‘My Oni Girl’ Netflix Review: A Sweet And Wholesome Yet Familiar Tale 


Tomotaka Shibayama’s My Oni Girl (not to be confused with my onigiri) is a sweet story about a boy who is too kind for the world, which chooses to constantly use him carelessly. He then meets an Oni (loosely translated to demon) girl who takes him on a magical journey into a new and exciting world of adventure, where they each learn important life lessons. On paper, My Oni Girl makes quite a lot of sense; it’s almost as exciting as a Ghibli film, and the derivative nature of the film is, unfortunately, rather evident. This is the first Studio Colorido film I’ve seen, and it’s rather disappointing to see how things have turned out. The reason Studio Ghibli is so beloved is because it uses children’s stories and metaphorically delivers engaging stories that leave you gobsmacked by their nuanced nature. With My Oni Girl, everything feels like a tired archetype that pushes the film from about one hour and 40 minutes to what feels like five hours. Of course, children will enjoy this world of snow gods and demon girls with dip-dyed hair and horns, but is it really worth your time? 

My Oni Girl tells the story of Hiiragi, a people-pleaser who is completely neglected by the people he offers help to. He then meets Tsumugi, who asks him for help finding a shrine where her mother is meant to be. The two of them learn a lot from each other on this light-hearted journey of fearlessness, heartbreak, friendship, companionship, and a lot more of the adolescent issues which are unavoidable for most. The idea that Hiiragi’s inner thoughts weigh him down in a literal depiction is quite interesting; however, beyond that, My Oni Girl isn’t all that exciting.

Hiiragi is definitely a compelling lead character to begin with; however, the road he walks has been trodden by many before him, which leaves little to no room for nuanced ideas. On the other hand, there is Tsumugi, a young Oni girl who is looking for her mother, who left the family a few years ago when she was very young. What I appreciate about My Oni Girl is that everything is spoon-fed, leaving not much room for questions. It is indeed a movie for children that underlines and highlights the feelings of each character, despite the lead character having trouble expressing himself. Yes, it’s a fantasy, but it’s also very predictable. Despite the movie having many characters for Hiiragi and Tsumugi to interact with, they’re not really impactful. The voice actors, as always, do a fantastic job bringing these kids to life, but there’s a limit to how much life can be breathed into characters that are one-dimensional. 

Visually, My Oni Girl isn’t very new or unique. The snow gods especially remind you of something that popped out of a Ghibli movie (I’m sorry, I recently watched The Boy and the Heron, and so the similarities are striking). There is nothing arresting about the background of My Oni Girl, which mostly feels like a project made by an exhausted person who just wants some rest. What I mean is that I see the potential of this film; it’s got a decent story to work around, but it’s simply not as enthralling as an anime movie should be. And this is not simply because I’m stuck making comparisons with Studio Ghibli, but in general, anime movies come with a sense of awe to them, and this one doesn’t give that feeling at any point. 

The themes of this movie are tangible, yet the climax doesn’t feel like an epiphany or something to look forward to; it simply just happens. The movie falls flat by the end, when the climactic moments meant to be shared between the protagonists feel like a twist that comes seemingly out of nowhere. It was almost as if the writer thought the movie was too simple, and they had to add a twist to make us feel some kind of excitement. However, it doesn’t do it any favors and instead sullies the payoff to this long odyssey a little bit. Though the score isn’t necessarily memorable, it’s quite enjoyable while watching the movie. What anime movies allow is a reflection of the many thoughts that the film has to offer. In My Oni Girl, Hiiragi and Tsumugi don’t really have the chance to learn much from each of the characters they interact with on their journey and so the final act falls quite flat. Since the plot isn’t quite arresting, by the end of the film, we start to see the minor flaws in the technical aspects of the film. 

To put it simply, I was quite bored watching this movie, which is a very rare feat for me, especially when it comes to this style of animation. The first half of the movie is quite nice and almost feels like a regular anime friendship/love story, but as it gets closer to the fantasy part of things, it gets a bit botched by too many ideas in a short period of time. By that point, I didn’t quite care for the Snow God storyline at all. I guess that’s a personal preference, but I think it’s because of how loosely woven it is with the rest of the story, almost feeling like an add-on rather than part of the whole thing. 

At the end of the day, many will like My Oni Girl because it probably reminds them of a part of their childhood that they wish they could change, or simply because it’s an anime movie on Netflix, and those just generally get a lot of love. Despite all the flaws I’ve brought out in this review, I wouldn’t say it’s a terrible film; in fact, I wouldn’t even say it’s bad, because it’s got the makings of a decent film. However, with its bad pacing, lukewarm characters, and somewhat derivative storytelling, I found myself struggling to appreciate My Oni Girl. I’d give My Oni Girl an average score of 2.5 out of 5 stars, mainly because I liked Hiiragi as a character, and I wished for more for him. If you’re desperate to watch an anime movie that’ll give you the satisfaction of watching an anime movie, then go ahead and watch this one. But if you’re someone with high expectations and a general thrill for life, then I’d say skip this one. 

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Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika Bhat
When not tending to her fashion small business, Ruchika or Ru spends the rest of her time enjoying some cinema and TV all by herself. She's got a penchant for all things Korean and lives in drama world for the most part.

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