Saturday, October 9, 2021

Day-Glo Horrors

The aesthetics of Gothic horror, indeed most Western horror works, are gloomy, tenebrous... the aesthetics of a castle brooding on a crag at midnight, of foggy bogs, and dark alleys.  Very rarely does one see horror depicted in bright colors, so when one comes across a property which delivers the shudders in bright, primary hues, one takes notice.

The 2006 Japanese anime series Mononoke a spin-off of the Ayakashi: Samurai Horror Tales series, grabbed my attention with its imagery rooted in the Ukiyo-e woodblock prints and paintings of the 17th through 19th centuries.  Its protagonist is a not-quite-human (he has elfin or vulpine features) 'medicine seller', an itinerant exorcist who wages his battles against destructive spirits by figuring out the shape, the truth, and the reason behind the spirits, a who's who of yōkai ranging from the umibōzu to the noppera-bō.  These spirits are the product of negative human emotions, and the hauntings invariably stem from secret misdeeds, typically evil events in family histories.

While the visuals are bright, the subject matter is dark, dealing with the aftermath of violence and abuse, so here's a content warning.  The typical plot is fascinating, though, taking the form of a supernatural police procedural as our exorcist protagonist divines the shape, truth, and reason behind a haunting, often with opposition from the haunted, who are reluctant to divulge their sordid secrets.  It's heady, sometimes disturbing stuff, but always fascinating.

Here's the opening of the show, which will give you some idea of the art-style, which manages to be beautiful even when depicting horrors:


There's also a fan-edited trailer, which beautifully conveys the animation style, with its elaborate depictions of the vulpine medicine-seller, using his various exorcist-skills against a variety of supernatural foes.

I pretty much binge-watched the entire 12-episode series once I found it, having been hooked from the get-go.  I can't guarantee that my readers will be equally enthralled, the subject matter can be disturbing... the horrors it depicts, even though supernatural, are human horrors.  It's subject matter that hits the viewer in the heart, not the stomach.


Anathema Device said...

wow, that's gorgeous art and styling. I will have to pursue this, even though I thought my anime days were long behind me!

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

The gorgeous art and styling only serves to enhance the horror of the series. It really takes an unflinching look at the more unsavory aspects of history, sugar-coating nothing despite the bright palette. This was a society in which debtors' daughters could be sold into indentured servitude in case of default on payments.