Review/discussion about: Sousei no Onmyouji
Sousei no Onmyouji contains no shortage of ohagi, a Japanese sweet treat filled with rice and covered in a delectable, bean paste. I’ve never eaten the food myself; what I know of it comes from this show and the quick Google search I did in preparation for writing this anecdote out.
However, I have seen all of Sousei no Onmyouji. Which is kind of like a ball of ohagi – if it were spoiled, unappetizing, and missing any semblance of nutritional value.
Sousei no Onmyouji contains a total of fifty episodes. That number equates to a one-year run, or, using relevant jargon, a 4-cour show. At approximately twenty-four minutes per episode, that’s twenty whole hours of content. That’s a lot by today’s standards since most projects nowadays only go for 1-cour outings with the uncommon 2-cour stretch thrown in. At twice and-or four times the length of a typical anime, the show has a ton of time to either get things right or get things wrong.
Sadly, it lands somewhere hard on the latter side.
The anime more or less splits up into seven distinct arcs: the Introductory Arc, the Relationship-Building Arc, the Yuto Arc, the Sae Arc, the Distraction Arc, the Floating-City Arc, and the Final Arc. These arcs vary in their execution, so it is best to separate them in this fashion before looking at the show in its entirety.
First comes the Introductory Arc. True to its name, these initial six episodes introduce the audience to what the tale will focus on. They present the important world-building details like the evil Kegare, the alternate dimension of Megano, and the Twelve Guardians. They establish the tenuous connection between Benio and Rokuro. They setup the Twin Star plot. Standard material that simply gets the show pointing in the right direction from the get-go.
The Relationship-Building Arc comes next, and it is arguably the best arc in the series. From episode seven to episode thirteen, Rokuro and Benio not only begin to live together in a mansion gifted to them by head-exorcist Arima but also the two start to build their bond towards something meaningful (if not romantic). Big revelations, like Rokuro’s past and Benio’s indirect connection to him through her twin brother Yuto, come to light. Also, the anime does a nice job of balancing the Kegare battles with the more slice-of-life material (e.g., “Benio Special,” their faux date).
This arc also shows the first major signs of problems down the line. To its credit, the concept of Resonance, where Benio and Rokuro connect on a psychological level to dish out extra spirit power, makes for a pretty cool moment. However, introducing a key part to Benio’s past – her parents’ death – and addressing it within the exact same episode mere minutes later does not make for solid writing. Regardless, this arc does enough to boost Sousei no Onmyouji’s appeal.
Following a completely unnecessary recap of these first thirteen episodes in episode fourteen (wherein Mayura’s wish to have her feelings reach Rokuro only further buries her chances), the show proceeds to the Yuto Arc. While this arc contains some lighter events, such as Ryougo’s romance with Haruka, it mostly focuses on Kegare Corruption, Yuto’s villainy, and the Twin Stars overcoming their toughest trial yet.
Much like the Relationship-Building Arc, the Yuto Arc has its mixture of both nice and questionable writing decisions. Benio loses her legs, acting as a clever parallel to Rokuro’s lost arm. Better yet, Kamui, the Basara that killed Benio’s parents, creates them for her in a cruel twist of fate. Rokuro’s deceased friends from the Hanatsuki Tragedy then support him in his final duel with Yuto, creating an interesting (and cathartic) moment.
On the less-than-ideal writing side, Mayura’s corruption occurs almost instantly after she chooses to back Rokuro’s decision to continue fighting. Reigen (Mayura’s father) somehow doesn’t perish after the buildup and emotions behind his (what should have been) sacrifice. And the whole fight against Yuto amounts to nothing when, after everything that has happened in episode nineteen and episode twenty, he presumably lives (which the show later confirms).
Their failure to ever finish the job carries over into the Sae Arc. At this point, Sousei no Onmyouji’s slow decline begins. Most notably, the two-year time skip is ineffective. Despite such a shakeup to the plot, nothing of note changes between Benio and Rokuro, and this period does not affect the narrative to a worthwhile extent. It makes the audience wonder why such a skip was needed in the first place.
