Indie studio Tonko House’s coming-of-age story depicts a multi-ethnic Japan


Fairy tales typically shift from mundane reality to fantasy and back again, with the protagonist and the rest of the audience being transformed along the way. Think Alice and the Rabbit Hole, Spirited Away and the Tunnel in “Spirited Away”. But the CG-animated limited series “Oni: Thunder God’s Tale” opens in a Japanese dream world before crossing the threshold into a darker and far more dangerous urban Japan.

“Oni” is the latest work from independent animation studio Tonko House, with a script by veteran anime writer Mari Okada (“Macquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms”). The series uses digital techniques to mimic the tactile, slightly jerky movements of stop-motion animation, making its visuals feel intimate despite the story’s dizzying array of characters and Hollywood action-adventure scope: a four-episode 154-minute epic that blends traditional Japanese folklore with a modern take on racial and ethnic conflict.

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Raymond I. Langston