the rest of the anime's arcs, ending in 2019.

Mononoke contains examples of:

  • Affably Evil: The Mayor in Bakeneko. True, he was extremely shady in building the railway, but other than that and his "patronage" of the Café Worker, he didn't seem particularly bad—and he had expected Setsuko's boss to just tell her not to run the article, not kill her.
  • Agent Peacock: The eponymous Medicine Seller himself. He crossdresses in an obi, paints his nails, and speaks with a traditionally feminine politeness. That doesn't stop him from absolutely demolishing mononoke.
  • Alien Geometries: In multiple arcs; in the Zashiki-Warashi arc, a single room extends to infinite copies of itself in both directions, and the Bakeneko arc features a train car that can be entered from the previous car, but exiting it from the same door just leads into open air.
  • Ambiguously Brown:
    • The Medicine Seller's alternate form, first seen in Ayakashi: Samurai Horror Tales, is white-haired and brown-skinned.
    • The masked man from the Noppera-Bo arc. It's implied that he and the Medicine Seller are one and the same, and that he was derived for the purpose of getting Cho to reveal herself as a Mononoke.
    • Kayo (and later, Chiyo), too. She also dresses in a rather bright and lavish way for a servant, and her behaviour and overall style are quite modern and animesque compared to other characters. It's possible her look is a play on modern teenagers and fashion subcultures such as gyaru, which stereotypically features a tan, but there's no indication of where she's from or any comment on her looks.
    • The innkeeper and her assistant from the Zashiki-warashi arc are also dark-skinned; it can be assumed it's meant to be a sign of age in the innkeeper, but her assistant's appearance has no apparent explanation. It doesn't help that the assistant has bright red lips to go along with it.
  • Ambiguously Human: While the Medicine Man claims to be human, his Facial Markings, Pointy Ears, fangs, demonic sword, supernatural powers, long lifespan and alter-ego suggest otherwise.
  • Anachronism Stew: The series freely mixes Art Nouveau-inspired decor with the Edo setting.
  • Animalistic Abomination:
    • The Bakeneko resembles a vast, grinning cat.
    • The mysterious fish bard, voiced by Norio Wakamoto, is a fish-human Mononoke that reveals people's fears.
  • Animal Motif:
  • Art Initiates Life: Several screen paintings come to life in the Nue arc. Also a pair of sparrows on the wall of Cho's home in Noppera-Bo spread their wings and fly away.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • Cho confesses to murdering her abusive husband and in-laws in the Noppera-Bo arc. It's not true, as they're later revealed to be still alive; Cho secretly hates them so much that she wished they were dead. However, she eventually leaves them behind in the end, thanks to the Medicine Seller.
    • Two of the four suitors in the Nue arc murdered another suitor and Princess Ruri, respectively. Even the one suitor who got killed at the beginning was a deeply unpleasant Jerkass who looked down on everyone else.
    • In the Bakeneko arc, Setsuko's newspaper boss. He was in cahoots with the corrupt mayor and he killed Setsuko to silence her instead of merely burning her papers as the mayor ordered. Thus, he ends up murdered by Setsuko's vengeful spirit in the end.
  • Badass Boast: The Medicine Seller gives one in the Umi-Bozu arc.
    "Ayakashi, Mononoke, Umi-Bozu. As long as darkness exists within the hearts of men, there will always be more. Let them come, for my invitation is what they fear most."
  • Bag of Holding: Despite the small size of the Medicine Seller's backpack's compartments, he can fit hundreds of Mononoke-detecting scales, and possibly more inside.
  • Batman Gambit: Planned by the Medicine Seller in two arcs.
    • The Noppera-Bo arc has the Medicine Seller disguises himself as the Masked Man (or at least has his alter-ego act on his behalf) to bring Cho out of her self-imposed shell, and exploit her long-suppressed desire to be free in order to reveal the Mononoke.
    • The Nue arc has the Medicine Seller reenact the incense ceremonies with long-dead spirits in order to determine what happened to the people who died in that place, and reveal the Mononoke responsible.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: If someone is initially presented as wise, patient, or kind, odds are, they're actually behind the whole thing.