In this arc, the anime introduces Sae herself, a little girl who cannot listen to anyone and stay put when told to do so. Again, smaller lighthearted asides, like Benio “losing” at rock-paper-scissors and Rokuro in awe of “jewelry,” try to keep that action-and-slice-of-life balance. But the anime’s incessant need to bring in a new Basaras, only for him or her to runaway soon after, overshadows these grounded moments.
Episode twenty-four with the “beauty” almost-Basara and episode thirty with Sae’s departing present to her “parents” do make for interesting, even emotional scenes. But Rokuro and Benio’s relationship more or less takes a backseat to the asides, the fights, and the fleeing Basaras. A trade-off that does not pay dividends.
Sae’s return to the Ame-no-mihashira marks the end of her arc and starts the Distraction Arc – and more declining. Sousei no Onmyouji continues to ignore Benio and Rokuro’s relationship because (ironically enough) it’s too distracted with letting others take care of the Basaras that popped up from the previous arc. Even when it does finally remember to address their relationship, arguably the most important aspect of the show, the plot conveniently cuts off his confession to her with a literal Earth-shattering quake.
Or, even worse, it provides more unneeded recaps in episode thirty-two and, in the same episode, has the two protagonists dancing all happily to Suzu’s heavy-metal song. A moment that goes down as the most bizarre scene in the entire anime.
This quake leads into the shortest arc of the lot, the Floating-City Arc. Kuranashi, the big-bad baddie who has been scheming since that time skip (and apparently for thousands of years in total), unleashes his ultimate plan using the hypnotized, miasma-filled lesser exorcists and a ginormous plant-tentacle Kegare. All to capture the Twelve Guardians to steal their power for his own. This arc is rather straightforward in that it involves lots of action and not much else save for a bit of backstory on Seigen. The only truly important development is also one of the most asinine: Yuto revives himself by double-crossing Kuranashi.
Yuto’s return pushes Sousei no Onmyouji into the Final Arc and into complete decline. Disregarding the convenience surrounding Arima’s spell usage to escape death, this arc contains a heap of troubles.
The whole “joining” angle is weird and uncomfortable, especially since Seimei takes the yang out of Benio’s soul regardless.
Benio doesn’t comment on Yuto’s death despite the tension in their relationship and the fact that he is literally her twin brother.
The Cataclysm King thread is introduced way too late at this point in the story.
Rokuro being inspired by an impromptu dance number from Suzu the Basara forces the audience’s hand to their foreheads.
The lose-a-teammate-at-each-junction sequence does not have the emotional weight the anime believes that it does.
As a last hail-Mary attempt, the story tries to play with the idea that sin is a necessary evil. That it ultimately spawns love and happiness, making these feelings stronger as a result of the struggle and fortitude to reach them. A reasonable and thoughtful theme. However, when the show tries to say that the Kegare aren’t all evil as an argument, the idea breaks down. Killing Kegare has always been Rokuro, Benio, and everyone else’s goal. Plus, these creatures hunted and attacked humans to begin with. Double plus, the show did not do enough comparing of both sides to warrant such introspection.
Due to the large number of episodes, going over the individual arcs in this fashion still did not include some other positives and most certainly left out many more negatives. Nevertheless, this breakdown should illustrate that Sousei no Onmyouji started relatively solid but eventually declined into a problematic mess.
What about on an overall scale? Sadly, the mess only gets worse.
For example, the show has a huge problem when it comes to the power levels involved. In essence, they have no rhyme or reason half the time. Benio and Rokuro are the Twin Star Exorcists, but, after the Relationship-Building Arc, they almost never seem to defeat their enemies or succeed in battle whatsoever. No matter if they fight on their own or with Resonance, they are weak either against the Basaras or juxtaposed with the Twelve Guardians.
In fact, it’s safe to bet that they will lose in some fashion since their lousy dialogue, when they aren’t repeating the same words on strength and determination, jinxes the outcome of their fights. Classic phrases like “We got him for sure this time!” or “Is he defeated?” inevitably mean that, no, they did not in fact defeat their foe. So, on the impossible off chance that they do win, it either feels like a miracle or just doesn’t make sense.
