Otogi Zoshi Volume 3

Burning the Past

The first two volumes of ‘Otogi Zoshi’ have followed Hikaru’s adventures as she travels from clan to clan to find and bring back to the capital the precious legendary stones called Magatamas.

Now Hikaru, still in the guise of her dead brother Raiko no Minamoto, is hurrying back to the capital, Heian Kyo, in a desperate attempt to stop the powerful and treacherous onmyoji master Abe no Seimei from using the five elemental Magatamas to bring an end to their world. Besieged by the formidable warlord Shuten Doji, the capital is under attack. But this is merely another distraction orchestrated by Seimei, who has a much more sinister plan for Heian Kyo.

Fighting bravely against impossible odds, Hikaru and her friends battle on until the moment arrives when Hikaru knows she must go forward alone to confront Seimei. “The hopes of all now lie with me.”

Hikaru’s arrow splits open the magician’s smiling mask and in a moment of genuine surprise the treacherous Abe no Seimei’s true identity is revealed. “The capital can be reborn,” he tells her. “All living creatures are reborn…even you and I as well.” But Hikaru is not prepared to let him have his way and is prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice, if need be to save her world, imperfect as it is, from destruction.

The dark wash of colours used throughout these four episodes echoes the increasingly sombre tone of the storyline, broken only by the flames of the burning capital. For the viewer who has come to care about cheeky Kintaro, swaggering Sadamitsu, stoical and loyal warrior Tsuna and courageous Hikaru herself, it’s a painful conclusion to their adventures as it becomes clear that not all will come through this final battle alive.

The sweet and mournful tones of Hikaru’s flute have permeated the whole series and here, in the thirteenth episode, it takes on a particularly poignant significance. Composer Hideki Taniuchi has created an atmospheric score which supports but never dominates the drama. The opening song, ‘Zen’ is also worthy of mention, striking a clever balance between a contemporary and an older, traditional pentatonic soundscape.

‘Otogi Zoshi’ has proved itself a class act so far; everything from the striking character design, the loving attention to period detail, the engaging characters and exciting pacing of the story, has made it stand out from many other period dramas. But it has another ace up its sleeve. The scene has now been set for the jump to the twenty-first century. Are these first thirteen episodes merely, as some critics have suggested, the prelude to the real matter of ‘Otogi Zoshi’? At the end of this volume, we are treated to glimpses of the characters reincarnated inpresent-day Tokyo. The implication is that the issues and conflicts have not been resolved at all and that the drama will continue, moving toward a new and startling climax.

The extras on this two-disc set include more Behind the Scenes discussions and Part 4 of the fascinating Tokyo University Heian Lecture on the historical background to the story.

In Summary

An exciting and satisfying climax to the first arc of ‘Otogi Zoshi’, enhanced by convincing characterization and skilled animation – with the promise of answers to the unsolved mysteries still to come in a new and contemporary setting.

8 / 10


Sarah's been writing about her love of manga and anime since Whenever - and first started watching via Le Club Dorothée in France...

More posts from Sarah...