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Onmyoji (2001)
Director: Yojiro Takita

review by Michael Lohr

Onmyoji (aka: Yin Yang Master) is the quintessential Japanese fantasy epic. Tohokushinsha (a subsidiary of Toho, the premier entertainment corporation in Japan) released this campy but wonderful movie to widespread acclaim in Japan in 2001, but the movie received little fanfare elsewhere. It stars Mansai Nomura as Seimei, Kyoto's court Onmyoji (a kind of fortune teller or village shaman), and is scripted by Yasushi Fukuda, Baku Yumemakura, and Itaru Era (based on the famous novels by Japanese author, Baku Yumemakura). Director Yojiro Takita does a marvellous job, considering he is best known for his short comic films and classic Japanese pornographic movies (he was an apprentice at Nikkatsu studios). The film is a haunting and sumptuous tale of a court magician, the legendary Abe no Seimei (Mansai Nomura) and his struggles with the forces of evil. With the assistance of a young warrior, Hiromasa (Hideaki Ito, of Pyrokinesis andf Princess Blade), Seimei does his best to keep order in the land.
   But demons and ghosts rule the burning lands, and the Heian Emperor must rely upon the Imperial Order of the Onmyoji to protect the kingdom. However, as the birth of the Emperor's heir approaches, the kingdom will be plunged into darkness. It will be up to the most talented of the Order of the Onmyoji, Seimei, to face his former teacher and now enemy, Doson. All the while dark magic threatens the land. Butterflies turn into beautiful girls, servant gods are conjured from paper dolls, and hapless human beings find themselves face to face with powerful demons at every turn.
   This Japanese costume epic is set in the classic Heian period (A.D. 794-1185) when Kyoto was the cradle of a blooming Japanese culture. The movie is full of demons and ghosts, sorcerers, fortunetellers, heroic warriors, political intrigue, jealousy and dangerous betrayal. All the elements of a good fantasy adventure movie are present. The acting is of a quality you get in most Hollywood films, maybe better. The Japanese film's effects are a combination of animatronics and opticals similar to Hollywood effects of the 1980s, along with CGI on a par with American television such as Star Trek: The Next Generation or the Sci-Fi Channel production of Frank Herbert's Children Of Dune. This is Japan's answer to Lord Of The Rings. If you have not seen this movie yet the DVD is available worldwide and it is worth the investment.
   Pioneer offers two different versions of Onmyoji on Region 1 DVD, a barebones edition whose only extras are a trailer and selective filmographies, and a special edition that contains behind the scenes footage, cast and crew interviews, deleted scenes, and a variety of trailers.
Onmyoji on DVD

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