The year is 972 A.D. in Kyoto, the capital of ancient Japan. Kyoto is becoming a corrupt and run-down city; selfish samurai and onmyoji, who care only about gaining political power are everywhere. To make matters worse the city is suffering from famine and widespread disease. Unable to ignore the condition of the city any longer, the Imperial Court decides to send Minamoto no Raiko, a famous samurai well-known for his archery skills, to recover a legendary gem said to hold mysterious power to save the world. However Raiko also falls ill to disease. Instead his youngest sister, Hikaru, decides secretely to make the journey in his place. Hikaru meets many people, and has many adventures while on her trip for the legendary gem.
Someone told me that Otogizoushi has a very realistic portrayal of onmyoudo which was the main reason for my interest, along with the ancient Japan setting. Certain character designs caught my attention too, especially Mansairaku.
"Some day, I wish to dance only for Hikaru-dono..."
Otogizoushi consists of two story arcs. They are very different, I would even say that in a way they contrast each other. Looking at the two arcs together, I developed some very mixed feelings about the overall anime.
The Heian Arc was amazing. The first few minutes were enough to call it a masterpiece. War, epidemic, people are dying, the world is
filled with despair. And among all that chaos, a seemingly strong yet vulnerable Hikaru and a mysterious dancer Mansairaku fall in love with each other. The creators did a wonderful job in showing the two contrasting sides: cruel battlefield and people's misery versus the short peaceful moments that Hikaru and Mansairaku share with each other whenever they chance to meet. The way she plays flute for him while he dances for her, the way they comfort each other and complete each other's existence... that sad but gentle romance touch was truly beautiful and left me speechless. I would have given it a 10 without a second thought.
But the story did not end on episode thirteen and instead moved on to the present time, the Kyoto Arc. The second part by itself was also quite interesting, and I found myself easily engaged in the mysteries surrounding the city. It felt somewhat slow paced at times, but overall it was good. There is one big problem though -- it's a completely different story. If it was an independent anime with unrelated characters, then I would not look at it so critically. But it was still Otogizoushi, yet it strayed too far away from the story that I initially fell in love with. True that eventually it started connecting to the Heian Arc, and by the end it even started looking like a sequel instead of a side story, and I won't deny that I still enjoyed it. But after finishing it, and after looking back at the Heian Arc, I realized how beautiful the original story was all by itself, and that the second story might as well not be there at all. It felt like at the end of episode thirteen the creators suddenly decided to make a sequel for the story that already ended and could not continue.
I found all main characters very lovable; I liked each one of them as soon as (s)he appeared. They had their flaws, and there were times I got rather angry at their decisions, but I developed a great deal of respect for each one of them. They all had their reasons for stepping (or not stepping) into the battlefield and for helping and loving each other. Portrayal of human bonds was probably the strongest point of Otogizoushi, between the main characters as well as between the antagonists. And as much as I wish the Kyoto Arc did not exist, I liked that the bond between the main characters did not change, even thought they were reborn as completely different people.
Also, Otogizoushi showed the most interesting portrayal of Abe no Seimei I have ever seen in fiction; out of all, this character shocked me the most.
I loved the art in Heian Arc. The character designs were beautiful, especially the detail in eyes, and the animation was top quality. I was simply speechless at Mansairaku's dance scenes; the battles were great too. Some of the backgrounds looked like paintings, they were that stunning. There were also times when a certain moment would 'morph' into a still image of a slightly different style, and it was such a nice touch.
I honestly don't know anymore whether I am just biased against the Kyoto Arc, but I felt like after episode thirteen the artwork started lacking, along with animation. Maybe the fact that the characters wore different clothes and had different hairstyles threw me off, but in a way it felt like they became different people. I just wasn't as impressed at the art anymore, and there were a lot less moments that I wanted to screenshot. And lastly, I have to say my little personal rant, what on earth did they do to Mansairaku? =/ I do realize that the idea was to 'modernize' the characters, but they didn't have to completely change his hair color and give him that cliche hairstyle that you see everywhere.
The music in both arcs was great and fitting. Personally, I enjoyed the soundtrack of the Heian Arc a lot more; it was a lot more soothing and atmospheric. But it was something that would feel right only during that arc, and I do realize that the second arc's music had to be stylized completely differently. Also, I absolutely loved the Kyoto Arc's ending song, which is, interestingly enough, the same song (by the same performer) that Haruhi 'sings' in one of Ouran High School Host Club episodes, but with different lyrics.
I will spare you the seiyuu talk because I would end up writing a paragraph about each one, but I will mention one. Miki Shinichirou did an outstanding job in this anime, by playing both Mansairaku and Hikaru's bed-ridden older brother. I was especially impressed by the second role; his acting was so believable, and his slightly shaking voice sounded so natural, that you could really feel that Raikou was ill and that speaking was difficult for him.
As you can see, I have very mixed feelings about this anime and it was difficult putting them in words.
My recommendation would be to watch the Heian Arc and the Kyoto Arc within a few years of each other and judge the second one as a 'what-if' scenario instead of a sequel. But some people might enjoy both arcs equally, so I can't recommend that method to everyone.