The anime also has an odd tonal issue in that the seriousness behind death and danger in their various situations rarely seems to matter. They’ll square off against a smattering of Kegare in basically the underworld to save a bunch of elementary-school kids one instant, and they’ll happily crack jokes while eating ohagi in a restaurant the next. Not to mention that these abnormal atrocities involve Rokuro and Benio when they are young teenagers and occasionally kids themselves, making their ordeals almost too outlandish.
Sousei no Onmyouji also has fundamental issues. One such issue takes the form of Rokuro’s arm. Since the only weapon he has at his disposal is essentially a glorified fist, his available actions are way too restrictive. Thus, many of his fights involve lots of repetition since new moves almost never appear. Air Fissure Bullet can take care of smaller enemies, and his combos with Benio provide flashier abilities. But, in general, Rokuro only swinging his right arm unendingly cannot be deemed engaging let alone impressive.
Furthermore, the Kegare fought throughout the season don’t often matter. They usually exist as just big blobs or giant animalistic, humanoid creatures that need to be slashed or exploded in nearly the exact same way. I.e., there’s rarely any tactics, strategy, or thought that goes into each skirmish besides “throw moves at them until something works.”
Not to mention the lackluster writing throughout the season. Mayura’s semi-not-even love triangle had no place in the narrative when she never tries to earn Rokuro’s attention and the show is literally about him and Benio growing romantically closer. Also, in hindsight, Kegare Corruption no longer remains a talking point or potential threat after the Yuto Arc. Given its efficacy and danger, it makes very little sense for the story to almost never mention this detail again (even if Yuto’s incapacitated state renders such magic irrelevant). Arima’s Burial Ritual on Rokuro’s heart also makes very little sense when it amounts to nothing after the tension built behind such an action.
The Miko angle, the arguable driving force behind the show, is the worst. Two-year time skip or no, Benio and Rokuro are way too young to have a baby. But that means that, for fifty episodes worth of content, this plot point remains a carrot on a stick forever. The audience chases after and looks forward to this development, but they never actually get to see anything related to it appear.
That carrot will eventually be reached, but not before it rots away. Very much like this anime.
ART & ANIMATION
Unfortunately, Sousei no Onmyouji’s art and animation do not allow it to recover much from the continual decline of its story.
In the beginning of the season, the anime had at least a competent level of consistency. Benio sprints around everywhere as she fights. Rokuro destroys enemies with a starry explosion. The two engage in spats that span multiple actions and reactions. While nothing jaw-dropping occurs, the anime avoids major hiccups in the visuals presented.
However, as early as episode eleven, wherein Benio’s head concaves awkwardly into itself, the anime signals the start of major errors and that it just cannot keep up. Misshapen faces due to incorrect eye placements, janky proportions, and weird expressions. Too much reused animation at times such as during Suzu’s ridiculous heavy-metal performance; lackluster animation in many of the fights and even in the most basic of interactions.
A particularly egregious example goes down in episode thirty-six. Mayura talks with Benio as the two girls work to incapacitate the zombified students. When Benio responds, however, the show forgets to move her mouth and face to match her reaction and words for half the frame. So, instead of a regular delivery of her lines, the anime instead treats the audience to a static image of Benio agape a few seconds longer than intended.
Yet it can have sparks of something more. The black, grainy sidebars during flashbacks make it easy to visually understand when these depicted events take place due to the old-timey film look. Furthermore, the show includes a cool stylized overlay whenever a character performs a special move. Japanese kanji crash onto the screen, colorful effects abound, and a profile shot of the character about to take action streaks open, giving the whole sequence a “It’s about to go down…” vibe.
Background art generally doesn’t stick out, but, when they travel to Magano, that perspective changes. In this opposing reality, the red and brown coloring paints a dark, hellish landscape. The dilapidated buildings and destroyed streets likewise infuse the area with sadness and dread.
