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EP. REVIEW: The Heike Story


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Blood-
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 25, 2021 11:58 am Reply with quote
This is the kind of show that makes me want to get down on my knees and thank The Gods that I stumbled into anime years ago. I have become pretty discriminating in what shows I add to my physical collection and this is definitely going to be one of them.
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Hiroki not Takuya



Joined: 17 Apr 2012
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 25, 2021 12:19 pm Reply with quote
I'll second all that KitKat1721 and raise you a hearty thank you to Neko-sensei for the verse posts and insights, they added a lot to Rebecca's already very good reviews!

The one theme I am still having problems understanding is both in the ED and ending to this episode where action progresses forward and then reverses to the beginning under the label "unified perspective". I would guess someone is asserting that events happen in cycles or maybe trying to visually portray remembrance. Looking for input here...

Probably the one striking element this Ep is as SaneSavantElla mentions that the enemy was surprised at a group suicide and Retired Emperor to Tokuko seemingly genuinely sorry for how events progressed. The former causes me to wonder if such hadn't happened before but that is heard to accept as the Japanese have been famously fond of suicide before dishonor. The latter causes me to question the Retired Emperor's sincerity given how he and the other officials in Ep3 were talking about killing the clan (snapping their necks instead of toppling). He ordered them attacked several times, which is what you do when you want to kill people... Confused Or are those just the way the original text framed the events?
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blahmoomoo



Joined: 27 Jan 2020
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 25, 2021 3:34 pm Reply with quote
Hiroki not Takuya wrote:
The one theme I am still having problems understanding is both in the ED and ending to this episode where action progresses forward and then reverses to the beginning under the label "unified perspective". I would guess someone is asserting that events happen in cycles or maybe trying to visually portray remembrance. Looking for input here...


I can't speak to the visuals, but "unified perspective" is the title of the music.
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 25, 2021 4:18 pm Reply with quote
I'm reading it as follows: Biwa has finished recording the story, and now the text is being re-wound (like a music or film tape) so she can re-tell it over and over from the start.

Thanks also to Rebecca and everyone else in the thread for your insights. You've all enhanced my appreciation of the anime.
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Zeino



Joined: 19 May 2017
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 26, 2021 1:40 am Reply with quote
I openly wept at the transcendent beauty of the ending. Anime of the year, quite possibly for the entire decade. Thank you, Naoko Yamada, Reiko Yoshida, Kensuke Ushio, Aoi Yuki, Saori Hayami, the rest of the seiyu cast and the animation team at Science SARU. You crafted a masterpiece and allowed for the story of the Heike to be known to new audiences for generations to come.
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timber



Joined: 12 Dec 2014
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 26, 2021 1:45 pm Reply with quote
I can honestly say that I watched the whole series in an interested but detached way, without being attached to the characters. But at the very end when Tokuko says "Our clan shall live on in that story. That story starts like this : ..." the tears started flowing. Damn, Sience Saru, the perfect ending!
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Electric Wooloo



Joined: 19 Aug 2020
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 26, 2021 4:24 pm Reply with quote
Going a bit deeper now, I really enjoyed the more symbolic elements of this episode.
The Camelia falling back up onto the tree as the characters are "brought to life" again through story.
The White Spider Lily shown during the Tokuko scene, which from my little understanding represents the usual "mourning for the deceased" that a Red Spider Lily does with the added meaning of "Continued thoughts/prayers for the deceased" which fits well with where Tokuko ends up and with Biwa's "You continue to live for everyone's sake" earlier in the episode.
The strings at the end coming from the Buddha's fingers and becoming intertwined I especially loved. I interpreted the white thread in the middle as representing Biwa while the others represent the rest of her adoptive family as they came to be more involved in her life. But also just in general the threads representing the threads of a story coming together is a nice sentiment as well.

Some other final thoughts that aren't particularly relevant but wanted to mention here, I loved Tomomori's response to "How is the battle going?" It fit perfectly with how his character has been shown, always being full of hearty laughter and friendly. He puts that facade back on and phrases the bad news in a joyful way ("Rejoice! You ladies will soon be treated to a rare sight! Men from the East!") for what ends up being his last interaction with what remains of his family. That made me really feel for the guy. It made me imagine what a peaceful life Emperor Antoku could have had with that always laughing Uncle Tomomori if things hadn't gone how they did.

