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 toil in the school infirmary for the first week of high school. 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 underworld's currency.
The Morose Mononokean is a 2013 supernatural comedy manga by Kiri Wazawa that runs in Square Enix's online web manga magazine, Gangan Online. It can be read in Japanese on Gangan Online and in English 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.
- 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.
- "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 they presumably have their own, personal names.
- Extra-Dimensional Shortcut: The Mononokean can open doors that can lead to anywhere, allowing for faster travel during emergencies.
- Fun Size: Kinako is essentially a palm-sized Yahiko with shorter legs and generally rounder features. No wonder Zenko is instantly smitten when she saw her.
- 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), the Justice is not as carefree as the Legislator, but isn't as uptight as the Executive either, and would often act as a mediator when the other two has an infighting (Ego).
- Genius Loci: The Mononokean is a demon that takes the form of a tearoom. It communicates with its inhabitants 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 went after a demon whom he initially thought was Fuzzy due to their similar size, shape and build; but upon closer inspection, it looks nothing like Fuzzy. Despite this, Ashiya continues to call this second demon as Fuzzy's clone/Doppelgänger.
- Land, Sea, Sky: The true forms of the three ruling powers of the Underworld has 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 goes shopping. The shop owner recognizes the Legislator, who reveals that the Justice is also with him. Everyone then assume that Ashiya is the Justice, and thought that the actual Justice is some wild beast he had 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."
- Portal Door: 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.
- 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" he feels obligated to succeed her business. Several volumes later, we learn that he has an older sister, whom he never mentions, even though they seem to get along quite well.
- Ridiculously Cute Critter: A lot of the youkais 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.
- 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.