Story - This is one of the most unique anime I've ever encountered. Otogi Zoushi is actually split into two arcs - The Heian Arc and the Tokyo Arc. While the plot for the Heian arc is pretty simple to follow (to retrieve all 5 Magatama), it gets interesting towards the end. The last episode of the Heian arc does affect, or rather, create the Tokyo arc's storyline. While it does have some supernatural theme in it, don't expect tons of action. Though it's fun to watch the reincarnation of the characters and how they live in the present time.
Art - Just knowing
that Production I.G. is behind the animation for this anime gives you the idea that the animation will be top-notch. The art style however is different from most anime. The characters look a bit realistic, but if you're used to watching different art styles in anime, it shouldn't be that much of a problem. Still, the art for the background looks damn nice with water-painted art as the surroundings.
Sound - Not much to say about the sound except that the music for the Heian arc is great when you hear Hikaru play her flute. Totally matches well for the first arc.
Character - All I can say is that Kintarou (little boy that teams up with Hikaru's team) seems like he was just placed there for one purpose: Just watch the anime and you'll see =p
Enjoyment - If action is what you only want, then stay away from this because it's not always about fighting (typical shounen..). If you want a unique storyline, interesting characters, and some..yes, some nice action scenes, then Otogi Zoushi is the right anime for you.
Overall - I think most people will say the Heian arc was the better arc than the Tokyo arc simply because the Tokyo arc deals with the character's modern life and some supernatural mystery involved. However, this anime is definitely original and interesting to watch.
Watching Otogi Zoshi's two halves felt like I was watching two completely different titles of varying quality. The series is divided up into two different arcs with the first one taking place in Heian era Japan and the other set in Japan's modern era. The Heian arc was an enjoyable watch exploring the developments of Hikaru, under the guise of her brother Raikou, and her companions trying to gather up several magical magatama needed to halt the depraved conditions of many commoners throughout their kingdom. The arc offers solid developments on the challenges faced by Hikaru's group as they face life-threatening decisions, corruption involving those
who task them with their adventure and Hikaru finding herself faced by the pressure to use her brother's identity to complete their adventure while also finding possible love with a traveling performer named Mansairaku. The final episodes to the arc feature some shocking developments that hooked me to see how events would turn out with Hikaru's group. The arc believably depicts the harsh conditions and cultural norms of the time period, as well as making use of notable legendary figures in Japanese folklore for this engaging story. If the series simply ended with the Heian arc, Otogi Zoshi would be a definite addition to my anime collection.
But with the addition of the modern era arc for another 13 episodes, the quality of Otogi Zoshi's storytelling takes a big hit. This arc focuses on the modern reincarnations of the adventurers from the Heian arc as Hikaru is the landlady of an apartment complex where she and several of her tenants get caught up in mysterious phenomena affecting Tokyo as the girl seeks out the whereabouts of her missing brother, Raikou. The whole premise is poorly implemented and contrived as the arc tries to go for some poor excuses to connect the mysterious phenomena to the events that took place in the Heian arc and it leaves a number of glaring plot holes concerning the events that Hikaru and her apartment tenants get dragged into, especially with the focus of one major character who makes a return from the earlier Heian arc.
The visual presentation for Otogi Zoshi is a bit of a mixed bag. On the plus side, the series features realistic-looking character designs and has its moments of fluid animation shown during battle scenes and the destruction of towns/ cities during key events in the series. On the other end though, it felt like the series was on a bit of a tight animation budget at points as there were some low-quality background shots on a number of occasions in both arcs and animation shortcuts were apparent with still shots being used on a number of occasions. The modern arc also mixes in some live-action shots of various Tokyo locales in place of animated shots of said locations whenever the plot moves to another location, clashing quite badly with the animated footage following a scene change.
Overall, Otogi Zoshi was worthwhile only for its Heian arc thanks to its solid storytelling and implementation of elements of traditional Japanese folklore and spiritualist beliefs while the modern arc was a messy premise that seemed tacked on just to drag the show out for another 13 episodes. If you share similar feelings as I do on the series and wish to get it on DVD, just buy the first three volumes containing the Heian arc if you live in America and dream that the modern arc was never even made.
This is an odd one. I knew going in that the show completely changes half way through and I was expecting the second half to be less to my liking. Turns out I found the modern urban ghost story approach far more entertaining than the rather stale feuda-eral first half.
The animation is quite poor and it's very easy to spot the budget-saving moments of still backgrounds and stop animation scenes. The music is a lot more consistent though and I enjoyed the score for the first half. the sound in the second half is far more atmospheric.
In terms of character I thought the first
half was very poor but the second half had some better characterization although it could have done with some stronger parallels with the first half.
Overall I'd say it's worth a watch if only for the brave move in storytelling but I suspect most will love/hate each half making it hard for people to fully enjoy the whole. While I was less than impressed by the first half, I can still see how it enhance the second half of the show.
"I love the kind of woman that can kick my ass." Who are we to disagree with the wise words of Spike Spiegel, no slouch himself in the ass-kicking department? We all have our favorite anime warrior girls. Read on to find out if your favorite made the cut in this list.