OP: 「Break out」by Da-iCe
「武蔵と小次郎」 (Musashi to Kojiro)
“Musashi & Kojiro”
Fans of Magi won’t have to worry about feeling disoriented about Orient. While it isn’t the most unique or wild shonen out there, it should help tide you over until the new crop of this year’s releases arrives.
WHOA-OH-OH, IT’S MAGI, YOU KNOW
There is something admirable about the approach that Ohtaka Shinobu takes with her manga. Magi, in particular, was a shonen that I was rooting for because of both its Middle Eastern influences and its distinct sense of style. Magi ended up being such a fun, unique experience because it had an art style that combined eccentric, polished character designs with opulent textiles and poppy colors. Tonally, it also embraced the wonderment and danger of Aladdin, Alibaba, and Morgiana’s journey while taking on a tongue-in-cheek approach with its sense of humor and ecchi.
While the latter is less emphasized with Orient, it retains the inspired artwork that feels fresh and exciting while also wearing its influences on its sleeve. The show maintains a neat aesthetic inspired partly by Sengoku period Japan, Buddhist imagery, and contemporary flourishes. It adds to the quirky depiction of the Sengoku era for the show to get weird with it and add motorcycles and modern tank tops.
IF YOU CAN’T STAND THE HEAT, STAY OUT OF THE KISHIN
I’ll be honest, the premise reminds me of an unironic Gintama, where an invading supernatural species takes over and establishes a society to strengthen their authority over humans.
That might’ve been more connected to the Edo period and the Meiji Restoration, but it doesn’t go unnoticed for there to be a nation that worships paranormal deities and treats swords like a scarlet letter. But nonetheless, it’s still interesting to see a world where the oni-slaying humans are demonized because they went against the oni who would eventually take control of the land.
Likewise, the relationship between Musashi and Kojirou is a classical anime odd-couple, where childhood friends cut from a different cloth come together to kickstart an adventure to become bonafide oni slayers. One thing that’s nice about their bond, however, is how secure Musashi is in his relationship with Kojirou.
Musashi, right off the bat, declares that didn’t want to go at it alone, keeping his passion a secret until he felt like he could share it with someone. He does come on strong to Kojirou about wanting to eat and adventure with him as fellow Bushi, but it’s admirable and shows us a good example of a healthy male relationship with no strings attached or insecurities about whether Musashi is being too compassionate or not.
GIMME THE BUSHI, BOSS
As far as Musashi himself goes, he’s a little more cookie-cutter as a protagonist. Rather than being a legendary swordsman or an adorable udon fanatic, this Musashi is an unaccompanied miner who has to suppress his desires to become a Bushi, or an oni-slayer. Cocky, hot-blooded, and repressed heroes are pretty standard, so his journey is made more interesting by his interest in wanting to kill oni in a world where polite society is run by oni.
While Musashi isn’t someone to write home about, Kojirou is actually very fascinating as a character. Having grown up ostracized by society for labeling him as a demonized Bushi descendant since he was a kid, it makes sense why Kojirou is touchy about Musashi wanting to be a Bushi and why he wanted to discourage him from the Bushi life out of pure resentment if he was going to tell everyone around him his dream career was in mining.
Orient doesn’t aim to reinvent the wheel, but this might be a good thing if you’re looking for an easy-going shonen experience. There is much to like and enjoy with a premise that promises adventure and intrigue. It also shows growth on the creator’s behalf as it took many of the lessons learned from Magi to create a story about oni-slaying in a dystopian society with a heavier emphasis on an action-packed experience.
ED: Naniiro「ナニイロ」by Wataru Hatano