First Look: Malevolent Spirits: Mononogatari

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Manga Adaptation by Bandai Namco Pictures
Streaming on Crunchyroll

Premise

Hyouma Kunato is heir to the Saenome clan, which is responsible for sending tsukumogami – spirits that can possess physical objects and thus gain physical form – safely back to their own world before harm occurs to either them or any hapless civilians who happen to be caught in the middle. However, due to a traumatic childhood event, Hyouma hates tsukumogami and always responds with violence, regardless of the circumstances. In order to help him resolve this issue, Hyouma’s grandfather sends him to live with Botan Nagatsuki, a girl who lives alongside six tsukumogami and views them as family.

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Artemis’ verdict: Not Related to the Monogatari Franchise (Or Any Other Nisio Isin Property)

Mononogatari (yes, I spelled that correctly) is a seinen manga-based anime masquerading as a B-list shonen title. It opens with an in-media-res action sequence that looks like the producers took the completed drawings, threw them into MS Paint, and clicked Invert in an attempt to make everything look super dramatic and compelling.

That sort of set the tone for the rest of the episode for me, and it took a lot of willpower to get through the whole thing. Don’t get me wrong, Mononogatari is by no means an offensively bad series, but it’s certainly dull and rote enough that I found myself alternately rolling my eyes and doing my utmost to stay awake. All the characters, but especially the lead, are at least mildly annoying, and the intentionally (I assume) over-the-top character designs of some of them did nothing to make them either more memorable or more likable. I’m certain this won’t be the worst that the winter 2023 anime season has to offer, but I’m also sure we could all do far better.

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Jel’s verdict: Straight to the Bargin Bin

This feels like a discount, off brand version of dozens of other anime. Oh, you wanted some Jujutsu Kaisen (or insert your favorite spirit hunting anime here)? Sorry, all we have in stock is Mononogatari. I hate to disrespect all the people that I’m sure worked very hard on it, but it feels phoned in. There’s not a single unique or interesting thing about it. Even the concept of tsukumogami, which is supposed to be the special hook here, is something we see a lot in similar series. I can overlook some creative bankruptcy if the show looks nice or I like the characters, but those are arguably the worst parts.

So rather than waste more time on this, I’m just going to shout out something else: Noragami. Of the many anime Mononogatari could be emulating, that was the first one that came to mind for me. Noragami is actually good though, some real banger OP’s too. Go watch that instead.

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