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Manga / The Morose Mononokean

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Hanae Ashiya has never believed in demons or spirits — until the day he accidentally steps on a youkai and it attaches itself to him, causing him to spend every day of his first week of high school in the infirmary. Desperate to free himself of the demon, he enlists the help of Haruitsuki Abeno, the morose owner of a tea shop called the Mononokean, to exorcise it. Upon its exorcism, Ashiya is forced into working at the Mononokean to pay off his debt of one million en — the Inderworld's currency.

The Morose Mononokean (Fukigen na Mononokean, literally meaning "Morose Spirit Teahouse") is a supernatural comedy manga by Kiri Wazawa that ran in Square Enix's online web manga magazine, Gangan Online from 2013 to 2021. It can be read in Japanese on Gangan Online and in English on Crunchyroll.

An anime adaptation, announced in February 2016, and began to air in July. It is available to stream on Crunchyroll.

The Morose Mononokean contains examples of:

  • Animorphism: Inverted. Most demons originally have animaloid forms, but they can transform into a humanoid if they are powerful enough. Koura, Shizuku and the Legislator almost always appear in their humanoid forms, even though Shizuku's transformation is still imperfect (she's unable to get rid of her newt tail).
  • Art Evolution: There's a pretty noticeable difference when comparing Abeno from chapter 1 to chapter 2, and his appearance changes again by chapter 13, albeit only slightly.
  • Body Horror: The parasitic shrub that can infect youkai causes roots and branches to start growing out of them while still alive and aware, until they become a whole tree. Koura can make medicine to fight it temporarily, but it does so by setting the roots on fire and can cause so much pain that the youkai dies.
  • Comm Links: The Underworld lacks modern technology and uses tadpole youkai to create a voice link in place of cellphones, with one being sent over to the recipient of the call. They come in several varieties, with the Executive's having feathers, and one can even forget to hang up the tadpole line, allowing for eavesdropping.
  • Conveniently Seated: Played with. The class is seated according to attendance number, with Ashiya in the seat in front of Abeno. They both sit next to the window, but because they're 1st and 2nd respectively on the attendance list, they sit at the very front.
  • Creepy Crows: These show up to foreshadow the first appearance of the Executive, who is himself creepy and whose youkai form is a crow.
  • Demonic Possession:
    • Youkai can possess humans and even other youkai, and some are more easily possessed than others. Even if the youkai doesn't mean any harm, this causes symptoms similar to anemia in humans; if it does, the possessed can be ordered to do things they would never ordinarily do.
    • Ashiya's Influence was originally his dad's - and the part of his dad's soul that still hated youkai came with it. On one occasion, it takes over his body to kill a youkai, and at another point to berate Abeno.
  • "Do It Yourself" Theme Tune: The ending theme is performed by the voice actors of Ashiya and Abeno.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Legislator, the Justice and the Executive are always referred to by their titles, even though it's mentioned that they have personal names. These names are only revealed in the official fanbook.
  • Extra-Dimensional Shortcut: The Mononokean can open doors that can lead to anywhere, allowing for faster travel during emergencies.
  • Floral Theme Naming: Ashiya and his sister both have flower-themed names; their name of their mom, a florist, means 'oak'.
  • Flower Motifs: Flowers show up often and are a prominent motif on every cover of the manga. Several seem to be symbolic - such as hollyhocks or tachi-aoi representing the character Aoi - and Ashiya's mom, a florist, occasionally invokes flower language.
  • Foreshadowing: The first time Ashiya is threatened by a youkai, he starts speaking and acting strangely, but it's some volumes before the reason for this is explained.
  • Funny Background Event:
    • Fuzzy often provides these.
    • In chapter 35, the two tadpole youkai creating a call are brought together and start nuzzling each other in the background of a serious scene, then escape the room together when things get heavy.
  • Fun Size:
    • Kinako is essentially a palm-sized Yahiko with shorter legs and generally rounder features. No wonder Zenko is instantly smitten when she sees her.
    • Aoi becomes small and extremely cute after being rid of the parasite shrub.
  • Freudian Trio: Of the three rulers of the Underworld, the Legislator is extremely laid-back and irresponsible (Id), the Executive is stern and efficient (Superego), while the Justice is not as carefree as the Legislator, but isn't as uptight as the Executive either, and often acts as a mediator when the other two are fighting (Ego).
  • Genius Loci: The Mononokean is a demon that takes the form of a tearoom. It communicates with those inside of it through writing on a hanging scroll.
  • Hollywood Exorcism: Averted. What exorcism entails here is simply opening a gate to the Underworld for a demon to pass through.
