Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Utakoi

Utakoi (also known as Chouyaku Hyakunin Isshu: Utakoi) is a 13-episode anime from the summer of 2012 based off a Josei manga of the same title. the story is a VERY loose adaptation of the Hyakunin Isshu, a series of 100 poems compiled in the late Heian era by Fujiwara no Teika for Utsunomiya Yoritsuna, the father of his daughter in law. the collection of poetry includes such famous individuals as Sei Shonagon and Murasaki Shikibu (in addition to many emperors, empresses, monks, and high-ranking court folk), and the majority of the poetry deals with love as a subject. as such, the title of the series translates to "Love Poem" (or "Love Song").

For the time period, something like this would be like touching each others' junk on a first date today, very racy.

The series starts with Fujiwara no Teika introducing himself, the poetry collection, and the first couple of the episode. Teika acts as a narrator, occasionally with Yoritsuna. each episode takes the format of following a couple connected to one of the love poems. the episodes can follow 1 or 2 couples an episode, and there might even be one that follows 3. being based on history, and a time in history that placed great emphasis on pomp and circumstance, not many of the couplings end happily. despite this, the series is very sweet at times and inspires a good range of emotion within the viewer.

This line describes a lot of what this series is...

Initially, when i saw the image presented to me on the preview list of the shows premiering last summer, i imagined i would be getting a beautiful historical show with tales of romance and tragedy. what i got was a comedy. a fricken comedy. i almost died after i saw the first episode, everyone jumping into bed with each other. as the series progressed, however, it didn't live up to the tawdry inclinations hinted at in the first few episodes. there is a lot of drama to this series, with passionate romance taking the opposite side of the coin of painful heartbreak. 

Comedic Moments break things up pretty easily.

Someone at this year's Anime Boston said that the series he sees with thicker outlines tend to be better ones. while i'm not sure if that generalization can be applied here, Utakoi's art style is definitely distinctive, characterized by bold lines, bright colours, and intricate patterns that remain static as their owners move. it's an interesting effect that highlights the elegance of the period combined with the modern take on it all. i have yet to see this sort of arty twist on anime in any other series, and it really is just beautiful. the soundtrack is simple for the most part, but (usually) very fitting for the time period, with music from asian instruments such as the Shakuhachi complimenting the air.

Occasionally the series provides interesting historical fun facts. And I guess this means he just flashed him his Pantsu.

it took me a while to track down and then watch Utakoi, but i regret nothing. it was enjoyable, beautiful, and pulled at the heartstrings without being as life-destroying as Anohana was. the comedic moments were absurd at times, especially Teika's narration, which often involved him in some modern-day situation (like delivering newspapers on a Vespa scooter or hosting a Talk Show). if nothing else, this show also shows us how lucky we are that we live in a world where we don't have to marry within rank.

I mean, what am I looking at here?

Utakoi is available from HorribleSubs, Kamigami, WhyNot Subs, Deadfish Encodes, Jumonji-Giri, and EPC subs (French).

Is it a Girl? Is it a Boy? I'll let You Decide!

3.5-4/5

Bonus Image! The series used a lot of uniquely Japanese images and themes, such as these Plum Blossoms.

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