Recycling Weekly: Mononoke and Kaiba

(Originally written around August-September 2014)

Mononoke

Mononoke pic 01

This is an interesting show. A vibrant but antique-looking art style, a main character with very odd mannerisms and storytelling that can only be described as traditional(I’m assuming that it uses the same storytelling techniques as the classic Japanese horror stories that it’s based on). I like the art style and the main character(voiced by Takahiro Sakurai), but I’m not sure I understand the stories. I feel like there are some deeper moral lessons to be found in them, but that could just be for show. Maybe the point of the show is just the excitement you get from the horror elements and the mysteries and maybe the symbolism.

This sounds like something I would usually enjoy very much(Bakemonogatari comes to mind to some degree), but this show actually bores me quite a bit. It’s probably the storytelling, which consists of a great amount of talking(very little wit, just regular talk about what’s happening). I’ll most likely finish it, though, and it is definitely a memorable show. It’ll go close to the top of “the list of great shows that made me fall asleep” together with Shin Sekai Yori.

(Fast forward a month or so, and I managed to finish Kaiba in the meantime)

Luckily, Mononoke didn’t pull a Kaiba on me. It just kept doing what it initially did until the very end, and while it did bore me quite a bit at times, I think it did what it tried to do quite well. The format with totally unrelated arcs meant that the story never turned stale(maybe with one exception). The annoying stuff(the screaming and the “horror” and the “Oh no we’re all fucked, medicine man please help us!”) was still as annoying as ever to me, but again, that’s just me. Someone who’s into this kind of stuff might find something they really like in the atmosphere of the show.

The best thing for me, however, was my slowly unfolding understanding of the stories. I fully admit that until the very end, I didn’t really understand what the storytelling style was about, but all the different stories contributed to my eventual “eureka! moment”. People who are already familiar with different non-western and especially Japanese styles of theatre may recognise the point early on, but I really had no clue when I started it. I won’t spoil it, but I will say that it’s not a style you usually see in anime. I really, really liked that aspect of the show when I finally understood it.

 


Kaiba

Kaiba pic 01

Watching this in tandem with Mononoke is a confusing experience, because the shows could not be more different. Mononoke is vibrant but antique-looking, Kaiba is clean but washed out. Mononoke is traditional, Kaiba is highly experimental. Mononoke has a lot of talking, Kaiba has very little of it. They do have similarities, though. Just as I can’t figure out if Mononoke is actually about what I think it’s about, Kaiba could either be an analysis on humanity and the soul or it could just be something that Masaaki Yuasa created from a dream he once had, because it’s a very odd-looking show.

Kaiba does emotion very well, which I think is a result of the fact that there’s very little talking(hell, the main occasionally loses his ability to speak). Instead, images and music are used. And when characters speak, the important thing is not what they say but how they sound and look when they say it(anyone who has seen episode 2 knows what I mean by “how they sound and look”). This is probably the biggest strength of the show, because beside the emotional moments, there’s very little substance(though I like some of the small details). For lack of better words, the show doesn’t feel very coherent. Stuff either doesn’t make sense or requires a lot of effort to understand. And furthermore, the show offers no reason why you should even try understanding it. I guess it’s a good thing it does emotion so well.

The first episode of Kaiba was boring. Since then, however, it has improved significantly. I look forward to seeing more of it.

(Fast forward a month or so)

While my opinions on Kaiba haven’t changed much since my initial impression, it did manage to lose me even more than it did in the first episode. The first episodes established it as a “The journey is more important than the destination” kind of show and I actually thought that was appropriate and nice, but then the show decided to sort of make the journey itself disappear. Yeah, I know, this sounds convoluted, but that’s actually what happens. The first episodes have their own little confusing storylines, but at the end of each episode, the main character returns to the main story, which moves forward in a very noticable and steady manner. Later on in the show, however, the main story itself becomes the focus, and that’s where it all kind of fell apart for me. I no longer had anything that I could really understand, and that made the show almost unbearably boring. The ending was fairly anti-climactic as well, for the same reasons. The fact that I took a month-long break between Episodes 9 and 10 probably didn’t help, but I digress.

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