Onmyoji: The Yin Yang Master (2001) Poster

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Superb recreation of Heian Japan
tkleeman14 March 2004
Contrary to some of the more unfavorable comments, this is Japanese movie, has nothing to do with the Chinese genre of wuxia or martial hero movie, and does not prominently feature martial arts. Instead, it is a movie about an Onmyoji or Master or Yin and Yang, an ancient Japanese master of the occult arts, including exorcism, necromancy, foreknowledge, etc. The recreation of these arts is quite authentic and the movie is suitable for use in the classroom to help students understand the jumble of Chinese Daoism and Indian Buddhism that made up Chinese esoteric learning for the early Japanese. The hero, Abe no Seimei, is played by a noted Noh actor. His style is arresting, so mannered that it might seem artificial. But in this performance it gives Seimei an otherworldly, superhuman air that ads mystery to the character. If you rent it on DVD, be sure to choose to hear it in Japanese with subtitles rather than in the dubbed version. Much of the magic depends on chants and spells and I can't imagine how they could have dubbed those. THis movie requires close attention to follow the story, but it is worth it. An engrossing story of a totally different world, where the fate of nations is determined by sorcerers and wrathful spirits, and imperial forces rely as much on exorcists and priests as on generals. Highly recommended.
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An unrecognized gem
Spyral77724 July 2004
An extraordinary period piece, Onmyoji masquerades as a simple fantasy morality tale, but it has many more layers than are immediately obvious. There's an enigmatic quality to the characters' relationships that actually makes the viewer think about what's taking place between the characters. Not only is it a strikingly beautiful film, but the performances are flawless all around. The story is fresh, the actors are interesting. With a couple of very minor exceptions, the special effects are interesting in a way that they often aren't in the standard American blockbuster. In some ways it's what Star Wars - wished- it were, but isn't. Now that Onmyoji is available on DVD, I hope it becomes more accessible in America. This film easily deserves the level of success attained by Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
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It's like Genji Monogatari, in a way, only with a dash of the apocalypse and Sanada Hiroyuki. And somehow it makes it work.
jaidajones9 April 2005
I rented this movie expecting it to be cool in certain ways, which only goes to prove the old adage: never judge a DVD by its cover. Especially not in a dusty, abandoned corner of your local Blockbuster. In any case, Onmyouji was pretty much not-cool at all in any of the ways I had anticipated coolness; its wholly unique brand of cool came from somewhere else, somewhere unexpected, somewhere completely different. In the end, that's what won me over -- Onmyouji is the cool you just don't expect.

Most of that cool stems from the acting and, therefore, from the characters themselves; the former operating on multiple levels of "fantastic" and the latter managing to intrigue, amuse and inspire great fondness by the movie's conclusion. I think the main joy of watching Onmyouji is Nomura Mansai's stellar performance; you get the picture early on that he's the real deal. He moves like some otherworldly spirit gracing his audience with his at once delicate and wry presence; some sort of living embodiment of mono no aware with a smirking edge and quirky eyebrows. I felt instinctively that it was an honor just to be watching him on my living room TV.

Sanada Hiroyuki, while I felt sometimes that he'd stumbled onto the wrong set by accident and then figured "Hey, what the hell, maybe I'll get paid," delivered a wonderful performance as well. I was a fan of his before this movie, and I remain a fan.

The special effects and some of the stages may be a bit on the cheap side but part of me feels that it was an intentional super-awareness of the movie-as-a-stage. The whole film watched and felt like traditional Japanese theatre, and not just because of Nomura Mansai's traditional Japanese theatre aura. As some sort of wild throwback to Murasaki Shikibu's classic and the literary tropes of Heian court culture, this film is a definite winner. Listen not to the people who were expecting a grand and lavish cinematic spectacular; this movie wanted to look like a stage and so it created one, on which its excellent stage actors excelled.
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Fun, well-made film
InzyWimzy4 September 2003
This one definitely had me from start to finish. It introduces the Onmyoji and definitely draws you into their world. The costumes and setting are stunning with vibrant colors and makes the time period look authentic. Mitsumishi is my favorite with her chirpy, fluttering nature while Lady Aone really shines as a woman with deep sorrow. Seimei and Hiromaki have this friendly rapport which shows the bond of friendship the two share; almost brotherlike. Hideaki Ito does well here and didn't recognize him as same actor in Blister and the Princess Blade. Overall, Seimei's carefree, yet enigmatic nature and brave (yet naive) Lord Hiromaki form this chemistry which provides for funny moments. Plus, relationships enfold as the story progresses. The CG effects amplify this eerie magical world, but are not overdone which is a credit to the film as well.

