In A Heart of Darkness Lies a Battle For This World and the Next. During a dark age of demons and ghosts, the Heian Emperor relies upon the imperial order of the Onmyoji to protect the kingdom. However, as the birth of t... more »he emperor's heir approaches, political intrigue and jealousy will lead to the most dangerous of betrayals-from within the Onmyoji and the Emperor's family! It will be up to the most talented of the order, Seimei, to face his master, Doson, and the dark magic that threatens to destroy them all! Onmyoji the movie is based on the famous serial novels set during the popular Heian period by author Baku Yumemakura. Theatrically released in Japan, October 2001, "Onmyoji" played in over 2500 screens and grossed more than 3.1 billion Yen (approximately $23.6 million dollars)."« less
Abraham Kist-Okazaki | West Bend, WI United States | 12/31/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In order to appreciate this movie, you have to know that the whole Onmyoji story is not just written by someone for this
time. It is based on a true story(!) in 8th Century Japan.
The charactors and stories are from the one of the oldest records written in Japanese. Those guys were existed then, doing those miracles in daily life.
It is so interesting to learn about Japanese beliefs and religious activities in old times, which lead us to understand what the bases of them today.
Also, you should know that the main actor is a "prince" of "NOH Dance" which is one of the most ancient art forms in Japan.
This is why his movment is not at all like other actors but with a special NOH technique.
Overall, this is really a great Japanese movie. Should be more introduced to foreign countries since it represents depth and difference of their culture."
A great Movie for Most Anyone in General
jeldi | Tucson, AZ United States | 08/17/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I first stumbled across information about this movie while researching the religious background behind the art of Onmyo (Onmyodo). Having previously read several of Abe no Seimei's stories, I was excited to see that this movie came out in the U.S. Taking place in the Heian era, this movie follows the story of the onmyoji Abe no Seimei and court noble Minamoto no Hiromasa. It is a tale of court intrigue and relationships between characters. The reason it interested me is that there was a large focus on Onmyodo as well, going into the background of this tradition; the spells, curses, divination, talismans and chanting. I was also pleasantly surprised to see some of the traditional tales of Abe no Seimei adapted into the movie.The only complaint that I have with the DVD release is that the sound quality could have been better. I noticed that toward the end of the later DVD chapters, the sound sync started getting a little behind the video.Like with many Japanese movies, the emphasis is not on action. This is opposite of a good portion of American films. Some might find that it is a slow-paced movie and that the acting and special effects are "not up to par" with American movies. However, this movie is very much colored with rich culture, as well as deep character relationships and emotions. I think that anyone with an interest in Japanese court culture or magico-religious beliefs would enjoy this movie immensely. It is also a great movie for most anyone in general, unless you get queasy at the site of blood. There isn't a large amount of blood, but there is a scene or two that probably aren't for the weak-stomached."
S. Tucker | Memphis, TN United States | 11/30/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Even upon multiple viewings, this movie never fails to delight. Anyone who enjoys Japanese film, especially of an historical, magical bent, cannot help but like these characters---a court magician who feels no need to compete and is almost cranky when enjoined to take a stand against a fellow omiyogi who is power-hungry and villianous to boot. The enjoiner is a rather minor court noble, who is pure of heart, yet not particularly brave until he is called upon to be a guardian of the city. Add to this various court ladies who are either magical, cursed, or immortal (and even a pair of doomed, star-crossed lovers) and we have quite a pleasing mixture. It is beautifully photographed, scored (especially the flute and celestial music), and costumed; therefore, taking all of the above into account, I was forgiving of some less than spectacular special effects. I particularly like the dance sequence which brings one character to life, at the willing sacrifice of another. Since the dancer, Seimei is a renowned Noh dancer---no wonder he was so impressive. I look forward to the lift in spirits that this movie has always given me and I will watch it often."
