Oni: Tale of the God of Thunder a new children’s tv show from the creator Dice Tsutsumi and Tonko House, the power station team behind the Oscar nominated film The keeper of the dam. A touching story unfolds cross four animated episodesaddressing the meaning of familyhow to build a supportive community and how we find our identities as children.
Whereas Oni is definitely a show for kids, there is depth of storytelling, beautiful animation and wonderful characters that will appeal to adult fans of the medium. animation is really wonderful. By using a reduced frame rate and creating tactile and textured characters, ONI creates a stop-motion animation imitation that is unique and wonderful to watch.
The show follows a young girl named Onari and her father Naridon. They are Kami, living on the Kamigami mountain. AAt the Onari school, the teacher, Mr. Tengu, tries to teach all the Kami to tap into their special natural powers: their kushi. All the other kids at school know what their kushi is – they get it from their parents. But Onari’s father, Naridon, is non-verbal.
When Onari ventures across the bridge that separates Kamigami Mountain from the land of the Oni – the demons who will attack the village under the light of the blood moon in a few weeks – Naridon reveals his kushi in order to save Onari from the Oni; he is a god of thunder. As Onari attempts to awaken the thunder power within her, she ventures too far into the Oni Forest and comes across an Oni Village, complete with neon lights, skyscrapers, and cars.
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When I tell you that this plot twist was shocking, I’m not kidding. I was so sure this was going to be a folk tale of two monster factions clashing, but it turned into a much deeper story of environmentalism, what it means to grow up differently and how to be a part of a community, even when that community makes it hard to be part of it. As Onari reluctantly befriends Calvin (mispronounced as Kalbi in Japanese), a black Japanese boy, she embarks on a journey of self-discovery and learns that her father Naridon saved her from an accident. car when she was a baby. Which makes her human, an Oni.
The fourth episode is heartbreaking. I’m a tough little weirdo with a healthy relationship with my parents, and I was still crying at various points at the end of this show. As the father-daughter relationship comes to a head, the Kami must face their own fears and the powerful hold that fear can have on a community anxious to ensure its survival.
As a matter of fact, Oni: Tale of the God of Thunder is a much deeper, layered show than most people will give it credit for. With truly gorgeous animation and a deep understanding of what it means to be a stranger even within your own family, Oni is a show that tackles difficult subjects head-on and does not speak to its target audience of seven to twelve year olds. Parts of it might scare younger kids, but the point of the show is for bravery to show up during the moments when you’re afraid you’ll lose something, and the final scenes between Onari and Naridon are painful in their intensity.
With clever writing, clear direction from Daisuke “Dice” Tsutsumi, and animation that truly mimics plush doll-like stop-motion, Oni is a show that is absurdly easy to get sucked into. It’s incredibly on point and will do its best to tear your heart out between silly fart jokes and family shenanigans.
Oni: Tale of the God of Thunder is currently streaming on Netflix.
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