  • Bishōnen: You can see why ladies love the graceful good looks of the Medicine Man.
  • Bittersweet Ending: To almost every arc.
    • The Umibōzu arc has Genkei accepting his darker feelings, such as his incestuous feelings towards his sister and the fact that he was happy she sacrificed herself in his place. Though his sister is long-dead, he has achieved inner peace as a reward for atoning.
    • The Nue arc ends with the Medicine Seller destroying both the Nue and Todaiji, which is actually a rotting piece of wood. Although thousands of people have died, their spirits are able to pass on to the afterlife with the death of their killer, while preventing anyone from becoming future victims.
  • BFS: The Medicine Man's sword looks so... stunted in its little case, but once he gets his Shape, Truth and Reason, it can grow as long as a building.
  • Bland-Name Product: Zeiko watches in the Bakeneko arc.
  • Black Eyes of Evil: Played with. The Medicine Man's other form has red irises and black sclera; while he isn't "evil" per se, if you're a mononoke you had better stay well clear.
  • Blatant Lies: Despite what the Medicine Seller calls himself in the page caption, he's far from a simple medicine seller.
  • Blood from the Mouth: In the manga, the Medicine Seller coughs blood after the Bakeneko socks him in the chest.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: The mononoke, as explained in the manga.
  • Body Horror: So very much. One word - fishbaby.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: A major motivation for Genkei, and was the reason for the creation of the mononoke in the Umi-Bozu arc. Genkei was implied to have been chosen as a sacrifice for the ayakashi because of this, only for his sister to take his place because she too, couldn't bear to marry any man that wasn't her brother. Genkei's refusal to accept this trope was what caused him to become a Mononoke.
  • Call-Back: Kayo, the servant girl who worked for the family haunted by the Bakeneko in Ayakashi, is a main character in the Umi-Bozu arc. What seem to be reincarnations of her and that entire family also show up in the last arc, mainly for the purpose of planting Epileptic Trees.
  • Catchphrase: "Tada no kusuriuri desu yo," or in English, "I'm just a simple medicine seller."
  • Characterization Marches On: In Ayakashi's Bakeneko arc, the Medicine Seller is less stoic and more overtly snarky than he is in this series, where he is eternally unruffled and limits his snark to the slightest of knowing smirks regarding events surrounding him. Possibly justified, as it has been some time since then, and the Medicine Seller has been largely desensitized to human cruelty.
  • Closed Circle: Happens about once an episode, though it's justified due to the Medicine Man closing off all the exits to prevent the mononoke attacking and/or escaping. Additionally, the Umi-Bozu arc is set on a boat and the Bakeneko arc in a train carriage.
  • Crossover: With Onmyōji for the anime's 10-year anniversary. The Medicine Man is released as a limited-offer SSR shikigami.
  • Dark-Skinned Blond: The Medicine Man turns into a pale-haired, dark-skinned being after unsheathing his sword.
  • Dead All Along: Every human exclusive to the Nue arc. Their spirits were kept in an eternal "Groundhog Day" Loop by the Todaiji so they could continue looking for it, satisfying the Todaiji's ego. As a side-effect, they are unaware that they're dead, so they're reliving the day they died over and over again. The Medicine Seller eventually brought these spirits closure by destroying the Todaiji.
  • Deadpan Snarker: The Medicine Man is shown to possess a brutally dry wit, especially when it concerns people who annoy him or get in his way (like the idiotic samurai from the original Bakeneko arc).
  • Deliberately Monochrome: Much of the Nue arc; the backgrounds are all like this and only certain important aspects of characters are coloured. However the Medicine Man is in full colour, and after he takes down the mononoke the rest of the colour returns, though it's a little hard to tell if that's real or not. It's implied towards the end that this trope was deliberately invoked to show unlike the Medicine Seller, every person in the Nue arc is long dead, and he's just appeasing their spirits.
  • Deranged Animation: Oh yes. Keeps things interesting whenever a Character Filibuster occurs. Notable examples being the reveal of the Umi-Bozu, and the Bakeneko's finale in Episode 12, among numerous others.
