My Oni Girl

My Oni Girl
My Oni Girl
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Two children, a little boy and girl come together by accident or fate and engage in an adventure. In the process one gets to learn more about his or her self as well as the friend through the strong link they have. This basic establishment has featured in many stories most of which are increasingly common in anime during recent times. Nevertheless, there is hardly ever been a connection between two leading characters that appear so hard to explain or cause harm like Netflix’s new anime movie My Oni Girl.

The oni girl herself is not at fault; she is called Tsumugi – a one-horned demon who leaves her home (an unknown village of onis called The Hidden Village) with prayer to find mother at a certain Japanese shrine based somewhere in humans’ world. Tsumugi has multi-colored hair and sometimes she disregards society’s norms but overall this probably makes it look like she belongs to some YA leaning rom-com cliché where she plays an icy cool unattainable object of desire for the sensitive male hero—however, no less character feels better developed than her in this film. She may be someone’s (purely chaste indefinite) crush but she isn’t an object.

However, it is quite unfortunate that Hiiragi seems to be an absolutely nothing kind of co-star among other Hollywood teen boys making him become one of the worst protagonists ever seen in this particular type of magical realist fantasy romance. (It would be equivalent to putting Dave Bautista against a sandwich if he had compared himself with Taki from Your name created by Makoto Shinkai). Not just that he does not even have any negative qualities either, it’s only that these qualities are missing entirely. It is true that he does not want anything; neither does he take part actively in anything because he has got no need or interest for personal feelings and actions. He has zero friends, willingly does all their homework, and early on in the movie gets into a big fight with his father over why he would prefer attending that awful school where everyone treats him like dirt to getting tutored by someone else.

This is well within the plot itself, and it’s not much time after which Tsumugi herself tells Hiiragi precisely why people become Oni when they keep their feelings bottled up for so long. Anyways, Hiiragi does not suffer from the likes of other people who have difficulty in expressing themselves (which many ordinary individuals may actually face), it is just that there are no thoughts going through his mind at all that need to be voiced. It is not even clear what exactly makes him go away from home and accompany her to this adventure except for maybe his father who has temerity to wish good things to Hiiragi. (What an evil guy). In fact, Tsumugi could probably still go on her quest even if she never met Hiiragi too far differently. Without coming across Tsumugi, Hiaragi would just linger inertly inside his room passively waiting for somebody else to tell him when he had to eat or sleep.

There is some life in My Oni Girl as a road trip movie here and there, with Tsumugi and Hiiragi meeting people whose problems ultimately lead to shocking discoveries for the oni girl and the stink boy. There’s a man and woman (who turn out to be brother and sister, in an odd twist) who are unable to connect like they could as kids; there’s a café owner who fills it with mementos from traveling around the world with his late wife. But none of these little stories do as much justice to the film’s themes as they should have done. They are, at their core, just other individuals Tsumugi would come across, this in its own way makes her bond stronger with Hiiragi.

At best, it looks nice or almost innovative in terms of aesthetics. Production companies Studio Colorido and Twin Engine (both of which worked on director Tomotaka Shibayama’s previous film, A Whisker Away) do well here by making sure that the look remains true to traditional hand drawn animation. It’s refreshing when compared to so much anime out there being cheap CG-driven sludge (especially Netflix anime). It may not have the heart-swelling spectacle of something like Your Name mentioned above – two kids bonded through extraordinary circumstances in modern Japan – but does well at selling its calm fantasy premise. Also doesn’t hurt that Masafumi Yokota was tapped for character designs either—he worked on Shinkai’s Weathering with You and Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises: two other movies where fantastical brushes up against reality which are far better uses of your time than My Oni Girl.


My Oni Girl is a sweet story about someone trying to understand her parents or what might have been her parents. However, it gets bogged down by flat secondary character who has no clue about his own thoughts and desires any more than the viewer does. There is nothing worse than a seemingly romantic relationship, even if it is more about friendship than anything else, with half of the couple being removed from the equation.

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