Japan in the Heian era (794 - 1185) and things are not well
in the land. In the capital city of Kyoto the imperial court
is at the height of its power, art and literature are flourishing
in a creative explosion. However, in the countryside poverty
and illness ravishes the land, and the capital itself is quickly
falling into a state of disrepair. In order to halt this decline
the emperor must find the missing Magatama. When the five
are joined together legend says that the suffering of the
land will be alleviated, and whoever places the last three
will become Emperor. Through a twist of fate Hikaru, disguised
as her brother Minamoto, crosses the land with only Watanabe
no Tsuna, a partially sighted samurai, as her only companion...
the opening shots you can tell that this show is going to
ooze quality on an artistic and storytelling level. It takes
no prisoners throwing you straight into the action with little
explanation; this is obviously a show that is going to require
you to pay attention. It's attention that will be well rewarded,
not just for the beautiful soundtrack or gorgeous visuals
but also for the rich and complex plot by Yoshiki Sakurai.
The show has a specific look to it; the colour pallet is earth
tones for the most part against backgrounds that have the
look of water colour paintings.
disc contains the first five of twenty-six episodes. The show
is split, with the first thirteen episodes telling a historical
tale and the latter thirteen moving the action to contemporary
Tokyo, where the characters have been reincarnated. The quality
of the show shouldn't really come as any surprise as it comes
from the Production I.G. studio, which has also produced the
excellent Ghost in the Shell, Blood: The last Vampire
and provided the animated sequence in Kill Bill.
one, Raiko, sees our heroine up against the bestial
Tsuchigumo clan who have stolen one of the Magatama's. Although
the show starts with an attack by the Tsuchigumo clan, the
main purpose of the episodes is to set up the characters and
the quest that Hikaru has undertaken in her brothers name
as he has fallen ill.
two, Sadamitsu, sees our two seekers coming across
a rural hamlet where things are not what they seem. The village
appears to be safe from the Tsuchigumo clan; the village elder
explains that they give food as tribute. In this period of
Japanese history money was almost unknown and would never
have been used by the poor. But the village holds a deeper
secret that will put Hikaru and Tsuna's life at risk.
three, Tsuchigumo, and two have become three with the
inclusion of a surviving imperial warrior who knows a secret
way into the clan's lair. But is three going to be enough
to overcome the clan and retrieve the Magatama? Well it would
be odd for them to fail in act three of twenty-six, but Hikaru
finds that some victories can come at a price and some come
four, Rashomon, finds the heart broken Hikaru secluded
in her home, when she gets a summons to attend the imperial
palace. This is a very introspective act. Hikaru meets a new
character and, as in much of these shows, little is given
away and the enigma just adds to the slow thoughtful tone.
And the final act on the disc, act five, Urabe. Abe
no Seimei continues his machinations at court whilst Hikaru
and her companions begin their quest for the remaining Magatama's.
To help them out they are sent a female companion Urabe, who
seems to know more than she is willing to divulge.
is a nice choice of audio options. The show is presented in
English and Japanese stereo, 5.1 and DTS. For an anime show
the extras are superb. There are two discussion featurettes
regarding the show from its creators and a lecture from Dr
Kazuto Hongo of the Historiographical Institute of Tokyo University,
who helped to keep the show as historically accurate as possible.
Last up are the textless opening and closing sequences.
great visuals, nice audio, good extras and five episodes on
the disc, how could you go wrong.