Onyx Equinox: Mesoamerican Culture and Mythology Through an Anime Lens

Review of A look at the new anime-adjacent original from Crunchyroll!

I always looked for exciting classes to take while I traversed my SUNY education, and in 2007 I came across Ancient Mesoamerica. I was enamored that such a college class could exist, and soon found myself diving headfirst into the rise of the Olmecs, the lessons learned from the grand but doomed Teotihuacan and embracing my love of the werejaguar. Never did I think I’d get to relive the highs of that class while enjoying my current favorite form of media expression, anime.

Crunchyroll Originals For All

For the first time, Crunchyroll has premiered a number of Original productions like the exciting God of High School and intriguing Power of God during this tumultuous year. As the trailers continued to roll in, I was very surprised to see two of my favorite things, history and anime, intertwine in an interesting way.

Onyx Equinox opens with a depiction of life in ancient Mesoamerica. Two young lads sparring in the yard while fellow residents look on or go about their lives. A horn blows, red clouds descend and a man screams that “the sacrifice.. it wasn’t enough!”. The girl who was sparring runs to find her parents, only to discover they are being attacked by the black consuming canine-like monsters!

Her mother tells her to “get to the old stone” because it will protect her. Chaos erupts, people are killed left and right and an important figure (perhaps a shaman, or ruler) sacrifices himself, hoping the Gods would be appeased and save them. The Gods respond and we see some pretty dam cool visuals of these great entities saving the day.

Rich History, Poor Execution

The pacing of the story gets out of hand after this. The girl reaches the stone and realizes it can be used to kill the creatures, but it’s all for naught because the ground opens up, everyone is swallowed and she’s left to weep at the death she just witnessed. The strangely powerful stone tablet will surely plan a vital role in the story to come.

Everything continues to escalate and things get quite unnerving once a group sacrifice is made by the demon dog creatures. Blood flows, and unbearably destructive Gods surface. These new Gods make the previous Godly appearances look like cheap magic tricks, as they raze the entire city and survivors are forced to scatter for survival.

All of this is big setup to draw in the casual fans with gore and war, while more invested viewers embrace learning about the Gods of the Underworld (the biggest, depicted here as Mictlāntēcutli) and why these other sacrifice-dependent Gods oppose them.

They talk of there not being enough blood, of remaking humanity 4 times before this anticipated rebirth and that is where out story truly begins. These deities decide to use what the Olmec people left behind. They will close the 5 gates to the underworld, while accepting the hypocrisy of their ways. They wiped out the Olmecs for what they did to the gates…but hard times ya know?

The Good With The Bad

The story migrates to a Mayan society where ancient examples of discrimination and privilege are on full display. This was one of the most well dont segments of this premiere episode. Onyx Equinox depicts centuries old Mexican culinary methods of making dough, tamale-like meals, and other dishes that Mesoamerican civilizations ate. They get the sprawling marketplace so right, as anyone how has read the words of the colonizing bastard, Cortes, who describes what he found in the 1520 letter to King Charles of Spain. The weaving of textile pieces by young artisans is great, the mention of crop blight was on point, and the portrayal of the relationship between slaves and masters were very real.

The first episode in this new series wraps up with a boy named Izel being chosen by the Gods to be humanity’s savior after witnessing a gruesome scene. It’s classic trauma motivated hero narrative that I can get behind, as Izel will come to control the fates of the living and the underworld before he knows it.

Onyx Equinox creator Sofia Alexander was very clear about expanding our pop culture influences and this is most certainly an step in the right direction! Here’s to hoping this series will improve a bit in the pacing dept, continue to go hard on the grand animation battles and expand on the ancient mythology we’ve been invited to take in.

The first episode of Onyx Equinox goes live on Crunchyroll on Saturday, November 21 at 1:00pm Pacific Time, with dubs in English, Spanish, Portuguese, German & French! 

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  • Ja-Quan is a NYC teacher and artist holding a B.A. in Sociology and History from SUNY New Paltz. On his journey to become Hokage, the Lord of The Speed Force and Protector of the Recaps can be found North of The Wall, chopping it up on Twitter @OGquankinobi

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