This third volume of Otogi Zoshi certainly gets over the slump
it experienced in the last volume. Things get quite interesting as
the show races to a conclusion to the first story arc. Though some
won't enjoy the way this tale ends, I found it quite satisfying.
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 has recently died, and this
has created political instability.
There are a lot of factions in Japan at this time vying for power.
Principle among these are the Onmyo-ji, fortune tellers whose divinations
of the future (often to their own advantage) had the most influence with
the royal family. The blind Lord Abe no Seimei is the most powerful
of the Onmyo-ji. Though he appears to be working to help the Emperor
and the capital, he has ulterior motives.
Seimei has stated that if the five Magatama are returned to the capital,
the plague and famine will end. So the Emperor has asked the loyal
Minamoto clan to send their oldest son, Riakou, to reclaim these valuable
objects. The only problem is that Riakou has recently died.
So that the clan does 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. Joining the pair are Usui mo Sadamitsu, the warrior
they allied with in the last volume, and Urabe, a member of the Onmyo-ji
that Seimei has assigned to accompany them.
As this volume starts, Lord Doji and his forces have started their attack,
and plan to burn the capital to the ground. Hikaru and her friends,
minus Urabe who is missing, make their way to Lord Doji's camp in an attempt
to reason with him and obtain the Magatama of Fire, the last such icon
that is needed. Doji is in no mood to talk though, and plans on destroying
the capital at any cost.
After their battle with the warlord Doji, things go from bad to worse.
It turns out that Seimei has no plans on using the Magatama for the good
of the capital and its people, he plans on using them to bring about the
destruction of the world. Armed with this knowledge, Hikaru and her
companions head for the capital to stop the evil priest. Seimei has
thrown up barriers to their passing though, and one by one Hikaru's group
are wounded, killed, or held up until the young girl is the only one to
stop the powerful Seimei.
This volume made up for the flaws that the previous one had, I'm glad
to say. I found the story much more tightly written, an Urabe is
no longer a wonder woman who can solve any problem. The story moves
at a much quicker pace too. Things go along at a break-neck speed
as Hikaru tries to save the capital.
One of the things that I really liked about this volume was that there
were a couple of surprises that I didn't see coming. Without giving
anything away, I had pretty much determined how the series was going to
end by the middle of this volume, but I was wrong. I like it when
a show can throw me a curve that doesn't come across as fake or corny.
Overall, this was a good series. It had a lot of action and enough
intrigue to keep me interested. In a lot of ways the show ends with
this volume. The other three discs in the series have a story that
is very different, though related, to the story told in the first three
This volume of Otogi Zoshi includes four 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.
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.
As with the other volumes in this series, there are some good extras
included on the second disc.
Group Discussion Part Four: A 27-minute
informal meeting where director Mizuho Nishikubo, supervising animation
director Kazuchika Kise, character designer Shou Tajima, and wrier Yoshiki
Sakurai talk about the show. Like with the first installments, 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 lecture on the historical accuracy of the series.
He talks about the technology of the time as well as the social customs.
This time he talks about some of the historical characters in the show
as well as his theory that there were two types of 'warriors' at this time
in Japan. This is my favorite extra and I look forward to watching
Behind the Scenes of Otogozoshi (sic):
This is a light-hearted look at the creation of the anime. Some of
the creative staff sit around and talk about it and joke around a lot.
It was pretty fun.
Ending Theme Discussion: the director
and vocalist talk about "Wish Upon a Star", the ending theme. They
discuss why it was picked and how it fits in with the story.
This volume didn't include an insert of liner notes like the previous
two volumes did.
This disc wraps up the first part of the series. I was very happy
with the ending. It answered a lot of questions and also threw some
surprises out that I wasn't expecting. A very interesting series
that is well worth watching. A high Recommendation.