Behind one of the odder titles in recent memory lies a very good show, if not quite a great one. Pumpkin Scissors has a flawed final stretch and some elements that don’t quite work, but put those aside and what’s left is really original and endearing. It’s not about ludicrous magic powers or giant war ‘bots; it’s rooted in something resembling our world, and so there’s that much less distance between you and what’s going on.
The setup: The “Royal Empire” (an allegorical variant of post-war Germany, or maybe post-war Japan itself) has lost a war to one of its neighbors, the Republic of Frost. The shooting has stopped, but the Empire is still a wreck. Jobs are nowhere to be found. Hunger and despair are on every face, black markets are legion, and what’s left of the native army has lost its morale. To fight this grim picture, the army has established a special public-relations unit, the “Pumpkin Scissors” — but they’re widely regarded as a cheap publicity stunt, not an effective military unit.Read more
Sometimes you’re better off dumping all pretenses of being a critic and just coming out and saying you like something a whole lot. So it goes with Shonen Onmyouji, because, well, guilty as charged: it has a bunch of things in it which I like a whole lot. It’s set in ancient Japan, with elegance and mystery to spare; it has courtly intrigue and diabolical magic aplenty; and it moves at a decent pace and actually feels like it goes places with its story. Triple play.
Much like the little beastie that sits on the hero’s shoulder throughout this series, there’s been this devilish whisper in my ear the whole time I’ve been pounding out this review. Sucker! You’re only saying nice things about it ‘cos you’re a pushover for historical fantasy, hissed that voice. Fine, smart guy, have it your way. I pushed right over for Otogi-Zoshi, even though technically that was only half a period piece. It was also, and more importantly, a killer show that I would gladly watch again any day of the week.
I also pushed over for Hakkenden, and Moribito, and Requiem from the Darkness, and Blade of the Immortal — although I’d opine those are all good-to-great shows by most any standard. Onmyouji’s a bit closer to the middle of the road — it’s definitely not as thought-provoking as Moribito or as atmospherically lush as Otogi-Zoshi — but I walked in skeptical and in the end was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Read more