Onmyoji 2 (aka Yin Yang Master 2, 2004) Movie Review

Besides bringing back androgynous wizard Seimei (Mansai Nomura) to fight another supernatural threat to the Emperor’s court, “Onmyoji 2” is a good example of a sequel that has absolutely no interest in doing anything remotely original. And if you’re a fan of Seimei and company and wants to see them go through the motions of yet another adventure, I would recommend watching the original “Onmyoji” instead and save yourself some money. After all, the two films are basically identical in every way.

“Onmyoji 2” brings back the central cast from the original, including Seimei the wizard, played ably and effeminately by Nomura; Hiromasa (Hideaki Ito), the court official who plays Watson to Seimei’s Sherlock Holmes, which means he asks what’s going on a lot; and Mitsumushi (Eriko Imai), Seimei’s magical assistant, who spends most of the film repeating important sentences uttered by her master and looking cute and cuddly. This time around the trio has to deal with Genkaku, a wizard hoarding a major vendetta against the Emperor.

The sequel opens with a demon going around the capital city devouring the bodyparts of important people. Seimei is called in to exorcise the demon, and his investigation leads him to Himiko (Kyoko Fukada), the daughter of a high-ranking official. Meanwhile, Hiromasa makes friends with a young man name Susa (Hayato Ichihara), who spends his nights playing the Japanese version of a guitar by moonlight. As things progress, it becomes clear Susa has some unknown ties to Himiko; also, Genkaku’s master plan involves both Himiko and Susa and an eight-headed dragon.

For its first hour, “Onmyoji 2” is as muddled as the plot synopsis above sounds. Like the original film, the sequel moves at a leisurely pace, using up all of its nearly 2 hour running time to spin its tale. If you were to count up all the valuable scenes in the film (i.e. scenes that are required to understand the plot) you wouldn’t think it was possible to spend almost 2 hours exposing them. Also, the special effects and CGI work doesn’t seem to have improved by any noticeable measure in the 2 years since the original.

The uninspired plot aside, the script takes the time to bring up a number of intriguing concepts, only to unceremoniously dump them moments later. There’s a subplot about how Himiko is a tomboy, and the first time we see her she’s packing a bow and arrow and proves to be more than efficient with the weapon. Alas, this is the last time we see her with any weapon, as the character does nothing else “tomboyish” for the rest of the movie. The other interesting subplot concerns Seimei’s precarious position in the court, but this too is quickly forgotten.

If you expected a movie that built on what had come before, “Onmyoji 2” will disappoint terribly. The sequel features an anemic story and a villain that is so cartoonish he makes the average James Bond villain look subtle and complex by comparison. And while the CGI and special effects are serviceable, the make-up work for the “demon” boils down to the make-up person slapping Klingon ridges on an actor’s forehead and shoving fake fangs in his mouth; meanwhile, the sound guys have equipped our demon with his own personal roaring soundtrack. Yes, it really is that silly.

Director Yojiro Takita, not content with just offering the status quo, injects what ultimately comes across as a strangely creepy vibe to the film. It’s eventually revealed that Susa and Himiko are long-lost siblings, which makes their actions toward each other when they were strangers more than a little curious. And while Hiromasa quickly develops feelings for Himiko (when she’s not making eyes at Susa, that is), one can’t help but feel that Takita and company has other things in mind for Hiromasa. Here’s a hint: Later in the film, the androgynous Seimei threatens to choose a side regarding his sexuality, which ends with him donning a dress and looking quite fetching — as a girl, that is. Take that for what you will.

“Onmyoji 2” doesn’t have anything new for fans of the original, and newcomers will only fall asleep under its lethargic pacing. The sequel is more of the same, which means it’s an hour episode stretched into 2 hours, with long stretches of dull moments that goes on for much too long. Not that the original “Onmyoji” was anything spectacular, but this sequel doesn’t even bother to try.

Yojiro Takita (director)
CAST: Kyoko Fukada …. Lady Himiko
Hayato Ichihara …. Susa
Eriko Imai …. Mitsumushi
Hideaki Ito …. Hiromasa
Mansai Nomura …. Seimei

Buy Onmyoji 2 on DVD