  • Detect Evil: As in the first Bakeneko arc, the Medicine Seller's scales tip to point wherever the Mononoke is.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: The Medicine Seller does this in every arc. Despite being human, he's somehow able to kill mononoke. Hell, he not only kills them, but by his own admission, he absolutely terrifies them!
  • Distinguished Gentleman's Pipe: The fox-masked ayakashi smokes a kiseru, which where considered very upscale during the Edo period. He also uses it for meelee combat, which some larger ones could. It's actually the Medicine Seller's pipe, and the two are implied to be one and the same.
  • Dramatic Pause: The... Medicine... Man... loves... this trope.
  • Dramatic Wind: The Medicine Man seems to be affected by this even when he's indoors. Plus, it's sparkly.
  • The Dreaded: Apparently, the Medicine Seller is this to mononoke and ayakashi. It's implied that one of the only reasons why mononoke attack him is because they can't resist their own compulsions. And Nue, one of the few mononoke who doesn't recognize him? As soon as it figures out who the Medicine Seller really is, it becomes absolutely terrified.
  • Driven to Suicide: Cho's husband's first wife — or so it is said.
  • Drone of Dread: Whenever the Medicine Seller detects a Mononoke and/or when something creepy is about to happen, an ominous violin melody starts playing.
  • Due to the Dead: At the end of the Bakeneko arc, the train's passengers are seen placing flowers and praying at the spot where Setsuko died, echoing the first Bakeneko arc in Ayakashi where Kayo and Odajima erect a small shrine at a well that Tamaki's body was dumped into by one of the culprits.
  • Dull Surprise:
    • The unflappable Medicine Man. If he's wearing this expression, expect all the other characters to be completely freaking out.
    • Cho from the Noppera-Bo arc barely reacts to the bizarre occurrences around her, even the strangely-dressed Medicine Seller. Justified, as she has erased or deeply suppressed a large part of her own personality. When her defenses are finally broken and her condition as a Mononoke is revealed, she freaks out for real.
  • Editorial Synaesthesia: Artistically utilized in the Nue arc.
  • Emotionless Girl: Played realistically in the Noppera-Bo arc with Cho. She suppressed almost everything about herself to appease her domineering mother and become the ideal wife for her obnoxious husband, even though it hurts her to do so. This erasure of personality caused her to turn into a Mononoke. When the truth is revealed to her, she freaks out.
  • Empathic Weapon: The demon sword, which seems to have a mind of its own and even speaks or screams occasionally ("TOKIHANAAATSU").
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Well, what else are you going to call the Medicine Man?
  • Faceless Masses: Done very stylishly. The exact specifics depend on the arc, but they'll have clothes, weird skin tones, and usually something... abstract instead of a face.
    • Zashiki-Warashi: While the background characters have hair and clothing, their skin is blank white or black with spinning flower motifs. This is especially unsettling given the brothel setting—on a few occasions, these flower-faced creatures are shown mid-coitus with normal, fully-featured humans.
    • Noppera-Bo: The abusive in-laws' faces are never shown on camera; if one of their heads is shown, the face is covered with a demonic mask.
    • Bakeneko: Anyone who isn't connected with the Bakeneko's revenge is a half-dressed fashion mannequin during any action that takes place in the Bakeneko's illusion or in a flashback. Again, it's very strange to see a normal, non-insane woman in bed with a blank-faced mannequin. And one person even turns from a mannequin into one of the main characters, perhaps to represent the audience suddenly realizing that character is important.
  • Facial Markings: And they change when he draws his sword.
  • Fate Worse than Death: In Bakeneko the titular Mononoke subjects anyone who steps outside the train car (or simply waiting until they give an important clue) to offing them with invisible cats and leaving them in a perpetual state of rot in its illusion. However, once her killer (her boss) - and therefore her Regret - is revealed, she lets everyone aside from him go unharmed.
  • Fetus Terrible:
    • A whole army of them in the Zashiki-Warashi arc. They're the spirits of many aborted babies, who were killed against their mothers' will so they could continue working as prostitutes.
