One of my pet peeves is when people tell me that all anime is similar.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Take Otogi Zoshi
for example. This show does not have any giant robots or kids saving
the world with the help of their favorite game. Set in ancient Japan
this is a historically accurate program that involves the political maneuvering
of various people near the Emperor, and how a young girl gets caught in
The story takes place at the beginning of the Heian period in Japan,
972 AD. The capital, Heian-Kyo (present day Kyoto), is suffering
from famine and disease. The Emperor is afflicted a debilitating
illness that keeps him bed ridden, and he isn't expected to live long.
This has created political instability.
The Magatama, a sacred object that is supposed to have the power to
"save people," has been stolen by the Tsuchigumo Clan, a group of thieves
living in the caves of a far away mountains. A year ago a troop of
soldiers were sent to reclaim the Magatama, and they were never heard from
again. Now the Emperor has asked the loyal Minamoto clan to send
their oldest son, Riakou, to reclaim this valuable object.
The only problem is that Riakou is also very ill, and cannot make the
journey. So that the clan with not loose face, Riakou's younger sister,
Minamoto no Hikaru, dresses as her brother and goes on the quest with her
retainer, Watanabe no Tsuna.
The journey is fraught with peril, as Hikaru and Tsuna are constantly
attacked and ambushed by the Tsuchigumo. When they finally reach
the village near their goal, they are startled to find it filled with content
people. Even living under the tight rein of the bandits in the foothills,
the villagers don't seem to mind the tributes the clan imposes on them.
While they try to discover the reason for this mystery, the pair befriends
Usui mo Sadamitsu who soon becomes his ally. He is the only survivor
from the force that was sent the previous year, and he's also the only
one who knows how to get into the Tsuchigumo stronghold unseen.
This series was a welcome change of pace from the usual anime show.
I really enjoyed it, though it is a little slow moving at times.
This show, like the better Gundam series, focuses on the political intrigue
and maneuvering that goes on behind the scenes as much as it does battles
There are a lot of factions in Japan at this time vying for power, which
gives the show a lot to work with. The Onmyo-ji are fortune tellers
and their divinations of the future (often to their own advantage) had
the most influence with the royal family. The Nobles were next in
line, trying to position themselves so that they would have the most power,
often making aliances with other factions.
The warrior class was also powerful. They were responsible for
keeping the provincial areas in line, but the soldiers themselves were
looked down upon, as little more than servants. Their time of being
in charge was still centuries away.
One aspect of the show that put this above the average program was that
things are not always black and white. There are shades of grey to
everything. The Tsuchigumo, painted as evil thugs in the early episodes,
are shown later to have good reasons to fight the Emperor. They could
even be considered heros depending on your point of view.
The only real problem I had with the show was that it was hard to keep
all of the various factions and people within those factions straight.
It was sometimes hard to remember which clan some minor character belonged
to. The long Japanese names didn't help the situation either.
Though there were some fine points that I was confused on, the main picture
was easy to figure out.
Overall a nice series that has gotten off to a good start.
This volume of Otogi Zoshi includes five episodes from the series on
a two disc set. The first DVD has the program with the second DVD
being reserved for the extras. It comes is a single width keepcase
that has a disc on each side of the case. There is also an insert
that contains some helpful liner notes on some of the terms and customs.
This disc offers the choice of the original Japanese soundtrack or an
English dub, both in stereo and 5.1. I alternated between the 5.1
Japanese and English tracks as I viewed the series, and I enjoyed both
languages equally. The actors on the English dub did a very good
job, especially Taylor Henry who lent his voice to Watanabe. He gives
his character a strong voice that really helps the series. Julie
Ann Taylor also does well as Minanoto, being able to sound like a young
male or a female as the situation warrants.
They make good use of the surround channels though I thought some of
the music was mixed a little low in the rear channels. This was a
minor problem though, aside from that, the show sounds very good with a
full range of sound. There are no audio defects.
The show is presented with a 1.33:1 aspect ratio that I believe was
it's original ratio. The show uses a lot of dark colors, browns,
greys, and blacks, and these shades are accurately reproduced. The
lines are sharp and the image has a very good amount of detail. The
only problem with the image was some minor aliasing that effected fine
lines. Aside from that the show looked very good.
There are some good extras that accompany this show, all on the second
Group Discussion Parts One and Two: A
45-minute (total) informal meeting where director Mizuho Nishikubo, supervising
animation director Kazuchika Kise, character designer Shou Tajima, and
wrier Yoshiki Sakurai talk about the origin of the series, and how they
each joined the project, the way the show is animated, the character desgins,
and other topics related to the show. This was interesting at the
beginning but my interest waned after a while. I thought it dragged
on a little too long.
Tokyo University Heian Lecture:
Dr. Kazuto Hongo, a historian from Tokyo University and consultant for
the show, gives a 12 minute lecture on the historical accuracy of the series.
He points out small details that are accurate though they may seem fanciful.
(Such as the fact that Hikaru rides a horse and wields a bow instead fo
a sword.) This was much more interesting than I thought it would be, and
I enjoyed it very much.
A textless opening and closing are also included, as well as a series
This was an intriguing program. The fact that everything wasn't
clear cut made the show much more interesting. The political intrigue
and plots are nearly as exciting as the fight scenes. Though there
is a fair amount of action, the plot is slow in places and it can be hard
to keep track of who's who, especially among the minor characters.
You'll have to work a little to understand this series, but it's worth