‘Oni: Thunder God’s Tale’ Review: A Beautiful Marriage Between CGI and Stop-Motion

For decades, the world of Stop-Motion animation has been a very niche one. The art form has been preserved somehow by a few artists who still think of the technique as something that should be preserved. Nevertheless, Netflix has been trying to appeal to art by producing some truly amazing shows that use the technique to create something unique and worth watching. Oni: Thunder God’s Tale is just the latest of these TV series that uses stop-motion animation in combination with CGI techniques. The result is outstanding.

Oni: Thunder God’s Tale is Tonko House production in collaboration with Megalis VFX to create CGI enhancements and animations. The series is created and directed by Daisuke Tsutsumi, who previously worked as an animator at Pixar Animation Studios, where he directed several shorts. The series stars Craig Robinson, George Takei, Anna Akana, Momona Tamada, Brittany Ishibashi, and Archie Yates, among others. The series tells the story of Onari, a young girl who still hasn’t been able to discover what her true power is.

The series follows Onari as she discovers who she is as a person living in this magical Japanese-inspired world, and also what her existence means for this world. She will uncover several mysteries that harken to a time and place beyond her understanding, on the road to finding those answers. And so, what begins as a very personal tale about a young girl becomes something of a greater scale without losing that magical factor that makes the story relatable.

You can feel from the first couple minutes of the show that this is a passion project through and through. The level of detail on the characters, the way they move, the gorgeous environments where they walk and jump, and much more, are outstanding. We have seen several stop-motion shows recently on Netflix; The House and Lost Ollie just being some of them, and yet, Oni: Thunder God’s Tale feels way different as the art style brings back memories of shows like Adventure Time, and it is pretty cool to see that kind of character design differently.

RELATED: ‘Lost Ollie’ Review: A Melancholic Stop-Motion Adventure That Hits Home

The show uses a mix between stop-motion animation and CGI to expand the sets and make the characters feel more fluid and dynamic. It is very hard to realize what CGI is and what is not, as the artists have put a lot of effort into the final product. Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio is coming very soon as well, so it seems like there will be a lot of material for stop-motion fans in the next few months. The short length of the series, just four episodes, speaks to the difficulty and the quantity of hard work that is needed to create the show.

When it comes to the narrative, the show is very much aimed at a young audience and yet still finds the time to develop its own lore and mythology. This makes the show feel like something that older audiences can also enjoy. The pace of the story is quite fast, not fast enough that everything feels rushed, but also not slow enough that it feels like the story is being stretched out. It is a very good balance, and the four episodes are easy to binge-watch in one sitting if you are not careful.

The cast is also wonderful. The ensemble voice cast shines in each one of the roles. Onari, for example, is a perfect protagonist, as she starts in one place and definitely ends up in a very different one later in the story. The course of her arc can be traced in her voice, and the same happens with all characters, big and small. It seems like the casting crew really made the best possible choices when it came to bringing these characters to life. As you see the show, you can sense that the actors themselves knew they were doing something special.

Some people out there indeed find stop-motion animation jarring and uncomfortable, and for those people, I only have to say that they should give the show a try. It is very short, and the mix between stop-motion and CGI animation is very well done, maybe well done enough that they won’t find it strange like in other productions. Oni ends up being one of the best-animated shows that Netflix has put out this year, and there are many. It is sad to hear that Netflix might be downsizing its animation department, but thankfully they made shows like this before making that decision.

In the end, Oni: Thunder God’s Tale is a wonderful tale about love, responsibility, and what it means to open up to people and show them what you are capable of. Love is never something that should be underrated. Love is one of the most wonderful feelings a person can feel, and if you love someone, you should let them know because it is very far and between when you will be able to say that love is happening to you. Oni: Thunder God’s Tale is a work of love, which is why it is worth seeing.

SCORE: 9/10

  • Nelson loves all things related to storytelling. He has spent most of his life studying narrative, applied across all mediums; film, TV, books, and video games. Mulholland Drive is his favorite film.