    • And an illusionary one in the Umi-Bozu arc. It represents Kayo's fear of miscarriaging, or at least, giving birth to a deformed child.
  • Flying Dutchman: The Medicine Man's purpose is to wander the earth eternally, exorcising mononoke; but it's quite difficult to figure out whether he does this out of choice or whether he has been forced to do so and is taking it really well.
    • In fact, the series ends with an arc set in the 1920s, whereas the other arcs take place during slightly different time periods from before the Meiji restoration.
  • The Gadfly: The Medicine Seller seems to enjoy messing with people. Especially obvious in the manga adaptation.
  • Ghostly Goals: Each mononoke has something it died wishing to accomplish.
    • The Zashiki-warashi was the result of multiple abortions made against their mothers' will so they can continue working as prostitutes. As such, the spirits of the unborn babies haunted the place they died in until they found a woman who was completely willing to "give birth" to them - namely Shino, who happened to be pregnant.
    • The Umi-Bozu was the darker half of Genkei who, unable to accept the fact that he harbored incestuous feelings towards his beloved sister and that he felt happy when she became the ayakashi's sacrifice in his place, had discarded those darker feelings which gave birth to a mononoke. Remember that fish person who was revealing everyone's worst fear? It was Genkei's mononoke, trying to make him acknowledge and accept his feelings regarding his deceased sister.
    • The Noppera-Bo was born from Cho's long-suppressed wish to be free and live her life as she wanted. For years she had to put up with her abusive mother, husband, and in-laws, and in order to please them she erased everything, including her own personality, to fit their high expectations, unwittingly turning herself into a mononoke in the process.
    • The Nue is actually a rotting piece of wood that is rumored to give the person who wields it great power, and as a result is heavily sought after. The reason why it keeps killing people is because it loves the feeling of being regarded so highly, and keeps the souls of those people it murdered from passing on so they'll keep looking for it.
    • The Bakeneko (no, not that one) was the vengeful spirit of a young journalist who had combined with a cat that was present at her murder. She had uncovered corruption involving the mayor and the new train station's construction. The mayor asked her chief to keep this quiet, and he ended up burning her notes, strangling her, and dropping her off a bridge to be killed by a train in a fake suicide. She has been looking for her killer ever since, venting her anger, grief and hatred on anyone who might be connected to him.
  • Girlish Pigtails: Despite being in her twenties, Chiyo wears her hair in braids.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: Almost nothing is seen of the Bakeneko except its huge, round, burning yellow eyes.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: The Zashaki-Warashi was the result of the spirits of multitudes of unborn children holding a grudge for being aborted. The two most responsible for the practice are killed, while the heroine Shino, who planned to carry her baby to term and was willing to birth the Mononoke at the cost of her own baby, is the only leading player to survive the night. She ends up keeping her child in the end.
  • Go Out with a Smile: The zashiki-warashi, as they have finally found the mother who was willing to give birth to them even at the cost of her own child.
  • Grey-and-Grey Morality: The entire series has this as its basis. The Mononoke are vicious eldritch beings, but most of them ultimately originated from human cruelty. The humans themselves are ultimately flawed beings, with good and bad people.
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop: The Nue arc. The titular Nue was created because the Todaiji is actually a rotting piece of wood that derived pleasure from being regarded highly by others, so it did everything in its power to make people look for it for eternity. It was eventually stopped thanks to the Medicine Seller's intervention.
  • Heel–Face Turn:In the finale of Bakeneko on both sides with different levels (though it's a little unclear in motivations and plot; and it can be interpreted in many ways) the Bakeneko might have realized that even if the people were not entirely good, they weren't entirely to blame and were really just bystanders who didn't really deserve a punishment (that honor goes to her boss, who directly caused her death; and the Mayor, who is put on trial for his dubious actions) and lets them all go back to reality. On the other side, almost everyone becomes a better person, either helping the testimony, or paying their respects. The mayor is let go because he simply thought the boss was going to convince her not to run the article that would ruin him.
