While hampered by plot leaps and conveniences, The YinYang Master (侍神令) is still the superior telling of the Onmyōji story for 2021.
The YinYang Master (侍神令) Synopsis
Ostracized since young because of his half-demon lineage, Qing Ming was ultimately forced to flee from the YinYang Bureau when accused of murdering a senior. Years later, he comes into conflict with his fellow disciples again when they come accusing him of stealing the Scale Stone, a relic centre to the revival of the serpentine demon Xiangliu. Joining the resulting skirmish is then Yuan Boya, an imperial officer whose consignment was stolen by Qing Ming’s servant demons. Disgracefully demoted for the loss, Boya had tracked down Qing Ming in hopes of apprehending him. The clueless officer soon finds himself at the heart of a major supernatural conflict between Qing Ming and a shadowy mastermind.
I should begin by addressing the likely confusion between this Chinese supernatural thriller, and the similar-sounding The Yin-Yang Master: Dream Of Eternity.
I should, because I was confused. I only realized they are two different shows last week when I finally stopped scrolling past the trailer on Netflix.
In short, both are based on the Onmyōji books by Baku Yumemakura, which are in turn inspired by the legend of Abe no Seimei. However, Dream of Eternity is an adaptation of the books while The YinYang Master is based on the NetEase game.
Dream is also solemn and plodding, and with a weird Kaiju ending. In comparison, The YinYang Master is spirited and light-hearted. It also pays much more homage to the Yokai heritage of the source material.
[Yeah. (Differences explained)]
As for my viewing afterthoughts, I’ll put it this way. I enjoyed this one far more than Dream because it has a much more likeable, adventurous overtone. The inclusion of a slew of exotic Japanese Yokai and Chinese-inspired demons was also akin to extra spice on top of a great dish. There’s a lot to look at and laugh at here. Naturally, the oriental fantasy backdrops were all superior eye-candies too.
The story itself does a reasonable job at painting the racial/moral dilemma of Qing Ming, although it does suffer from pacing issues towards the end. Of note here are the various flashbacks and revelation scenes, which added a vague sense of Japanese Tantei i.e. detective action to the tale. Could be me over-reading it, but this storytelling approach felt like another homage to the Japanese roots of the story.
The summary of it, this was a colourful and enjoyable watch for me. Probably would end up being one of my favourite Asian movies on Netflix for 2021 too.
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