I have always been interested in samurai. There is something about being able to wield a sword that is so satisfying to see. Of course, in today’s world carrying a sword looks more foolish than anything, but in feudal Japan, not only were swords a part of everyday life but they were taken seriously and a skillful sword-wielder was highly valued and for a time was looked up to.
Series like Rurouni Kenshin and Samurai Champloo show us the fascinating tales that samurai could have. Sure, it is not realistic, but it was fascinating to see the world and people interacting with each other in that era. A good samurai show has not come along in a while, so when I started watching Onihei, I thought about the possibilities of a series on the level of Rurouni Kenshin making a comeback. So is Onihei that show?
So, here is the weird thing. In the first episode, the series focuses on a man named Kumehachi. He is a thief that is caught and tortured until he decides to help his captors by catching a man impersonating his old teacher who is killing people. The entire episode focuses on this man; his struggles, his past. But, while researching the show, I found out that he is not the main character.
The protagonist of the show is Heizou Hasegawa, a man that seems to have two personalities as of this time and moment. He is cruel when torturing Kumehachi—it is almost as if he does not want him to give up information so he can continue torturing him. Then, later on Hasegawa is compassionate when Kumehachi asks him for a favor. I am not quite sure what to think of him as a character, but so far he comes off more unbalanced than complex.
There is a department tasked with keeping a certain area of Japan safe from thieves and arsonists. The leader of this department is a man so fearsome that some call him “Onihei” which is short for “Oni no Heizo”. This is the story of his exploits.
The biggest complaint I have with the show is something that I did not discover until after I finished watching the first episode and started researching the show. The first episode follows a minor character that does not seem to have much importance to the story from here on out. That normally would not bother me if we also learned a lot about the protagonist as well, but I did not even realize who the protagonist was going to be until doing my research. I feel that the first episode ends up being a waste of time because of this. The audience is not going to get a clear understanding of the story or what to get invested in if it gives them a plot that is not going to be relevant after the first episode.
Apart from that, the show is kind of dull. It never really had that moment of excitement that I was expecting from it. There were also some odd ideas thrown in such as letting the thief go, only to have him murder some random person. Was that really the best way to capture the antagonist of the first episode?
I honestly have no idea. Maybe it will finally follow the protagonist, but even if it did, I do not know if it will follow any big plot or if it is going to be individual tales about him.
Onihei is not that samurai comeback show that I wanted. It ends up being far too dull to leave much of an impact. Not only that, but the first episode feels like a waste of time. Was there something to showing us a minor character that is going to be relevant for the rest of the story? Maybe. But as of now, I do not wish to follow this band of samurai to find out.