And while the character designs are usually not impressive (Rokuro’s jagged teeth imply a sense of immaturity, Benio’s purple motif coincides with her princess persona), they can sometimes be a bit intriguing. Tatara’s emoticon face is strange but silly, and Mayura’s Kegare Corruption is wicked with her purple-and-pink hair, orange-and-black eyes, and a flower foundation.
Also of note, some of the opening tracks have nice visuals, like the second’s foreshadowing of Benio’s lost legs or the fourth’s ending shot as she stands on her tippy toes to lock lips with Rokuro.
It’s the third opening track, though, that turns heads with its decidedly avant-garde visuals. The Twin Stars jostle as the dinner table they sit at rotates. The light-refracting, destiny-driven puppeteering of the two heroes. That one plane which transforms into a bunch of butterflies. The focus on shapes and mirroring.
A very interesting set of images indeed – but even they succumb to errors. For, once the anime realizes that the parallel shot between Rokuro and Benio standing side-by-side does not work because Rokuro weirdly shows off his Kegare arm while Benio does not show off her Kegare legs, it instead puts his arm back to normal for each time the track plays afterwards.
If even the opening track’s visuals have errors (corrected or not), that should indicate well enough the weakness of the artistry overall.
Sousei no Onmyouji contains a huge cast of characters. Much like the story, then, it’s best to break them up into particular categories: the good guys, the bad guys, and the Twin Stars themselves.
Starting with the good guys, the Twelve Guardians stand out. Shimon the flame wielder, Subaru the proper, Victorian lady, and Seigen the dreary-eyed grumpy dude notably make more of a name for themselves. Shimon trained under Seigen, Subaru trained Benio (and did her best to change Rokuro and Benio’s relationship for the better), and Seigen looked after both Rokuro and Yuto while also fathering Mayura. Sakura and Miku do receive a small amount of backstory when fighting Moro, and Arima pops up from time to time with silliness and information of his own, but Shimon, Subaru, and Seigen bring the most intrigue with their seriousness, difference, and protection (respectively).
In comparison, almost none of the characters from the Seika Dormitory matter – save for Ryougo. Ryougo is like an older brother to Rokuro, playing along with his teasing “servant” claims, looking out for him, believing in him, and wishing only the best for the troubled teen. He isn’t around as much throughout a sizable chunk of the middle portion of the season, but Ryougo’s kindness and maturity make him a very likable guy on top of being a worthwhile person in Rokuro’s life. So, when he falls in love with Haruka and eventually gets married to her (in the last episode no less), he definitely deserves such happiness.
As for the extra side characters, Sousei no Onmyouji focuses mostly on Mayura, Sae, and Kinako. Mayura is Rokuro’s childhood friend. She has supported him throughout his entire life, and she befriends Benio to somewhat melt the unfriendly girl’s icy shell. The time skip sees her becoming a full-fledged exorcist, and, during the Floating-City Arc, she even commands her father’s Guardian power when they work together to stall Kuranashi. Her presumed-inevitable romance with Shimon also makes for a nice bit of recompense since her feelings for Rokuro were doomed from the very start.
Sae the tree branch and Kinako the familiar also receive attention. Sae has one major role: showcasing the Twin Stars as potential parents. A role she takes on well with her memorization of Benio’s Ohagi Man Song and calling Rokuro “Papa.” Kinako serves Benio and belittles Rokuro, but he also has much more important duties like providing transportation and creating comedic relief here and there. He even gets nearly all of episode thirty-one to himself when his backstory and beginnings with Benio play out.
In total, the good guys may not contribute a ton to Sousei no Onmyouji in a critical or impactful sense, but they at least do not take anything away from the show by their inclusion. A sentiment that cannot be said of the bad guys.
To put it lightly, the villains of the anime are horrible in their construction. Many of the lesser Basaras miss out on crucial connections to the story in that they show up, leave, and show up once more only to perish in the their second arrival. They can have an inkling of characterization, like Yamato wanting to upstage Kuranashi or Chijiwa (mistakenly) seeking revenge against Benio and Rokuro for his deceased twin brother (killed by Kuranashi). Moreover, they are fodder in the grand scheme of things. But their relevance is way too flimsy for supposed threats.
