So Ashiya is the quick to cry character, with a big heart. Abeno is the stony, closed off character. Well I see where this is going…
Episode 2 and 3 of Mononokean are cute. Ashiya doesn’t get his regular school days back but he gets to sit in a classroom! But after 10 minutes he becomes possessed again by a Yokai and is held on the ground by easily 20 small Yokai. These Yokai are invisible to normal people, so he just looks like a weirdo again.
Abeno is mad, but he has to exorcise the Yokai in order to get his part-timer back. After assessing the Yokai, he figures that the little Yokai report back to one big Yokai. So Ashiya becomes bait and he hands him over.
So they run into the room guns abazing, sutras already half complete right? Nope. The little Yokai ambush Abeno and both are crowd surfed to the large yokai.
Now what I like about this anime is the oposite take it has on the whole exorcism process. Instead of seeing the Yokai as a problem and death as the only solution, Abeno seems to be more focussed on making the exorcism enjoyable for the Yokai. Ashiya is the perfect part-timer for him then, he’s stupidly honest and concerned for the little guys, once he gets over his initial fear of them. Like most, he was probably told stories about child-eating Yokai and taught to fear them. They do look scary, but they do have souls and desires like humans because at some point they used to be humans, or at least some were.
If Yokai based anime and manga have taught me anything, its that Yokai are generally creatures of the underworld spawned from legends, myths, or historical stories such as creation stories. Included in the Yokai spectrum would be Vampires, Oni, Ghosts and other creatures like that. They possess souls, and are generally harmless or not actively trying to harm humans. Akuma seem to be beings that are malicious towards humans and should be avoided. Im sure anime and manga have ‘disney-fied’ the creatures a good amount. Many types of Yokai have negative origins about child-eating and other horrendous acts. Nurarihyon is a good example of the different types of Yokai. Yokai to Japan is the Gods to the Greeks; they could kill you or impregnate you.
Now the leader of the small Yokai, or Big Daddy Scree as Ashiya named him, was looking for the Master of the Mononoken. He claimed that the Master was a Yokai himself. So is Abeno a Yokai? Probably. It depends on how long he has been the Master. In a manga titled “Demon Prince of Momochi House, the Master Aoi was originally human until he entered a contract to be the protector of the Door to the Underworld. Abeno seems to be able to control where the Door to the Underworld appears, whereas Aoi could not. The Door was based in the Momochi House, so once Aoi became its Master he could no longer leave the house property. Their missions seem to be opposite as well. Abeno exorcises Yokai and returns them to the underworld, Aoi protects the door and prevents it from being opened by other Yokai to release more Yokai. Both Abeno and Aoi seem sullen and unhappy.
So Abeno could have been human, but gave up his humanity to protect the Door. Ashiya has a strange conversation with the Mononokean (the Tardis/tea room), which in of itself is a Yokai. He asks about Abeno being a Yokai, and the door is cut off before it could answer fully. The answer seems to include some information about a medicine. During the exorcism of the Bid Daddy Scree, Abeno did give the Yokai a medication that causes extreme pain, but it is unclear how a medication could influence someone to become a Yokai. One possible reason could be a relative was in need of Underworld medication.
Now for the played out character relations, Abeno and Ashiya are a stereotypically opposite pairing. The bleeding heart is always paired with the closed off character. Ashiya actually interests me the least. He is an annoying type character who will only get in the way and cause more trouble for Abeno. That being said, there are other stupidly naive characters who I love…
Okay so after getting over his fear of the Yokai, Ashiya is more interested in saving them than even Abeno. When confronted with a Yokai with an incurable disease, parasite roots, he stupidly declares he would cut all of the roots. The medication Abeno uses is what actually saves the Yokai, but the Yokai would have been left to die if Ashiya has not been so stubborn. I believe that he would have spent all night hacking at roots as they instantly regenerated too..
Other Yokai have commented on Abenos changes ever since acquiring Ashiya, to which he scoffs and says he’s more of a pain. That’s how it all starts Abeno~
As plotlines dictate, Ashiya is going to get himself stuck in the Underworld and Abeno will injure himself trying to save him. I don’t see any real tragedy being a plot device in this series. I think the climax will be discovering why Abeno became the Master.
That being said, the series is very enjoyable right now. It is a new look on an old theme with a cute pairing. Just because the character pairing is old and over used doesn’t mean it isn’t enjoyable. It is one of the better pairings for character progression. But Abeno will not become a bleeding heart like Ashiya. I just think he will find him a taaaad less annoying.