Again my only real complaint about the series is I wish it were longer. Most things were well paced, especially the past 3 episodes, and ending here on Tokuko makes the most sense thematically, but I can't help wanting another episode telling the post Dan-no-Ura story with Yoshitsune. Though that's a bit outside the scope of an anime called The Heike Story. Laughing


Last edited by Electric Wooloo on Sat Nov 27, 2021 3:07 pm; edited 1 time in total
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a_Bear_in_Bearcave
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 27, 2021 10:51 am Reply with quote
That was really great historical anime, great reviews by Rebecca, and great discussion that added a lot of additional nuance. I hope I'll have an opportunity to get this on DVD someday, it's worth being displayed on a shelf. I have an urge to read the book now, which is in itself proof how good it was as an adaptation.
EDIT: I've ended up buying the book. I added that just as a testament of the anime's influence
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Saeryen



Joined: 26 Aug 2020
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 27, 2021 9:47 pm Reply with quote
So did they not get to the nue part? I ask because if not, then that means Biwa could exist in the same universe as my version of the nue story (which would be awesome because I want to watch this show and draw fanart of Biwa with my nue character Mitama)
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Neko-sensei



Joined: 19 Jan 2007
Posts: 264
PostPosted: Sun Nov 28, 2021 4:30 am Reply with quote
Sorry to be late to the final-episode party—thank you for your fantastic coverage, Rebecca!

I see a few questions to answer:
Saeryen wrote:
So did they not get to the nue part?

The tale of Minamoto no Yorimasa slaying the nue is told in Book 4, section 15, but it's purely a flashback giving extra background to the character—it actually happened nearly 40 years before the main events of the story. The creature is not identified as a nue; Tyler reads:
Everyone there brought up light
for a good look at whatever it was:
a monkey's head, a badger's body,
a snake's tail, the limbs of a tiger,
and a cry like that of a thrush.

The word "nue" simply meant "thrush" at the time, which is why Tyler translates it that way. However, later commenters in Japan decided that "nue" was also as good a name as any by which to call the "whatever it was."
Hiroki not Takuya wrote:
The one theme I am still having problems understanding is both in the ED and ending to this episode where action progresses forward and then reverses to the beginning

I also had to put quite a bit of thought into this imagery! I think there are multiple interpretive directions you could go; I like Errinundra's idea, and I have two conflicting readings myself:

When I first watched the final episode, I immediately thought of a truly, astonishingly moving statement Tokuko makes in the final chapter:
"[...]I pray, too, for the happy rebirth of every member of my house,
and I yearn always for Amida, Kannon, and Seishi's welcome into paradise.
There is one thing that I will never forget, not in any life that may lie before me,
and that is how my son, the former emperor, looked then.
I try to forget, but each time I fail;
I try to bear the pain, but no, I cannot."

Biwa's merciful reversal of time, which she effects by making Antoku and his clan live once again in her story, can take Tokuko back to a life before that hideously ever-present moment came to define her entire existence. In conjunction with Tokuko's vision of her family in the Dragon palace—a vision in which all the kids are the youngest versions of themselves—it can provide a modicum of comfort to a completely empty life.

However, this reading, hopeful as it may be, does not match the explicit moral of the tale. Tokuko continues her statement above by saying:
"There is no surer path to grief
than a mother's love for her child.
And so for him, for his salvation,
I miss no morning or evening prayer.
He has become to me, you see,
a proper spiritual friend."

Typically of the ultra-Buddhist story, Antoku's death may be sad, but it is actually a good thing because it helps Tokuko see that existence is suffering and sets her down the path to discarding her attachments and seeking enlightenment. Shortly before this the text gives the critical lines:
As one reads in the Sutra of Cause and Effect,
"Who seeks to know past cause
must look to present effect;
who seeks to know future effect
must consider present cause.
Once one comes to understand
past and future cause and effect,
then one is free from sorrow."

