The Legend of Onikirimaru – Review
The Legend of Onikirimaru:
Synopsis: It’s the era of the Japanese civil wars and the age of samurais. Only one young man with the legendary sword named Onikirimaru can save humanity from the blight of the demons. But there’s more to this than meets the eye as we explore not only this young man’s origins but the demons that reside within humans themselves.
Review (Warning: Spoilers to Follow):
The Legend of Onikirimaru is an anthological-like series, where every chapter had the weilder of Onikirimaru facing off against a new villain, usually a demon but ever so often, indirectly being the harbinger of doom for a human who’s created or become a demon for reasons ranging from hatred and anxiety to even love or ambition.It reimagines a lot of Japan’s history, mixing in demons and supernatural elements to put its own twist on famous events of the past. This collection of mainly one off chapter is a mixed blessing for the manga. Since it introduces new characters, settings and events each chapter, there’s little pressure to familiarize yourself with them in order to understand the story going forward. You can immerse yourself in the current chapter’s story and cast, and if you find yourself struggling to remember all the names and people in it, there’s close to zero chances that it will ruin your enjoyment or comprehension of the next chapter.
On the other hand, if you aren’t familiar with Japanese history, there’s a non stop flood of its historical icons being thrown at you in almost every chapter. A lot of the stories in the series deals with power hungry lords and leaders, and all their nefarious activities committed towards others in their power hungry journey. At some point, it’s bound to overwhelm someone who’s not very familiar with all these names. There’s also the fact that there ARE a few connected chapters and stories to be found which can cause mild confusion as you are dealing with so many new characters every chapter. It doesn’t help that the language and the story telling style employed in The Legend of Onikirimaru isn’t the most easy to follow. Often, it will introduce people and inject them into the story out of the blue and then have disposed of them by the next page, only to briefly feature them again several pages later. It is bound to make the reader feel frustrated as these characters get swapped in and out in a most rushed and unceremonious manner, making them feel like hasty or lazy additions for the sole sake of being a mini deux ex machina like entity for the current story. Or it can make people act in dumb and irrational ways solely for story purposes. Like how a young child apparently summons a demon accidentally by uttering its name during a conversation and her grandmother freaks out warning her not to do that just as the demon rises up behind them. One has to wonder that if it was THIS easy to summon a demon, there’d be a lot more strict education and warnings about being careful with one’s conversations and words.
The Legend of Onikirimaru tells the tales of not just its sword wielder but the stories of people who either became demons or the victims of demons for all sorts of reasons. In some cases, their stories are engaging and contain some degree of emotional impact but in most cases, it’s laughably hokey or absurd. For example, one of them tells the tale of a girl who is so obsessed with falling in love with a wild and powerful man that she falls in love with and continues to love a man who kills her father simply in order to coerce her into becoming a concubine for his master. The scenes of human turning into demons can be extremely theatrical as they do the whole cliche manic transformation and losing of sanity facial expressions. This happens almost every chapter and at some point, thanks to the frequency, it’s bound to make a reader feel like there’s on a merry go round of sorts, circling back to the same old scenes again and again. Furthermore, once you’ve gotten familiar with the pattern the stories follow, there’s barely any surprise left in the ones that follow. You’ll be able to predict exactly who and how someone is going to turn into a demon and that takes away a lot of the entertainment value.
In an attempt to be semi-educational and a bit of a story about the importance of morals and character, the manga can come off a bit lazy as it tries to cram in just desserts for its ‘villains’ every chapter. The ‘evil’ characters in the story always die from curses or ‘accidents’ even if that event is given no more than a tiny sentence and box at the very end of the chapter, like a quick heads up to let you know bad people get punished before you leave the chapter forever. These harsh fates often feel like a hastily tacked on piece of information rather than a just culmination of the crimes and deeds happening throughout the chapter.
Also for a series that proudly boasts of finally exploring and revealing the origins of Onikiri and the Onikirimaru, there’s still a lot of questions left in the air. This is of course done to maintain an air of mystery around the protagonist but it also runs the risk of feeling like a bit of a cop out where you’re given SOME answers, but left with many more burning ones. Then there’s the fact that even though the series launched in 2013, Crunchyroll only has 14 chapters out so far and the series hasn’t been marked as concluded either. For a 5 year old series to only have 14 chapters so far makes it seem like an abandoned or neglected series, one that might never get the proper attention and followup it needs to improve or end on a satisfactory note and thus, ultimately a risky read most likely not worth getting too invested in.
All in all, it’s difficult for me to decide who exactly this series is for. I’d suggest maybe those of you who like supernatural tales of vengeance or justice..but the rather weak story telling deprives you of the true satisfaction in most of its stories as some of the people get their just desserts rather abruptly and in a disappointing manner. One could defend the series as an exploration of the way human emotions, even the positive ones like love, can get twisted into ugly manifestations but thanks to the ham fisted story telling style, a lot of the potential emotional and psychological impact is lost. Maybe history buffs who enjoy ridiculous anime/manga re-imaginings of their favourite historical characters and events could still find this manga amusing and engaging. If you’re out of options and a fan of stories set in the past involving the supernatural and the twisted nature of humanity, you could potentially derive some entertainment from The Legend of Onikirimaru but it’s probably best left as a last resort.
The Legend of Onikirimaru is available digitally via Crunchyroll.com.