Overall, Onmyoji is surprisingly a great example of modern japanese cinema. Great story, characters, I definitely want to see the sequel.
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Holmes and Watson, Kyoto style...
moribana16 May 2003
This film could have been fabulous, but rather weak direction and a mediocre budget drops it to the "Good" category in my book.

Its chief attraction is the wonderful world of Buddhist sorcery that it conjures up, sorcerers chanting macabre spells in contest with each other in chants of increasing tension and beauty. Central to the plot is the relationship of the enigmatic magician Abe no Seimei (Holmes) and his young "ii otoko" apprentice Minamoto no Hiromaki, strolling around Heian Kyoto solving mysterious magical crimes.

Abe no Seimei and all his graceful rituals is a joy to watch and hear. Mansai Nomura really get top acting chops here for creating a wonderfully wierd and brilliant magician with an unforgettable grin like a sly fox. His contests with the equally well acted Doson (Hiroyuki Sanada) are the heights of the film in my opinion.

There is so much wonderful magic in this film, it is hard to say why it is not totally satisfying. The costumes are brilliant, but many of the sets look a bit shoddy. The story starts out complex and mysterious but then sort of falls into one dimensional "end of the world" boredom. Nomura and Sanada are brilliant, but many of the other actors can be amateurish. Overall it was hard to put my finger on, but I blamed the direction and cinematography most. There just was so much here that could have made a masterpiece, but one left with mixed feelings.

Highly recommended though despite its flaws. If the idea of seeing 11th century Kyoto YinYang master magicians duel it out in all their occult glory fascinates you, don't miss this.
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One of the best
sailorplutoouterscout21 October 2006
Warning: Spoilers
When You first look at the cover you expect some hazy film, with a half baked plot and horrible fight scenes. Well this exceeds even the best movies I have seen. For a once a period piece that doesn't put me to sleep like so many foreign films.

Abe no Seimei who by far has just made my top ten list of characters I love,the actors bring there character to life. Not only that but for once the leads in the film are handsome. The plot only adds to this splendid movie, while it includes everything that someone would want in a film. From beginning to end I was captivated and enthralled. Slight reminders of the mummy returns, though they don't intend to show any.

It has it all from a cursed family to your angry evil spirits that take over the soldiers, unrequited love until its too late, a great love story, simply beautiful costuming, great music and of course you can't forget demons. The filming is clear and pristine, while lighting only adds to the appeal. The final fight while being not only being played out well, bridges that fine between overdone and short but sweet. Somewhere in all this wonder they have a great deal of character development and leave no big gaps to be filled. The only true question you will have is how quickly can I get this DVD delivered.
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Very fun Japanese scorcery movie :)
spldart20 July 2003
If your looking for martial arts this isn't your movie. But, being the Vincent Price/Boris Karloff scorcerer fight fan that I am, It's a fun movie to watch. The scorcerer chants are enthralling. The special effects are pretty good about 70% of the time but fall short to sometimes quite poor here and there. I'd give it a 6.5 to 7 outta 10. Worth the rent if your into magic ;)
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an epic worthy of Akira Kurosawa
bosscain3 February 2004
When I was watching this movie,I felt as though I was drawn In and actually was there,In the period of 18th century Japan.The director of this film did an excellent job.His stylized direction reminded me of the early works of Akira Kurosawa,which by all counts was the best and most famed director to ever come out of Japan.The special effects in this movie were spectacular and very well done.I highly recommend this film to anybody. 10+
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Really a great movie
kamariah_hk6 July 2004
I think this is really a great Japanese fantasy film ever made. I love to see the actor in a costume as (Abe No Seimei). Congratulation to the great actor (Nomura Mansai) as he is able to make the character as Abe No Seimei like real person. Since I watch this movie, I start to know more about Nomura Mansai. He is really good in acting and I adore him so much. I hope to see more him acting in other Japanese fantasy movie as well the continue of Onmyoji 3 and so on. credit to Nomura Mansai.... Keep up your good work. And credit also to the director of Onmyoji 1 and 2. Keep up your good works.... Please continue to make this great film.... make the continue of Onmyoji 3,4,5......

