Shrine of the Morning Mist
Tadahiro is an unusual young man with two different colored eyes. Ever since he was young, he has been threatened by unusual and sometimes demonic forces. As he returns to his hometown, he is attacked by a mysterious man in a tengu mask who claims to want his hidden power but is saved by three sisters who happen to be Shinto priestesses and for that matter his cousins. As it is obvious that dark forces are going to target Tadahiro, the sisters begin to organize a defense around him and recruit several other girls from the school to assist in the defense.
This show, while entertaining, is suffering from a severe identity crisis. While there certainly is nothing wrong with mixing drama, action, and comedy (many great shows do), this show doesn't mix them so much as just seemingly abruptly alternate between them resulting in an odd experience. When the show starts out, it seems like it is going to be a serious show involving demon fighting, an abrupt and somewhat comedic end to the first battle begins to indicate that will not be the case.
The comedy, particularly in the first half, is all over the place and employs a lot of silly school life misunderstandings and visual gags that reminded me of something like Azumanga Daioh (heck they even have a hyper Tomo look alike). In between all these gags though they would have these rather serious battles against monsters and the mysterious tengu-masked man. When all the main characters are finally introduced, it felt like for a while they were even going to go with a slight parody style. The first real battle of the entire "Miko Council" involved, for example, a number of amusing exchanges lampooning the anime practice of yelling out unusual attack names. However, every time they show seemed to really gain some steam in the comedy areas, they would abruptly shift tone back to something rather serious. Most of the transitions whether between episodes or even between scenes were too erratic and ended up damaging the atmosphere and tone the show was trying to convey at that particular time.
By the time we get to the last third of the show, the comedic aspects were all but gone and we end up with a rather serious and dramatic plot. Honestly, the plot, while derivative I suppose, wasn't really bad and it was somewhat engaging. Unfortunately, certain plot holes and plot elements that were a bit easier to disregard when the show seemed more comedic gnawed a bit at me once the show discarded those elements. After the first time a demon trashes part of the school, for example, it is hard not to think, "Uh, wouldn't the police or the SDF be interested in this?" Instead we have the school basically just taking quirky volunteers for this very serious task. It worked fine when the show was comedic, but not so much when the show turned dark.
The character designs aren't a stunning example of great artwork in anime, but they perform their function well enough. I did like the variety and nature of the monsters and attacks against the Miko Council. Though for the most part they tend to be straight forward, even when they are they still do a good job of invoking the spirit and idea of being ancient Shinto-related demons which does help reinforce the general setting of the show.
The animation is average and many of the action scenes rely rather heavily on the use of stock footage. While I liked the overall set-up and nature of the encounters the Miko Council has to deal with, the actual execution was exceedingly unimpressive.
Character work isn't exceedingly weak but nor can I claim it is particularly strong. Part of this stems from the short nature of this show. They introduce a large number of characters and many of them don't really get enough time to properly develop, especially given the length of this show's individual episodes. All the main characters get at least one or two episodes focused on them so we can get better insight into their personalities, but in the end there are only a few of the main protagonists who really get good development.
I will give them some credit for adding some last minute depth to their villains. Initially, the main villain along with some of his later introduced assistants ended up seemingly exceedingly one-dimensional. As the show closes, they do give them a few episodes so we can understand their motivations and see that they aren't doing evil things for the sake of being evil. Two of the female characters later on have a rather intriguing background that makes their role in the whole matter somewhat pitiable as does the main villain. Unfortunately, a lot of this came a bit too late in the show for maximum impact. If they had revealed some of this a bit earlier on, I think it would have given the show a bit more depth overall.
Interestingly enough, I did actually find both the comedic parts and the more dramatic parts fairly entertaining in their own right. I tend to think that if they had just been a bit more focused on what they wanted whether it be comedy or a darker action/fantasy show the resulting product have been more stronger overall. The comedy, for the most part, amused me and while the action scenes weren't stunning, they did have some success with generating a slightly creepy atmosphere at times for their horror angle.
A somewhat muddled mix of comedy and fantasy horror. If they had chosen to focus their tone and plot a bit more (particularly on the comedy aspects), I have a feeling this would have been a lot more entertaining overall. With that said, it still was an entertaining enough show. It is a bit difficult to talk about adding or subtracting stars since the show changes so abruptly in style and tone constantly, though I will note if you are a big Hayashibara Megumi fan, she does get a somewhat prominent (though not leading role), in this. — Jeremy A Beard
Recommended Audience: This show contains a lot of fantasy battles, but most of the violence is rather bloodless for the most part. There are a few on running silly jokes about certain people being mistaken for homosexuals that maybe might concern some people, but it really isn't anything too serious. In general, the show should be safe for teens and above.
Version(s) Viewed: Prerelease fansub
Review Status: Full (26/26)
Shrine of the Morning Mist © 2002 AT-X / TV Tokyo / King Records / Chaos Project
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