    • The Detective, who dismissed her death as a suicide out of laziness, looks into her death way better than his initial investigation.
    • The Train Operator, who fell asleep at the wheel and didn't notice her until it was far too late, cooperates with the Detective on his investigation.
    • The Café Worker, who prostituted herself to the Mayor and lied about it being a suicide to become famous; the Delivery Boy, who was a witness to the killing; and the Widow, who wanted her dead for being more successful and pitying her, bring flowers to the site of her death and pay respect (and may have testified).
  • Henohenomoheji: For the Medicine Man in the Noppera-Bo arc.
  • Horrifying the Horror: The Medicine Seller outright states in the fourth episode that his invitation is what ayakashi and mononoke fear the most. Justified, since the Medicine Seller, in his human form, is strong enough to hold powerful mononoke at bay for a limited period of time, and his other form can outright kill them. It's quite possible that, while not shown in the series, most ayakashi would rather flee than confront a man who survived fighting mononoke for centuries, and that the mononoke only fight him because they cannot resist their compulsions.
  • Humans Are Bastards: One of the main themes of the series as many mononoke are created due human cruelty.
  • I Know Your True Name: The mononoke's "katachi" (which can mean "name" or "form") is one of three factors that must be known to the Medicine Man before he can draw the Sword of Exorcism.
  • Implausible Hair Color: The Medicine Man, Genkei (even though his sister has black hair), Shino from the Zashiki-Warashi arc... not to mention some characters who look like they're of African descent, complete with afros to match.
  • Inexplicably Awesome: Kusuriuri. We have no idea who he is, where he comes from or how he got his powers, only that he kicks mononoke butt for a living and looks fabulous while doing it.
  • Irony: In Japanese folklore, Zashiki-Warashi are child-like spirits that bring good luck. Here, they're the spirits of forcibly aborted babies that haunt the inn of two former brothel owners responsible for the abortions.
  • It Can't Be Helped: In the first episode, the elderly innkeeper gets tired of arguing with the pregnant foreigner over how there's no room in the inn. She just gives up, says it can't be helped, and lets her sleep in the abandoned room in the attic.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: In the Zashiki-Warashi arc, the elderly innkeeper was revealed to be a very attractive young woman during the time when the abortions took place.
  • Jerkass Realization: Subtle, but the last arc's villain, the Bakeneko, seems to realize how unfair it was to lump everyone into being her victims as she watches the whole story through their points of view. It pays off when she not only gives them all a second chance to make right by her, but is allowed to get her revenge on her old boss as she is purified.
  • Jidaigeki: Though it frequently jumps throughout different eras.
  • Jump Cut: Used deliberately and frequently, the better to increase viewer confusion.
  • Kabuki Sounds: Used to punctuate the eye catches and endings.
  • Kansai Regional Accent: The characters from the Nue arc speak with a Kyoto dialect, since the story is set around the old capital.
  • Karmic Death: It's either this or nothing! Genkei from the Umi-Bozu arc manages to escape, though narrowly, by repenting for his sins. The least he got was being physically reverted to the age of a young man, around the time his sister died, so he could relive his life.
  • Large Ham: The minstrel and the minstrel-like-fish-demon-thing who appear in the Umi-Bozu arc. To be fair, the latter was voiced by Norio Wakamoto.
  • Letting Her Hair Down: Played tragically in the Noppera-Bo arc. Cho's hair coming loose completely represents her mental and emotional breakdown as the Medicine Seller slowly breaks through her defenses.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: Though the Medicine Seller is far from incompetent, he keeps up the facade of a "simple medicine seller"... until he starts suspecting a Mononoke is near, which is when he starts turning into a detective of sorts. By the time the Mononoke has made its move, the Medicine Seller unleashes his true power in the form of his alter-ego, who obliterates the Mononoke completely.
  • Literal Split Personality: Or something along those lines. It's implied that the Medicine Man's normal and demon-slaying personas are two separate entities who switch places as necessary, and at one point the normal persona passes the demon-slayer a mirror to shield himself with.
  • Little Bit Beastly: The Medicine Man has abnormally long canine teeth.
