Posting this review as part of my 2013 Anime Planet Secret Santa participation.
I watched Mononoke as a recommendation to me as part of the Secret Santa event. I had previously seen the Ayakashi - Japanese Horror Stories anime which was the original source of the Medicine Seller main character and subsequent series based on this character. (Mononoke is based on the last story arc of three in the Ayakashi series.) Since I have not really seen much in the way of horror anime, and no actually true horror, I was wondering if Mononoke would live up to its hype as a fantastically different and visually stunning horror story.
Alas, much like its predecessor, Mononoke fails to deliver any scares or chills or horror. But it -does- present some thought-provoking examples of the supernatural in a vividly unique and artistic presentation.
Unique distinctive and experimentally surreal visuals, with a washed out, subdued grey and pastel watercolor palette with occasional splashes of vivid color are actually given given texture as well, as though of images were painted on rough paper. Character designs are hideous and transformed caricatures, except for the Medicine Man and a few female characters. Others are super deformed ugly, with exaggerated features, such as red bulbous noses and blubber mouths. Perhaps this is meant to be evocative that these are ordinary people, with regular people characteristics and flaws rather than idealized anime beauties but instead these character designs emphasize the uniqueness of the Medicine Seller and his otherworldly powers, giving more of an impression of the Medicine Seller's superiority over everyone else around him.
His story is never revealed, but we get to know him through his actions in each story arc. This series is episodic, with each story continued only for a few episodes until next story arc is introduced. Still, each story is interesting, although often not fleshed out enough and we are often left with questions about characters and situations at the end which remain unanswered/unsolved. However, unlike another episodic story anime I've seen recently that base their plot on the story of the day (Bartender) these are some pretty engrossing storylines (unlike Bartender) and the story doesn't get lost behind the other features of the anime.
Video quality is uneven due to its insistent emphasis on its arty style, sometimes flowing smoothly, but other times jarring and broken and interrupted and discontinuous, with odd and unusual camera angles and unusual visial perspectives presented.
Opening and ending songs are forgettable tunes that do nothing to enhance the series, but the same is not true of the incidental soundtrack. The background music and special effects eerily evoke the world of the supernatural and heighten the thrill of the story, much as the unique visuals are setting the story apart.
If you are looking for spine-tingly thrills and scare-you-out-of-your pants horror, this is not the series for that. But if you are looking for something different, something out of the norm, this is an unusually different anime with distinctive art visuals and flavor, presenting up some stimulating and intriguing tales of the supernatural.