When I found out that this was a case-based anime (as in a collection of individual, unrelated stories, sharing a common theme. Think Mushishi, Jigoku Shoujo and Bartender) I just had to check it out, as it’s one of my favourite genres. Now that I’ve watched it, I can really say that I’m SO glad that I gave this anime a chance. It’s brilliant!
It’s annoying, though. I’ve got so much to say about this wonderful anime, but I’ll refrain from doing so for the sake of spoilers. One of the great things about this collection of stories is its element of surprise. Every episode delivers themes you don’t just think of in one or two moments. The stories are just full of creativity, and they left me hungry for more after each single episode. It’s really best if you just watch this show without having seen or heard anything about it.
Hi no Tori, or in English, Phoenix, consists out of five unique stories, ranging from 1 to 4 episodes. Its main theme is life, but there’s so much more than that. It’s similar to Ningyo no Mori, though it’s way less restricted by the rules it set for itself and made perfect use of this. It’s true that the Phoenix’ blood does bring eternal life, but this anime carries this a bit further than just that. You’ll understand when you watch it. The long stories tell tales of heroes and battles between huge armies, surrounded by events you really can’t see coming, combined with a healthy chunk of atmosphere. The short stories grab one very creative idea, and start toying with it. The results really moved me like no other anime has ever accomplished. (Note: not necessarily that they brought up heavy emotions, more like a huge satisfaction, or utter surprise).
Still, when you start to watch this anime, there’s one thing that will immediately catch your eye: the art. If you only judge on the first episode, you wouldn’t suspect that this anime is from 2004, as it looks really old. Well, let’s just say that you don’t have to worry. I’m not sure why the creators decided this, but the art turns better with every story. And I really mean that significantly. When the fourth arc arrived, I was so surprised at the huge difference from the art-quality, when compared with the first story. The same goes for the music. As the anime progresses, it just starts sounding better and better.
Overall, this is another one of those unknown beauties. If you like thought-provoking stories, I’m definitely recommending you to check this out. My personal favourite episodes were 7 and 13. Episode 7 contained one brilliant concept, while episode 13 really goes further than any other anime has ever gone before. Much further. If you don’t believe me, just watch it, and you’ll understand.