The revving of car engines kicks off the opening images of the titles, so that we’re in no doubt that ‘Otogi Zoshi’ has left Heian Kyo far behind. Against a washed-out montage of shots of contemporary Tokyo, we see Hikaru and her companions, each lip-synching in turn to the words of the new opening song.
Tokyo is sweltering in an unseasonable heatwave, the TV screens tell us, leading to the introduction of rolling nightly blackouts to conserve energy. A red-haired man in a trench coat is glimpsed watching the trains passing. ‘The time has come,’ he says ominously. Is it Mansaraiku?
Twenty-first century Hikaru is a high school girl whose older brother, Raiko, has been missing for a year. Tsuna, Raiko’s sempai, is one of her tenants – and also keeping watch over his friend’s sister. Tsuna is a freelance journalist specializing in the supernatural. Hikaru accompanies him when he is called to investigate the mysterious sightings of a ghostly train. The city lights go out, as the blackout starts – and then the level crossing warning sounds. Hikaru sees a train pass by – and in it she catches a glimpse of Raiko. At the moment the ghostly train appears, the red fragment of stone that she wears as a pendant, glows. She turns to Tsuna – but he has seen nothing.
Raiko disappeared whilst investigating mysterious occurrences in the city – and when Hikaru discovers one of his notebooks, photographs inside start her on a quest to find him. The red-haired man confronts her and warns her not to get involved. ‘You should try to forget about your brother.’ But Hikaru is not going to be dissuaded so easily.
In the four episodes on this disc, we meet Hikaru’s companions from Heian Kyo in their present-day incarnations as her lodgers: Urabe, the fortune-teller, laid-back Sadamitsu and the young boy Kintaro.
The striking visual quality of the first thirteen episodes carries through into the present-day episodes by using montages of photographs of Tokyo, tinted or stained, as a backdrop to the action. Each episode is named after the area of Tokyo where a strange phenomenon occurs. It’s difficult not to be reminded of other anime series that 55 use the city both as a backdrop and a metaphor for modern society’s predicaments, especially CLAMP’s ‘X: TV’.
This series continues to intrigue. The unnatural events in the city (heat, flash floods, and time-slips) suggest that something momentous and potentially catastrophic is about to take place. Will Hikaru and her friends be called on again to prevent a terrible disaster? It has to be said that these four episodes lack something of the narrative drive of the Heian Kyo arc. The mysteries are accruing but not yet with enough sense of urgency. I can only hope that the pace picks up in the next volume.
A transitional volume, establishing the twenty-first century incarnations of Hikaru and her friends. A little slow, but promising fresh revelations to come.