  • Living Memory: The mononoke can manifest as this. Justified, as they are spawned from acts of human cruelty.
  • Long-Haired Pretty Boy: The Medicine Man's normal form is the 'shoulder-length hair' type, while his mononoke-slaying alter-ego has much longer hair.
  • Luminescent Blush: Standard female reaction to the Medicine Man's appearance.
  • Malaproper: The Medicine Man ends up mangling a Japanese idiom (or to be exact, mixing two idioms together) regarding fish, in the Noppera-Bo arc.
  • Marked Change: When the Medicine Man switches into mononoke-slayer mode, he starts getting elaborate facial markings that weren't there in his normal mode.
  • Mask Power: Masks play an important symbolic role throughout the Noppera-Bo arc.
    • The Fox Man in the Noppera-Bo arc, though his physical resemblance to the Medicine Man causes a Mind Screw. It's implied to be his alter-ego secretly acting on the Medicine's behalf in order to make Cho lower her guard.
    • The faces of Cho's abusive in-laws are covered with demonic masks, depicting them antagonistic forces and Cho's true feelings regarding them; they're so abusive cruel to her that Cho secretly likens them to demons.
    • Cho often has a serene face that's likened to a mask. Because she suppressed everything about herself to appease her mother and in-laws, she essentially became something that no longer resembles Cho as a human, hence her transformation into a Mononoke.
  • Mind Screw: And how!
  • Monster of the Week: The four arcs are named after, and focuses on, the Mononoke that the Medicine Seller hunts down.
  • Mugging the Monster: In the Nue arc, the mononoke attempted to torture the Medicine Seller via an eternal "Groundhog Day" Loop. Needless to say, the mononoke very soon came to regret it.
  • Mukokuseki: Mostly averted, with the obvious exception of the Medicine Man. However, Shino and Genkei both have blond hair and blue eyes; Genkei's pass without comment, but the innkeeper's servant seems shocked to see Shino's hair color after she removes her head scarf, suggesting that she might really be a foreigner (that said, the innkeeper and the aforementioned servant appear to be black to no in-universe reaction...).
  • Musical Assassin: The fish-headed Mononoke from the Umi-Bozu arc, who carries a biwa. Though he doesn't harm his targets, his music makes people relive their worst fears.
  • My Beloved Smother: Cho's mother from the Noppera-Bo arc. She groomed Cho to be the bride of a high-ranking family from a young age, while forbidding her daughter from doing things she liked such as playing with other children. It's all but confirmed later on that she only wanted Cho to marry whoever was rich enough so that she can feel like she appeased her ancestors. It's no wonder Cho became so messed up in adulthood.
  • Mysterious Past: No-one really knows anything about the Medicine Man; his past, origins, intentions, motivation for slaying mononoke, true personality and species all remain an enigma throughout.
  • Mystical White Hair: The Medicine Seller's mononoke-slaying persona, who also has Rapunzel Hair.
  • Nightmare Face: The Medicine Seller, of all people, makes one occasionally. It's an animal-like snarl that looks totally out of place on him.
  • Noblewoman's Laugh: Princess Ruri in the Nue arc.
  • No Name Given: The Medicine Seller. To be fair, no one bothers to ask for it either...
  • Not So Stoic: Played for drama.
    • Sasaki Hyouei in the Umi-Bozu arc normally speaks in a quiet Creepy Monotone, but completely loses his shit when trying to attack something or being attacked by his greatest fear.
    • Cho in the Noppera-Bo arc resembles the ideal wife of the period, being emotionally passive and serene. The truth is that she does have feelings, but they're suppressed to appease her domineering mother and the abusive family she married into. Over time, she emotionally breaks down thanks to the Medicine Seller bypassing her defenses, and once she realizes she became a Mononoke as a result, she screams in horror.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: One of the characters in the Umi-Bozu arc gets targeted by the demon's Fear Inducing biwa. He sees something, takes a bite out of it, and then sees something in it so horrible he immediately goes to vomit over a nearby railing. This is all shown from the other characters perspective, so the audience never sees whats really going on as he makes the motions. It could've been something as mundane as rotten food, or something far more grotesque...