To people who not yet seeing this film....

It is a must see film.... you won't regret....trust me....
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Jaida Jones nailed it, but...
screaminmimi1 August 2006
I agree with just about everything Jaida says, except that I wasn't a fan of Sanada-sama's going into it. This was only the second movie of his I'd seen, the first being "Tasogare Seibei." This was the movie that, because of the vast difference between the two characters of Doson and Seibei, made me fall in love with Sanada's acting.

It's worthwhile to note that this was Nomura Mansai's first major film role, having come from a Noh background. He didn't overplay or stylize the way you might expect a Noh actor to do on film, but there was something not quite right about his performance... all the good things Jaida said I agree with, but I also felt like Nomura was standing outside and commenting on stuff. I suppose Sanada was guilty of it too. If that's the film's self-consciousness, it wasn't uniform. Perhaps it was a choice to represent these two sorcerers as standing outside human reality, but the other sorcerers didn't behave this way.

I'll have to watch it again to appreciate the cheesier effects as part of an intentional package. Again, though, the cheesiness wasn't uniform. Some of the effects were technically perfect and dazzling and just made the cheesy ones seem even cheesier.

I must say I didn't like Ito Hideaki's performance at all, except when he was doing things that didn't require him to speak. He's darned cute, and maybe he'll be an actor some day. On the other hand, Takita got a lot of bang for the buck from Koizumi Kyoko, yet another pop star turned actress, and a great performance from a real actress, Natsukawa Yui. She was awesome. I don't know why no one mentions her. I would have to say "Onmyoji" is a hell of a lot more feminist than "Genji Monogatari," and the feminism was on fire in Natsukawa's performance. Emoto Akira as her father was strangely not weird. He was good, but I've come to expect him to be weird and good. He was just Dad here.

Also, this just betrays my Nihon-eiga geekiness, Kishibe Ittoku is one of the better ex-rockstar actors in Japan. I'd love to see him carry a picture as a lead. I never recognize him from one role to the next, except for his voice, and in "Onmyoji," not even his voice gave him away. He's always fun to watch.
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pretty good fantasy mired by sub-par special effects
movieman_kev3 May 2004
This Japanese period piece/fable/fantasy/comic-book adaption hybrid film was the second highest grossing movie of 2001, just behind the superb "Spirited Away". It's not as good as that aforementioned film. A fantasy that long to be epic, yet falls a tad bit short thanks to sub-par special effects. That's not to say it's not enjoyable, as it is. Very much so. Just that, for me, the effects turned a film that could have been great into one that's merely pretty good. That said I still look forward to viewing the sequel.

My Grade: B

Where i saw it: Showtime Beyond
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Majestically Wonderful!
apendraggin11 February 2006
I was amazed at the hypnotic affect of this movie.It was so beautiful and enthralling and entertaining.So much so that I had to find it on the internet and must buy it for my library as well as Onmyoji II which was even better!I can hope we have not seen the last of this wonderfully beautiful and compelling story and cast.I read the subtitled version and I still cannot wait to see it again.I am excited that My Japanese Fiancé has never seen it and I cannot wait to send it to her.I would recommend this movie to anyone who likes Beautiful stories in a historical context.The special effects added to the story without being distracting.I cannot praise it enough to express how much the movies effected me.
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Mystic Action Movie Japanese Style
ebiros220 December 2012
The movie's main character Seimei Abe was a real 11th century historical figure, but his life is shrouded in mystery. He is known to be the master of Onmyodo, or the way of yin and yang. He appears as the good guy that protects the emperor and other people who he associates with in this movie.

The movie is a period piece, but it's arranged to look modern, and appeals to the young and old alike. Abe no Seimei (Mansai Nomura) must work in a society where supernatural forces were still part of its landscape. He is on call to solve supernatural problems that occurs to the nobilities of the time including the newly born emperor's son.

The movie is beautifully made. There aren't heavy action in this movie, but the entire story is a sequence of intriguing events. Abe no Seimei goes on a competition with another onmyoji, and proves that he's the top in his field. He's then sought after to solve mysterious occurrences around the palace.

