Both Onyx Equinox and Blood of Zeus draw great strength from their mythological origins, the ancient sources fueling complicated plots with iconic characters and settings. While the lore-rich cartoons are very comparable, the execution of these mythologies is vastly different. To determine which one triumphs as the better mythology cartoon, one must break down some essential elements of each series.
For Blood of Zeus, the story is deeply rooted in classic Greek mythology, following Zeus's demigod son Heron as he fights for humanity. Onyx Equinox shines a light on Mesoamerican mythologies through the journey of Izel, a young Aztec boy chosen by the gods as "humanity's champion.” The two original series certainly make the source content their own through signature characters and animation styles, but which cartoon truly wears the lore best?
Which Show Is More Original?
The Greek mythology behind Blood of Zeus decorates its animation with the histrionic gods of Olympus who can’t help but impose their will on humans. From relentless love affairs (Zeus) or acts of rage and revenge (Hera), the gods can't leave humans alone. Similarly, Onyx Equinox is driven by the formidable force of Aztec, Maya, and Zapotec deities, like Tezcatlipoca and Quetzalcoatl who toy with the lives of their human creations, destroying villages to harvest their blood and feeding off of sacrifices. With both of these mythological powers at play in major ways, which origin is more original?
First, it must be noted that Greek mythology has been explored in countless forms, from the Disney movie Hercules to the anime Saint Seiya. Yet, Blood of Zeus puts a unique mature spin on the classic setting, using Gigantomachy, the legendary battle between the Olympus gods and the Giants, to spur the threat of Giants born of Titans’ blood. The Netflix series dips into many ancient Greek mythology tropes beyond origin stories, as well. Zeus may be up to his same shenanigans of cheating on his wife, impregnating human victims, and then bailing on his demigod offspring (cue protagonist Heron), but by the end of the season, he finally faces some dire consequences, which appear to spell his end. Nevertheless, another Greek mythology adaptation unavoidably comes across as “been there, done that.”
Onyx Equinox, on the other hand, gets points for its freshness factor alone. Deities in Mesoamerican mythologies have popped up in brief references as summons in anime and video game series, like Fate and Golden Sun, but a whole cartoon devoted to many fascinating Mesoamerican characters is a rare glittering gem. Beyond the compelling deities with stunning designs, Onyx Equinox explores cyclical creation central to the Mayan text Popol Vuh and the Aztec Five Suns myth.
A history of human creation and annihilation (the count being three at this point in the show) seriously ups the stakes. Additionally, Onyx Equinox gives representation to an array of Mesoamerican cultures (not just Aztec and Maya), which are woven into the colorful mythology. The twins Yun and K’in, for example, directly reference the Mayan legend of the hero twins who challenge the underworld gods to a ball game, a sport widely popular throughout Ancient Mesoamerica.
Which Show Has Better Characters?
Part of what makes these epic mythology series digestible is the original characters through which the stories are told. It’s easy to draw parallels between protagonists Heron (aka angsty bland boy) and Izel (aka 'woe is me' boy) who both face great tragedy and act as “the chosen one.” Neither show triumphs in this regard, with both characters lacking key brain power and likability.
The characters with the most depth in Blood of Zeus and Onyx Equinox are undoubtedly the villainous goddesses Hera and Mictecacihuatl. Hera’s conniving role as a bitterly jealous antagonist is exciting, yet falls flat in her narrow-minded revenge strategies and butchering of Zeus’s victims. Contrastingly, Mictecacihuatl, the Keeper of Bones, is filled with compassion for humans and doesn’t constantly devolve into petty lines, like Hera’s “you shouldn't have slept with that whore.” Mictecacihuatl may unleash a swarm of underworld monsters on an innocent town because her love, Yaotl, rejects her advances, but she at least has emotional complexity.
Does The Animation Fit The Cartoon?
These series can feed off of these great myths and characters all they like, but they can’t successfully come alive without complimentary animation and production. Both Blood of Zeus and Onyx Equinox have Western cartoon styles with a vastly different flavor and shape. Castlevania fans had no hesitation giving Blood of Zeus a shot just from the look of it; the same studio, Powerhouse Animation, elegantly transfers its gothic horror design to the Ancient Greek setting, which delivers that addictive dose of tasteful gore and violence.
Onyx Equinox also doesn’t shy away from adult content, featuring explicit violence. However, depending on personal preference, Onyx Equinox’s animation style can be met with unease. The animation style is reminiscent of Avatar: The Last Airbender, but instead of sprinkling in delightful comedic exaggerations, Onyx Equinox fills its frames with heaps of bloody guts and terrifying monsters. At times the bright neon colors and patterns are striking, but in other instances, the show gives off strange Ben 10 vibes with very youthful, heavily outlined characters. The cringeworthy dialogue littered with awkward F-bombs also doesn’t sit quite right -- and the voice acting isn’t doing it any favors.
While remaining open-minded to adult animation is important and censoring bloody Mesoamerican source mythology would be a handicap, the result created in Onyx Equinox is jarring. It could use some serious reworking. Legend of Korra, for example, echoed its predecessor’s art style but aged it up, introducing more adult characters to go down darker and more violent paths while still ducking below a PG-13 rating.
Verdict: Blood of Zeus
Though the decision isn’t easy, Blood of Zeus is simply the more eye-catching and addicting pick of the two. Powerhouse Animation gives Castlevania addicts another hit of that deeply desired R-rated action with this mythology cartoon, and the setting and story are just appealing enough to burn through the whole series in an evening. The characters and clichéd tropes aren’t always engaging, but with more new Greek gods, like Hades moving into the picture in a big way, the series is buzzing with potential. With both Season 2 and 3 confirmed by Netflix, the fans have clearly spoken.
Onyx Equinox definitely shows Blood of Zeus up with sparkly new deities, settings, and unmatchable originality, but the lukewarm characters, trying dialogue and, at times, offputting animation style lessens the excitement for the series’s continuation. Nevertheless, hopes are high that Onyx Equinox gets renewed for Season 2, if only to bask in the beauty of Mictecacihuatl and the cute axolotl Meque.