Anime is a commercial medium. It has to be catered in a way in order to attact sales, so concessions have to be made with the premises that get adapted. With that in mind, there sometimes just appear series that make me really glad that they got made, while avoiding all this. Uta Koi is one of these. It’s based on a manga that wasn’t even officially published at the beginning. It’s about freaking poets in the 10th century. No marketeer in their right mind would usually pick this up immediately, and yet the anime of Uta Koi has been made, showing that yes: we can still get things that aren’t catered in any way.
And really, Uta Koi is such a fascinating series. Very rarely we see series that also end up strengthening other completely unrelated series. This show attempts to show the mindset of famous poets as they wrote the various works that were used to compile the famous collection of 100 poems. Yes, the same poems that were used in Chihayafuru. This series gives such a wonderful background to all of the poems that appear in that series, adding even more depth to them. One episode in this series is also dedicated to the author of Genji Monogatari. It’s such a wonderful opportunity to see something about the people behind the stories for once, making this show without a doubt the most unique series of the entire year.
Now, as for the actual execution, there is also something interesting going on, plus a number of things that take a bit of time getting used to. Most notably the animation is quite bare-bones: the character-designs here are very intricate and detailed, but the downside of this is that they’re very hard to animate, and the budget for this series is not big at all. This leads to great drawings that move around really akwkwardly, and that sometimes don’t move at all. On the flipside, this series is wonderful in the audio department. Voice acting is top notch and the huge cast of characters are all very well delivered. The music also is really good and fits the romantic setting perfectly.
Now, Uta Koi is a collection of stories: every episode tells a different one, sometimes even two, so this show does not have much time to dedicate to each of its characters. Some of the characters end up forgettable this way, and it does have a tendency to get a bit cheesy in its worst stories, but there are also more than enough characters that make an impact. It’s not a series that thrives on hard-hitting storytelling, because the animation simply is not good enough for that, and a lot of the stories are strangely focused on forbidden relationships. It’s biggest strength is definitely how well it provides background.
But it’s nevertheless an excellent view to how life was in the upper classes in those days. Being a woman basically sucked, and this series has many stories dedicated to that, but also focuses on how these women found their inner strengths. Court politics also are very much present in here, not to mention that one episode in which it deliberately takes the piss out of everything it stands for. If you’re looking for something with historical depth and don’t mind a lot of awkwardness, then this is a fine choice.
|Storytelling:||8.5/10 – Episodic, but very well laid out, moving though time across various poets.|
|Characters:||8/10 – Huge cast, so there are a number of forgettable characters, but also a bunch of great ones.|
|Production-Values:||8/10 – The animation is having a lot of trouble and looks awkward. The music and voice acting are brilliant though.|
|Setting:||9/10 – An utterly wonderful look at poetics of 1000 years ago and the people behind famous poems and stories.|