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Taken Up to Eleven in the Noppera-Bo arc; Her husband treats his wives almost like slaves, and his family is just as abusive and cruel. You almost don't blame Cho for wanting them gone.
  • Oh, Crap!:
  • Omniscient Morality License: The Medicine Man even says that his job is just to defeat the mononoke, and he has no obligation to save the people involved. Given the series' Grey-and-Grey Morality this makes sense.
  • Only Sane Man: Out of the four suitors to Princess Ruri in the Nue arc, Oosawa Robou is the only person who is neither murderer nor Jerkass. In fact, the Medicine Man simply tricks him into realizing he is dead instead of revealing sins like other suitors.
  • Panty Shot: A particularly disturbing example in the Bakeneko arc, as Setsuko's underwear are clearly visible while her boss strangles her.
  • Paper Talisman: The Medicine Man uses these frequently and he has a TON of them hidden up his sleeves.
  • Pointy Ears: The Medicine Man, which make him look vaguely elf-like.
  • Power Limiter: The Sword of Exorcism can't be drawn until the Medicine Man solves the mystery. (See Rule Of Three below.)
  • Psychological Horror: Though some of the scare factor comes from the Mononoke themselves, a lot of it comes from the process of learning about people, the cruelties they committed to create the Mononoke in question, and why they did it.
  • The Rashomon: Absolutely no one tells the truth the first time they're asked for their story. A lot of the time they pay for it, too.
  • Really 700 Years Old: It's implied the main character has been around a long time. Even in the Bakeneko arc, set about 200 years later than the others, he still retains his youthful looks.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning:
    • The Medicine Man's other form has red irises and black sclera, and he usually emerges when it's time to get rid of malevolent mononoke or slice something up.
    • The Bakeneko in the last episode, made particularly scary by the fact that the eyes are also seemingly sketched-in and swirling around in her eye sockets.
  • Red String of Fate: A variation involving a red cloth between and unborn child and their parents. A much more traditional example appears in the OP, with a red string tied to the pinky finger.
  • Reincarnation: Implied. The mononoke in the final arc (Episodes 10-12) is a Bakeneko, and the characters seem to be reincarnations of the people from the original Ayakashi arc (where the enemy was also a Bakeneko). Funny the little coincidences, eh?
  • Rule of Three: The Medicine Man needs the mononoke's Shape (形 katachi), Truth (誠 makoto), and Reason (理 kotowari) in order to purify it.
    • Shape would be the appearance the Mononoke takes
    • Truth would be the circumstances of its appearance
    • Reason would be the motive for the Mononoke.
  • Sad Battle Music: "Kanashige", the BGM for mononoke-slaying in the Umi-Bozu arc.
  • Scenery Porn: Oh hell, is there ever! The scenery is so rich, detailed and colourful it's like going on a (very beautiful) acid trip.
  • Ship Tease: The Medicine Man and Kayo (and later her reincarnation, Chiyo).
  • Shout-Out: The painting on the boat in the Umi-Bozu arc is reminiscent of the 1907 artwork The Kiss by Klimt. There is also a Matisse Blue Dancers reference in the Nue arc and a Picasso in Bakeneko.
  • Shown Their Work: The Nue arc features a fairly accurate depiction of the antiquated and complex traditions surrounding Japanese incense. The incense parlor games portrayed by the episode, for instance, actually existed. The Rannatai and the Todai-ji also have basis in reality. Todai-ji is, in real life, the temple housing the Ranjatai (the basis of Mononoke's Rannatai). The Ranjatai is a piece of agarwood that was a diplomatic gift from China to Emperor Shomu in the sixth century. Its aroma somehow lasted for centuries, and fragments would be given to high-profile generals and nobles. In Mononoke, the Rannatai is the reason those people became powerful in the first place.
  • "Silly Me" Gesture: The Medicine Man in the ninth episode with plenty of sarcasm, when he "realizes" that he's given poisonous oleander to one of the characters.
