Onmyoji is this week’s anime addition on Netflix, and the supernatural mystery adventure series is based on the folks and myths around Abe no Seimei, a masterful divination expert believed to have actually existed in Japan many centuries ago. Roughly adapted from some Japanese novels on this subject by Baku Yumemakura, the plot here follows the rather unfriendly and reclusive Seimei as he solves numerous supernatural mysteries while successfully developing a close bond of friendship with Minamoto no Hiromasa. Overall, Onmyoji is enjoyable to watch and will definitely excite fans of the anime and fantasy adventure genres.
What cases do Seimei and Hiromasa solve in the Netflix anime?
Onmyoji takes place in feudal Japan, where demons and supernatural entities quite often pose dangerous threats to humankind. One such incident takes place when a man sees a mysterious oxcart without any ox or other animal pulling it and then also spots some demonic creature before it all disappears. The man falls gravely ill and is taken to the Emperor’s court, where a young man named Minamoto Hiromasa looks after him. Although he himself is a student of divination, Hiromasa is only used to ordinary implementations of magic. Anything to do with demons and evil beings is completely out of his domain, and he is, therefore, told to visit Abe Seimei.
Living in his own complex outside the town, Seimei is a masterful onmyoji, or supernatural investigator, as we can say, who has extremely powerful magic and charms at his disposal. Despite being a recluse who does not like human company at all, Seimei agrees to help Hiromasa in this case. Together, they find out that the demon seen on the streets of the town is actually a presentation of an old lover of the Emperor. Many years ago, when the Emperor had left his beloved in her village, she had waited for him to return, eventually dying all alone. Such was her love for the Emperor that she turned into a demon after her death, only to reunite with the man. Not only does Seimei find out all this, but he also solves the matter.
This naturally creates popularity for the mystic Seimei among the townsfolk, and soon, he gets contacted more often through Hiromasa. A lecherous minister once loses his entire body after trying to sleep with a woman, and he comes seeking help. Seimei discovers that the minister had actually turned away from a bet he had made with a mischievous demon, and doing so had automatically canceled the bet, making him lose his body. After this matter is solved, the demon gives Hiromasa his beloved flute, known as the Two Leaves, and the young man keeps it with him. Hiromasa was already a skilled flute player, and with Two Leaves, he soon started to help Seimei by producing magical tunes.
A more serious and long-drawn problem arises when a spirit named Tadami attacks a few men at the royal castle after they tease him for his love for poetry. Tadami was actually a talented but financially poor poet who competed in the royal poetry competitions. After he lost the competition one year ago, he was completely broken and ultimately died of starvation. Since then, his spirit, in the form of a ghostly demon, has lurked around in the castle and attacked anyone instigating him. Seimei is appointed to exorcize Tadami, and when he and Hiromasa investigate the matter, they find out about some hidden secrets. Tadami had not always been a talented poet but was actually being helped by a different demon. This demon, in turn, loved poems but was always teased and ridiculed during his lifetime, which made him turn into this creature after his untimely death, when his poems did not get published. It was the demon that would write the poems that Tadami would recite, but during the previous year’s competition, he had recited a poem he had himself composed. Although this poem was beautiful, Tadami lost the competition as his opponent had recited a legendary but unoriginal piece of work. Out of grief and despair, the man forcefully starved himself to death, with the hope that he, too, would turn into a demon with exceptional poetry skills. But this had not worked, and instead, he now roamed the castle halls. Ultimately, a reunion between Tadami and his demon poet friend solves the matter, but both are exorcized in the process.
