So I know I’m supposed to be all “YAY FALL 2009 SEASON” , but I really miss Otogizoushi. Which is why I’m writing a review of it!
Let me first say that I love historical fiction and historical anime, ahem Saiunkoku and Twelve Kingdoms? Seirei no Moribito? Ring any bells…? One of my favorite books in elementary school was Dragon Sword and Wind Child, by Noriko Ogiwara, which I found COMPLETELY randomly one day. I was like, oh, might as well read this. It’s about dragons. Imagine my surprise when I found it was a novel translated from Japanese and set in a Japan-like country in really ancient times. Like pre-Inuyasha times. And it was also an amazing book. So that’s basically what got me into historical ASIAN fiction. Historical American fiction? Pshhhh, give me more Noriko Ogiwara any day!
It wasn’t until later that I found out that book was the first in a trilogy, each book a different story about the magatama… of course, America is stupid and only licensed the one book, so now I’ll never find out what happens unless I learn kanji.
So when I was looking for more stuff like Saiunkoku and Twelve Kingdoms, I stumbled upon this show called Otogizoushi. About the five magatama. Dot dot dot… wasn’t magatama what they were always going on about in Dragon Sword and Wind Child, the best kids book ever? And that is how I ended up downloading Otogizoushi (I got it from Anime-Kraze, they’re cool. The video quality [of Otogizoushi, their other shows are amazing] isn’t the best though).
HEIAN~ My favorite! I was so happy when I figured out it was set in essentially the same time period as Dragon Sword and Wind Child! We need more Heian period anime! Ahem. The plot of Otogizoushi is divided in two arcs, the Heian arc makes up the first 13 episodes and the Tokyo arc makes up episodes 14-2… wait I forgot about the extra episode… hold on right there, I’m confused… Well suffice to say half the show is in 900 CE and half is in 200o CE – which is now.
I’ve seen mixed reviews on this division; it swings both ways: some people love the Heian and hate the Tokyo arc, for others it’s switched. Me, I liked both of them! However, I do think that the Heian arc could’ve been more fleshed out and done with a few more episodes. Although I enjoyed the atmosphere, I don’t think this arc was perfectly executed. But it was definitely interesting.
As for the Tokyo arc, at first I was like, ‘wait, did they ACTUALLY just do that?’ because the whole reincarnation thing can get a little old. But in the end it was kind of cool. The drastic change in storytelling style was also interesting. “Otogizoushi” actually refers to a collection of myths, and in each episode of the Tokyo arc the group encounters a new modern Tokyo myth which ties into one of the magatama. It was actually quite cool to watch it play out, and see how it all connected to the previous Heian arc.
Art and Animation
I could never make up my mind about this. Otogizoushi definitely has a unique style, with more realistic looking characters and most noticeably, non-anime eyes. Yes, the eyes are still big, but they actually look like eyes. The Heian arc had a sort of ink/watercolor looking background. It may have just been the video quality, but the colors always looked a little TOO washed out. I mean you don’t want insane, bright, shonen colors in a Heian period anime, but you don’t want it to look dull either, right? So I want to see what it looks like in HQ. And HD for that matter. Hah.
So in the end I liked the art style, but I think they couldv’e honed that style so it looked better. As for the animation, I feel like it was decent, but it doesn’t stand out in memory. *IT’S STILL PRODUCTION IG THOUGH <3*
The BGM was lovely, as expected for historical anime; for the modern arc, I’m sure it was nice, but not memorable. The Heian OP kinda killed the historical atmosphere but I ended up missing it when the show was over. The first ED was nothing special. I liked the melody of the second OP a lot, and it definitely fit the Tokyo arc atmosphere. The second ED: OH MY GOD. Haruhi totally sang this in Ouran HSHC when she was kidnapped by Lobelia and they made her be in their play! Or she at least lipsynced to it. Thank you, I HAVE got wonderful listening skills and memory.
I can’t remember if I thought they were well defined or not, but I did like them. They were a good group. And yes, they basically fulfilled all the stereotypes in a traveling/adventuring group; you know, the naive but willful leader, the stoic guy who defends said leader, the guy who’s never serious and likes women but is still a good fighter, the little kid… wait is this Inuyash- ..nnno. But even so, they weren’t BLATANT stereotypes. I like to think they were ACCIDENTAL stereotypes. Hikaru was a good main character, because she was naive but she certainly wasn’t stupid. Plus she could shoot arrows, so she wasn’t completely defenseless either. Mansairaku was also a good character. Even though you actually don’t see much of him, he’s still cool.
I feel like this has been kind of biased… but I’m gonna wrap it up by saying: this is NOT for everyone. I wouldn’t watch this for action, and I don’t even know if I would watch this for plot… actually I don’t know why anyone should watch this. But if you like Dragon Sword and Wind Child… step right up! You might also want to keep an open mind and try to be laid back when you watch this. Or who knows, you might love every minute of it. I honestly couldn’t say in the slightest. It’s just that kind of show.
EDIT: Holy crap. You can get this from Netflix. I didn’t even know it was licensed. Now I know where to go if I want to see this in quality. Who knows what the subs’ll be like, though. HOLY CRAP. I’m keeping my DLed version, but when I feel like rewatching this I’m definitely gonna go for the Netflix DVDs. I’m very, very surprised that they have it.
Back to Dragon Sword and Wind Child, I can’t help wanting to write a little more about it now.
It was written in the 80’s by Noriko Ogiwara in Japanese. And it was actually originally released as a stand alone novel in the US very shortly errr somewhat shortly afterwards. This is the cover it had when I read it in like 2000.
Pretty, right? Wahaha. Even though it has that cheesy title that sounds awkward when you say it, it’s not because it’s a translation… no, it was the silly Americans who decided they had to rename it. The original title was Sora-iro Magatama, which means Sky-colored magatama. Granted, that too sounds a bit awkward in English. So the American name stuck when VIZ decided to retranslated and republish it with a shiny new cover in 2007.
And you know what gives me a sliver of hope? 1) The VIZ version was only released about 2 years ago 2) The words “Tales of Magatama” at the top. Doesn’t that smell like a sequel to you?!?! Plus, VIZ followed up their release of The Twelve Kingdoms novel with the sequels to THAT. Maybe if I send them enough letters/hack their website they’ll release Hakuchou Iden and Usubeni Tennyo.
Not to make this long post even longer, but I just really have to add that the Heian arc of Otogizoushi was constantly reminding me of this old 60’s samurai movie by Akira Kurosawa called Rashomon. This may not ring any bells, so I’ll explain: Rashomon is an actual place in the old Heian capital, it’s a gate (mon = gate) at one end of the city for demons or something along those lines. Anyway this old black and white movie is all about Rashomon. So whenever the people in Otogizoushi hung out at Rashomon I was all happy since I totally knew what Rashomon was.
By the way, if you’re into film that’s black and white or you’re completely sick of mainstream, I really recommend Akira Kurosawa. Especially the ones with Toshiro Mifune. My favorite is Sanjuro.