Netflix's Onimusha Anime: Everything We Know About The Video Game Adaptation
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Netflix's Onimusha Anime Brings Together Three Japanese Legends
An Onimusha anime might not be exactly the way we were hoping to see Capcom's supernatural samurai video game series return to our screens, but it's exciting nonetheless--especially when we think about shows like the excellent Castlevania animated series that Netflix also produced and how many other good anime and animated series have been created in the last few years. This first look at the series is brief, but with just the title cards alone you might have more questions than answers. Who's that guy? Who's that guy? There are a lot of guys, it's true, and we're going to tell you all about them.
This is an anime directed by a storied and prolific director, featuring the iconic likeness of Japan's most popular actor, and about one of Japan's most beloved historical figures. It's also the return of one of Capcom's fan-favorite series--it's worth noting that the Dragon's Dogma anime released in September 2020 before formally announcing Dragon's Dogma II in June 2022. It's not completely out of the question to wonder if a big revival is around the corner.
This is not intended to be an in-depth explainer on the early-2000s spooky action game series--the three Onimusha games are their own separate thing; we'll keep that part to an overview. So let's dive in and talk about Onimusha, which premieres on Netflix on November 2.
What does the word Onimusha mean?
Onimusha, written in kanji as 鬼武者, literally means "Demon Warrior." 鬼 is read as Oni (note: kanji can often have two, three, or more readings depending on context), a supernatural being from Japanese folklore. The word has more specific connotations depending on context but is often applied more broadly when talking about malevolent supernatural beings. 武者 is read as Musha, with the two kanji meaning "war" and "person" or "specialist." You know, just a war guy.
The original game's full title is 幻魔 鬼武者, or Genma Onimusha. Genma isn't a "real" word, so the meaning can be plucked from the individual characters and uses in other places. 幻, read as Gen here, is more commonly read as Maboroshi, and means phantom or illusion. 魔, read here as Ma, is often used to denote that something is magical or supernatural, and can be found in words for magic, sorcerer, demon king, and many, many other words. The earliest popular use of Genma is the long-running weekly manga Genma Taisen, or Demon Wars.
2. What are the Onimusha games?
The first Onimusha game, Onimusha: Warlords, was released for PlayStation 2 in 2001, and the direct sequels, Onimusha 2: Samurai's Destiny and Onimusha 3: Demon Siege, released in 2002 and 2004, respectively. A handful of other games bearing the Onimusha moniker have been released by Capcom, and Onimusha: Warlords received a fairly well-regarded remaster in 2018 that released on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
3. What's the basic plot of the Onimusha games?
The Onimusha game series primarily follows a young samurai named Samanosuke and is set during the iconic Sengoku or Warring States period, in which various generals and their armies fought back and forth for power throughout the 15th and 16th centuries. When you think of Samurai stories, games, and movies, they're most often set during this period. Samanosuke is a member of the Akechi clan, fighting against the armies of the legendary general Nobunaga Oda--another name you may have run across in Japanese media set during this period. Samanosuke is given the power to fight these demons by 12 Oni (not all Oni are evil!) and will eventually fight a resurrected Nobunaga after uncovering a plot orchestrated by demon scientist Guildenstern and his creation Reynaldo to resurrect the demon god Forinbras. Yes, those are all the names of characters in Hamlet. The second game shifts from Samanosuke over to Jubei Yagyu. The third game returns to Samanosuke, but transports him to modern-day Paris, swapping places with a modern-day warrior named Jacque, who was voiced by and modeled after actor Jean Reno.
Generally speaking, Onimusha is about samurai fighting demons in a supernatural, historical Japanese setting. The upcoming anime focuses on another character entirely, and we don't know at this point if Samanosuke will even make an appearance. So think of the above as some good background information that may not actually mean anything to what the current incarnation of this property is going to be. In other words, you most likely don't need to play the game to watch the show--if only because its a big ask to try to get your audience to seek out 20-year-old video games.