The greater Basaras consist of Kuranashi, Suzu, and Kamui. Kuranashi (initially) becomes the main antagonist after the time skip (in episode twenty) but only indirectly. He does not directly take part in any fights or says anything worthwhile until his duel with Arima (in episode thirty-three). Even then, his motivations are not revealed until later (in episode thirty-eight) where his “just in it for the entertainment” answer is eye-rolling in its lameness. Despite having this “elaborate” plan concocted and executed perfectly over the course of 1000 years, his death (in episode forty-one) leaves him unable to accomplish anything and turns him into a completely uninteresting baddie.
Suzu and Kamui aren’t as prevalent as Kuranashi (indirectly or otherwise), but their neutral stances amidst the warring that goes on certainly makes them more interesting. However, they still hurt Sousei no Onmyouji’s overall execution nonetheless. Disregarding Suzu’s off-kilter songs, she conveniently appears whenever or wherever she wants.
And Kamui did have potential given his dual connection to Benio for killing her parents and granting her Kegare legs. However, he also has a lame motivation with “just in it to fight strong opponents” and, after episode twenty, he doesn’t reappear until episode forty-nine. As if the anime forgot about him then hurriedly shoved him back in. The kicker, though? His arc is left open-ended come the end of the season, so his reappearance didn’t matter to begin with.
Abe no Seimei is not a Basara, but he opposes everyone all the same. He at least has a definitive motive – eradicating all sin to form a serendipitous world of nothing but unending happiness – but his random inclusion, his boring, emotionless personality, and obvious-not-obvious familiar who leads the Twelve Guardians in Arima’s absence fail to make him a worthwhile enemy as well.
Suppose one views all these bad guys like the good guys in that many of them are not really that important. This scenario still leaves Yuto who no doubt is important – and who goes down as the worst character in the anime and one of the worst villains in the medium.
As a kid, Yuto did not respect his parents for touting ideals without accomplishments of their own. He also hated Benio for always being weak. So, it comes as no surprise that this selfish misanthrope goes off the deep end and forcefully corrupts the children of the Hanatsuki Tragedy into Kegare.
Thus, the anime sets Yuto up as a rather vile, hate-worthy character. Most of this information comes from episode nine when Yuto officially appears for the very first time. To which he promptly disappears for eight more episodes, interfering not at all until episode seventeen. It’s not until episode nineteen where he unveils his motivation. That, similar to Kuranashi and Kamui, is way too lame: “just want to be the strongest exorcist.”
Credit where credit is due, Yuto is a downright annoying antagonist. But his maniacal, powerful self doesn’t come from a solid foundation but rather loose writing. The “twist” about his birth, how he is an accidental byproduct of Benio’s spiritual conception, comes way too late (in episode forty-six) and as an uncared for heap of exposition.
Regardless, he miraculously loses to Rokuro and Benio in episode twenty – and then he does not show up again until episode forty-two. Like Kamui, that’s a long time to go without the main antagonist. Not a peep and barely a mention of him occurs in this twenty-two-episode span, but his final return sees him randomly resting out of nowhere in the Ame-no-mihashira, conveniently beating Kuranashi at his own scheming game, and magically earning omnipotence.
Sousei no Onmyouji tries to slightly redeem Yuto’s character when it ramps up his obsession with Rokuro to somewhere beyond just old pals. Moreover, they liken his existence to less of a nemesis and more of a fate-bound catalyst. Yet, when the anime shoehorns in some last-minute backstory about him and Rokuro right before his death, this mistimed and mishandled info reminds the audience of Yuto’s abysmal construction.
Combined with the fact that the anime does not go into detail on how Yuto learned the dark art of Kegare Corruption. And that the anime does not explore his past relationships with his parents or Benio. And that the anime does not even explain how or why he wears an eyepatch. It all adds up into one pathetic character, villain, or any other related moniker that can be given to such an asinine cast member.
