Spilling out onto the screen like ukiyo-e in motion, Mononoke tells the story of a traveling exorcist known as “the medicine seller”. Mononoke takes place in an Edo period Japan, and follows the medicine seller as he travels in search of mononoke, or spirits. His method of exorcism includes the use of a sword known as “The Sword of Exorcism”. Certain conditions must be met for the Sword of Exorcism to be drawn. If form, truth, and regret are not present, it cannot be unsheathed.
Let’s open the anime cookbook and take a quick look at the Mononoke page.
Recipe for Mononoke
- 2-3 episode arcs, each telling a separate story
- Paranormal investigation
- Focus on horror and tragedy
- Hauntings and exorcisms
- Problem solving
- Japanese Mythology
Using the above ingredients, let’s take a look at some similar anime, and boil them down to the reasons you should watch them.
Similar Anime to Mononoke
1. Ayakashi: Japanese Classic Horror
- Episodes: 11
- Aired: Jan 2006 - Mar 2006
Ayakashi: Japanese Classic Horror is a collection of stories in the (you guessed it!) horror genre. The stories in this show focus on paranormal and supernatural happenings. Ayakashi is an anime split into 3 arcs told over 11 episodes. As far as recommendation lists go, it doesn’t get much easier than this recommendation. Let me tell you a little bit about the third arc of the show.
A travelling merchant arrives at a house in time to sell some goods for an upcoming wedding. This travelling merchant sells medicines. When the medicine seller enters the house, he senses something amiss. Uh-oh. Something tells me that soon he’ll be using a special sword to perform some kind of ritual. That’s right, you guessed it (I know you did), the anime Mononoke is a spin-off of the third arc of Ayakashi. Like I said, this one’s a no-brainer recommendation.
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: Oct 2005 - Jun 2006
Plants, animals, fungi, protists, archaea, bacteria, and viruses. There, I’ve written a list of the different forms of life. This list could be incomplete for two reasons though: one, I’m not a biologist; two, I’m not taking into account the universe of the anime “Mushishi”. In Mushishi there is another kind of life known as mushi. Mushi are living organisms that most humans can’t perceive, and a mushi-shi is a person who studies mushi.
Mushishi is set in the late edo period, a time frame similar to Mononoke. A mushi-shi named Ginko travels around Japan seeking out mushi. Much like the medicine seller, Ginko has an unflappable cool as he encounters the mushi, which manifest themselves in ways that usually end up harassing or harming people. The core of both Mushishi and Mononoke revolve around a travelling man investigating strange stories and helping to free people from spirits. Mushishi may not be horror, but if your interest in Mononoke lies in the examination of Japanese mythology, the backstory of the haunted, and watching a paranormal detective do his thing, you’ll be in good company with this show.
3. Kyoukai no Kanata (Beyond the Boundary)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Oct 2013 - Dec 2013
What happens when a youmu with a glasses fetish meets a spirit world warrior who is afraid to use her blood sword? You get a sentence you can’t understand! Let’s break down the components in play here. A youmu is a spirit born from the negative feelings people have. A spirit world warrior is an exorcist tasked with ridding the world of youmu. A blood sword is the weapon wielded by Kyoukai no Kanata protagonist, Mirai - every spirit world warrior has their own type of weapon. A glasses fetish is the summation of the perverted feelings that second main character, Akihito Kanbara, feels towards girls in glasses.
In Beyond the Boundary, much like in Mononoke, there are good spirits and bad spirits. Mirai Kuriyama is a spirit world warrior and the last member of her clan that was considered too powerful to exist. She’s also flat broke. Each youmu, upon death, drops a “youmu stone” which can be traded for money, and is a spirit world warrior’s source of income. Mirai has never killed a youmu but when disturbances in the city start increasing, she is going to need to take a page from the medicine seller’s book to investigate these disturbances, and exorcise the evil spirits.
Kyoukai no Kanata (Beyond the Boundary) Trailer
Any Anime Like Mononoke ?
