Shounen Onmyouji Review

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Here’s another childhood anime review from me again. ヽ( ̄(エ) ̄)ノ My love for ancient Japan and Japanese mythology got me into yet another great anime. Onmyouji is even in the title; obviously, I couldn’t go past it. The story is set in Heian period of ancient Japan. It follows Abe no Masahiro (Abe no Seimei’s grandson), a young onmyouji in training. Accompanied by his guardian and partner Guren, a powerful shikigami, Masahiro faces off against different mononoke that disturb the peace of the city. The anime is divided into two main stories, which are the adaptation of the first two arcs of the original light novel. The transition between the arcs, however, is done very smoothly, and there is no obvious ‘break’ point — the story flows naturally throughout the entire twenty six episodes.

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Though some may see it as a comedy at first glance, Shounen Onmyouji gradually develops into a serious drama with gentle romantic subplot that touches upon some of the very important points — like understanding and acceptance of others, forgiveness, and the search for one’s true place in the world. There is also enough comic relief, provided very cleverly and only at appropriate times, to give the partially light-hearted atmosphere and to help the story stay serious without crossing the line and becoming depressing. While the anime only covers the first two arcs of the novel and obviously doesn’t show the entire story, it definitely does not look cut off or unfinished. There is room for discussion (I’m just not satisfied with the ending so I end up continuing reading from where the anime left off in the novel. And here’s a TINY SPOILER: Guren regained his memories.) after the final episode, but an overall feeling of completeness is present.

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Shounen Onmyouji has a very diverse line-up of unique characters. Each of them has individuality and different ideals, and neither of them are stereotypical or boring. Their interactions with each other, as well as their inner struggles, are interesting to observe. They are all portrayed very realistically in their behavior; it’s easy to relate to them and to see that all beings feel sorrow and happiness equally, be they human, youkai, or shikigami. Most of the story is focused around Masahiro and Guren, as well as their bond with each other. Masahiro is constantly troubled with being compared to his grandfather, and strives to work his hardest to become a better or at least an equal onmyouji, so that people would see him as an individual named Masahiro and not just “Seimei’s grandson”.

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I was very impressed with Masahiro and his determination, and how far he was willing to push himself in order to achieve that place where he can belong while being himself. The second main character is Guren, Masahiro’s guardian who accompanies him everywhere. Although he will not easily admit it, Guren is very attached to Masahiro and is grateful for the ‘light’ that he brought to his heart. While appearing to be carefree in nature and acting rather silly most of the time (even taking on a form of a small white mononoke when his true powers are not needed), Guren is in a constant battle with himself and his tragic past. He is very strict with himself and takes a lot of responsibility for his actions, which makes it difficult for him to forgive himself and move on. The two of them depend greatly on each other’s support and their bond gets deeper as the series progresses.

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The reason I had to take a point off is that even though there are many interesting characters, some of them remain in the shadows or only show up for a couple minutes in the entire series. I am talking specifically about the twelve shikigami. Some of them were explored in greater detail, but most of them were just ‘there’ and left me wondering about many things, especially their reasons for serving Seimei and staying loyal to him for so long. I understand that the anime only shows the first bit of the full story, but as a full-fledged complete TV series with no sequel in sight, they should have either given brief background information on each of the shikigami, or not have shown some of them at all. I was especially upset about the two shikigami (I can only logically guess that they were shikigami) appearing in the final episode, whose names were not even mentioned.

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The art style is very different from the original novel illustrations, but that does not make it any less beautiful. The character design of the anime is very good. Obviously, the character designers have done extensive research. The costumes worn by the characters are true to the spirit of the Heian, a period second only to the modern in terms of experimentation in fashion. The male characters’layered outfits, the female characters’ lined layers of robes-all of these have clearly been painstakingly reproduced. Even the hair of the women has been created true to reality: in ancient times, long tresses were considered a sign of beauty. Fans of blue or pink hair will be disappointed completely.

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The music is good, nicely enough crafted to hold attention and maybe-just maybe-to hit that download button under the link on that music download site. The opening track, Kaori Hikita’s ‘Egao no Wake’ comes across as a nice song with nice, energetic beats and fluid vocals. Of the ending tracks, one likes Saori Kiuji’s ‘Yakusoku’. Though sung in a highly nasal tone of voice, the song’s arrangement fits perfectly with an old tale or an ancient hero-chronicle. Shounen Onmyouji is not something I’d recommend everyone to watch. If you’re starved for anime, or haven’t seen it in a long while, then you can try it out. If you’re a history buff, or need an idea of how people lived in the past, then this series is a definite must-watch. But to the general anime fan, I’d recommend something other than this.

 

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