What’s it about? Musashi and Kojiro are two rebellious teens that want to fight against their demonic oppressors called the “kishin”, but are constantly discouraged by their peers since everyone has been forcefully indoctrinated into believing that their demon overlords aren’t evil. Despite lingering doubts, these two weren’t afraid to rise to the occasion to fight for their people’s liberation.
I never read or watched Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic and Magi: Adventure of Sinbad, but the little that I do know is that Ohtaka Shinobu loves long epics and isn’t afraid to explore darker themes in their work. They also love bubbly characters and if their involvement in the character designs for Back Arrow isn’t an indicator of how goofy they can be then I don’t know what to tell you.
So what’s the verdict for Orient? A strong OK. It ticks off the general checklist of what you might expect of a shounen series. It has two childhood friends promising to take on the world together, they drift apart when they get older because of conflicting differences, etc, etc. Even though it hits those typical story beats both Musashi and Kojiro are fine protagonists and are acutely aware of the societal limitations placed on them.
I do appreciate the show’s acknowledgment that Musashi and Kojiro have different life experiences, which makes it easy to understand why Kojiro feels resigned to his fate while Musashi is ready to fight for their future. Musashi didn’t have to deal with his hometown’s discriminatory attitudes towards him, while Kojiro did since he comes from a long line of rebel warriors. Kojiro knows what’s at stake and has every right to be cautious since they both could end up killed. Seriously, they are just a couple of good boys trying to look out for each other in an unfair world.
It’s almost eerie seeing how quickly humanity was indoctrinated to be servile to their demon overlords while the bushi (human warriors) are seen as the “villains.” I’m sure there is a competent demon hierarchy that we just haven’t seen yet, but until then look at the funny cat demons below:
It’s also worth noting that the series composer is Kunisawa Mariko, who’s also known for writing a number of episodes for Ascendance of a Bookworm, so that probably explains why the systematic oppression themes are handled adequately. Aside from that, the power of friendship won the day and our protagonists rode off together into the sunset with their motorcycle crystal hybrid.
Based on the opening and ending theme, it seems the duo will become a trio in future and I’m honestly hoping she’s going to have character depth instead of being a damsel in distress. If Jujutsu Kaisen has taught me anything, it’s that we can have well-written women characters that can absolutely kick-ass too. At this point in the game, there isn’t any excuse for other shounen titles to not follow suit.
I most likely won’t keep up with this series, but if folks are looking for a standard shounen show to watch then check it out and see if you like it.