A Japanese legendary tale
Zack Davisson | Seattle, WA, USA | 06/17/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Abe no Seimei is a legendary figure from Japanese history, a sort of Merlin figure with an authentic historical basis. A master of the art of Onmyo-do, a Yin-Yang sorcery based on prevailing scientific theory and Chinese mysticism, Abe no Seimei was a hero of stories factual and fanciful. Reputed to be the son of a Fox spirit, he worked as an Onmyoji to the Emperor, casting spells and advising on the spiritually correct way to handle affairs. His arch-enemy, the Onmyoji Ashiya Doman, is a jealous figure who seeks to embarrass and undermine the popular Seimei.
This latest interpretation of his story, "Onmyoji," sees Abe no Seimei as an attractive, almost rock-star type of figure. In a world of mysterious spirits and invading demons, he is the unrivaled master of magic. Ever at his shadow is the scheming Douson (instead of Doman, for some reason). In this movie, Douson arranges the stealing of a sacred sword, placed in trust of a mis-used spirit a century ago, in order to pacify his anger and make him a guardian of the capitol city, in keeping with Shinto beliefs. The theiving of the sword creates an angry army of the dead, and only Abe no Seimei and his stalwart companion Minamoto no Hiromaki to defend.
"Onmyoji" is a showcase for actor Mansai Nomura, who is often miscredited as a Noh performer but is actually an actor of Kyogen, a traditional expressive form of Japanese comedic theater. Nomura has one previous film credit, in Kurosawa's "Ran," but "Onmyoji" is a much greater platform for his Kyogen-honed skills, including the various foxy glances and smiles that exude the supernatural parentage of Abe no Seimei.
Not a great film, "Onmyoji" seems unsure of itself as either a theatrical film of a television series. The major action is segmented into 30 minute episodes, so it could easily be broadcast as a TV miniseries. The special effects on on par with an average Japanese supernatural TV series, so it leads me to believe that a theatrical release was not the original intention. Previous incarnations of Abe no Seimei have been TV programs, so it isn't unlikely.
On the plus side, Nomura's acting is enough to carry the show, although the over-the-top style of Kyogen might be off-putting to some American viewers. The story is Grand Opera, end of the world type of stuff, with plenty of room for personal sacrifice and pathos and all the other goodies that one expects from this type of flick.
A perfectly entertaining film, although there is certainly room for improvement. However, as time has shown, this will not be the last time that Abe no Seimei makes a screen appearance. His story has lasted for over a thousand years. It will last a bit longer."
Too Camp or Not too Camp
Marc Ruby? | Warren, MI USA | 12/17/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Onmyoji is notable both a period piece and an example of the Japanese taste in tales of the magical and monstrous. A jealous woman and a greedy counselor seek to end the power of another courtesan and take the life of the newborn prince. They enlist Doson, one of the Onmyoji - scholar mages whose duty is supposedly to protect the Mikado. Doson has another agenda - he is determined to bring the Mikado down, but his spells are repeatedly brought to nothing by the actions of Minamoto no Hiromaki and the brilliant sage Seimei. Confrontations continue to escalate until all of Heiyan Kyo (which will become Kyoto in another life) is at the brink of becoming a demon kingdom.
While it is easy to summarize the film in a paragraph, what stands out is Director Yojiro Takita's ability to take this story out of the monster movie genre and give it the trapping and movements of traditional Japanese theater. The film's settings are remarkable, as are the costumes and makeup. It's a bit like looking at an old story scroll. Japanese magic depends on chant, gesture, and dance as well as spells written on paper. Is it all authentic? I don't know, but it is easy to imagine that it is so. And on the screen, all the ritual takes on a life of its own.
I think at least some of the perception of campiness that viewers feel is due to the high fantasy approach that Yojiro Takita has adopted. Characters develop very little outside of the friendship of Hiromaki and Seimei. These are characters in masks, following a set of carefully circumscribed actions, much as if Noh drama had been translated into this century. I found it very enjoyable, but not particularly deep. There is enough though so that the film will certainly bear up under rewatching. And anime fans will see parallels all over the place. Think of it as a confection to set before the Mikado."