May 29, 2017
duonoaikouka (All reviews)
Not what I was expecting in the slightest, this anime stands out. I was originally intrigued due to his historical setting and context. I’m a huge fan of history in general, especially for areas of the world I’m not that familiar with. Once I got started in this show, though, it was the individualized art style and emotional punch that kept me going.

The art in this show is unique to say the least. Not to everyone’s taste, however I found much enjoyment in it. Usage of thick lines and geometric type backgrounds give the anime an artistic sort of feel, like we’re looking at an ancient painting or woodcut. I’ve heard that’s what the goal was; in my opinion, mission accomplished. Colors are beyond vibrant. The usage of such intense color stands out all the more against those thick lines I mentioned. This series is a work of art, hands down. While not to everyone’s taste, for the tone and subject matter of this anime, it’s very appropriate.

Sound is a mixed bag. I enjoyed the OP, even though there’s a part of me that feels it doesn’t belong with the tone of the series. It’s still catchy enough to hook you in, though. The ED though was out there. Having a rap-sounding song round out each episode was jarring, to say the least. It didn’t feel like it jived with the tone nor story of the series. Nothing stood out OST-wise. It met the needs of the show conveying emotion where needed, but I won’t be rushing out to by the soundtrack. I do have to give a shout out to the voice acting, though. So many big and recognizable names!! I watched the sub so I got to listen to the greats like Ishida and Koyasu. Hearing familiar voices in a totally new story made me smile.

Told in an episodic format each episode being self-contained stories, each one though ties into the others with recurring characters, themes, and mini-arcs. There is no epic nor grand story here, no battles for supremacy or struggles against tyranny. In my humble opinion, what makes this anime stand out is how gentle the stories are. Though set in a timeframe that was FAR from gentle with death at young ages and an extremely stratified society, each tale still conveys a sweet relationship-driven tale, be it romantic or platonic. Your emotions are drawn in by each doomed or uplifting story, feeling for each romance/friendship that won’t work out or each that does.

Our characters are real figures from the Heian period, the great poets of the era. While each is not in every episode, the audience can’t help but be drawn into their relationships and struggles as each episode progresses. One doesn’t need the characters in every episode to get to know each one in depth. I felt like I could feel each character’s struggle and emotions as if I had an entire season to explore them. With no particular favorite out of the bunch, I think I felt closer to our female ones, though. Their struggle stood out especially to me, given how history has been unduly cruel to our gender. Heian era Japan was no exception, with women placed behind screens and their intelligence downplayed to light poetry and motherhood. It’s amazing that some of their poetry and stories was admired enough to last through patriarchal suppression.

Where this series really stands out though, the main reason it’s been added to my favorite list, is the emotional impact it carries. While infinitely gentle, this series still packs a punch to the heart. I like that it illustrates that every relationship doesn’t always have a happy ending, as is true historically. With such a stratified society as Japan, romance is all the harder. Even so, our characters find a way to express their love and devotion in other ways: glances, stolen kisses, moon-gazing, and poetry. Each doomed love is captured in the beauty that is ancient Japanese poetry. So simple yet each verse/sentence conveys such a powerful message. The whole package together creates an anime aura that strikes into the emotional heart of the audience.

Yet for all that emotional heaviness, there’s also a bit of light hearted fun added to the mix. Occasional staple anime elements of SD faces and sweat drops add a touch of humor against all the doomed love. I liked the occasional jumps into modern day and alternate scenarios in the beginnings of some episodes and in the middle series episodes. All together, they give a touch of funny to counter balance the pain of the other elements.

While the sound elements may not be up to par with the rest of the series, this anime was a pleasant surprise for me. I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much nor be as emotionally invested as I was and did. Art was absolutely gorgeous, if not your standard anime fair. In my mind, that makes it stand out all the more. Characters and emotions draw you in, making you click that “next episode” link all the faster. I’d definitely recommend this anime to any fans of emotionally driven shows with unique art and concepts. This one will stand out for me for years to come.