Still posing as her brother, Hikaru continues her quest to retrieve the last two Magatama and bring them to the capital. With an ever-increasing group of allies by her side, Hikaru puts her all into completing her mission, but can she really hope to prevail against the forces that are arrayed against her? And is handing the Magatama over to the enigmatic Abe no Seimei really the best course of action anyway?
Although it made a solid start, the first volume of Otogi Zoshi felt like “yet another samurai drama’; with an entirely standard cast and storyline, there was little to distinguish it from its numerous peers. Whilst the second volume is much the same, however, it still manages to show a marked improvement; now that the series has found its feet, it has also become more enjoyable.
Admittedly, the basic storyline is still fairly standard- if anything, the quest to find the Magatama plays out like a classical role-playing game in which a band of heroes must find powerful elemental crystals. Nonetheless, where the first volume needed time to introduce the characters and setting, this set of episodes can simply get straight into the action, leaving more time for some much needed character and story development.
In particular, it is Hikaru herself who benefits here, with the events of this volume exploring both sides of her personality. Amongst her allies, she has to act as the male “Raiko’, a role she willingly accepts in the hopes that her actions can save the capital. Nonetheless, a chance meeting with the mysterious Mansairaku also enables Hikaru to literally let her hair down for a little while; not only does she enjoy the chance to indulge in the things she cannot do as Raiko, but it is also increasingly clear that she has feelings for this enigmatic stranger.
Whilst Hikaru undoubtedly gets the most development, the other characters also have their moments. Chemicals mistress Urabe is now a full-fledged member of the party, whilst the team also gains a new face in the form of Kintaro, a young boy with a seemingly endless appetite. Although they are all clearly based on standard character types, each named protagonist is finally becoming fleshed out enough to spark the viewers’ interest.
Presentation-wise, both visuals and music remain consistent with the style established in the first volume. Action scenes are well executed, with bombs and explosives now joining the more traditional bladed weapons in the series’ various battles.
By building on its solid foundations, Otogi Zoshi manages to show a distinct improvement in its second volume and turn into a genuinely entertaining series. With the next volume set to conclude the current arc, hopefully the series will be able to maintain the momentum it has built up here.