While the good guys and the bad guys have their parts to play in the show, they are not the stars (in more ways than one). That honor goes to the main protagonists: Rokuro and Benio.
Before Rokuro and Benio eventually teamed up, they lived separate yet similar lives. Lives whose origins the audience sees through a series flashbacks that span the first twenty episodes. Rokuro was found somewhere in Megano, he survived the Hanatsuki Tragedy instigated by Yuto, and he quit being an exorcist as a result of his inability to save his friends. Benio looked up to her twin brother Yuto, lost her parents right before her eyes to Kamui the Basara in Megano, and she steeled herself to become stronger than ever.
So, when these two (eventual) lovebirds first “meet” (quotes because this meeting involves Rokuro jumping off a bridge to catch a falling, unconscious Benio), they exist on opposite sides of the spectrum despite the similarities in their traumatic pasts. They don’t initially know what each one went through, though, meaning Rokuro’s immaturity and Benio’s standoffish personality puts them on an unfriendly basis from the get-go.
Not long after, Arima declares Benio and Rokuro the Twin Star Exorcists. Which means that, besides their immense potential as exorcists, they are destined to conceive the Miko, the child who will end the Kegare threat forevermore. Naturally, this inevitably means love, marriage, and bedroom fun.
So, the two start to grow closer together. Arima’s free-mansion giveaway and Subaru’s guiding hand spring up events like a missing hairpiece and feeding food to the other at a pancake restaurant. Rokuro’s indirect connection to Benio through Yuto almost destroys their relationship in episode nine, but, thankfully, the truth of the situation comes out, and they become ever closer still in a mutual pact of their own choosing.
Their relationship moves forward a major step when they support one another in their first (and only) fight against Kamui. In unison, they perform Resonance, an ability that only the Twin Stars are capable of using to empower their respective halves and in turn permitting more winning opportunities. Afterwards, they are put in their place mentally when they cannot help as intended, they perfect their use of Resonance, and, in the process of “defeating” Yuto, Rokuro upgrades his arm and Benio “upgrades” her legs.
At this point, the underlying theme of these characters becomes quite clear: One can go it alone, but a partner makes life much more remarkable. The purposeful relationship between Rokuro and Benio, the importance placed on their union both in the fights and in the future, and even the title of the anime itself (Twin Star Exorcists) point at the idea that a person can accomplish much, much more than they thought possible if he or she relies on another.
Arguably, Sousei no Onmyouji takes it one level further with the romance angle, advocating to some degree that love can overcome any of life’s obstacles. Benio and Rokuro are individually strong, but, as their feelings for each other grow, they bolster the other both physically and emotionally. However, the show keeps the base of its theme going with its other characters as well. Mayura and her father Seigen. Ryougo and his wife Haruka. Even on the Basara side with Chijiwa and his counterpart Momochi.
In total, the theme itself is not exactly explored. While all these relationships exist, the anime doesn’t spend much time expounding on the importance of such connections with either words or intermittent challenges. Indeed, it places focus more so on the many battles and the must-get-stronger mindset. Nevertheless, such bonds improve their capabilities for the better.
Unfortunately, following the time skip, Benio and Rokuro do not evolve their relationship much (if at all). Despite living together and fighting together and doing everything together, almost nothing has happened or changed between the two for two whole years. Even disregarding this fact, the newer characters, the increased amount of unrelated action, and the need to push the plot along get in the way of blossoming their love.
As the final thirteen or so episodes roll around, the show finally gets back to their relationship. A love letter to Rokuro makes Benio want to know Rokuro’s feelings about her. And Rokuro, turning down that written confession, thinks more seriously about the topic. While their exchange of love gets interrupted more times than a comedian bombing on stage, a curry conversation here and a hill tumble there bring them slowly and ever-so-close to the next part of their progression.
But not before events tear them apart. Benio’s near death at the hands of (a returning) Yuto forces Rokuro to reconsider his relationship with her. Extra information about his past and his role as the Cataclysm King comes forth too, redoubling his rethinking. After much thought, he casts Benio aside in a rather heartbreaking manner. A strange choice given the entire point of the show and their characters specifically is how their bond means more than anything they could do alone.
