Anime Flashback: Onmyou Tai Senki
So the anime world is largely boring right now, despite news of Rurouni Kenshin coming back to television and a Mahou Sensei Negima film coming out in only a couple months. The only really good things on at the moment are Dog Days and X-Men, so with my spare time I've decided to add a few more bodies to my Completed List. Of the targets I've picked thus far, Onmyou Tai Senki is the one I've gotten furthest in, and it's actually a pretty decent series.
To start, it's a kid's anime--in the vein of Digimon, Beyblades, and Pokemon--so it's not really about plot so much as just having fun. (I've got other stuff for plot, anyway. Hey, FMA: Brotherhood...)
It'd be easiest to say this series resembles Digimon, but even that doesn't quite capture it. The story follows Riku Tachibana and his partner, Kogenta no Byakko, a Shikigami summoned by Riku to help him fight other Tojinshu (people capable of forming contracts with Shikigami). As the story progresses, we are introduced to the two factions of Shikigami users--the Ten-ryuu (to which Riku belongs) and the Chin-ryuu (to which all the villains belong), and what the overall goal of the series is--which is to keep the Chin-ryuu from opening a gate that will release evil monsters upon the Earth. It's a fairly straightforward plot, but it's early in (I just started episode 7), and the meat of kids' anime is usually in the characters rather than the storyline itself.
With 52 episodes to tell it's story, Onmyou Tai Senki takes it's time introducing it's world to you, placing you squarely in the shoes of a complete novice (Riku) and helping you learn about the universe as he learns. As a watcher, it's helpful to be taught how things work in a direct, deliberate manner--trouble is, since you're placed in the head of the main character, in almost no time you find yourself wondering why more people don't just infodump on the guy and get it over with, since the only thing that saves Riku numerous times is the fact that he's the main character, as anyone else with this much inexperience would've been long defeated by now. (As Riku's mentor says in episode five, "I kind of feel sorry for the Toshinjuu you've defeated up to this point...")
Still, it's a unique world you're placed in, with enough elements of the fantastic to draw you in but not so much as to be overwhelming. The Shikigami (mostly) have all been unique, with none of them feeling like clones of the others in powers or appearance, though I suspect that will change eventually since each Shikigami is based on a specific solar term so amongst the different families of them (24), there can still be three from one family. The main antagonist's partner already resembles an older, angrier version of Kogenta with souped up weapons and swords, and I doubt the series will make that the only "doppleganger". Though it is nice to know the main character DOESN'T have the biggest gun in the room like most series (where the only reason they aren't winning is simply because they don't know how to use said "gun")--it creates suspense, since you know it's not just a matter of training, which is what things so often come down to in action anime.
If I had any complaints about the show, it would be that the show's female cast is pretty dull, from the "Do I want him as a boyfriend" childhood friend, to the teacher (so dull I can't even think of a cliche way to describe her). The only one mildly entertaining is Riku's classmate Rina, who's obsession with Kogenta is adorable. (Mostly.) But even that wears thin when Riku has to save both of them in every episode because they keep tagging along. Either give them powers or let them exeunt quitely just prior to the episode's fight scene, 'cause that will get old fast.
The other thing is, watching Riku do Onmyouji hand movements for *everything* Kogenta does in a fight...it's rather silly. Both sides are doing it, so it's not a huge deal, but it'd be great if, for regular movement, Riku didn't have to "Shu Rin Da!"
Other than that though, this series is a joy to watch. I wish it had aired when I was younger, as it's along the lines of what I loved about Digimon and Medabots, but not a carbon copy of them. Seeing Riku and Kogenta learn to fight together is a treat, particularly considering for once the human partner isn't *also* a hothead, and is in most situations honestly far too calm. It makes for an entertaining dynamic that, along with the story, keeps me coming back for more.