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‘Onyx Equinox’ Offers A Story That Has Been A Long Time Coming for Latino Anime Fans – Review

Anime has a profound connection to the Latin American audience. Many Latin stations added Japanese anime to their lineup, due to the affordable rights, and, in return, created a massive fan base within the Latino community. Now, fans are being rewarded with the popular medium representing their stories, like Crunchyroll’s original new anime, Onyx Equinox.

Personally, I grew up during the Dragon Ball Z 90’s explosion in Colombia, where my cousins and I would huddle around our small TV to catch the latest episode of this exciting, “cultural event” type show. Dragon Ball Z was a phenomenon throughout Latin America. You couldn’t go to any supermarket without catching the crossed eyes of an off-brand Goku action figure. This cultural shift has continued to escalate, creating one of the largest anime viewing markets in the world. Therefore, it was only a matter of time that studios realized the potential of this loyal fanbase and create stories centered around Latin characters and myths.

(Courtesy of Cruchyroll)

Crunchyroll’s latest original, Onyx Equinox, is the most recent example of this, with a fresh story inspired by Mesoamerican culture and myths. The pilot episode “The Last Day” opens a well of potential storytelling opportunities that feature thrilling characters and designs, that stand out from countless new anime series. If you are amongst the many who have utterly devoured Netflix’s Blood of Zeus, then you should definitely be interested in what Crunchyroll has to offer.

The series is centered around a brewing war between the Mesoamerican gods and their lack of blood sacrifice from the human race. The gods of the underworld are stealing larger and larger amounts of blood by devouring entire cities. The rival gods hatch up a plan to stop Mictlantecuhtli (“God of the Dead”) by closing the gates of the underworld, and perhaps wiping out the human race entirely. According to Tezcatlipoca (“God of Night Sky”), humans have been more trouble than good, so it may be time to eradicate them and start again. At this point, his brother, Quetzalcoatl (“God of Wisdom”), proposes a bet, where if he can get the “lowest” human to complete the dangerous mission of closing the gates, Tezcatlipoca would surrender his life supply of blood, and, possibly, consider letting the humans live. Tezcatlipoca agrees to the terms as long as one of his faithful emissaries, Yaotl, be the humans guide. As the two part ways, we meet, Izel, a humble young boy living with his older sister, Nelli, in the Mayan city of Uxmal. As he struggles to accept the discrimination taking place in the city, he is confronted with an even bigger obstacle when he faces a tragic twist of fate. 

(Courtesy of Crunchyroll)

The characters and story all signal a familiar, coming-of-age, hero’s journey, but what makes the show feel different is the unique setting. Plenty of anime series have tackled stories of all-mighty beings showing off their enormous power, but the Mesoamerican mythology is so distinct, that it becomes exciting to learn about these gods and their ideals. The culture is rich with artistry, mesmerizing architecture, and their own societal structure. Few shows have explored this part of the world, so every frame makes for an intriguing history lesson.

A lot of this excitement comes from the animation of the gods themselves. Their design stands out significantly from the rest of the humans, giving them an other worldly feel. They are incredibly stylized, with some layers of two-dimensional elements, which radiate a presence of supernatural beings. The underworld emits a blue glow that is both terrifying and hypnotizing, showing the appeal of the gods of darkness. Each one looks like something out of a nightmare, while also maintaining an angelic feel, which demonstrates the duality of the gods. Beyond their design, the gods themselves express an interesting perspective inside this world. Every god exemplifies their own personality and point of of view that offers fascinating potential storylines. The short conversation among the gods was the highlight of the episode, teasing plenty of possible conflicts to come. 

Onyx Equinox’s pilot delivers plenty of captivating storylines to be explored in upcoming episodes. The design and manifestation of the gods present a thrilling new characterization that can lead to amazing action sequences and compelling storylines. Most of all, seeing characters that are not usually represented in media is incredibly appealing. Learning about and appreciating other cultural perspectives and history, is a staple in anime storytelling. I hope to see more it.

Onyx Equinox premieres on Crunchyroll on November 21, 2020.

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