Stream It Or Skip It?

When it comes to Japanese animated films, major names like Hayao Miyazaki and Makoto Shinkai come to mind. They’re the blueprint, responsible for the Spirited Aways and Your Names of the world. So when there are anime films that hit theaters and streaming services that look a bit like what both of those maestros dream up, it’s hard not to be a little disappointed when the unrelated movie doesn’t live up to either of their works.

In the case of My Oni Girl, all the framework for a great watch is there, but it just can’t stick the landing with a milquetoast teen boy lead, a grating heroine, and too many messy, meandering scenes that zip from one plot point to the next without stopping to catch its breath. While director Tomotaka Shibayama does his best with the material and Studio Colorido and Twin Engine’s animated work is excellent, this just isn’t the kind of anime flick that’ll end up attracting the crowds, even on Netflix, that the heavy-hitters do.


The Gist: Hiiragi Yatsuse (Michael Johnston) is a people-pleasing high school student who’ll do just about anything anyone tells him to avoid being disliked. That includes cleaning the gym for others so they can cut out early or sharing his homework. But no matter how hard he tries, he just can’t find a friend who’ll stay by his side.

After walking home one day from school, the warm weather turns to a mysterious snow, and he meets a young girl named Tsumugi (Victoria T. Washington), who’s more than a bit enigmatic. After witnessing her trying to board a bus without fare, he offers to help her, but she refuses and instead the pair make their way to Hiiragi’s home.

Tsumugi becomes acquainted with Hiiragi’s family before a strange happening in the home forces Tsumugi to show her true self. She’s actually an oni, or a demon, who’s come to the human world in search of her mother. She urges Hiiragi to help her find him, and he obliges once more, and the pair set off across the city to see if Tsumugi’s mother can be found. Along the way, they grow ever closer, as their night and day personality types begin to seep into the other.

Photo: Netflix

What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: My Oni Girl feels like a run-of-the-mill anime adventure in the vein of Drifting Home or Bubble, both of which incorporate fantastic elements, but can’t quite seem to escape their slow-moving plots and frustrating characters. The animation is quite similar to both of these films as well, and they’re both Netflix titles.

Performance Worth Watching: Kirsten Day is Mikuri Yatsuse, Hiiragi’s mother, and she imbues Mikuri with an inviting sense of warmth and kindness that you almost with the character were your mother instead. From the way she invites Tsumugi to stay with the family overnight when it rains to her invitation to comb Tsumugi’s unruly hair, she oozes motherly love.

Memorable Dialogue: “She sounds pretty irresponsible, right?” Tsumugi asks Hiiragi when talking about how her mother left her when she was a child, with her father raising her instead. “I was thinking of giving her a punch to the jaw!” she adds, punching and swatting at the air. It’s indicative of her personality that’s so much different than Hiiragi’s, because even with something as delicate as her missing mother, she acts rashly and with toughness – and much of that is what makes her such a frustrating character.

Sex and Skin: None at all. This movie is about as wholesome as it gets without being a Disney flick.

Our Take: All the building blocks are in place to make My Oni Girl a memorable movie, but its characters are borderline unlikeable and frustrating, with a narrative that plods along and makes little sense from one moment to the next. People-pleasing Hiiragi is too much of a pushover, whining about the most inconsequential things, and agrees to travel with Tsumugi despite needing to go to school the next day. It’s no wonder people don’t like him, because he makes the most boneheaded decisions possible, including hitchhiking with complete strangers to reach Tsumugi’s intended destination.

Tsumugi is the complete opposite of Hiiragi, and demands so much of him without so much as a thank you. Nothing is ever good enough for her, even though she’s inconveniencing Hiiragi and just about everyone else around her. She’s impatient, insistent, and selfish. And while it’s obviously a part of the narrative to bring these two opposite personalities together, it’s hard to care about her nebulous plight when all she does is make trouble for the pair, who act far too close for having known each other exactly two days.

The movie meanders from scene to scene in a way that makes so little sense it’s difficult to remember what they were trying to do in the first place. And when it comes to short anime movies, every second counts. My Oni Girl doesn’t understand this, which is a shame as it wastes its setpieces in a big way.

Our Call: SKIP IT. While this Ghibli-esque movie looks and sounds great, it’s a difficult watch thanks to its grating characters, plodding pace, and sometimes nonsensical story construction. There’s nothing tying you to these characters, who are about as emotive as a piece of cardboard. If you want family-friendly anime film fare, you’d be better off watching one of the many others on the streamer, or going back to the classics.

Brittany Vincent (@MolotovCupcake) has been covering video games and tech for over a decade for publications like G4, Popular Science, Playboy, Variety, IGN, GamesRadar, Polygon, Kotaku, Maxim, GameSpot, and more. When she’s not writing or gaming, she’s collecting retro consoles and tech.

Leave a Comment