- Episodes: 15
- Aired: Jul 2009 - Jun 2010
This just in: third-year high school student helps people take care of their problems with monsters, gods, spirits, and more. The third-year student in question is named Koyomi Araragi. Araragi was recently attacked by a vampire, but was saved thanks to the help of a man who was very familiar with the paranormal. Now he feels like the best way to pay it forward is to help relieve others of their supernatural anchors, which take many forms. While his intentions are noble, taking on the problems of a lost puppy can be challenging. Taking on problems which involve freeing someone from the grasp of a stubborn deity is on a separate plain of difficulty.
Throughout the course of Bakemonogatari, Araragi meets many strange people with strange afflictions. Like Mononoke, Bakemonogatari borrows heavily from themes and tales established by Japanese folklore. When the medicine seller runs across a spirit haunting a family, you can find more information about that spirit off screen in books (and I don’t mean manga!). The same can be said for Araragi and the monsters he is tasked with. Araragi, unlike the medicine seller, doesn’t require form, truth, and regret in order to exorcise spirits. That doesn’t mean the monologue-heavy script for Bakemonogatari doesn’t give it to him anyways. If you liked Mononoke but wanted something with a little less death, the folklore, exorcisms, and investigations of Bakemonogatari might be just what you need.
5. Kyougoku Natsuhiko: Kousetsu Hyaku Monogatari (Requiem From the Darkness)
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: Oct 2003 - Dec 2003
One man, one hundred tales. Yamaoka Momosuke is tired of writing books for children. He decides to remedy his personal angst by writing a collection of 100 ghost stories. He could just come up with the ghost stories on his own, but that wouldn’t be as fun. Momosuke takes off on a journey across Japan, determined to investigate ancient legends and their origins. Along the way, he meets a trio of detectives who have the same goal in mind.
Kyougoku Natsuhiko: Kousetsu Hyaku Monogatari was spawned from a collection of short stories, so just like in Mononoke you are going to get multiple delectable tales told in bite sized chunks (hungry now?). The world of Requiem From the Darkness is set in the Edo period, where a traveling writer meets up with a group of traveling detectives, who all travel together to investigate old legends and folklore. Like Mononoke, the detectives Momosuke is traveling with are set on ridding the world of the spirits they discover. Like Mononoke, Requiem From the Darkness can be gruesome at times and is firmly seated in the world of horror. If you want another show to make your skin crawl, another show that reveals and revels in the sour nature of man, give Kyougoku Natsuhiko: Kousetsu Hyaku Monogatari a watch.
Kyougoku Natsuhiko: Kousetsu Hyaku Monogatari (Requiem From the Darkness) preview
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: Oct 2007 - Mar 2008
Do you ever watch scary movies like “The Haunting of _____”, or “_____’s exorcism” and think think to yourself that the parents should just get rid of the kid who is being haunted? No?! Well...uh...neither do I, but in Mokke the parents think just that. The sisters and main characters of Mokke have unique problems - one is easily possessed by spirits, and the other can see spirits. Their parents decide to send the girls off to live with their grandfather who happens to be an exorcist.
As an exorcist, the grandfather in Mokke has a lot of information regarding the different spirits that haunt Mizuki, the younger sister. As a grandfather, he doles out stories about...anything probably, but in this instance, the ghosts that are haunting Mizuki. The older sister, Shizuru, under her grandfather’s guidance, begins to learn how to help fight the spirits that plague her younger sister. If you enjoy lighthearted stories about dealing with apparitions that afflict people, then you will enjoy Mokke. With each new ghost that haunts Mizuki, comes a new story and a new exorcism. Mokke is definitely not the stuff of horror, but the themes of storytelling, discovery, learning about ghosts, and finding the solution to get rid of the ghosts run through both Mokke and Mononoke.
Dealing with ghosts is the name of the game. We all have our own ghosts to deal with, but luckily they’re usually not out to kill us. I suppose that really depends on who you are affiliated with, though. Whether you want something serious and bloody, soft and happy, or fast and funny, one of these shows is for you.