The origins of Orient’s Oni, who have controlled Hinomoto over the last 150-years, are still largely unknown. Currently, fans of the show have seen a small handful of lesser-Oni demons and their more powerful counterparts, the Kishin. These creatures have been presented as having unimaginable physical and magical powers, but they don’t seem like the brightest bunch.
Determining the IQ of a rabble of monsters, intent on killing any person that they see, may seem like a strange thing to be concerned about. However, if the historical backdrop of the show is taken into account, then the Oni’s lack of intelligence becomes all the more curious.
Within Orient's debut episode the viewer is introduced to the country of Hinomoto, which in 1568 found itself in peril after the arrival of the Kishin. After this moment battles would ensue between Bushi Bands and the demonic Oni, leaving the nation to fall into chaos. Over 151 years after this point of contact, Hinomoto’s peoples have been placed firmly under the grip of the Oni. One might expect to see these creatures being viewed as villainous invaders, but they are surprisingly considered as protectors and deities of the human world.
At Tatsuyama’s Miner Training School, children are trained to dig up precious ores, which are used as offerings to the Oni, and taught about an alternate version of history in which the Oni would rescue Hinomoto from Bushi Bands. However, Musashi was unconvinced by this established narrative after listening to his childhood friend's father, Jisai Kanemaki, who would tell tales of how the Bushi had attempted to save humanity from the Oni throughout the years.
After graduating, Musashi and his classmates discovered that the paradise they have been told about was in fact a hellish landscape where they must work until they die of exhaustion or are devoured. In the face of this realization, both of the show's protagonists resolve their hesitancy to fight the Kishin empire by working together in an effort to fulfill their dream of forming a Bushi band.
The strength of the Oni contained within this facility is certainly something that would conjure fear within any sane person. The Nekomata-oni are able to pick up a human being with ease and quickly maneuver across their environment to find their targets. Although, when Musashi and Kojiro manage to wipe out these Oni, in an effort to save the enslaved townspeople, it becomes clear that these beings are not in charge.
When the Kishin (Engoku Tengu) arrived, there was an immediate difference in the scale of its power and size compared to the lesser-Oni demon. Musashi and Kojiro were able to hold their own against the creature, but they were still no match for its physical attacks and regenerative powers. In order for this Kishin to be defeated, it took a whole troop of Bushi to immobilize it, so that Naotora Takeda could destroy the horn on its navel.
From this encounter, it isn’t difficult to imagine how a multitude of these creatures might pose an existential threat to the people of Hinomoto. However, so far viewers have yet to see a being that has the capability to coordinate an effective war plan against humanity or has the intelligence to use propaganda to keep them under control for 150 years. Fans of the show might point to the Oni’s devotees as being responsible for supervising Hinomoto’s many towns and mines. While this likely is the case, it’s less plausible that such a program was initiated by human beings alone.
Although the people of Tatsuyama Town were aware of the Oni’s existence, everyone (outside of the residing devotees) had never encountered one. Simultaneously, viewers are shown that the Oni are largely untamed creatures of destruction, with an inability to communicate with humans or sufficient intelligence to strategically remove themselves from towns in their dominion. It stands to reason that there is someone or something working in the shadows to control humanity as the Oni’s devotees are simply not strong enough to ward off these creatures from their townships or capable of corresponding with them.
Currently, viewers have only seen two types of Oni. It is possible that there is a third, more intelligent being, that coordinates both the lesser-Oni and Kishin to do their bidding. Within Episode 8, “The Obsidian Goddess”, it is revealed that Musashi has a mysterious deity contained within him that is responsible for his black soul. Little information has been disclosed on the origin or nature of this being, however, it might come to pass that there are more of these otherworldly creatures and that they are responsible for Hinomoto’s plight.
While fans can only speculate whether the Oni and Kishin are being controlled by a higher power, they can rest assured that there are going to be some big reveals moving forward. Both the origins and capabilities of these mysterious creatures have yet to be fully seen and viewers may discover that the Oni are much more intelligent than has been currently shown. However, if there is a third form of Oni or a person pulling the strings behind the scenes, then it will be difficult for the show’s protagonists to overcome this challenge without a great deal of training.