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My Oni Girl

My Oni Girl

Written by Ross Locksley on 25 May 2024

Distributor Netflix • Certificate NA • Price NA

Yatsuse Hiiragi is a bright young man with one major problem - he's a complete pushover. Constantly taken advantage of by his school friends and forced into arrangements by his overbearing father, his life is one of constant frustration and disappointment. After the latest is a string of humiliations, wherein he pretends to be a classmates boyfriend to impress her friends (which ultimately fails anyway) he dejectedly walks home, only to see a girl struggling to pay her bus fair. Initially turning away, his compassionate nature gets the best of him, and so he meets Tsumugi, who cares not one jot what people think of her. The unlikely pair form a friendship and it's not long before Hiirage joins Tsumugi on the hunt for her mother, a journey that takes them to some very strange places indeed.

The films hails from Studio Colorido who also bought us A Whisker Away and Drifting Home, the young adult supernatural genre seems to be very much their wheelhouse, and one they're pretty good at. Like those aforementioned films, production values on My Oni Girl are high - the backgrounds and environments are stunningly rendered, almost to a realistic degree. It never looks any less than beautiful in freeze frames and the animation is smooth and well directed. Character designs (especially those of the other-worldly variety) are cute and fun with Tsumugi the obvious highlight; the two-tone hair, horn and baggy clothes all make her quite striking, but it's her teasing personality and wicked grin that make her memorable. 

Essentially the film is a road trip with supernatural elements (much like Makoto Shinkai's Suzume) and the film therefore lives and dies on the relationship between the two young leads and their encounters on the way. Unlike Suzume, the spark of wit that makes that film so charming is largely absent here. Hiiragi lives up to the unfortunate anime trope of a totally unremarkable protagonist thrown into fantastical circumstances, but he's not really very interesting or easy to root for. The trope only works if the adventure brings the best of the protagonist (think Tenchi Muyo) but Hiirage is largely unremarkable throughout, only showing growth by the film's end. 

Tsumugi is far more interesting - an Oni searching for her mother as the snow falls out of season, the only issue with her quest is that it's not entirely clear why her mother vanished (even after it's explained it doesn't make a lot of sense). Her father refuses to tell her what happened and again, it's not clear why. Subsequently I was just a bit frustrated by the whole situation by the end. And if I'm honest, a bit bored.

There are bright spots. The everyday folk the pair encounter on their travels are quite entertaining, more so due to Tsumugi's curiosity and interactions than her dull beau, and some of the situations, such as their clueless attempt to hitch hike, elicit a smile. I liked the wrap up during the credits, but mostly because without them the film's ending was deeply unsatisfying.

It lacks the charm of Drifting Home's ensemble cast, or the sense of urgency A Whisker Away conveyed, which makes it the weakest film of the studio's projects to date It's a perfectly fine way to spend a few hours but it really feels like Shinkai or Miyazaki-lite, just lacking the spark and charm that, generally, those directors can create in spades. Its a crowded genre and unfortunately My Oni Girl's biggest draw that it's readily available on Netflix.

My Oni Girl is an unremarkable fantasy tale that's destined to get lost in the shuffle of genre giants.

Ross Locksley
About Ross Locksley

Ross founded the UK Anime Network waaay back in 1995 and works in and around the anime world in his spare time. You can read his more personal articles on UKA's sister site, The Anime Independent.


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