Length: 13 ep. x 24 min.
I went into Onihei with low expectations. I rarely watch historical fiction, and when I do, I tend to drop them. However, Onihei turned out more interesting than I expected.
Despite the historical setting and the ostensibly bloody action, Onihei has more in common with Mushishi than other revenge-driven historical dramas. Onihei tells the story of one Hasagawa Heizou, the chief of Arson Theft Control (basically a police chief) of Edo. Each episode is largely standalone, and focuses on the story of a person he encounters, be it a thief or subordinate or even himself, past or present. Some episodes introduce recurring characters, but the stories themselves are otherwise independent of each other.
The stories are short and poignant. They invariably reveal the sad story of the focus character for the episode (i.e., what drove a thief to steal), and end with a way of demonstrating our titular character’s leniency (like finding a technicality to reduce punishment). Onihei does a good job at showing character motivations, which helps to flesh out the characters.
However, the formulaic nature of the stories is the show’s biggest flaw. After watching three or four episodes, it became clear that Onihei banks more on the “feels” than the action, and that it’s willing to leverage uncanny coincidences to do so (Example: a subordinate saves a suicidal woman who turns out to be the wife of the man he just arrested. What a coincidence!).
If you are into historical (Swords! Edo-style fashion!) setting in general, or into sad short stories, or just want a break from watching moe shows, then Onihei makes for a suitable watch. Just don’t expect much in the way of plot or variety in the episodic stories.
Arson Control squad starting fires… oh the irony