Set in the Taisho era, Demon slayer takes full advantage of its historical setting to tell a compelling supernatural story wrapped in a stunning aesthetic. With a similar focus on impressive art direction and a story of supernatural encounters with demons and monsters, the underrated gem Mononoke is a must-see for fans Demon assassin. Both series make the most of their historical settings, completely embracing them to deliver compelling stories. While Demon Slayer is a fast-paced, long-running action series, Mononoke is a 12-episode mystery thriller series, but a worthy companion to Demon Slayer.
Mononoke should not be confused with Studio Ghibli classic Princess Mononoke – in context, “mononoke” is a general term for a supernatural being or spirit. The series first aired in Japan in 2007. It was never officially released in North America, but previously in 2023, the series received a Blu-ray release, including a dub Brand new in English from Discotek Media and now available on Netflix. Additionally, a feature-length Mononoke film is scheduled for release in Japan in 2023. This is the perfect opportunity to experience this strange and beautiful masterpiece. Mononoke perfectly blends horror, mystery, and historical fiction into a must-watch series that both sets itself apart and compliments Demon Slayer with its distinct approach to its historical setting.
Mononoke is a beautiful nightmare
The tone of Mononoke is set from the very first scene, and it’s clear that both Mononoke and Demon Slayer took great care with their art direction and both drew inspiration from traditional Japanese visual arts and theater Copy. Mononoke begins with the opening of a traditional Japanese sliding door to reveal a rainy night painted like a moving painting. A strangely dressed apothecary follows a lone woman into an inn. As the night passes, the spirits haunting the inn reveal themselves and the Medicine Seller gradually reveals the inn’s dark history. To exorcise mononoke, the Apothecary must reveal their Form, Truth, and Reason: their physical form, their goals, and the cause of their manifestation as evil spirits.
As a horror film, Mononoke is rarely overtly scary. Instead of relying on jump scares, the series builds psychological horror by creating a constant, simmering sense of tension and genuine fear. Although beautiful, the artwork is so highly stylized and strange that everything looks out of place: dizzying, constantly shifting colors and patterns, constant jarring camera cuts, background characters are reduced to faceless mobs, main characters are drawn and animated in a deliberately strange way. Perhaps the most horrifying thing is that every mononoke in the series is ultimately created from negative human emotions – in the end, humanity is the true evil.
Despite its short running time, Mononoke requires an attentive eye to watch. The beautiful animation is intentionally confusing, and there’s no real way to tell whether the viewer and the characters are seeing the same things. Certain foreshadowing is only apparent with hindsight, but even with that hindsight and even with multiple viewings of the series, some mysteries remain unanswered. The Apothecary himself remains an enigma, clearly more than human despite his frequent claims to be nothing more than a simple merchant.
An undeniable masterpiece of art direction and psychological horror, Mononoke is now easier to watch than ever thanks to its release on Netflix. This series sets itself apart from other mystery series thanks to its historical setting, while also standing out from other historical novels thanks to its atmosphere of supernatural horror. Through the power of both similarities and differences, the Mononoke is the perfect watch to compliment Demon slayer.
Mononoke is available to stream on Netflix.