Kiri Wazawa’s on-going The Morose Mononokean (Fukigen na Mononokean) is a Japanese contemporary-fantasy manga. Volume 1 collects the first four issues, first serialised in Square Enix’s Gangan Online magazine.
On Hanae Ashiya’s first day in high school, he took pity on what he took to be a discarded toy in danger of being squashed by foot traffic. The “toy” was no toy but a fuzzy demon, which immediately latched onto the hapless boy. With his lifeforce rapidly dwindling, Ashiya is beyond the aid of any mundane succor.
Luckily for Ashiya, his high school has a resident exorcist whose mystic ads Ashiya can see.
Ashiya enlists the help of Haruitsuki Abeno to rid himself of the demon. Abeno agrees … but charges Ashiya a million yen for the cure. Ashiya is told to work off his debt. He may be ignorant, untrained, and prone to tears, but he might be of some help to Abeno. He’ll be trained to be demon-remover.
Ashiya finds himself in trouble again, thanks to his kind heart. He’s learned to remove demons and when he sees a demon latched to a passing girl, he reaches out to remove it. Ashiya has miscalculated. This is a powerful demon with a legion of siblings, all of whom are now targeting poor Ashiya.
Abeno was supposed to be the manga’s protagonist, but to the writer/artist’s surprise, Ashiya took over the story. I thought this all to the good: he’s the more appealing character.
Volume 1 has the usual problems of a first volume: the author has to introduce the setting, the characters, and the problems they face. This is somewhat easier because the premise (young person can see yōkai, this complicates their life, but because the mundane authorities have no idea yōkai are real , the kid is left deal with their problems on their own) is familiar from several other manga. Still, there’s not much room left for anything aside from setup. This volume does make room for a couple of standalone adventures.
In many such manga, the characters face life-or-death problems. In this one, the problems look tragic … but aren’t. For the most part, they are played for laughs. The series is also oddly optimistic. Problems are resolved not with battle or occult power, but with empathy and kindness.
It was a pleasant little read. I’ll have to give more volumes a try….
The Morose Mononokeanis available here (Crunchyroll).
1: Presumably Midnight Occult Civil Servants is the exception, but I have not been able to find a translation.