A similarly complicated situation arises when Lady Tsuyuko, the daughter of a lord of the region, faces trouble against another powerful onmyoji. Tsuyuko had always been interested and loving towards insects and bugs, but her father was fearful that this would hurt her prospects of marriage in the future. Therefore, he had sought help from another skilled onmyoji named Ashiya Doman, who prepared a sekisanko and set it against Tsuyuko. A sekisanko is basically a demonic insect that is mostly evil and holds the power to destroy everyone that the one raising it despises. Ashiya finds it entertaining to let Tsuyuko raise the sekisanko, which is named Kuromaru, as she feels that seeing the ugly insect will deter the young lady. Even if she is not, then the sight of Kuromaru killing the subjects who ridiculed her behind her back would definitely make her hate it. However, the whole matter turns around when Lady Tsuyuko’s inherent kindness and good nature are revealed, for she does not hate anyone despite their dislike for her. Therefore, Kuromaru also does not grow up to be vengeful, but when it hatches into a butterfly, it takes the form of a beautiful and friendly sekisanko controlled by Tsuyuko. In this case, Lady Tsuyuko also becomes a loyal friend and helper to Seimei and Hiromasa.
What had happened in Seimei’s past?
A real moment of crisis soon takes over when Seimei and Hiromasa suddenly come across a vengeful demon at night. The two start to defend themselves, but a particular sound distracts Hiromasa, leading to the demon’s sekisanko entering into Seimei’s body and making him immensely sick. It is during this time that Hiromasa learns of his dear friend’s past, which also explains Seimei’s attitude and nature. The young boy was orphaned very early in his life and was then found by a nobleman called Tadayuki Kamo. Although Seimei lived on at Kamo’s house, being trained under the man, he was also extremely teased and bullied by the rest of the students. There was a rumor that claimed that Seimei’s parents were actually foxes, and so the boy was picked on by everyone his age. Kamo was very protective of him, but he had also taught Seimei that he should never rely on matters like friendship.
While growing up, Seimei did not follow this teaching very closely, and he had made a good friend named Masanaga, who soon asked for some help. Masanaga’s father lived a life of debauchery, which hurt his family members tremendously. As a young man, Masanaga wanted to stop this, and he poisoned his father, but the effect was not very instant. Therefore, he wanted Seimei to use his charms and kill the father, which Seimei refuses to do as he does not want to take an innocent life. However, Masanaga then retaliated by sending goons to kill Seimei, and the latter learned in a harsh way that he could truly never have any friends. This is exactly the reason why the mystic lives a life of loneliness and stays away from people as much as he can. However, Hiromasa had become a very good friend of his by now, and it was he who kept trying to save Seimei from his impending death.
Who had made the attack against Seimei?
Initially, it seemed like the demonic attack against Seimei had been launched by another mystic named Yasunori at the Emperor’s court. A reason for this attack is also suggested by Onmyoji, as Yasunori was the son of the nobleman Kamo. After the man’s death, it had been suspected by many that Kamo had not died a natural death but had actually been murdered. Seimei had spotted the son, Yasunori, looking at him nefariously during Kamo’s funeral, and so he always believed that Yasunori suspected him to be his father’s murderer. This matter did not get any attention from either of the men, even after they grew up, but Seimei kept believing that Yasunori did not like him.
There were some other reasons to suspect Yasunori for the attack on Seimei as well, beginning with the fact that the man was almost magically present at the house when Hiromasa brought the injured Seimei there. It was like he had known from before that Seimei would be attacked. Tsuyuko also later heard the man exclaim and wonder at how Seimei was still alive, suggesting that he was expecting him to be dead. But it is Yasunori who suggests a treatment for Seimei by sending Tsuyuko’s sekisanko, Kuromaru, inside the man’s body, and this works out, too. Therefore, when Seimei recovers, he too is surprised at the fact that Yasunori has come up with his treatment, for he still believes the man to have made the attack against him.
However, the truth turns out to be very different, as Yasunori had actually used his onmyoji powers to predict that Seimei would be injured and had, therefore, reached his house at the time. During their younger days, Yasunori had been ordered by his father, Kamo, to always watch out for Seimei, and so the man still respects his promise to his father, despite his dislike for Seimei. Yasunori’s statement of wonder about Seimei being alive was just an expression of how gravely injured Seimei actually was. In fact, the demonic attack had been launched on a different person altogether, for it was Hiromasa that the demon’s sekisanko was supposed to strike.