4. Who is Takashi Miike?
If you know any Japanese film nerds--or film nerds in general--they probably squealed in delight when this name flashed on the screen. Takashi Miike (pronounced Mee-kay) has directed 113 projects, including this upcoming Onimusha anime, and his work has a reputation as being some of the most violent and disturbing Japanese films around. His best-known projects include Audition, Ichi the Killer, and Dead or Alive 1-3. He's also directed a bunch of movies adapted from video games and manga, such as Yakuza, Ace Attorney, Jojo's Bizarre Adventure, and Blade of the Immortal. That last one especially stands up well with his other ultra-violent material. Onimusha is, to our knowledge, Miike's very first anime. While Miike can certainly direct movies that aren't absolutely soaked with blood, fans of his generally think of that as his best work, and many of us are hoping to see his trademark deluge in the Onimusha anime.
Image credit: Rick Kern/Getty Images
5. Who is Musashi Miyamoto?
Musashi Miyamoto is the primary protagonist of the Onimusha anime, but much more than just an anime character. Miyamoto is equal parts very real man and mythical figure. He is credited with creating the Niten Ichi-Ryu sword style, a style of Japanese dueling that utilized both the katana and wakizashi at the same time. Niten Ichi-Ryu translates roughly to "two heavens as one," meaning to bring the two swords together in a unified style. With his sword style, Miyamoto is said to have won 51 sword duels (despite what you may have heard from guys who studied the blade while we were playing video games, winning even one sword duel is remarkable). It's impossible to say whether Miyamoto won that many duels, but many of his exploits are well documented for someone who died in the year 1645, thanks in part to two books he wrote, the Book of Five Rings and Dokkoudo.
One important aspect of Miyamoto's life, especially in relation to Onimusha, is that he was neither a samurai nor a ronin. Those words are often applied generically to Japanese swordsmen, but they refer to a swordsman who serves a warlord and a former samurai without a master, respectively. Miyamoto, then, is considered a Kensei--translated literally, he's a sword saint. If you want to dig into some related reading, you might pick up Eiji Yoshikawa's Musashi, a fictional retelling of the sword saint's life or Vagabond (pictured above), the manga based on that story and other historical records. The novel is a long but worthwhile read. Musashi Miyamoto has appeared as a character in tons of films, shows, and games, but few are more famous than the Samurai trilogy, where he was played by Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune.
6. Who is Toshiro Mifune?
Mifune-san is your favorite actor, even if you don't know it yet. Toshiro Mifune was active as an actor from the late 1940s until the early 1990s. In that time, he acted in some of the best-known and most revered Japanese films of all time, including many of Akira Kurosawa's movies. His credits include Seven Samurai, Rashomon, Throne of Blood (itself an adaptation of Hamlet), and Yojimbo--among many others. Mifune also played Japanese historical figure and folk hero Musashi Miyamoto--more on him shortly--in four different movies. There isn't really a great American analog to match this to, but it's essentially putting one of the most famous faces in Japanese history to one of its best-known historical figures. For Onimusha, the studio is using Mifune's likeness. For many fans of samurai cinema, Mifune is just what Musashi Miyamoto looks like.
Image credit: Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images
7. What anime studio is making Onimusha?
Sublimation Studio. Sublimation Studio is best known for its Dragon's Dogma anime, also created for Netflix, as well as Shikizakura, Walking Meat, and Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop. Shinya Sugai worked on all of those shows as a director for Sublimation and will be serving in a similar role--presumably under or alongside Miike--for Onimusha.
8. Is a new Onimusha game coming?
It's anyone's guess. Capcom has not announced anything, and nothing has been publicly leaked. After years of silence on the Dragon's Dogma series, Capcom and Netflix released the Dragon's Dogma anime in September 2020 before formally announcing Dragon's Dogma II in June 2022. That doesn't necessarily mean anything, but it makes us wonder what Capcom might be preparing to announce in 2024 or 2025. It's not out of the realm of possibility to imagine Onimusha getting a full current-gen revival with that in mind, but it's best not to imagine what Christmas presents we're getting before Mom has even bought them.