Three episodes in, OniHei is fairly wishy-washy.
With the first episode, I suspected the series would be a complete trainwreck. The story was all over the place and struggled to pace itself without feeling incredibly rushed. By its end, I felt a growing sensation of dread for what was to come. For a time, I thought this would be a guaranteed drop. That drop never came.
The second episode ended up being so much better in every regard; story, character, and the development of both were front and center. The major characters stood out and let the story flow around them, instead of forcing the tides through themselves. It was a nice sort of transition piece that could inevitably lead way into a bigger and better storyline. That storyline never came.
It wasn’t until the third episode that I learned of the type of series I had decided to pick up. A collection of little mini-stories that involve a certain few characters to build the community around them, along with shedding some light on the personality and humanity of those recurring. Somewhat like Cowboy Bebop, somewhat like Mushishi, though not nearly as immersive with its writing. OniHei‘s writing tends to be very straightforward and simple, highlighting various people and their struggle with morality and reality. Typically, it goes along as so: I’m a bad guy. But I have a reason to be bad, so people can empathize with me. I’ll interact with the ultimate good within the series (OniHei himself) and either escape from my guilty conscience but pay the consequences of my actions or just continue being an asshole. Not to say the writing is stupid, but it’s cliché enough to become predictable, especially with the time period and its incredible focus on honor.
It has its good points, including Heizou (OniHei), who I think is an okay character in his own right. His interactions with his family and bodyguards paint him to be a likable and calm-minded soul who embodies all one would desire from an ultimate hero. He’s also not noisy and excitable, so that’s immediately a plus. I really enjoy the atmosphere of the anime, as well. Being a rambunctious village full of criminals within the Edo period, there’s a lot of dark moments and a mystical otherworldly tone that makes it enjoyable to watch despite not much going on. I feel the stories presented (aside from the first episode) do a decent job of keeping up an appropriate mood for whatever’s at stake for certain characters. If nothing else, they’re memorable. The second episode’s story is my current MVP.
I’m more of a fan of a long, overwhelming story rather than episodic tales, so OniHei comes across as a little aimless to me. It has time to make up for this, certainly, but I don’t really see anything these three stories could ultimately lead into. Should the show take advantage of its cast of characters and give them development and personality in the meantime, this lack of narrative focus could be excusable. Currently, like the quality of the stories themselves, it varies depending on the episode. I thought the second episode did a good job of making me care about the characters and their behavior. The third episode felt a little less sincere. The first episode was garbage. Somewhat like ACCA, the potential is potent enough to have the score skyrocket with time, but unlike ACCA, I’m less optimistic of its realization.
It’s a mix of good and bad, and my opinion will likely be predicated by the consistency of its storytelling with each episode. As that continues, I’ll almost feel motivated to keep a list of what stories I liked and disliked to accumulate into a final summation of the show’s storytelling. Assuming it continues episodically, I’ll continue to be hesitant to really declare anything concrete as to whatever the show tries to do. Consistency is really the key here, and should OniHei continue to be more like episode two than episode one, it’ll be an easy recommendation for those interested.