Onyx Equinox

Tagged: TV

US animated tv series (2020-current). Created by Sofia Alexander. Crunchyroll. Executive Producers Sofia Alexander and Margaret M. Dean. Directed by Kevin Altieri, Kuni Tomita, Ken Wong and Emi Yonemura. Written by Jennifer Muro, Kristle Peluso, Joshua Pruett and Charlie Reeves. Voice cast includes Olivia J Brown, Cástulo Guerra, Arin Hanson, Juan Arturo Maldonado, Zeus Mendoza, Patrick Pedrazza, Carolina Ravassa, Fayna Sanchez, Alejandro Vargas-Lugo and Kimberly Woods. Twelve 24-minute episodes. Colour.

When Mictlantecuhtli (Guerra), ruling God of the Underworld (see Gods and Demons; Religion) sinks a Zapotec city, the celestial gods confer, considering the deed an act of war: both factions desire human blood sacrifice and there is not enough to go round ("the blood drought"). Tezcatlipoca (Hanson) and Quetzalcoatl (Mendoza) agree to close the five gates linking Earth to the Underworld (see Dimensions), so only the celestial gods will have access to human blood. Additionally, their tendency to waste blood fighting wars means Tezcatlipoca wishes to destroy and remake humanity at the equinox, not for the first time. (Quetzalcoatl: "Humanity is in their fifth incarnation; billions came before them – now burned, drowned, banished, cursed.") The gates, built by the now extinct Olmecs, are made from obsidian, which cannot be touched by gods: so Quetzalcoatl, more sympathetic to humanity, bets that he can use "the lowest of the low" to close the gates before the equinox: if he succeeds, they will be spared.

When his beloved older sister is sacrificed, the slave Izel (Brown) tries to commit suicide, but is rescued by Quetzalcoatl to be his champion: Izel is scared, by no means brave and doubts whether humanity deserve to be saved. He is accompanied by Yaotl (Vargas-Lugo), Tezcatlipoca's emissary, in the form of a large jaguar, whose comment that the gods could bring back his sister if they chose gives Izel hope. He is joined by Zyanya (Ravassa), a female warrior who can Shapeshift into a giant lizard; Xanastaku (Woods), a former priestess, and the twin boys Ki'n (Maldonado) and Yun (Pedrazza). Izel also receives assistance from Mictecacihuatl (Sanchez), Mictlantecuhtli's formerly human wife, who gives him a Teleporting axolotl.

Adventures are had, four gates are closed; but at the fifth Izel complains of being a plaything of the gods, walking away and, after Tezcatlipoca departs to end humanity, announces he plans to fight back against the gods. Meanwhile Quetzalcoatl and Mictecacihuatl discuss their next move.

The Olmecs, who battled and then were wiped out by the gods, seemed to use Magic that might be deemed Technology – buildings light up in a way that suggest circuitry (though this might simply be an artistic choice responding to the historical art style) and had giant stone soldiers that resemble Robots.

Set in Mexico's Postclassic Period, the show is inspired by mesoamerican Mythology – Aztec, Mayan, Olmec, Totonac etc. – with Alexander having said she wanted to draw upon it as J R R Tolkien had with European myths for Lord of the Rings (1954-1955). For most of the first season the plot is a fairly basic quest story, familiarizing viewers with the characters and setting; later on matters begin to become more complex. Onyx Equinox's strength is its portrayal of the supernatural elements – though the animation budget is clearly not huge, the imagery is arresting, sometimes disturbing and vividly coloured. There is also much gore (see Horror) and Swearing. An impressive new series; it is to be hoped there will be further seasons. [SP]

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