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
    (Tuesday, Oct 21. 2014 08:32 AM)
    @Ninja: no I met most of them at Burning Man.
  • ninjarealist
    (Tuesday, Oct 21. 2014 08:23 AM)
    @Bam I see I just figured that if you had a lot of friends in KY you must have lived in the region.
    @Friend Yeah or involved desserts like Palmiers or Croissants. I actually am pretty decent at making croissants from scratch but it’s a pain in the ass.
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Oct 21. 2014 08:21 AM)
    And that’s … The More You Know ;)
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Oct 21. 2014 08:19 AM)
    “Iran” originally means “the land of the Aryans”. The European settlers of Aryan decent are correctly labeled Indo-European as they traveled from north of India across Iran and the Caucasus mountain range (hence the term Caucasian) and settled in pastural lands in Europe. Hence we are the original white people. Go figure.
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Oct 21. 2014 08:14 AM)
    @K-off: some good-looking corn there m8.
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Oct 21. 2014 08:13 AM)
    @Ninja: No I’m Persian since I was originally born and raised in Tehran/Iran. I am mostly of Parthian decent with a quarter of Kurd in me. I have moved around the globe since I was 16 and now live in Sacramento California.
  • Friend
    (Tuesday, Oct 21. 2014 08:13 AM)
    @ninja Some party foods like the brochette dijon flambe are too hard for me to prepare/mass produce at home, so it’s definitely worth eating out for things like that O.o
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Oct 21. 2014 08:10 AM)
    I’m not sure what’s with me and demonyms tonight, but don’t be offended since, they’re more of a term of endearment for me. But if you really are offended then chances are that you deserved it in the 1st place.
  • ninjarealist
    (Tuesday, Oct 21. 2014 08:08 AM)
    @Bam lol, it never came up. Are you a Southerner/Midwesterner as well?
  • ninjarealist
    (Tuesday, Oct 21. 2014 08:07 AM)
    @Friend Yeah cooking is definitely a better deal most of the time. Although for certain kinds of food, you can get a surprisingly good deal eating out. But it also just feels empowering to cook for yourself.

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