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EP. REVIEW: The Heike Story


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ab2143



Joined: 09 Jan 2021
Posts: 394
PostPosted: Wed Oct 20, 2021 6:19 pm Reply with quote
Really appreciate the weekly streaming reviews and your recent article the tale of the Heike in text and animation (which I have yet to read)

Quote:
especially in the death's head that comes to Kiyomori in his nightmares


I also found that scene to be visually stunning
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Electric Wooloo



Joined: 19 Aug 2020
Posts: 145
PostPosted: Wed Oct 20, 2021 8:44 pm Reply with quote
This series has been intensely interesting to me as a major history buff and Science Saru/Yuasa fan. So far the series has, in my opinion, done a very good job of adapting the dense work that is The Tale of the Heike. Through Biwa's reactions to characters we get an immediate impression of how the anime means for us to view them even if unfamiliar with the original work/history, like with Biwa's immediate dislike of Munemori.

Unfortunately I feel like this one is going to slip under the radar of a lot of Westerners (I've hesitated to recommend it because it really does require homework if you're not familiar with the era), but it's the clear standout of the season for me. The sections sung from the original, the audio work in general ramping up in general for tense moments leading to a sudden cut of all audio for dramatic effect, and especially the character animation are all fantastic. Big props to Naoko Yamada for that. I keep going back to the end of episode 3 to watch Kiyomori and Shigemori's body language and expressions during their confrontation.

The anime is also definitely not glorifying war as much as the original, the end of episode 5 makes that abundantly clear. And even though I know exactly what will happen I cannot wait to see how the series will handle the spoiler[Battle of Dan-no-ura and the tragic deaths of almost the entire cast we've come to know.]

A bit of a shame it started so early in the season and is only 11 episodes so we'll only be getting a few more weekly reviews.
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Neko-sensei



Joined: 19 Jan 2007
Posts: 259
PostPosted: Wed Oct 20, 2021 8:53 pm Reply with quote
I really like your decision to focus this review around Kiyomori, certainly the central figure of this set of episodes!

Episode 6 gives Kiyomori a very nice piece of character development explaining his own motivation for his actions: he wants to save Japan from the slow cultural death of complacency that defined the Heian era by giving it a shot of his own personal adrenaline. "We brought air to a stifling world," he declaims, "through wealth and might!" By immortalizing his own clan, he (Quixotically) hopes to ensure that fresh air will continue to blow through Japanese society. But then the episode gives us this completely brilliant composition:

Looming behind Kiyomori is Mount Hōrai, a mythical place of infinite wealth, where everyone lives forever. It signifies Kiyomori's dream for his clan... but Mount Hōrai is equally famous in Japan for being unreachable and illusory. Kiyomori's spectacularly destroying himself and his family in his efforts to reach a pinnacle that exists only inside his head.

I'm not sure what I think of the anime's decision to omit a secondary aspect of Kiyomori's character, strongly hinted at in the original: after Shigemori's death, he begins showing clear signs of mental decline, and some of his later actions seem to be desperate attempts to convince himself that he is still in control of his mental faculties. In the original, when he orders Koremori exiled and Tadakiyo executed, his retainers meet separately and agree simply to ignore the command in the hopes that he'll forget about it—and he does. Kiyomori's unfortunate slide into senility provides an interesting context for his later behavior, but he's still an excellent character even without that note of pathos.

[Edit: Thanks for fixing the tech issue!]


Last edited by Neko-sensei on Thu Oct 21, 2021 8:21 am; edited 1 time in total
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Spike Terra
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Joined: 21 Mar 2016
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Location: Maryland
PostPosted: Wed Oct 20, 2021 11:29 pm Reply with quote
The end of episode 6 broke my heart. It's so tragic to see Koremori sacrifice the things he loves in order to appease a partriarch who just uses his family members as tools to maintain his political power.

I've been loving this series since episode 1 even though my familiarity with the tale of Heike is super bare bones. After episode 5, I went and read the spark notes version of the tale, which gave me a good amount of insight into the things that I am missing. One day I will read the actual tale or at least get it on audio book form.

So far my favorite shows have been Heike Monogatari, Faraway Paladin, Lupin III and Shin no Nakama. So for me it's been a pretty good season.
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Dan42
Chief Encyclopedist


Joined: 02 Jan 2002
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Location: Montreal
PostPosted: Thu Oct 21, 2021 8:03 am Reply with quote
Fixing the talkback issue reported in animenewsnetwork.com/bbs/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=3167428
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Princess_Irene
ANN Reviewer


Joined: 16 Dec 2008
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Location: The castle beyond the Goblin City
PostPosted: Thu Oct 21, 2021 8:29 am Reply with quote
Neko-sensei wrote:
I really like your decision to focus this review around Kiyomori, certainly the central figure of this set of episodes!...


