Posted by psgels on 24 July 2009 with categories: Anime Reviews



I’m a big fan of folklore, so I was looking forward to checking out Otogizoshi, and I must yet again praise Production IG to come with original and new premises. The thing that makes this series special is that while it starts in Japan’s Heian era, the second half of the series takes place in modern day Tokyo. Even though the story and atmosphere of both are completely different, they mix really well in the end.

The Heian arc is really folklore, as traditional as you can get in anime. It’s a tale of honor, samurai and bandits as we follow the female protagonist as she pretends to be her dead brother in order to save the kingdom. It’s got a very tight atmosphere, almost horror-like, and it’s full of sword-battles and the like as the story that offers a deep look into the practices Onmyou evolves.

The Heian arc however suffers from a stereotypical cast of characters. It just spends too little time into fleshing out the characters, and so they never really grow beyond their arch-types, as likable as they may be: Hikaru is your average protagonist, always trying to do the right thing, even though it’s not in her own best interest, then we have your typical loyal guard, the womanizer who turns out to have a heart of gold and the annoying brat. They definitely have their charms, but they just don’t feel like dynamic characters and the end result becomes a bit cheesy. Especially the villains suffer from this: only the mid-bosses are sufficiently fleshed out. The minor bad guys are just a bunch of screaming paper bags with swords, while the main bad guy is your stereotypical evil overlord who wants to destroy the world because he believes humanity to be rotten. Been there, done that.

Then the Tokyo arc, that takes place 1000 years after the Heian arc. The common opinion of this arc seems to be that it’s rather boring compared to the previous arc, but I disagree: it’s the Tokyo arc that really breathes life into this series. For once, it’s much quieter than the over the top Heian arc, and instead it develops into a modern-day mystery series.

The creators here really take their time to let the mysteries slowly build up, and slowly but surely you’ll get an idea of what’s going on as the links with the Heian arcs are made and developed. But what also made this arc better was the cast: the characters for this arc get plenty of time to get fleshed out, due to the slower pacing, and we really get to know them this time. The Tokyo arc takes a long time to get going, but it’s perfectly paced and knows exactly how to use its time to close off with a great conclusion that doesn’t try to be anything more than it is, unlike with the Heian arc.

The visuals in this series also rock. The character-designs are really well done, especially for the Tokyo arc. they’ve got a really realistic feeling, as opposed to all of the moe and overly cute series you see nowadays. Hikaru isn’t moe in anyway, and yet she looks great, and the same goes for the rest of the cast. They really make for a lot of great art throughout the series, my personal favourites were the flood scene and the earthquake scene. I’m not sure who animated those scenes, but they were full of creative visuals and made a lot of impact.

And yeah, despite the flaws the Heian arc most definitely isn’t bad. It’s a tensely told folklore, and the Tokyo arc that follows it makes it even better when it puts a modern touch to it, if you don’t mind a bit of slice of life here and there, of course.

Storytelling: 9/10
Characters: 8/10
Production-Values: 9/10
Setting: 8/10

3 Responses

  1. Ialda says:

    I had my doubts too about the Tokyo arc, at first, but finally it makes sense : an otogizoushi is a compilation of medieval short stories, and while the Heian arc is a “classic” otogizoushi (whith several references and figures from well-known japanese folk tales), the Tokyo arc can be seen as a new form of “otogizoushi” with rumors and urban legends as a modernized kind of folk tales.

    I really loved the series, minus one minor detail : modern Hikaru seem to me really less interesting, more passive and soft-spoken than her Heian counterpart. On the other hand, seeing all these characters we learned to appreciate in the first arc and left dying back in Heian-kyo “coming back” and living together was kind of heart-warming.

  2. 4155580 says:

    I couldn’t stand this show after falling asleep throughout the Heian arc, pretty much for the weaknesses you listed.

    After your rock-solid recommendation on Fancy Lala tho, I’ll give the second arc a chance. :)

  3. ancalyme says:

    I liked the Heian arc better than the Tokyo one – possibly because I like Mansairaku type villains. The characters didn’t seem to shine as much in Tokyo, either.

    It was a neat anime, tho’.

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  • Bam
    (Friday, Dec 19. 2014 03:46 AM)
    And yet again at the end of the day Akane failed to do what’s the most important ethical thing to do and left people to possibly die instead of judging Sybil herself. I think the reason her psycho pass is clear might be out of stupidity.
  • Bam
    (Friday, Dec 19. 2014 03:43 AM)
    @Emma: The plot was not only a mess but also incredibly flawed and contrived. Why would Sybil need to have to delete seemingly random brains considering that the are all supposedly asympttmatic to begin with? And if so then they should’ve done this a long time ago.
  • Emma
    (Friday, Dec 19. 2014 03:40 AM)
    *This was
  • Emma
    (Friday, Dec 19. 2014 03:37 AM)
    One thing I forgot to say regarding earlier complaints about the second psychopass season is that you have people who were getting lost in regards to what was going on in the plot due to what a mess it was.
  • Emma
    (Friday, Dec 19. 2014 03:35 AM)
    The was a pretty awful, although expected turn in the latest two brynhildr chapters regarding Hatsuna and the tonal jump in the latest chapter was terrible.
  • Bam
    (Friday, Dec 19. 2014 03:34 AM)
    Yup Psycho Pass 2 finale was just as underwhelming as you lot say, so now I share the sentiment. Even the 1st season’s wrap up wasn’t all that satisfying so they kinda suck at that, but this just felt like they gave up trying tho.
  • Emma
    (Friday, Dec 19. 2014 02:57 AM)
    I have heard of directors admitting bullshit before, Von Trier is said to have done so and I love the ground that man walks on.
  • Bam
    (Friday, Dec 19. 2014 02:56 AM)
    @Emma: yeah, he mentioned that many elements of NGE where simply for visual flair or to elicit a response from the viewer, which to me is fine.
  • Emma
    (Friday, Dec 19. 2014 02:55 AM)
    And both of you have a point about the power fantasy thing. Would also like to add here that a writer, writing is essentially a power fantasy to an extent as he or she essentially is elevated to the position of a God that has full control over their own world and characters.
  • Emma
    (Friday, Dec 19. 2014 02:52 AM)
    Has Anno mentioned himself that he knows when he’s just messing around?
    Also I like his wife’s works a fair bit and more.

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