This recap contains spoilers for the Onyx Equinox episode “The Last Day.”
A sparring match ends. A trumpet is sounded. Monsters invade the Earth and sink a city into the underworld. Two gods place a wager. These are the opening minutes of Onyx Equinox, the new offering from Crunchyroll Originals and their first American production. We’ve been covering the pre-release material for Onyx Equinox for a while here at GGA, so I’ll not bore you by telling you what you already know.
“The Last Day” serves as a setup to the rest of the series. But it shouldn’t be underestimated. Those opening minutes are pretty spectacular. In particular, if the wonderfully strange beasts here are a sign of things to come, Onyx Equinox will earn a rightful reputation as a style powerhouse. The creatures on display here, with their mix of kaiju and classical mesoamerican design sensibilities, are a serious highlight of “The Last Day”‘s opening act. Onyx Equinox is also not at all shy about being extremely violent right out of the gate. I do expect it’ll be too much for some viewers, but for those who were still worried that the series might pull too many punches, it’ll put those fears well to rest.
Blood and Onyx
The rest is a bit more subdued. This is fine, as Onyx Equinox seems to want to take the form of a traditional heroic epic. After an interstitial where two gods–Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca–bet their lives as to whether or not a single “lowly” human can save the world.
We don’t know the answer to that ourselves, yet, but that human, Izel, is who the rest of the episode follows. “The Last Day”‘s second half is comparable to a slice of life segment in a shonen anime. (Which, indeed, Onyx Equinox is not far from one.) Izel, our protagonist, is a textile artist, and just enough of “The Last Day” is spent building up his warm relationship with his older sister that when it comes crashing down in the episode’s final third, it hurts.
The rulers of Uxmal, the city where the two live, come to the conclusion that the gods need a blood sacrifice. The devastation wrought upon a Maya city at the start of the episode is too much, and they need protection. Unfortunately, the duty of being the sacrifice falls to Izel’s older sister. It’s here where Onyx Equinox makes its first emotional play. It’s a surprisingly effective one for being so early in the series. She doesn’t even get to say a final goodbye; the priest quite literally cuts her last words to Izel off by running his knife across her neck. In a word, it’s brutal.
“The Last Day” concludes with Izel throwing himself into the same sacrificial pit that his sister was tossed into. He crashes into the water and hits his head on the way down, bleeding out only to be rescued by a certain mysterious jaguar-like being. Said jaguar scoffs at the (still unconscious) boy, cut to credits.
There are nitpicks one could make about “The Last Day”. I suspect they’ll apply to Onyx Equinox on the whole, in the long run. The voice quality is a bit scattershot (likely the COVID-related result of having to do such things remotely), the editing could use a little tightening up. Minor things like that. As an act of worldbuilding and tone-setting though, “The Last Day” is remarkably effective. The story Onyx Equinox seems poised to present is a classic one, that of the hero’s journey. This early on, it’s important to establish the stakes, and “The Last Day” does that very well. Onyx Equinox is a treat to look at, and time alone will tell if it manages to weave a solid, compelling narrative alongside that, but it’s certainly off on the right foot.