  • Identical Stranger: Subverted. During his first excursion to the Underworld, Ashiya goes after a demon whom he thought was Fuzzy due to their similar size, shape and colour, but upon closer inspection, it looks nothing like Fuzzy. Despite this, Ashiya continues to call this second demon Fuzzy's clone/Doppelg√§nger.
  • Invisible Parents: Unlike Ashiya and Zenko's parents, Abeno's parents are never so much as mentioned in the series itself, and his relationship with various youkai takes their narrative place. (According to the official fanbook, however, they are alive and well.)
  • Implausible Hair Color: Abeno (and Sakae, originally) has golden hair and eyes, which is noted several times by other characters. Ashiya even asks in an extra comic if he's from Europe or a youkai, but it's actually because he was born with the ability to use Influence.
  • Land, Sea, Sky: The true forms of the three ruling powers of the Underworld have this as a motif—the Justice being a tiger, the Legislator being a newt, and the Executive being a bird.
  • Mistaken Identity: At one point, the Justice is hanging around the city with Ashiya riding his back, while the Legislator and Abeno go shopping. The shop owner recognizes the Legislator, who reveals that the Justice is also with him. Everyone then assumes that Ashiya is the Justice, and thinks that the actual Justice is some wild beast he has managed to tame.
  • Mystical White Hair: A lot of the humanoid demons have white hair, such as Yahiko, Shizuku, the Legislator and the Executive. Fuzzy and his clone also have white fur.
  • The Nicknamer: Fushimi tends to nickname his friends. Ashiya is "Ashiyan" and Abeno is "Abenon." Ashiya also calls Fushimi "Fusshi."
  • Our Demons Are Different: A common example of "youkai" being translated as "demons". Most of the ones that Abeno and Ashiya encounter are benign.
  • Out-of-Character Alert: During hide-and-seek in the graveyard, this is how Ashiya knows Abeno is actually Yahiko shapeshifted. While Abeno only ever calls Fuzzy "Hairball," Yahiko calls him "Fuzzy" while taking on Abeno's form. When Abeno shows up shortly after, Zenko holds up Fuzzy and asks Abeno to name him, to which he says "Hairball."
  • Remember the New Guy?: When talking to Zenko about his family, Ashiya only ever talks about his mother, and relates how being the eldest son makes him feel obligated to succeed her business. Several volumes later, we learn that he has an older sister whom he never mentioned, even though they seem to get along quite well.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: A lot of the youkai the characters meet are very adorable, such as Fuzzy, a spherical dog-like creature with big eyes, and Kinako, who (after her transformation) looks just like a tiny fennec fox.
  • Scary Scarecrows: One of the youkai Ashiya and Abeno help, Nobou, is a friendly one-eyed scarecrow yokai who is stuck in a mud- and smoke-covered potato field, reliving a phantasmagoria of the day his friend, a regular scarecrow, died. When the field was set on fire, Nobou tried to carry his friend to safety, but had to abandon him to save himself. He thinks his friend's resentment caused the smoke and mud until Abeno points out that the cause is his own guilt, and that he can't send him to the Underworld if Nobou doesn't first free himself. Nobou makes peace with what happened and moves on, and the mud and smoke likewise disappear.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Aoi barely shows up on page, as they disappeared before the beginning of the series, but the effects of their actions have major impacts on the other characters. Ashiya's dad died on a mission with them; they passed his Influence on to Ashiya, giving him powers, but also causing him to be possessed; their supposed death leads to Abeno unhappily becoming the Mononokean master, though he still searches for them; and after their absence causes problems when the Princess becomes ill, their rescue takes up the last arc of the manga.
  • Spirit World: The Underworld, a place inhabited only by youkai and protected by the Princess. Youkai can live in the human world as well, but if they are weak enough, like Kinako, the strain of it can cause them to disappear.
  • Thinking Up Portals: Abeno can summon the door to the Mononokean from anywhere. Likewise, it's possible to summon a door to another place from within the Mononokean as well.
  • Those Two Guys: Ashiya has two "mundane" friends, named Fushimi and Saga, but they don't get a lot of characterization or depth, and they pretty much have no role but to give Ashiya some levity in his daily life.
  • Two Guys and a Girl: While the story mostly focuses on Abeno and Ashiya, Zenko sometimes joins the duo in their jobs.
  • We Are as Mayflies: Humans and demons are like this. The Mononokean brings it up when Fuzzy ignores Ashiya for a while, saying that the time Fuzzy shares with Ashiya is invaluable, as humans live far shorter lives than demons; the clock is always ticking.
  • Work Off the Debt: How Ashiya is forced into working for the Mononokean; he can't pay it off in regular money as Abeno wants to be paid in Underworld currency.
  • Youkai

Alternative Title(s): Fukigen Na Mononokean