Hiromasa had been taught the skill of flute-playing by his beloved senior, Atsumi, who was like an elder brother to him. However, deep inside his heart, Atsumi developed deep resentment against Hiromasa, due to the fact that the latter was much more talented with music. The promise that Hiromasa showed with his flute within a very short time was much more than what Atsumi could ever show. He grew more jealous of Hiromasa’s talent and the recognition that it sometimes brought him, and with every passing day, he was himself turning into a special kind of demon, which can take over a human even before their death. It was this demonic side of Atsumi that had sought to attack Hiromasa and had consulted Ashiya Doman regarding the matter.
Ashiya had prepared the sekisanko for Atsumi, but the demon mistakenly launched it on Seimei instead of his target. But the plan did work out in the long run when Ashiya used her crooked intelligence to facilitate Atsumi’s demand. She knew that seeing his dear friend Seimei on his deathbed would make Hiromasa rush to her for help, and this is exactly what happened. Ashiya convinces Hiromasa that in order to pray to Lord Taizan, the God who ensures one’s life and death, Hiromasa must give up on something equally valuable, and the young man readily gives up on his ability to play the flute. Since Atsumi essentially wanted to wipe out his competitor, this situation works for him. Things turn even more in favor of the demonic Atsumi soon, when he is able to kill his most devoted follower and also his foe, Hiromasa.
At the heart of the anime series Onmyoji are definitely matters of friendship and trust, which are not always very constant but are definitely worth making an effort for. Hiromasa’s bond with Seimei is such that both are ready to give their all to protect each other. Although Seimei does not express any of this, the man is truly hurt after his friend’s death, and he too signs up to perform a very dangerous ritual only to save Hiromasa. On the other side is Atsumi, who could not hold on to the positives of his friendship with Hiromasa but instead let his dark desires and jealousy take over. By the end of the series, Atsumi totally loses his human self and becomes a vengeful demon who is not satisfied even after killing his friend. Atsumi is still haunted by the memories of Hiromasa, and so he cannot be at peace and is even unable to play the flute for which he had committed such a heinous act.
What happens to Seimei, Hiromasa, and Atsumi in the end?
After learning about what Hiromasa had done for him, Seimei realizes how much he means to his friend, but it is too late for him to express his feelings, as Hiromasa has already been killed. Therefore, when he learns that performing a dangerous but effective Lord Taizan ceremony could bring back Hiromasa, Seimei does not hesitate to start working on it. Such an unnatural way of bringing the friend back from death is also possible because of Yasunori, for the man had cleverly placed a charm on Hiromasa to capture his soul even if his body was slain. This means that Hiromasa is still alive in his spirit, or soul, but his body must also be revived very quickly.
During Onmyoji‘s ending Seimei performs the dangerous ritual in worship of Lord Taizan, even attracting more dangerous demons in the process. But he succeeds, and Hiromasa is indeed brought back to life, but the young man is immediately shocked to see Seimei disappear from existence. Since any ceremony for Lord Taizan compulsorily required an equally expensive sacrifice, Seimei had seemingly sacrificed himself to save his friend. However, this later turns out to be trickery, as Ashiya Doman had used her dark magic to make a decoy version of Seimei to trick Lord Taizan. This decoy was basically a sekisanko version of the man, made with all the rumors and hatred against him by most people at the Emperor’s court, and therefore, it was completely human-like, tricking the God of life and death as well.
On the other side, the demonic Atsumi tries to kill Hiromasa as soon as the latter comes back to life, but the young man uses his love and forgiveness to get close enough to Atsumi and cut off the horns that were making him a demon. The semi-human Atsumi realizes his mistakes and asks to be exorcized, when Hiromasa asks to play the flute with him for one last time. This works like magic, as for the first time, Atsumi enjoys the music they produce together instead of being jealous of Hiromasa’s superior skills. This realization and change in Atsumi completely takes away his demonic features, and the man leaves the kingdom to travel the world and be at peace with himself. Thus, at the end of Onmyoji, all three of the men survive, and Seimei also expresses his feelings of friendship for Hiromasa. Although giving Ashiya Doman his real name, which was required for the final trickery, put him in a lot of possible trouble, Seimei claims it was worth the risk since he had been able to save Hiromasa with the help of Ashiya.