Written by Jonathan Wojcik
December 14, Still Halloween:
Reviewing The Mononoke Dance!
A couple weeks ago, we talked in depth about the history of Gegege no Kitaro, during which we also talked about the darker Hakaba Kitaro and its anime adaptation. It happens that this adaptation is to date the only version of Kitaro lacking any variation on the "Ge Ge Ge" intro song, opting instead for the more modern and mature sounding Mononoke Dance by Denki Groove.
It's a pretty "hip beat" as them kids say these days, but it's also been cut down to the length of the show's opening credits. For the full version of the song, you have to find the official music video, and that's what we're here to review. The full version of Mononoke Dance was last seen on youtube some four or five years ago in relatively low resolution, but a hi-def version was uploaded just weeks ago for the first time I'm aware, and so at long, long last, I can present it as clearly as it deserves to be presented.
I'll post the video itself at the end, but first, we'll review its "story" and most interesting inhabitants...
Mononoke Dance doesn't feature characters from Kitaro, but pays homage to Mizuki Shigeru with an aesthetically similar art style, original youkai creatures and a ghostly narrative told entirely through the magic of cardboard stick puppets, beginning with a lost young couple who crash deep in the woods...
Leaving their car, the couple come across something similar to the Konaki-jiji, an elderly looking monster pretending to be a baby. We'll skip the scene where it pisses its cardboard piss all over the girl's face. I think most people would be 100% done then and there, but for some reason they decide to follow the pissbabyman deeper into the woods...
...And run into MONSTERS! I mean, they already ran into what was pretty obviously a monster, but these ghouls and demons aren't even pretending they might be anything else. It's only briefly glimpsed, but this beautiful scaly biclops is also wearing a tie-dye hippie shirt.
We cut to both of our humans caught up in a procession of various ghouls, most of which we'll get clearer looks at later, but the half-melted fellow with the umbrella is only plainly visible for this brief moment. Hard to tell whether it's meant to be melting, red flesh or something else, but it's cute that it brings an umbrella with it everywhere. I imagine things with half-liquid flesh don't do well in the rain and would rather be safe than sorry.
We also get precious few glimpses of this bizarre figure strongly resembling Giger's alien, but mostly obscured in a costume we'll be talking about a bit later.
This one, you may immediately notice, has almost identical physiology to Krumm from Aaahh! Real Monsters! I can equally believe it's either an intentional knockoff or pure coincidence. I don't think Real Monsters ever made it to Japan, which is a shame; I think kids over there would have appreciated the hell out of it.
Not-Krumm's green skin, longer appendages and shaggy hair are all actually kind of a little less creepy than Krumm himself was, I guess because these details are a little more removed from a human.
Another one we never really see again, far as I can tell, is a green skinned, backwards figure with eyes on its feet and mushrooms sprouting out of its ass, unless those are supposed to be parasitic worms, or something. If you couldn't tell by now, very few creatures in the Mononoke Dance are actual, classic youkai, but they've all got the spirit of them down pretty well. Their features are so particular, you can easily imagine each having a unique origin story and habits in line with other Eastern phantasms.
That said, I can't even begin to parse what kind of revenant this thing is. Its spherical body has a face like a goldfish, but it has a baby chick's head on top and the arms of an octopus. Actually, I guess it could be something born from food, the ghost of some uneaten chicken and seafood dish.
Every question raised by this one seems like it could only have a disgusting answer. If it was in any other pose it might only be adorable, but the artist somehow managed to communicate perfectly that this thing probably goes after people's asses, probably from below, which probably means it adapted to hide down in those Japanese style toilets that you have to squat over.
We'll revisit some of those other monsters in a moment, but check out this killer setup! These obake were just leading our young couple to an outdoor monster rave all along. I've never really been to this type of thing myself because you're already knee deep in what I more often do for fun instead of leaving the house, but look at that skull spider on top! And those gorgeous string lights! And just how much pure, unbridled fun these things are having together! You could never feel self conscious or awkward at a party where even butt-eating toilet demons cut loose on the dance floor, could you?
A new monster visible at the rave is a big, twisted, multicolored blob of flesh and facial features reminiscent of an abstract painting, and that's probably just what it used to be, though there's also a figure who looks pretty classy and ominous aside from the toilet seat they have for a scalp. Again, a lot of spectral backstory implied by nothing but a visual design, and again, I love how carefree all these beings seem to be. Whether they look like upper-class nobles or rotten ass people or something in between, they all dance the night away together and don't care what they look like to anybody else.
For a split second, we even get a vintage Western-style pumpkin monster, crashing down abruptly from somewhere above to fill the screen. Guess it had itself air-mailed to the hottest party in the spirit world.
This little cat dude isn't totally my style, but he has a lot of personality, and he turns out to be the rave's deejay! I also wonder if he might not be the same cat that, at the beginning of the video, actually causes the couple to veer off the road and crash.
Even with arguably much worse running around, I think the most unsettling monster present might be this anthropomorphic frog, which itself looks like such a perfectly normal, innocent anthropomorphic frog as it grooves to the beat, but then there's that obviously living, silently screaming human face fused into its belly. Is it part of the frog or just part of the frog's t-shirt? Did a frog youkai basically grow around this poor guy?
One of the only classical youkai we ever do see is a pretty damn cute Kappa, who runs around with a plate of delicious cucumber sushi rolls on its own head-dish!
One of the most inexplicable manifestations, meanwhile, might be this otherwise ordinary looking man whose skin is covered completely in kanji for various species of fish.
One of my predictable favorites in this entire thing is, of course, the guy in suspenders with a head like he's 90% of the way transformed from human to banana slug...or maybe it's just the obscure but perfect, beautiful and flawless youkai known as Hammer Girl in a more casual than usual outfit.
Speaking of gastropods, another cool one we glimpsed earlier is just a human skeleton, but with a hippie shirt and a bunch of snails on its skull, two of them acting like its "eyeballs." Hard to say whether these are even an integral part of this entity or it just has excellent taste in both pets and fashion sense, as can be expected of most skeletons.
This is the only other look we get at that "alien" from earlier, and now we can see that its face is that of Hyottoko, a comedic figure associated with fire, gold and good fortune. Masks of Hyottoko are a classic festival prop, so it's possible this monster is just wearing an elongated, custom version over its possibly more terrifying actual head. That, or this was the real, true form of Hyottoko all along, and how would anybody even know if they've only ever depicted the front of his face?
Whatever it is, it knocks over these giant stone slabs just to knock over our human guy.
See, human girl has spent all this time partying pretty hard, immediately getting into the music, dancing with a series of monsters and eventually making out with some tentacles because an opportunity like that doesn't come by every day, does it? You never know if your first chance to try something new is gonna be your last. SEIZE THE DAY!
Her boyfriend, on the other hand, has REFUSED to have any fun, expressing only ever more shock and horror and generally being a complete stick in the mud.
So, they finally shut the guy up when it turns out the turntable is operated by a bunch of human slaves, whipped by Oni, probably for the sin of showing up at a party only to complain about everything.
There are many more monsters throughout the video, but we've at least looked at my favorites and some of the most prominent. You'll have to watch it yourself for the rest, but nothing and I mean NOTHING can prepare you for the way it actually ends, the entire video basically one very, very extravagant and stylish buildup to a single joke that masterfully parodies the "twist" in every ghost story like you've never seen before.
It's December, 2017. The state of the world right now is the shittiest it's felt in many years, and even the fate of the internet itself is now uncertain. Whether you ever have before or this is your first time, I think you need Mononoke Dance's ultimate punchline.
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