Still, Rokuro wants to keep Benio safe and does not want to tie her down to a Kegare (i.e., himself), so he burdens the troubles and the worries by his lonesome. Once he transforms, and having already realized her feelings for him, Benio makes the extremely difficult decision of sacrificing herself to save Rokuro, knowing that she may never, ever see him again.
Yet Benio believes in Rokuro’s perseverance. Included yin-yang parallels aside, Rokuro, now back to normal, steels himself (with the help of Arima, Suzu, Kinako, Mayura, and his other friends) to save Benio from Abe no Seimei’s clutches. While Benio’s hairpin-laser-connector plan seems a little wacky even within the context of the anime, their confession in episode forty-nine more than makes up for it. Rokuro and Benio bicker atop the blossomed Ame-no-mihashira as a major clash between spirit dragons goes on in the background. Their lover’s quarrel leads to him kissing her and her kissing him in a double exchange of emotions that connects them back together in wonderful fashion.
Their final Resonance of the season relies less on their relationship and more on the (spiritual) support of the many people they met and interacted with throughout the season, tying back to the characters’ central idea. Thus, they save the world, and the two somewhat embarrass themselves at Ryougo’s wedding. Their sincere speech then gives way to Rokuro gifting Benio a new set of hair clips, matching the same event between the two just before the two-year skip. Only this time, they end it on a kiss, letting the audience understand that these two have and will have each other to make their lives remarkable forevermore.
Altogether, Benio and Rokuro are not strong characters. They are not weak characters either. The show simply forgets to expound on them come the middle of the season, preventing their growth beyond a middling level. On top of the passable good guys and the abhorrent bad guys, the execution here just does not end up anywhere favorable.
MUSIC & SOUND
Sousei no Onmyouji lands everywhere on the execution map when it comes to its music and sound design. For example, the opening tracks go in different directions when compared to one another to add some much-needed diversity.
“Valkyrie -Ikusa Otome-,” the first OP, uses shamisen for a cultural feel and punctual breaks in the tempo to bring on the intensity. “Re:Call,” the second OP, incorporates a steadier beat and set of vocals, but the song stays around for too many episodes after the narrative’s time skip (if the visuals are any indication) where the body of the plot has already shifted.
“sync” (no capital “s”), the third OP, moves between a male and female vocalist as a hip-hop groove with shouts and drops keeps the flow of the piece (coincidentally enough) in sync. And “Kanadeai,” the fourth and final OP, takes on a sentimental, rock ‘n’ roll tone for a more thoughtful song to lead out the season.
Overall, these opening tracks are some of the best parts of Sousei no Onmyouji. In comparison, the ending tracks do not contain as much variety since they each aim for a romantic vibe. They also do not reach the same level of intrigue.
Nevertheless, they still work within the confines of the show. “Eyes,” the first ED, brings in daintier instrumentals whereas “Yadoriboshi,” the second ED, brings in piano and violin to back its grandiose composition. “Hide and Seek,” the third ED, gets more fun with a faster pace and its volley of triplets, and “Hotarubi” returns to that cultural feel while mixing together subdued and boisterous segments.
Elsewhere besides the start and the finale of each episode, the original soundtrack hits highs and lows. Interesting tracks such as the 8-bit-esque and flute-like tunes for its slice-of-life moments help the mood. But the electronic, dubstep pieces, like the one with the distorted monster voices most often played when Kegare appear, do not mesh too well with the setting and the premise and the action at hand.
Doubly so for Suzu’s metal performance in episode twenty-two. A song that leaves the audience nothing short of flabbergasted at its inclusion, head-shaking at its corny lyrics and weak vocal delivery.
Besides the OST, Sousei no Onmyouji contains a couple of very interesting audio tricks. Most notably, in episode sixteen, when Rokuro and Benio use Resonance consciously for the first time, the anime employs a back-and-forth voiceover with Rokuro only speaking in the right ear and Benio only speaking in the left ear.