I'm not sure what I think of the anime's decision to omit a secondary aspect of Kiyomori's character, strongly hinted at in the original: after Shigemori's death, he begins showing clear signs of mental decline, and some of his later actions seem to be desperate attempts to convince himself that he is still in control of his mental faculties.


Thank you! I think he's a fascinating character, which means I definitely agree with you about the decision to omit his mental decline. A piece of me is afraid that it was done to make him more of a clear "villain." But it's also an aspect of his character that could be brought in in the next few episodes as we get closer to the Battle of Dan-no-Ura, because it could be used to create more tragedy and impact if it comes out a bit later.
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ab2143



Joined: 09 Jan 2021
Posts: 394
PostPosted: Thu Oct 21, 2021 8:31 am Reply with quote
Really appreciate the weekly streaming reviews and the The Tale of the Heike in text and animation feature.

this series continues to be visually stunning. I also loved the scene of the skull spirits haunting Kiyomori
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09jcg



Joined: 19 Sep 2006
Posts: 154
PostPosted: Thu Oct 21, 2021 12:12 pm Reply with quote
Electric Wooloo wrote:


Unfortunately I feel like this one is going to slip under the radar of a lot of Westerners (I've hesitated to recommend it because it really does require homework if you're not familiar with the era), but it's the clear standout of the season for me. .[/spoiler]

This is unfortunately where i stand. I'm a major Naoko Yamada fan and I was really interested in watching this when announced. Unfortunately, as beautifully produced as it is; the barrier to entry is just too high. I think some poor subtitle choices didn't exactly help but I think I will have to revisit this show once the whole thing is completed. Someone suggested to me that I should watch it with a family tree/ relationship chart handy so maybe I'll watch it like that when I get some time.

As a side note, hands down the best OP of the season.
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KitKat1721



Joined: 03 Feb 2015
Posts: 600
PostPosted: Thu Oct 21, 2021 12:52 pm Reply with quote
So happy this is being covered by someone familiar with the original text! I'm normally not a big proponent of always needing someone who's read the book/manga/LN/VN/ etc... to cover the anime for weekly reviews, I think a fresh perspective can have just as much value. But if any show is better served by it, its probably The Heike Story.

After Ep 2, I ended up just looking up a family tree, which helped me immensely and I feel like I have a much stronger understanding of everyone's relationships and alliances on at least a basic level. Yeah its a bit of extra work, but it allowed me to get way more immersed and emotionally invested in the following episodes - rather than being held back by trying to remind myself who this person was before we moved on to the next scene haha. And considering how beautiful the show is (both visually and with specific scenes as a whole), I'd say it worth it.

Also agree on the emperor translation note! While I thankfully wasn't super confused, I can easily see how anyone would be. I know Funi's gone back and fixed a couple lines where they used the wrong address, but considering we're six episodes in, I'm not hopeful.
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Zeino



Joined: 19 May 2017
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 21, 2021 3:50 pm Reply with quote
Lack of holding the audience's hand when sometimes needed aside, this is a stunning masterwork of series. It takes a dry and dusty tale of samurai and nobles warring over power and rediscovers the compelling human drama within. It critiques the hierarchal, patriarchal power structure of medieval Japan as the real cause of all this conflict and suffering.

And it does a good job of establishing a conflict that feels genuinely gray. Most of the Taira clan are in fact, decent people who are trapped by the familial and societal expectations of the times, Kiyomori's self-serving machinations and the lure of privilege. While the opposition facing them in Cloistered Emperor Go-Shirakawa, Fujiwara and Minamoto clans do have some objective grounds to bring down the Taira in that Kiyomori is indeed an oppressive, bullying tyrant, they really just want to be back in charge again and avenge their past humiliations in the end.

I like the way that every episode emphasizes small moments of joy and celebration, even as we know they can’t last. But they matter even if they can’t last. The impermanence of all things indeed.

It would be so easy to do this as a politics and war story only, but every character dances and laughs.

I also like Biwa - she's a new character who serves not only as an audience surrogate, but the sequences with her interactions with the characters of the story also really serves to provide a counter to the more idealized versions of those figures from the poem.

And from a meta-narrative standpoint, it's weirdly fascinating seeing discussion of The Heike Story from people who are completely unfamiliar with the historical events the show is covering, and who are refraining from seeing what happened to avoid spoilers - and seeing this from the perspective of someone with some familiarity with the events of the Genpei War.

