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Anime NYC 2021
Orient Premiere

by MrAJCosplay/Cartoon Cipher,

Fresh off the heels of Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic comes the latest anime adaptation of Shinobu Ohtaka's most recent manga serialization. There seemed to be a lot of anticipation for this premiere: while it was another late night one in the evening of a relatively busy day at the convention, my room was fairly packed and filled with whispers of fans that were curious about what they were about to see. Promotional posters were handed out and it seemed like the Crunchyroll staff were also very eager to show what they had. Once again, the premiere itself was rather bare with them only showing the first episode and nothing more. However, for better and for worse, there was a lot packed into that first episode.

In an alternate fantasy Japan, society is led to believe that the Oni are the saviors, with children being taught that one of the highest honors they can achieve is to act as minors working directly beneath the Oni. One of those minors is a young red-haired hothead by the name of Musashi who secretly wishes that he was a bushi, or a samurai that used to fight Oni. However, because of the aforementioned propaganda, bushi are discriminated against and shamed by the masses, with the standout being Musashi's best friend whose father used to be a bushi. Despite the fact that they used to train together and vowed to make a “bushi band” together, the pressures of society seem to drive a wedge between them until the curtain is pulled back and this dark twisted society is revealed. With newfound resolve, the two brothers join forces to take down as many Oni as they can.

That is a lot of ground covered in just 23 minutes, and the best way I can describe this premiere is that it felt like it needed to have the setup and resolution handled right away so we could get to the fun Demon Hunter part later on in the show. There really isn't a lot left up to the imagination in this pilot outside of one or two elements that just hang in the background. In a lot of ways, this felt like the exact opposite of the beginning of the creators previous work, where there was this air of mystery that kind of acted as a predominant driving force in a world that seemed to have a lot going on despite its clear influences. In comparison, Orient feels a lot more basic from its storytelling, to its overall design sense, to even the animation quality. While that certainly makes it easy to understand, there also wasn't any strong definitive wow factor that seemed to entice a strong reaction from the audience, and when the episode ended, there wasn't really anybody yelling that they wished the second episode was playing.

My favorite part about this first episode of a show that seems to be about demon hunting surprisingly had to do with peer pressure of all things. I do like the fact that the main character gets called out on being a little bit of a hypocrite where he would go off and think about these grand epic platitudes but never felt comfortable expressing them with his full chest to society because he knows how it would get him treated. It's especially interesting when you consider the fact that his best friend suffered for just existing as the son of the very thing that Musashi wanted to be. I like characters that are a little bit flawed regarding how they want to be perceived by others, but I generally don't expect such a heavy defense mechanism that has clearly been in place for a few years to be resolved within 23 minutes of screentime. Maybe there is more to it as the series goes on but regardless, it felt a little bit cheap and desperate for the episode to try and introduce that emotional bit only to have it resolved just as quickly. Maybe all of this was just an excuse to get the ball rolling so we can get to the real story after this introduction, but I guess we'll have to wait till the show officially comes out to find out.

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