And, speaking of voice acting, while the performances aren’t the most impressive across the board, Megumi Han as Benio and Natsuki Hanae as Rokuro still deserve props. They scream as fervently and as often as possible throughout each fight and during their different moves. So much so that one hopes they had a few cough drops on hand to stave off injury.
Despite how much I have written against this anime up to this point, I can’t say that I despise it. “Hate” is too harsh of a word, too. Instead, I simply very strongly dislike most things about the show.
My dislike stems from multiple aspects – Yuto chief among them. Seriously. He’s the absolute worst part of the show. I cannot stand him as a character; he’s much too infallible. I am also not fond of Arima. I could do without his “comedy,” and his general worthlessness throughout almost the entire season despite literally being in charge of the Exorcist Union.
The action is another large factor. Admittedly, I’m not the biggest fan of action-oriented shows, but what goes on here treads way too far into sameness. Considering how much fighting goes on, I usually found myself disinterested in the proceedings. Along the same lines, the drama involved rarely pulled me in, and the show didn’t have as much of a thematic presence as I would have liked.
Glimpses of fun exist within all this mud. Mayura’s silly name-calling insults had me chuckling. Subaru was attractive with her teasing attitude, air of decadence, and fan usage. Ryougo was a pretty cool dude too, for I liked his brotherly persona in relation to Rokuro. And I actually laughed at Tenma demonstrating his almighty powers by yelling at the Dragon Spot to close and Cordelia cursing in English with her robotic voice.
Unfortunately, these characters and their qualities cannot always be around, so they do not necessarily wash away the dirt that follows the negatives I have with the show.
As for the Twin Stars, I do find Rokuro and Benio (Benio more so) likable to an extent. Rokuro can get a bit righteous at times, but he has his heart in the right place. And Benio’s quiet behavior contrasts with her occasional outbursts of silliness and passion to make her more than meets the eye.
However, their romance caught my attention the most. Seeing them struggle to get along when first encountering each other. The hand-holding scenes and signs of affection before the middle portions. Their ultimate confession of love with kisses to boot. I found myself smiling on more than one occasion as their feelings for each other grew.
But I still have a gripe: The romance just isn’t around enough. I’m reiterating myself at this point, but, after the Relationship-Building Arc and the Yuto Arc, their bond drowns in a vat of stagnation. Even when the Floating-City Arc resurfaces those lovey-dovey feelings, three separate interruptions prolong what should have been said between the two literal in-universe years prior.
Forgiving those scenes, the final stretch still doesn’t prioritize the romance until episode forty-four where Rokuro pushes Benio away to protect her and episode forty-seven where Benio sacrifices herself to bring Rokuro back. I do really like their shared confession, but it also makes me wonder what could have been had their relationship always remained at the forefront.
Sousei no Onmyouji delivers a show that hobbles along and crumbles apart the whole way through. Over the course of fifty episodes, the broken storytelling, the inexcusable artistic issues, the weak character writing, the mediocre audio offerings, and the low level of entertainment make for an ohagi overdose that upsets the stomach for much too long and without hardly any tangible benefits.
Story: Terrible, a narrative replete with problematic individual arcs and a laundry list of overarching issues that decline this tale into a complete mess
Art & Animation: Bad, the visuals clearly cannot keep up as fewer frames and extra errors steadily emerge, but the world of Megano and some interesting artistic choices inject much-needed flair
Characters: Bad, the good guys pass but lack impact, the bad guys contribute nothing but lameness, Yuto is one of worst villains ever, and both Benio and Rokuro did not receive as much focus as they required
Music & Sound: Fine, a diverse set of OPs, an average set of EDs, a mixture of nice and questionable tracks in the OST, a cool back-and-forth technique, and lots of shouting from the VA performances allow the audio to stand at least upright
Enjoyment: Bad, some funny insults, a curse word, and a few likable characters fail to form a worthwhile experience as annoying characters, boring action, and missing romance hamper the project
Final Score: 2/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review. If you want, take part in the discussion below! :3