First Impression: Malevolent Spirits: Monogatari

Blood is flowing from a sharpened metallic umbrella as our protagonist, Hyoma, watches in disbelief, the inflicted trauma reflected in his eyes. His older brother and sister, members of an order that deals with spirits tied to physical objects, have just been killed by one of them. Cut to the present, where Hyoma disregards the “diplomacy first” approach of his grandfather, who is proudly explaining the rules of spirit hunting to a rookie police officer. Our protagonist prefers to charge head-on against any suspicious spiritual activity and fight the spirit using his magical discs. Of course, that won’t do. The spirits are often confused, just wanting to go home or fit in, and only rarely malicious. So, to learn to change his ways and abandon his prejudices, Hyoma must reside for a while with some mostly teenage spirits who happen to be on the side of the angels. There is a college girl living there, too. And they look pretty cool together. See for yourself.

Malevolent Spirits: Monogatari has no connection to the Shaft Animation Monogatari series, and it lacks both its brilliance and its, ahem, big problems. Instead, it is a pretty formulaic “been there, done that” anime but with similar lore. The series’ saving grace might be the use of some cool character designs and interesting bits of Japanese spirit imagery, though perhaps not even that is enough. The clichéd plot would be forgivable if the animation wasn’t so stiff; the gorgeous Japanese backgrounds cannot make up for the fact that we also have conversations where the characters remain still in a still world with only their mouths moving. Or one person is moving in a still multitude. Or two people are talking with still vapor over their tea. The eyes are the worst of all: they are normally fixed, and when they move, the effect is similar to those portraits with someone spying from behind. Animation aside, the show isn’t entirely unwatchable. I liked the cast well enough, and the heroine in particular. Will Hyoma fall in love with her, learn to appreciate his teammates, and fight the evil spirit that killed his relatives? I have no doubt. Will I be watching by then? No, sir.

Malevolent Spirits: Monogatari can be streamed at Crunchyroll.

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