  • Situational Sword: Why exactly it needs to empathise with the mononoke before slaying it is never explained.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Very much on the cynical end.
  • Smoking Is Cool: The main character definitely gets points for smoking a pipe at the end of the Noppera-Bo arc.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Officially, it's Mo No No Ke.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: The Noppera-Bo and Cho.
  • Stepford Smiler: Deconstructed in the Noppera-Bo arc. Cho grew up with an emotionally abusive, domineering mother, and later married into a wealthy yet equally unpleasant family, but she refuses to escape her horrible situation and insists she loves them. This eventually turns her into a Mononoke.
  • The Stinger: Right when you think you've more or less got an arc figured out, its stinger will show up and confuses you to hell and back.
  • The Stoic: The Medicine Man's emotional range is, at best, "somewhat bemused" and "fighting a mononoke". He showed much more emotion in the original Ayakashi arc.
  • Story Arc: Zashiki-Warashi, Umi-Bozu, Noppera-Bo, Nue, and Bakeneko. However, aside from featuring the Medicine Man doing his job, they're unrelated.
  • Surreal Horror: Due to the show's unorthodox yet colorful art designs, and the setting deriving itself from the more supernatural side of Japan, some of its more nightmarish sequences appear like very nasty drug trips.
  • Theme Naming: All the tracks on the OST are written in katakana and end in "怪" (ke/ge), just like "Mononoke".
  • Theme Tune Cameo: The radio plays the instrumental mix of the opening theme in Setsuko's room while she's writing in the Bakeneko arc.
  • This Is Unforgivable!: The Bakeneko's only first-hand dialogue.
  • Time Skip: The Bakeneko arc takes place in the 1920s while the rest appears to be set in the Edo Period, but the Medicine Man himself hasn't changed at all (besides having some new jewelry). There are arguably small hints in each arc that time skips forward about 50 years in between each of them.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: Genkei and Cho; they're actually the mononoke and don't realize it.
  • Transformation Sequence: The most awesome one ever animated. Unlike most anime transformations, the Medicine Seller's transitions into his alter-ego gets mixed up a ton, too, ensuring that it'll never get boring while remaining super pretty.
  • 12-Episode Anime: Mononoke is rather short for an anime, with only twelve episodes under its belt, but it's packed with action, mystery, and horror.
  • Unmoving Plaid: Further emphasizes the generally odd art style.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Everyone that the Medicine Seller encounters, due to either having faulty memory, or lying about their misdeeds. The Medicine Seller also counts, as he's repeatedly shown to be far more than the "simple medicine seller" he usually is.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: The Medicine Man, who amongst other things is blond and blue-eyed. Particularly in the Bakeneko arc, when in addition to being a guy with pointy ears and red markings all over his face in the middle of a Japanese cast, he's also dressed a good 100 years out of date. Even in the other arcs, his manner of dress is pretty bizarre, mixing male/female styles and gaudy aristocratic fabrics despite his humble profession, as well as allusions to Ainu culture. It's possibly justified as he explains at one point that people who seek folk remedies expect their seller to look exotic.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Gender-inverted; Cho and her domineering mother have this kind of relationship. In an effort to please her mother, who only wanted her to marry so she could appease her ancestors, Cho almost completely suppressed a large part of her own personality to the point of becoming a Mononoke.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: The "regret" of some of the mononoke could make them this, especially the titular Mononoke from the Noppera-Bo and Bakeneko arcs, respectively.
  • Workaholic: It's even implied in Episode 4 that should the Medicine Man be unable to exorcise mononoke (or conversely, should all mononoke cease to exist) he'd disappear from this world. So it's quite difficult to figure out whether he's truly devoted to his duty or whether he has no other choice — though going by his frequent displays of enthusiasm and interest in the mononoke and their histories, he seems to be genuinely fond of "work".
  • World of Symbolism: Pretty much the only way to make sense of the series... especially the Noppera-Bo arc.
  • Youkai: The Mononoke are based on traditional Japanese monsters, with a modern twist added to play with the mystery/horror genre. Rather than being interchangeable, mononoke are defined as a specific kind of being.


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