In the Heian Era, the Onmyoji are experts on divination and the supernatural; but the one with the mightiest magical mojo of all is Abe no Seimei. Prince Hiromasa is the court official who must persuade a usually reluctant Seimei to use his power to help the court fight magical mischief.
I saw the two Japanese live-action Onmyoji films quite a while back, and have only one thing to say:
The anime version is a LOT more fun!
Some comparison/contrast (and a general introduction to the show's cast) is in order at this point:
I don't remember the live-action version stressing the rumor that Seimei was part fox. In this anime version, though, he's been definitely given some vulpine characteristics. (The live-action versions looked pretty low-budget and so weren't terribly sophisticated in the makeup department.)
Prince Hiromasa, who becomes his friend (and really a co-equal character, especially in the anime) is, in both the live-action and anime adaptations of the story, a good-natured, principled fellow, who is exceptionally skilled at playing the flute. (In the anime, he even acquires a magical one from a demon.) But he's a hapless soul in both versions, routinely incurring life-threatening situations. (He's stuck with being the show's "damsel in distress" character.) In the live-action version he had particularly rotten luck with women, but his problems are not so much from that particular direction in the anime. (I kind of thought there was a yaoi vibe between Seimei and Hiromasa in the live version. I'm not so sure here, though Seimei, it turns out, is still willing to go to EXTRAORDINARY lengths for Hiromasa's sake.)
Seimei has shiki (female assistants created by Seimei's magic) in both versions. In the live-action adaptation, he had one such assistant, created out of a butterfly; in the anime he has two of them, created out of wisteria petals. (Which, I guess, ensures that they won't get molested by Demon Slayer's demons.)
Speaking of demons- and from here on, I'm ONLY talking about the anime- they apparently arise when humans succumb to obsessions/grudges born of negative emotions (e.g., jealousy, in the case of the story arc that dominates the later part of the show.) Demons here can even be creative types- we meet one demon that's a skilled flute player; another writes poetry- and sometimes they haven't completely taken over their human hosts, so those hosts can still assume their original human appearance. The human identity of a demon apparently attacking Seimei becomes an interesting little mystery- does it involve one of the obvious suspects, or is it someone else? Some of those who might be somehow involved are a couple of other onmyoji. One is Kamo Yasunori; a more senior student in the program of magical instruction Seimei attended, he has a condescending attitude toward Seimei.
The other is Ashiya Doman. She not only sees Seimei as a rival, she likes to challenge him, often indirectly (by backing some bit of wickedness that is sure to require Seimei's talent to straighten out.) She dresses outrageously, drinks excessively, and seems someone Seimei would completely avoid if he could; but we find out that Seimei has, in fact, deliberately left himself vulnerable to her in at least one critical department.
But my very favorite character in the show, that I liked even more than the leads, is a young girl named Tsuyuko. Tsuyuko loves to study nature, and is particularly fascinated by bugs. Seimei becomes involved with her because of a curse put on her by her own father (who did it to get her to give up her "unladylike" pursuits); but it turns out that love may be stronger against evil than even Seimei realizes. (The real world, especially the real world of late, may make these sentiments look foolishly naive, but the heart still wants to believe it may be so; and I found the message (and Tsuyuko herself!) refreshingly uplifting.)
I've a minor complaint about the opening music- it's too raucous for this sort of show- but the closing theme (and animation) fit it quite well.
The final story arc was a little too protracted, and maudlin, but otherwise I found the show's demons much more nuanced (and therefore more interesting) than Demon Slayer's; I really appreciated Hiromasa's basic decency; and I really, TRULY, loved Tsuyuko's story (and am adding her to my growing list of favorite anime females.) In many ways, the show reminded me of Raven of the Inner Palace, though this one has maybe a little lighter atmosphere overall (even though there are plenty of dark moments), and is sans romance- which, considering the fact that Hiromasa's romances NEVER seem to work out, might be just as well. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: Netflix rates TV-MA. Violence (including stabbings), and mature themes.
Version(s) Viewed: Netflix video stream
Review Status: Full (13/13)
Onmyoji © 2023 Netflix
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