- Onimusha is a short and visually appealing dark historical fantasy anime that efficiently tells its story within its four-hour runtime.
- The anime draws inspiration from samurai films and the original Onimusha video game franchise, but also strives to stand on its own.
- While the animation quality varies, the anime effectively utilizes its limited episodes to deliver non-stop action and engaging set pieces.
The new Netflix original anime, Onimusha, produced by Sublimation, is a short and sweet dark historical fantasy that accomplishes what it can in its short runtime. It may not be the most awe-inspiring piece of work out there, but clean visuals and an efficient story ensure that viewers won’t feel its four-hour runtime is not wasted. As such, it’s perfect for unwinding between longer shows.
Capcom’s Onimusha franchise has lain dormant for decades now, leaving the premise free to be reused in any way. Sublimation chose to set it in Japan during the Edo era, following the original game trilogy’s Warring States period.
The new story, following the legendary samurai Miyamoto Musashi, resonates at times with the original games, though ultimately feels like it wishes to be its own beast, for better or for worse.
Onimusha Keeps Its Ambitions And Its Focus Tight
Onimusha feels more indebted to samurai films than it does its own franchise: the famed director Takashi Miike served as a supervising director, while Musashi’s face is modeled on the legendary actor Toshiro Mifune. Indeed, the scruffy Musashi acts more like Toshiro’s iconic Sanjuro from the movie of the same name, directed by Akira Kurosawa. While the Oni and the Genma appear, as well as the Oni Gauntlet that game protagonist Samanosuke Akechi used, the monsters, weapons, and Oni transformation lack that video game exaggeration that could have given it its identity. If story villain Iemon pledged himself to more generic dark powers, the plot likely wouldn’t have changed.
Animation-wise, Sublimation provides a mixed bag. Their strength lies more in the details: the vast landscapes of the wilderness have a painterly quality to them that is easy on the eyes, and their characters’ well-modeled faces and limbs provide lots of excellent expressions and intricate moves in combat, but when forced to do broader motions like walking the illusion cracks. Non-human creatures, like a pair of hawks, are also not impressive when motion. As such Onimusha sits in the middle of the road with 3D CGI: holding steady in competence until it exerts itself for a scene or two every episode.
To its credit, though, Onimusha is cognizant of its limitations and doesn’t waste any moment of its mere eight 20-minute episodes. With a minimal cast and a clear goal in the distance, Musashi and his cohort relentlessly push forward from one flashy set piece to the next. Brisk in pace, there isn’t any opportunity to get bored when everyone knows the end is always in sight. All in all, Onimusha isn’t the perfect vision of the sleeping franchise, but as an old-school samurai action vehicle that stops by some excellent artwork, it isn’t a bad way to spend a weekend.
Watch on Netflix