Shōnen Onmyōji is a pretty rich franchise and odds are pretty good that you may have encountered it in some variation in the past. Based on a 25-volume light novel in Japan (by Mitsuru Yūki/ illustrations done by Sakura Asagi), it has made its way to the United States in the form of drama CDs, a video game on the Playstation 2, and even a DVD release of the anime from Geneon.
After releasing only two volumes of the anime to North America, Geneon pulled out of the anime game and that’s where this FUNimation Complete Series comes into play. This is the first time all 26-episodes of the program have been released to the United States.
Released across six discs, Shōnen Onmyōji The Complete Series comes packaged in three thin packs (each housing two DVDs) within an outer cardboard slipcase and consists of episodes 1-26. The show comes in at a total runtime of 625 minutes and wears an appropriate if slightly conservative Suggested 13 & Up rating due to animated violence and adventure qualities.
Language options are standard sub & dub with both an English dub and original Japanese soundtrack (either in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo) & the choice of English subtitled if so inclined to turn them on.
Extras include textless opening and closing songs, and a host of fresh Funimation trailers.
The story goes something like this: Abe no Masahiro is the grandson of the great onmyōji (sorcerer), Abe no Seimei. Despite being taught the ways of magic from his grandfather, Masahiro finds very little reason to flex his “magical muscles”. In fact the poor kid feels like a bit of hack when compared to the greatness of his grandfather’s reputation.
In true “use it or lose it” tradition, the lack of spell casting in Masahiro’s life actually results in the disappearance of one of his main gifts: The ability to see ghosts. Deciding to take it as a sign to pursue other avenues, Masahiro nearly puts it all behind hum until an entity drops down from the clouds one day with a message: Masahiro is to continue the work started by his grandfather regardless of his own fears and failures.
In case your Japanese history isn’t up to snuff, Abe no Seimei is an actual person in Japanese history with a reputation of having the trust and confidence of the emperor back during the Heian era in Japan (which is the setting for the anime as well).
What makes this piece so charming is the intermingling of actual Japanese history, culture and beliefs with a fictional and funny character in the foreground to tie it all together.
Despite a title that insinuates endless scrapping and tournaments, Shōnen Onmyōji is actually a blend of comedy, historical and supernatural elements of Japanese culture, action, and a bit of romantic interest to keep things interesting.
The art is consistently solid without resorting to flashy CGI segments or gimmicks to lure viewers. Perhaps the show’s greatest strength however is its pacing, which establishes a nice hardy clip early on and doesn’t waste a whole lot of time venturing off on tangents or setting up story threads that lead nowhere (which is often a legitimate concern with 26-episode runs).
The characters are well developed and manage to accomplish the difficult task of teaching history without drawing attention to this fact or sacrificing entertainment value to do so.
The English dub is quite well done but the visuals and themes simply work better in the native Japanese dialog track. While it isn’t openly said, the Japanese voice actors must surely have had a lot of fun working on the project.
In all this is a solid series that’s finally getting the complete DVD release it has deserved much to the delight of existing fans who were left high and dry after only two volumes a few years ago and anime buffs in general seeking a unique twist on history.
What did you think of this review?