When I watch new anime at the start of a season, I tend to give a lot of different shows a start. Often a show will start off really fast and as the season progresses you realize that there might not be as much substance as you would have liked. On the flipside of this coin are the shows that start off boring and might pick up steam later. Unfortunately I will have likely dropped those shows before they ever get off the ground. Much more rare are those shows that start off slow while still grabbing your attention. Shows that don’t burn bright from the very start but show that there is potential if you just give it a shot. Not every show that starts like this actually lives up to its potential, but the few times it does you get a well written show that takes their viewer seriously and respects their time. Mononogatari – or Benevolent Spirits – is one of those shows.
Mononogatari follows the story of Kunato Hyoma, a young exorcist that deals with spirits that are called Tsukumogami. He hates these spirits with a passion after one of them killed his older brother and sister several years ago. His grandfather sends him to live with Nagatsuki Botan, who is a girl his age that lives with a bunch of these spirits. It’s a form of immersion therapy to put it bluntly. The story follows Hyoma’s life at the Nagatsuki household where he interacts with these spirits and the other people involved in this strange part of modern society.
I am planning an in-depth post about Tsukumogami tomorrow, but to give you the short explanation, they’re spirits that house in objects. The reason they stay in these objects is because the owner really cares for this object and uses it often. Eventually they turn into spirits that still hold the properties of the objects they live in. In this world, they also gain access to fighting power that is similar to the sort of object they live in. To give an example, there’s girl who is a mortar and pestle, and the wheel that’s used to grind the herbs turns into her leg, which she can then fight with. It’s pretty straightforward but you can get creative with it.
As this anime was airing, I noticed that the ratings weren’t particularly high – not terrible, just not amazing – and it wasn’t being talked about a ton. I think this is mainly due to its slow start. Hyoma also isn’t your typical protagonist and it shows. He’s a very serious person and he is very stalwart in his convictions. Botan on the other hand is hesitant in a lot of things and for good reason, her life hasn’t always been easy. We follow these characters through realistic character growth that is rare to see in anime sometimes. I think this contributed to the lower ratings. Mononogatari takes its time exploring its setting and building up its cast.
The selling point for me personally is the concept of the Tsukumogami. It’s a type of Japanese myth that I find absolutely fascinating. The idea that taking good care of your stuff so that one day it might have a spirit move in because of the bond you form with your important things is super cool and it’s something I really want to explore in my own storytelling as well. It’s done very differently from how I would approach it here, but that’s also what makes it interesting.
Mononogatari is a complex tale of humans and spirits trying to live together that really takes its time exploring what it means to have this distinction and doesn’t rush anything through. The supporting cast is diverse and well written and the mysteries are only just starting by the time the season ends so it leaves you wanting for more. If you’re still not convinced to watch it by now, then I don’t think there’s much more I can say. If this is an anime you’re even remotely considering watching, please give it a shot. I think you’ll enjoy it.
Thanks for reading.
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