9 April 2005 | jaidajones
It's like Genji Monogatari, in a way, only with a dash of the apocalypse and Sanada Hiroyuki. And somehow it makes it work.
I rented this movie expecting it to be cool in certain ways, which only goes to prove the old adage: never judge a DVD by its cover. Especially not in a dusty, abandoned corner of your local Blockbuster. In any case, Onmyouji was pretty much not-cool at all in any of the ways I had anticipated coolness; its wholly unique brand of cool came from somewhere else, somewhere unexpected, somewhere completely different. In the end, that's what won me over -- Onmyouji is the cool you just don't expect.
Most of that cool stems from the acting and, therefore, from the characters themselves; the former operating on multiple levels of "fantastic" and the latter managing to intrigue, amuse and inspire great fondness by the movie's conclusion. I think the main joy of watching Onmyouji is Nomura Mansai's stellar performance; you get the picture early on that he's the real deal. He moves like some otherworldly spirit gracing his audience with his at once delicate and wry presence; some sort of living embodiment of mono no aware with a smirking edge and quirky eyebrows. I felt instinctively that it was an honor just to be watching him on my living room TV.
Sanada Hiroyuki, while I felt sometimes that he'd stumbled onto the wrong set by accident and then figured "Hey, what the hell, maybe I'll get paid," delivered a wonderful performance as well. I was a fan of his before this movie, and I remain a fan.
The special effects and some of the stages may be a bit on the cheap side but part of me feels that it was an intentional super-awareness of the movie-as-a-stage. The whole film watched and felt like traditional Japanese theatre, and not just because of Nomura Mansai's traditional Japanese theatre aura. As some sort of wild throwback to Murasaki Shikibu's classic and the literary tropes of Heian court culture, this film is a definite winner. Listen not to the people who were expecting a grand and lavish cinematic spectacular; this movie wanted to look like a stage and so it created one, on which its excellent stage actors excelled.