The whole Heike Monogatari illustrates a (frankly rather fatalistic) Buddhist message, and the Sutra of Cause and Effect is its most-cited sacred text. Everything that occurs in this vale of tears simply follows cause and effect, so the reversal of time we see in the anime is in fact a type of religious meditation—seeking to know past cause by present effect. In her final moments, Tokuko attains enlightenment by understanding the ineluctable nature of cause and effect in the mortal world, thereby opening herself to transcending it.
Electric Wooloo wrote:
The strings at the end coming from the Buddha's fingers and becoming intertwined I especially loved.
In fact, my second, more depressing but more religious reading of the time-reversal effect is strongly supported by the fact that Tokuko dies holding a five-colored cord, which you can read about in English partway down this page. The five colors represent the five elements, and the legend was that if a dying person held onto one end of a cord connected to an image of Amida, they were assured immediate rebirth into Amida's western paradise. The idea is that the five elements that weave together to form cause and effect can be repurposed by Amida to help the supplicant attain enlightenment, in the same way that an individual's understanding of cause and effect can permit transcendence of it.

Speaking of Electric Wooloo, you'll be pleased to know that Tomomori's actions at the final battle are straight out of the original:
"How is the battle going, Lord Tomomori?" the gentlewomen asked.
"Ladies," he answered, roaring with laughter, "you will soon meet some rare gallants from the east!"
They wailed, "How can you joke at a time like this?"

There is actually an entire mini-arc for Tomomori's character that was omitted from the anime involving his deep suspicion of a Heike commander named Shigeyoshi. Sure enough, Shigeyoshi betrays the Heike in the final battle—he's the man we see in the anime telling Yoshitsune and Benkei that the emperor is not on one of the large Chinese-style vessels (although the anime doesn't name him). Sadly, Tomomori never got to act on his instinct to strike Shigeyoshi down, so he has some extra reason to blame himself for the defeat:
The Heike plan had been to put their nobles in war boats and foot soldiers in the Chinese ships,
so that when the Genji went for those ships, the boats could surround and kill them,
but the Genji ignored the Chinese ships once they had Shigeyoshi.
Instead they attacked the boats bearing the Heike commanders in disguise.
"What a disaster!" Tomomori exclaimed. "That Shigeyoshi! I should have beheaded him!"
A thousand vain regrets assailed him.


Electric Wooloo wrote:
I can't help wanting another episode telling the post Dan-no-Ura story with Yoshitsune

The original tale only takes us to the very beginning of Yoshitsune's story, which is fully told in other sources. Thanks to the fact that he is consistently an utter jerk to his allies, Yoshitsune finds himself the victim of vicious rumors and the enemy of Yoritomo; finally he has to flee the capital before he is killed (which is the last we see of him in the tale). Interestingly, this flight is the only appearance of the delightful Shizuka in the text! Yoshitsune is staying with Shizuka when men surround the house to kill him; it's only Shizuka's quick thinking in piecing events together and decisive action in making Yoshitsune and his men leave immediately that saves Yoshitsune's life. I find it very, very strange that the anime put so much effort into developing Shizuka's story without depicting its payoff in the original!

Finally, I obviously need to end my comment with the end of the book. It's just cause and effect at work.
So the months and years went by, until Kenreimon-in became unwell.
The five-colored cord in the hand of Amida, in that central place on her alter,
she now took in her own and prayed, calling the Name,
"All hail, Amida Buddha, savior and lord of the Western Paradise,
O come, come and take me into your Pure Land!"
To her left and right, Dainagon-no-suke [Shigehira's widow] and Awa-no-naishi [a lady of the court]
wailed in bitter grief that her life should end.
Her voice calling the Name died away.
In the west a purple cloud appeared,
a perfume not of this world filled the room,
and sweet music sounded in the sky.
Her time had come. In Kenkyū 2,
midway through the second month,
she breathed her last. Her companions,
with her since she rose to empress,
were lost and helpless once she was gone.
Their old ties had died out long since,
and now they had nowhere to turn.
It was so touching that nevertheless
they managed each holy service due her.
At last they followed the Dragon Princess
in attaining complete awakening
and fulfilled, like Queen Vaidehī,
their hope for rebirth in paradise.
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Neko-sensei



Joined: 19 Jan 2007
Posts: 264
PostPosted: Sat Dec 25, 2021 5:39 am Reply with quote
Should anyone still be watching this topic, you may be interested to know that I've compiled a (hideously-formatted) chart of all the characters appearing in the anime in this Google document. Please do let me know should you spot a typo or mistake.
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