When you’re the grandson of the famous onmyouji Abe no Seimei, it can be hard to fulfil your family’s expectations, and for Abe no Masahiro, being reminded of that heritage is just as bad as having to live up to it. Still, when he meets the ayakashi Mokkun, it sparks off a series of events that sees Masahiro start to grow up and take on new responsibilities as he attempts to defend the country from all manner of invading demons.
Although based on a series of light novels aimed at the shoujo market, Shounen Onmyouji is pretty much as you’d guess from the title- a series about a destined young man who must go from zero to hero over the course of twenty-six episodes. Its appeal stems from its perceived similarity to the likes of Tactics and Shrine of the Morning Mist, but the fact of the matter is that where those series are good fun, this one is just plain mediocre.
Over the course of twenty-six episodes, the series only manages to cover a mere two arcs- one about invading ‘foreign demons’ that wish to infect Japan with their foul European ways, and another about an ancient evil that has some connection to Abe no Seimei’s past. As those who followed my parodies will already know, the arcs are laughably generic and clichéd, featuring ugly boss monsters and their hapless underlings, arranged in order of difficulty to enable the hero to work his way through them and level up in the process. One might wonder why Abe no Seimei- the greatest onmyouji of the age- and his well trained peers don’t tackle the problem, but for the most part they seem content to leave it all to the youthful and barely trained Masahiro, just because he holds the title of main character.
That being said, when it comes to the crunch, there’s no way Masahiro can go it alone- and that’s where Mokkun comes in. In his true form, Mokkun is actually a humanoid named Guren- one of twelve Shinshou (spirit summons) that serve Abe no Seimei. When the going gets tough, Guren and his peers invariably step in to offer god mode protection or a well-timed deus ex machina, ensuring that no enemy goes undefeated. Unfortunately, it’s a gimmick that comes at a price, with most of the Shinshou receiving barely any development, and three of them not even getting any lines until the final episode. In fact, despite its many flaws, the prospect of getting to see these little-used characters actually do something is the main reason why I would actually welcome a second season.
Of course, there are other human characters in the series, but aside from the bearable Seimei, most of them are mere cardboard cut-outs- there’s the obligatory love interest who gets kidnapped or cursed every five minutes, the rival onmyouji, the good-natured older friend and various family members who remain unmentioned until they acquire some importance to the story. Apart from offering us some entirely pointless segments about their dull and unexciting lives, these characters serve to do little more than clog up the cast still further.
When it comes to the animation, Shounen Onmyouji is as mediocre in this department as it is everywhere else- some of the basic character designs are attractive, but the tightly controlled animation budget leaves looking everything looking decidedly cheap and generic, albeit cleaned up for the DVD version. Meanwhile, the OP, ED and preview themes are solid enough, but overall the music is also nothing to write home about.
Neither good nor awful, Shounen Onymouji lies within that terrible pit of indifference that engulfs everything at this level of mediocrity. Although I would personally watch a second season just to see if the characters received any more development, I would hardly recommend it to anyone who was starting out from scratch- just stick with Tactics instead.