We get ready for Japan’s Setsubun celebration with the highs and lows of oni fashion.

Every year in February, Japan celebrates Setsubun. This traditional observance of the start of spring (according to Japan’s old calendar) is also sometimes called the “bean-throwing festival” in English, because that’s literally how it’s celebrated.

Ordinarily Japan would frown on such wanton playing with your food. Throwing beans at Setsubun, though, is supposed to drive off oni (Japanese demons) and ensure good luck for you and your family for the year to come. So most people get ready for Setsubun by buying a pack of roasted soybeans…but we decided to get ready for it by buying an oni costume.

Specifically, we bought Amazon Japan’s best-selling oni costume, with an average buyer review of 3.8 stars out of a maximum five. At 4,980 yen (US$43) it’s not the cheapest option, but it had free shipping and a 30-day warranty, so we wouldn’t have to worry about any wardrobe malfunctions in our first month of ownership.

Also helping to justify the price is the fact that this is a complete oni transformation kit. The package contains a red oni bodysuit, mask, horns, tigerskin shorts (oni always wear tiger pelts), wig, and even an 85-centimeter (33-inh) inflatable club.

▼ We were instantly attempted to start pounding on random objects, and now even more grateful for the 30-day warranty.

So without further ado…

…let’s summon our oni!

Not bad at all! Japanese preschools sometimes have costumed oni serve as bean-throwing targets for the kids on Setsubun, and we’re sure that if we showed up dressed like this, we’d have more than a few kids in tears.

But of course, it was to be expected that Amazon’s best-selling oni costume would be pretty great. What about its lowest-rated oni item?

The pre-purchase promotional photo for the High Impact Party Performance oni mask makes it look a terrifying visage with a deep dark crimson color and a faux-wood look to its finish. However, its average customer rating of two stars is the worst in its category, with unhappy purchasers calling it “flimsy” and “a scam.” So naturally we ordered one for 3,099 yen.

Sure enough, the rubber material is thin and jiggly, and the color is brighter than the manufacturer’s images promise. Holding it in our hand, it felt closer to a Power Rangers bad guy of the week than a truly intimidating demon. Worst of all, the back is completely open, meaning that any oni illusion evaporates as soon as someone sees you from behind.

Still, we’d bought the thing, so we slipped it on. On the plus side, the basic design itself is pretty cool-looking. Unfortunately, since the mask doesn’t come with any other costume bits or accessories, the oni transformation stalls below the chin.

But what if we combined Amazon’s best-selling oni costume kit with its worst-reviewed mask?

That’s actually not half bad! Maybe there’s some synergy going on, and having a more complete costume puts a little less scrutiny on the mask’s thinness.

It’s not perfect, since the low-rated mask still leaves your ears exposed, along with the visible patch of human skin at your throat. Keeping the wig on does make the ears a little less noticeable, though.

If you’re looking at the old oni costume you’ve currently got hanging in your closet and thinking it’s time for a replacement, the best-seller can be found here, and the worst-rated mask here. And should you happen to see the fearsome oni in these photos in your neighborhood this Setsubun, don’t worry, because underneath it’s just our reporter Masanuki Sunakoma, possibly on his way to the public bath.

Photos © SoraNews24
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