Tokyo Onmyoji Review – Modern-Day Ayakashi Hunts

    Title: Tokyo Onmyoji -The Tale of Rei Tengenjibashi-
    Developer: HolicWorks
    Release Date: March 17, 2022
    Reviewed On: PC
    Publisher: Moonchime Studios
    Genre: Visual Novel

Tokyo Onmyoji is Moonchime Studios’ first BL translation and the company’s biggest license so far. While their previous joseimuke games, I Love You! and Dear Frankenstein, are very neat projects, Tokyo Onmyoji is a name that can be easily recognized by boys’ love fans who are deep into the genre. It was developed by HolicWork’s Tyrant brand and even received a Vita release in Japan.

In an alternate version of post-WW2 Japan, mysterious incidents often happen, and many of those are related to supernatural creatures known as ayakashi. Tokyo Onmyoji tells the story of Rei Tengenjibashi, a young man who works as a simple onmyoji in these trying modern times. Along with his shikigami Basara, he has to deal with many incidents on a daily basis.

While onmyoji is a recognized job, the nature of their profession is still held under scrutiny by some people who believe them to be con men. The traditions also seem to be growing too old to attract newcomers, making these people either too strict due to their beliefs or some sort of oddballs. Through the lens of Rei, we get to see the vibrant Tokyo city, an area where various groups gather and mingle.

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One interesting aspect of the game is its division into cases rather than chapters. The player can pick which ayakashi cases to pursue, leading to Rei getting some points with one of his potential lovers. These guys represent different sides of Tokyo’s cultural salad bowl, and it’s easy to see which cases are related to them due to the comments on the right side of the interface.

The love interests include Basara, Kamiosaki, Yotsuya and Meguro. As mentioned before, Basara is Rei’s shikigami and the one who’s the most loyal to his master. He tends to act silly and has a lot of energy. Sometimes we get to see him in a long paper form with an annoying high pitch. It’s also fun to notice how much he trusts his master since, unlike other onmyoji, Rei doesn’t favor humans in his interactions with ayakashi.

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Kamiosaki is another onmyoji and a longtime friend of Rei. However, his life as a rich boy is practically a completely different reality. While Rei has to stick to a very humble life and the old traditions, Kamiosaki has all sorts of expensive paper talismans and is a TV celebrity. He’s very popular and charismatic, and his easygoing, seemingly carefree personality is part of his charm.

Yotsuya is an ayakashi, but he isn’t just any regular run-of-the-mill spirit. He is the Haori, the grand leader of his clan, commanding all the Yotsuya ayakashi and overseeing their actions thoroughly. He’s a sly individual who occasionally lends a hand to Rei but demands something in return. Likewise, he isn’t the kind to forget the favors of others.

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Last but not least, we have the sinister Meguro, a novice onmyoji who uses firearms and shows his aggressive behavior when dealing with the ayakashi. He has his reasons for being so cruel, which he keeps to himself, but I wouldn’t say they are enough to justify his actions. Regardless, that’s exactly what makes his route interesting, as we learn more about his backstory while his relationship with Rei tends to have a lot of friction.

All characters offer engaging views of the colorful world of Tokyo Onmyoji. It’s a unique setting, and the presentation through cases allows for a non-linear approach to the story. It’s also interesting to notice that player choice can lead to some abrupt endings, a fair reminder that the cases Rei has to deal with can be life-threatening.

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Nonetheless, this division of the story into cases also makes the whole experience feel a little disjointed. Even after completing the story, I felt like the game underdeveloped many relevant plot points and pieces of character information.

I’m not so fond of the characters’ faces as they feel like they go a little off-model with each expression and CGs. The UI also feels a little boring for being too simple, though it is a neat reference to Rei’s scroll. However, it’s undeniable that Tokyo Onmyoji has impressive direction for the confrontations with ayakashi. Not only does it offer visual effects but also impressively dynamic animations in some cases.

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Tokyo Onmyoji is an enjoyable addition to the English-translated BL catalog. While the story could have used some further fleshing, its unique case-based structure and intriguing representation of the intermingling of ayakashi and human culture makes it a worthy read.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Ivanir Ignacchitti

Random Japanese games are my jam. Handhelds, RPGs, VNs and PC banzai.