It's like watching a performance of Richard III, and hearing someone watching it with you say, with full sincerity and out of their own lack of knowledge of the source material and historical events, "I hope nothing bad happens to the Princes in the Tower."
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Electric Wooloo



Joined: 19 Aug 2020
Posts: 145
PostPosted: Wed Oct 27, 2021 12:06 pm Reply with quote
Another great episode as the tide begins to turn completely against the Heike, I especially liked the dream sequence similar to episode 4. Though I must say Funimation's translations aren't getting any better.

During Tokuku's confrontation of Kiyomori the translation says "I won't be a tool for father anymore" as she was speaking to her father. Very awkward for her to speak in the 3rd person like that and makes me think the translator didn't even know Kiyomori was her father. Also in the dream sequence translating the character 無 on the Kasha us "Un" instead of something like "Nothing" leaves a lot of the intended symbolism out.

I can't help but wonder if spoiler[Sukemori sending Biwa away was his way of protecting her from the turmoil surrounding the fall of the Heike. Regardless it provides a narrative reason for her to come into contact with the Taira which I understand is the main focus of the second half of Heike Monogatari]

Tokuko continues to be a strong character. She seems to have decided to deal with life as it comes, but to not allow other's desires push her around. Becoming a "Lotus in the mud" of the warring factions. It's a noble philosophy, but being the mother of Emperor Antoku it's impossible right now.
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Neko-sensei



Joined: 19 Jan 2007
Posts: 259
PostPosted: Wed Oct 27, 2021 11:42 pm Reply with quote
Electric Wooloo wrote:
Though I must say Funimation's translations aren't getting any better.
You're right there. "無" could equally reasonably have been rendered "nothing," "emptiness," or "mu." In the text, it's the first character of "無間" (muken), the Japanese term for the Avici hell. Lady Nii is told in her dream that "The mu is written, but not yet the ken." Thus, "un" is literally the only way to read the character that is demonstrably wrong!

Other translation issues I had here included the line, "women have five obstructions," which desperately needs a definite article to clarify that it refers to the five hindrances/impediments. (I suspect that the editor simply doesn't know a lot about Buddhist theology.) The name "Mikonohimegimi" was also baffling; at least some of those syllables really ought to be translated as titles rather than part of a personal name (or at least given proper spacing).

Finally, about the adaptation itself, I've been very interested in Yamada's decision to adapt a text with so many notable fires (more than half of the books in the original climax with an inferno). There is a very important passage in the description of the fire at Nara that the anime passes over without depiction:

At Tōdaiji over a thousand people
climbed to the second floor of the Great Buddha Hall
and, lest the enemy follow them there,
took up the ladders. Devouring fire
swept straight into their huddled mass.
Sinners burning in bottomless hell
never uttered such hideous screams.


In the Kyoto Animation tragedy, many of the victims were similarly trapped on the second floor. I can entirely understand the decision not to portray these gruesome details, but I had expected a much heavier focus on Shigehira's response to the fire as a means for the former Kyoto Animation staff to process their own feelings.

Obviously Yamada's team can focus on whatever they want in their adaptation, but I'm still very curious why this project was chosen if fire and its consequences were not a major part of their thematic interest.

EDIT: I should have mentioned that Tokuko's song in this episode isn't directly from the source, but all its elements come from things she frequently mentions in the original. In particular, her mention of "the dragon girl" is an explicit reference to the very final lines of the text. In Buddhist theology, women couldn't achieve enlightenment (they were far too full of icky emotions for that Rolling Eyes ), but Longnü, the "dragon princess," is described in the Lotus Sutra as being a rare exception and attaining instant enlightenment. Tokuko views Longnü as a sign of hope for her own transcendental aspirations.
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Grove



Joined: 04 Dec 2020
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 28, 2021 3:55 pm Reply with quote
When I watched Sukemori throw Biiwa out of the family house in episode 7, I got some strong vibes that he was doing it to protect Biwa. With the death of Kiyomori, it's obvious bad times are coming for the Heike. Biwa's life may be harder outside the family house, but at least she'll be out of harm's way.
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ab2143



Joined: 09 Jan 2021
Posts: 394
PostPosted: Thu Oct 28, 2021 5:45 pm Reply with quote
Quote:
(Plus, now we only have keep track of one evil old bald guy!)


I thought the same thing lmao.

I also feel like Sukemori kicked Biwa out in order to protect her.

On a more positive note, the scenes with Biwa and the cat are just too cute!
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Hiroki not Takuya



Joined: 17 Apr 2012
Posts: 1879
PostPosted: Thu Oct 28, 2021 9:33 pm Reply with quote
I'll agree with the consensus on Biwa's ouster. With the goings on with people falling ill and dying, I wonder if the reality was that they were poisoned? Some that are nearly tasteless accumulate in the body over time in small concentrations...

Also thanks to Neko-Sensei and others about the un/mu reading, it added a lot of meaning that was totally missed...
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