Anime DVD Review
Way back when I watched this quirky corny live action called Onimyouji. It was a cross between horror and comedy with a bit of drama thrown in for fun. It was off-kilter enough to keep me interested and the leading man was good-looking and enigmatic enough to keep my eyes glued to the screen. Seimei, the divination master that can supposedly control demons, protects the imperial court from the devious manipulations of corrupted humans and invasions from the underworld.
Fast forward almost a decade, Shonen Onmyouji comes out. The "Onmyouji" part caught my attention first. Is it Seimei when he was a child? Is Seimei in it? It's animated so is there any link between the movie and this? Is it quirky like the movie? How corny will it be? How many demons will be shown this time? To say the least, I was curious.
I started watching and I slowly sunk into the world of Onmyoujis again. It was like Saiyuki meets Naruto and Tsubasa. Seimei returns but now he is an old man; Shonen Onmyouji actually refers to his grandson, Masahiro, who Seimei hopes will be the heir to his legacy, the most powerful divination master.
I think I have run too far ahead of the story, right? Let's start from the beginning. Abe No Seimei is a real onmyouji that lived in Japan hundreds of years ago. He was the most revered and celebrated onmyouji ever to specialize in fortune-telling, astronomy, and, in those days, prayers for protection and blessings. He was such a famous figure in the imperial court that, much like stars these days, rumors and myths float around about him. The two most famous ones were that his mother was a fox-spirit and that he possessed the ability to control the spirits that he sees around him. He lived to a ripe old age, which is rare in those days, and spawned more rumors. One was that he never really died and still roams around the world protecting humankind; he's kind of like the Merlin or Elvis of Japan at the time. The second one was that he had a son somewhere that he passed his powers and skills to; he didn't want his son to live his life in the spotlight like him so kept his existence a secret.
From these rumors, Shonen Onmyouji creates this story of Masahiro. Masahiro has inherited his grandfather's, Seimei, genes and has the ability to see spirits. He wasn't afraid of the grumpy, scary fallen god but he was always teased and ridiculed by the other kids. Spirits were afraid of him and his potential powers, so they either tried to stay away or tried to kill him. Scared that this ability might attract the wrong kind of attention again, Seimei sealed them away until Masahiro needed them. One of Seimei's twelve Shikigami (the other eleven thinks he's pathetic) assigns himself to Masahiro protection duty while Masahiro himself cluelessly grows up thinking that he's a normal boy with a whiny manipulative grandfather who is teaching him stuff that he will never need to use. The worse part of growing up was always being defined as being "Seimei's grandson"; it's already bad enough that he's not good at doing anything but to suck at everything while in his grandfather's shadow is the worse.
To add to that, a mononoke started stalking him while he tries to find something that he is good at. Everyday it's "Seimei's grandson, have you failed at something again?" or "At least, you are hard working, what's next on your list, Seimei's grandson?". But... a mononoke is a spirit creature... That's great: a loony grandfather, a seal that is starting to lose effect, a smart mouthed spirit creature taunting him, AND he's still hasn't found something that he's good at. Maybe being killed by scared spirits or demons isn't such a bad thing.
Reviewed by Carolyn Whu, September 2009
Below: Scenes from Shonen Onmyouji.
Below: Promotional artwork from Shonen Onmyouji.