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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  • Vonter
    (Thursday, Jul 28. 2016 04:33 AM)
    Also in regards to the bat scene. I just thought of Evangelion. I suppose that’s what the director was going on. Since you’re reviewing that, I’ll leave at that.
  • Vonter
    (Thursday, Jul 28. 2016 04:22 AM)
    I agree to a certain level the padding at the beginning. I suppose I didn’t mind since it at least was like a standard Batman episode (of the latter seasons). I think what bugs me is that the portrayal of Batman wasn’t very good, I think he’s emotionless for the most part. And like I’ve said, on the technical side it isn’t as striking as the novel. It’s like when Gyo was adapted (to be fair that’s also because like Berserk it had a lot of CGI).
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Thursday, Jul 28. 2016 04:20 AM)
    Basically just seeing the story put on screen I was grateful for.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Thursday, Jul 28. 2016 04:18 AM)
    I noticed something off about the animation and the dialogue was pretty piss poor at times but the latters kind of a given in these things and the prior was never distracting enough to take me out of the movie. I’m indifferent really to the Batgirl drama, don’t mind that its there, don’t care if it wasn’t.
  • AidanAK47
    (Thursday, Jul 28. 2016 03:39 AM)
    This story required a level of care that frankly the creators didn’t want to give.
  • AidanAK47
    (Thursday, Jul 28. 2016 03:38 AM)
    I think instead of trying to combat the whole women in refrigerator aspect of the story they instead should have focused on what inspired the characters to do this. What made batman rethink his relationship with the joker and attempt to find a common ground? What made the Joker suddenly want to prove a point? And sure you could add something to give batgirl a moment but not some crap villain no one cares about. Instead have her go up against a real batman villain.
  • AidanAK47
    (Thursday, Jul 28. 2016 03:33 AM)
    @Vonter, Animation was one part of it. The other was the first thirty minutes being a tacked on Batgirl story and it really shows. I didn’t really have that much of a problem with it up until that scene which everyone likely knows. That annoyed me. I get what they were trying to do but it just made things worse.
    As for the actual killing Joke itself, I thought it was ok. Hamell brought his A game. Really for that it was just small details that made it lesser.
  • KaZuHiRo
    (Thursday, Jul 28. 2016 01:46 AM)
    HAPPY BIRTHDAY PSGELS!! If you’re still lurking around that is…
  • Vonter
    (Thursday, Jul 28. 2016 12:48 AM)
    I’m kinda bummed that the Killing Joke adaptation is likely gonna be another feminist driven criticism. As for my opinion its just not as good as it could be because it seems 2D animation in general is having less commitment adapting complex artstyles. Not as distracting as Berserk, but the Bruce Timm artstyle doesn’t strike the tone of this particular Batman story.
  • AidanAK47
    (Wednesday, Jul 27. 2016 01:48 PM)
    @topgavin, I am not gonna deny that’s a large part of what I like about it as well. And practically everything really does become a side plot when the other guy is introduced.

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