Acting by Mansai Nomura is spot on as Abe no Seimei. Other actors are equally good in their supporting roles. Movie is shot beautifully, but lacks realism, and appears more like a fantasy.Seimei is an unusual hero who the closest equivalent might be Marvel's Dr. Strange. If you like mystic adventure, this movie is for you.
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Searched Everywhere To Find This Film Again
juicyjujube215 October 2011
The first time I saw this movie I was about 12 or 13 and I absolutely loved it. At the time I was (and still am) very interested in Japanese culture, both past and present... So I was very excited to see this film. It took my until just 5 minutes ago to find this film again!!!

For those who don't watch very many foreign films, it may be a little hard to understand and follow along with the plot, it may not be a brilliant plot, but it is better than a few people have said on here. All in all it is a very interesting film about Japanese occult.

Rating 10/10

Saw it on: Showtime Beyond
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Entertaining and for me additional knowledge of my homeland.
cjmoore12519 August 2004
I was born in Tokyo, Japan and although my mother is Japanese, during my younger years she wanted my brothers and myself to be "American" so we were not taught much about our Japanese culture. Now that I am much older I want to learn as much as possible about every facet of that side of my family. Watching Onmyoji, even though it is fantasy gives me some insight as to why some things are done the way they are. I watch my mother going through different rituals and understand a little better why. The movie was very good and even my very American daughter enjoyed it and asked questions about what was going on. She was glad she watched the movie with me.
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Interesting Film
sourceoftheend5 September 2005
A fantasy martial arts film set in feudal Japan, Onmyoji uses a good cast of characters and a mystical setting to keep the audiences entertained.

When I caught this film on TV (Showtime, I believe), I was immediately drawn in. There are demons, Shinto-like priests, curses, spells, and impressive costume designs to entertain.

The story is basic-- a young well-to-do member of the court finds himself relying on help from an half-demon Onmyoji priest to protect the kingdom-- but the world of Onmyoji is fascinating and fun to watch. It's not everyday you get to watch people battle it out with chants and prayers, evil demons, and people can fly.

Despite a previous bad review, I recommend this film to anyone who has the opportunity to see it. It's a fantasy film, but the world of Onmyoji is compelling and will draw you in.
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need to see it again
animalwith13 April 2006
but first I'm going to rent the second movie the first one is still sinking in feel it human survival needed arrival the sky I also loved the acting in this film.

Its morning. I hear birds chirping outside. The cars are racing about to get to work. I'm getting ready to rent: ONMYOJI II.

Birds Birds Birds Tweet Tweet Tweet Birds Birds Birds Remembering southwest Colorado hiking in the middle of nowhere mind spread out body followed animal with machine

enjoyed the sound

surround in the evening this dream it seems moments of the day
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Ultra low budget Japanese demon soap opera-TV quality
dilbertsuperman16 November 2005
What the hell is anyone talking about that this movie is even remotely worth looking at? This is the worst cheesiest effects I have ever seen in a movie that didn't have the Kroft Superstars involved. The script, if it was adapted a bit has potential but the actors, the effects, the lighting, the filming are absolutely terrible on all counts. This movie is unwatchable and lame. I really believe you must have encountered lead paint in your childhood in large quantities if you even sort of like this turd. I would be proud to present this as a student film but to try and pretend it is anything above that ultra low quality is pure folly. It's garbage through and through. The script has potential though. Maybe a bigger effects budget(like more than 3 dollars for a mechanical bird that looks like it was taken from a 70's amusement park?). If you took someone that loved the movie HERO with Jet Li and strapped them in a chair and made them watch this after you promised it was Hero2 you could hear their screams a mile away as they gnawed off their limbs to escape.
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weird, hard to understand
samuelb7031 January 2004
This movie's plot is difficult to follow. If you rent the movie sit back and let the costumes, sets, imagination, and special effects take you away.

