Mokke is an anime about two sisters: Shizuru is a high school student who has the ability to see spirits while her younger sister, Mizuki, tends to become possessed by them. (This often happens when she’s walking past a shrine, but I’ve noticed that they also like to get her at times when she isn’t feeling well, is worried, hurt, or emotionally upset.) The girls’ parents were unable to deal with their daughters’ supernatural abilities, so they entrusted the sisters into the care of their grandparents who live in the country.
The grandfather is an expert in Japanese legends; he works as a consultant at the “Reference Hall for Historical Folk Customs” and knows how to exorcise demons. But rather than rushing in to save the girls every time they encounter spiritual phenomena, “Grampy” wisely gives them advice and then holds back, letting the girls figure out how to deal with it themselves. Mizuki and Shizuru begin to realize they can’t simply avoid or defeat these entities, but instead must learn to get along with them. (In the Shinto religion, a multitude of Kami or shin – defined in English as “gods” and “spirits” – coexist with the human world and share its interrelated complexity.)
As such, Mokke provides an entertaining and fairly educational introduction to Japanese folklore and mythology. At the same time, it’s an intelligently written slice-of-life anime featuring youthful activities like school field trips, judo lessons, listening to music, kite building, doll collecting, and identifying wildflowers with a field guide. It also realistically portrays the loving bond between two sisters, both of whom are interesting and likable. Mizuki is energetic and playful, providing much of the light-hearted comedy and charm that characterizes the series, while Shizuru is more serious and thoughtful. Much of the series focuses on the apparitions that plague Mizuki, although Shizuru’s experiences become the center of attention in several episodes.
There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of popular fandom revolving around this anime, but I’m not quite sure why. Mokke has a beautiful opening sequence in terms of both melody and imagery, and the series is fun to watch even though it won’t keep you on the edge of your seat. (It’s actually more relaxing than nerve-wracking!) Every episode is kind of like a fable with some problem that has to be overcome or life lesson to be learned by the heroines. In the end they become stronger and wiser for the experience.
Each of the 24 episodes has a stand-alone plot that deals with a different type of otherworldly character. Most will be unfamiliar to American viewers, but you can easily look up information about Japanese ghosts and monsters on the internet. Some are evil or mischievous but others are good, like the Kesaran Pasaran, a little white ball of fluff that serves as a lucky charm.
Despite the presence of spirits, horror fans will not find these “ghost stories” to be very scary. (It seems like Japanese people have a more “down-to-earth” attitude toward unearthly things.) A few scenes do get rather intense like when something is in the process of possessing Mizuki. The scariest one of these is Episode 19: Mekurabe (The Skulls). But honestly, most of the episodes are more whimsical than frightful. Nevertheless, the show’s season begins in autumn and the countryside is lovely with colored leaves and fall flowers, so it would be a good anime to start watching between now and Halloween. You can view the series online at KissAnime.