Onyx Equinox is the Crunchyroll Original developed by Sofia Alexander that aims to bring to life Mesoamerican mythology. With the explosion of Greek mythology in media yet again, the depiction of Mexica gods stands out. Last episode, we were introduced to the gods, their wager, and Izel (Olivia Brown)- our hero who has just lost everything. Seen by the gods as the “lowest of the low” he carries the weight of humanity’s future. But, with the gods Quetzalcoatl (Zeus Mendoza) and Tezcatlipoca (Arin Hanson) distrusting of each other, they have asked for Yaotl, Tezcatlipoca’s champion to oversee the quest and ensure that there are no tricks or cheating involved. Now in Onyx Equinox episode 2, “Jaws of the Jaguar,” we learn more about what closing the gates will entail.
In Onyx Equinox episode 2, viewers get to meet Yaotl for the first time after he appeared at the end of the last episode. Yaotl is voiced by Alejandro Vargas-Lugo and his presence is one of the strongest elements of this episode. With a booming voice and a visual presence larger than life, Yaotl commands the episode, informing Izel of his task to close the five gates to the Underworld. Naturally, like many heroes, Izel refuses.
Having lost his sister as an attempt of the city to escape the gods’ wrath, he doesn’t believe humanity is worth saving. Still deep in his grief, Izel misses his sister and with nothing left to love him or love in the world, he doesn’t want to undertake Yaotl’s quest. But, as he tries to avoid the mammoth responsibility of saving humanity, he’s pulled directly into it. In a sequence that pushes Izel to confront his fear and his grief, he finds his way to confront the gate’s guardian. A creature of kaiju stature Izel has to use his wits and whatever strength he has inside him to take it down.
One of the most striking elements of Onyx Equinox is its vibrant color palette, especially when utilizing hues of green, teal, and purple. Contrasted with thick black lines, the richness of the animation is something that makes it worthy of watching alone. When you couple it with the fact that nearly every scene can be screenshot and printed out as a poster to hand, Onyx Equinox is beautiful and unlike anything else on television or streaming platforms right now.
The beauty of this episode is also heightened by the violence and horror elements that this episode has to offer. The creature designs of the series blend kaiju aesthetics with Mesoamerican art in a breathtaking way. Additionally, this episode uses elements from horror, both of the supernatural and creature feature variety to push Izel on his mission and play with his grief. This works both visually and narratively.
The voice animation is even worse this episode because we see Izel and Yaotl, and Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca speak the same name back to back. The difference in not only accent but pronunciation is frustrating in an anime that is supposed to be showcasing mythology. If a voice actor speaking the names of Mexica gods can’t pronounce the names in an authentic way, then why cast them?
Now, it is known that in English dubbing of Japanese language anime, some voice actors are asked to anglicize the pronunciation of Japanese words and names, as a way to make a cohesive experience for the viewer. That said, with the gods’ names being pronounced correctly by a majority of the cast, it makes Izel and Tezcatlipoca’s pronunciation is too detached and ultimately anglicizing the Nahuatl names would not have been the right call as well.
Truthfully, I got the chance to watch the Spanish dub of Episode 1 last week after my review of the English dub, and the quality of the show is greatly improved. Sadly it doesn’t have English subtitles, but I would recommend it if you can understand Spanish. Maybe it’s because I grew up hearing these stories and heard the Spanish dialect that is influenced by Nahuatl my whole life, but this is one gripe I don’t think I can forgive, especially as more voice actors come in that outshine their counterparts. Some characters have accents, others don’t, some can pronounce a “tl” and others just can’t, and the series suffers from it. While I was excited about the large Latinx voice cast, the lack of indigenous voice actors was concerning, and seeing such large roles acted the way they are, it makes me question the representation we’re seeing.
That said, the quality of the animation and design is breathtakingly beautiful. The choices made in the design of the gatekeeper, Yaotl, and the avatars that the gods specifically the smoke that comes from them and how the bodies give way the longer they inhabit them is inspired. There needs to be more exploration of mythologies that aren’t Greek, that isn’t European, we need more fantasies that showcase the beauty and vibrancy of cultures that have been maligned as less than because of colonizers. Visually, Onyx Equinox episode 2 does this, but the oversight on voice acting is sadly making it hard to enjoy.
Onyx Equinox is available now, exclusively on Crunchyroll.
Onyx Equinox Episode 2 - "Jaws of the Jaguar"
That said, the quality of the animation and design is breathtakingly beautiful. The choices made in the design of the gatekeeper, Yaotl, and the avatars that the gods specifically the smoke that comes from them and how the bodies give way the longer they inhabit them is inspired. There needs to be more exploration of mythologies that aren’t Greek, that isn’t European, we need more fantasies that showcase the beauty and vibrancy of cultures that have been maligned as less than because of colonizers. Visually, Onyx Equinox does this, but the oversight on voice acting is sadly making it hard to enjoy.