I think the director just had an idea to do a costume movie about wizards with special powers. He got everything but a compelling story
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Terribly Cheap & Generic Wuxia Fiction
kidwltm31 August 2003
In the tradition of countries getting pigeonheld for certain style of film (ex: American and it's Hollywood action films), Japan and it's surrounding nations have became too well known for bad wuxia fiction (and the occasional John Woo knock off, though not as common as they used to be). Wuxia fiction is a style of story telling rooted in the wealth of Asian Mythology, generally more concerned with fantastical elements and not emotional (Like say Greek Myth). This is not an ailment to film's when shown in their homeland, where the audience is cultured to know certain things about their mythology. Problem is, if you are a foreign viewer, there are quite a few things that seem muddled and unexplained. It is up to the writers to create the story in an accessible manner to all audiences. Some films have done so, and others like this one have not. It does not help when you are already trying to follow a story containing a bevy of underdeveloped characters and subplots. On to that issue; The film, like most wuxia, is too concerned with grandiose things to focus on it's characters. Not to say no attention is payed, but it is not in a beneficiary amount. It sets up tenuous relationships that evoke no emotional response from the viewer and thus nullifies any moving moments between the characters. Too many scenes loses any chance of impact because of this and in turn become boring and annoying to watch. Along with a jumbled story and poor characters, the film lacks in the technical aspect as well. Costumes are nothing we have not seen in other film's from the culture, and the make up and special effects are so horrible in quality it is almost regressive to the film industry. As with most Asian films, you have to expect the acting to be over the top. It's the lingual patterns and dialect that make it this way, but it no less enjoyable watching people scream and shout during moments that should be emotionally overwhelming. There are no redeeming elements in this movie. It is too indulgent in it's own culture to be enthralling without a doctorate in Mythology (and even then the story is still too cartoonish to be enjoyable), the action is a mix of trashy f/x and sloppy swordplay, and the acting only elevates it to new melodramatic heights. There are a few shots that are quite gorgeous, but these are but a few, and the rest are just as bland as the rest of the film. Unless you are a die hard Asian cinema freak, or you get off watching cheap and unstructured fantasy, avoid this abomination at all costs.


0 Stars
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Great Story and Themes Terribly Executed
FieryMaid17 January 2017
Great story, everything else is just awful!

The Good: The story is a fantastic one full of the universal themes of revenge and power vs love and forgiveness.

The Bad: Some of the special effects were good, but most of them looked really bad -- like a low budget film from the 70s. For a movie made in 2001, this is really inexcusable -- especially when you see what amateurs at home can accomplish in their free time. One character's pet bird makes a Jim Henson Muppet look realistic, and don't get me started on some props dropped right in front of the camera, provoking either eye rolling or laughter during what is supposedly a tense scene. It made a bad horror movie from any decade look like a masterpiece in comparison.

But I could even handle the awful effects/props if it wasn't for the acting. This is just depressing because I'm familiar with some of these actors' other work and they are talented and skilled, but you'd never know it watching this. Overacting abounds in this, especially during the last half hour of the movie, so much so I almost quit watching (and I regret not doing so). If you are debating on watching this, hope for a remake and move on until it comes.
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Japanese craziness
the_Poppuns19 February 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I rented this movie to see Hiroyuki Sanada. Of course he looked gorgeous in it as usual so for that I'm grateful. However the rest of the movie I'm not too sure about. It's a story about demons and using them to curse other people, stuff like that. But my problem is while watching it I couldn't tell if it was supposed to be a kids movie or a movie for adults. The cheesiness of it made me think it was for kids but there is a vampire type character and strange fighting scenes that would probably be inappropriate for children. On top of that I was simultaneously reminding of both Return to Witch Mountain and Mortal Kombat (the movie). So I don't know what to think.

Another big problem that is endemic of Japanese movies are these awful effects. I almost wonder if they make it look bad on purpose so it won't be so realistic and therefore less upsetting. But in this and at least Ichi the Killer, I saw effects that stopped me dead in my tracks to think "Geez, that is so cheap looking". I think it was Zatoichi that I stopped about 10 minutes in because of the silly effects. I can't take something seriously if the effects look like they were done with Silly Putty, Kool-Aid, and Microsoft Paint. When I think of Japan, I almost immediately think of technology so this makes no sense. If they're doing it on purpose, Stop It!

The story was okay I guess and the acting was passable. But I wouldn't go out of my way to see it. If you're the type who like sword fighting movies this isn't what you're looking for because there is only one scene like that and only one guy has a sword. It's really about magic, uninteresting magic at that.
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Quite Good
NIXFLIX-DOT-COM31 August 2003
Once again, a Japanese film set in Ancient Japan, but without traditional storylines. This time around we get wizards with super powers and demons that are more gaudy than scary. The film itself isn't a complete failure, because it's quite entertaining, and the effeminate lead is rather intriguing.

ONMYOJI, or YIN YANG MASTER, looks a lot like a comic book rather than a movie. It's not to be taken seriously, and the whole thing is rather tame. More energy to the film as a whole would have been appreciated.

6 out of 10

(go to www.nixflix.com for a more detailed review of this movie and reviews of other foreign films)
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