It is often said that Edgar Allan Poe brought us the detective fiction novel, although there had to have been some kind of investigation and detection into crimes long ago and far away. It gets tough to put together these tales about the past, as we here in the modern era do not know how they might have done things in those days and for our tales, it was when Tokyo was Edo (sadly, that era spans 1603 to 1868, so it is hard to give a specific date). However, what we see in “Onihei” is a marvelous crime story, set off with beautiful imagery, smart story-telling and one sharp fortune cookie. (Yes, yes, I know that the fortune cookie is an American invention.)
Above, we see Heizo Hasegawa, the head of the Arson Theft Control Office. He is everything you want a hero to be: good-looking (there are a few shirtless scenes for the ladies), smart, shrewd, inventive and with a strong sense of true justice. He also ain’t no slack with that sword. He has a family, consisting of his wife Hisae (who has a past), elder son Tatsuzo and adopted daughter Ojun (who also has a past).
He does his best to keep crime in check while he is on duty, but he isn’t Sgt. Joe Friday with a bland and rectilinear style. He is far more loose and circumspect in things and he uses a degree of anonymity to further his causes.
The stories are marvelous in their intricacies and the harshness of sentences in those days (yes, there is a death penalty and it gets used), plus some well-staged and choreographed fight sequences that are done just enough so you don’t think it’s all swords and sandals. Numerous back-stories help round out the characters and some of the tales can be both heart-breaking and genuinely humorous.
I usually have a problem with historical drama, in that I do not know how ‘historical’ they might be. There is also a tendency to put modern sensibilities on older times that just may not have existed or have been allowed. Plus, my knowledge of the eras of Japan is equally thin, so I can only think that this is how events were handled. Then again, people think the American Old West was gunfight after gunfight, so who can tell?
In any case, this is a very good anime that might get overlooked. No giant fighting robots, no boobilicious babes, no squealing high school girls in flirty outfits. What you do get is a master thinker, the peer of Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poiriot, both in the points of the law and the realities of life. I feel that you will not be disappointed in this show, as even the ‘filler’ episodes serve a purpose to the end. And speaking of the end, it kind of just stops (there are always more episodes, should a second season be merited), but with a conclusion that you didn’t see coming. I would certainly make room on your anime schedule to catch this show, rare in both what it does and how it does it.
Since there is a caliber of interconnectivity with the episodes and the stories are intriguing, sit down with some treats and run it through. It is nice to see how his mind works and the way he navigates even the most complex and convoluted of puzzles, since one builds off of the other. And the home life aspect comes forth with a bit more intensity. The half-reason I give against binging is that you do want to savor the shows, but you won’t go wrong if you want to glom the whole thing.
On a scale of 1 to 10:
Artwork 8 (Better character design, strong backgrounds)
Plot 9 (Very compelling tales to tell)
Pacing 8 (Moves along well without being frantic)
Effectiveness 8 (Good use of back stories)
Conclusion 7 (It reaches a ‘coupler point’, but hasn’t ended)
Fan Service 2 (A similar show would be “Okamisan”)
Bingeability 9 (It really pulls it together with the various threads)
Overall 9 (Something worth seeing)
And remember, it’s first run until you’ve seen it. This is the Arson Theft Control!