A cross-dressing noblewoman, Heian period magic, and Abe no Seimei as a total pretty boy, what’s not to like?
(Okay, the above is not really a fair summation of this story at *all.* But it made a good tag line. lol)
In reality, Otogizoushi is really a collection of many things rolled up into two distinct storylines. The Production I.G. link above is good for the first half of the story, while the NTV site is good for the second (and, in my opinion, far more interesting) half of the series.
The tale begins, as all good magic/horror tales do, in the Heian period. The Miyako, the capital city, is falling apart from corruption, over ritualizaton and political intrigue, all of which is true enough. A young scion of a noble household, Raikou, lays dying, even as he is given the task of going on a dangerous quest. So his sister, Hikaru, dresses as Raikou and heads off to find the five magatama. These will assist the court sorceror, called an onmyouji, to save the capital. The chief Onmyouji,, Abe no Seimei (who is REALLY famous, or infamous, depending on how you first encountered him) seems to have his own agenda for the magatama.
Raikou, that is, Hikaru, spends the first few episodes amassing her traveling companions, and running into a lot of Heian period legends, all the while collecting magatama and looking very somber about the fate of her brother and the capital. There’s the *teeniest* hint of yuri flirtation at the beginning, when a few female inn maids try to schmooze “Raikou” (and I think that Urabe, the only other female in the group kind of has a little affection for “Raikou”,) but that’s dropped pretty fast in the reamining episodes. The crisis looms, the tension builds (not), until the final, wildly predictable conflict with the only possible character, GASP!
Obvious as it was, it was still a nice enough opening to the story. That is to say, ending to the first half and lead-in to the second.
The second half is FAR stronger, and the opening song and animation are quite catchy. (The characters are seen to be singing the song as it plays, which I find charming.) Set in modern Tokyo, there is, sadly, no cross-dressing, no yuri, no Hikaru wielding weapons, but the plot is now loosely based around a collection of *modern* urban legwends, ghost stories and myths, which fascinate me inutterably. The characters have all been reborn into modern times with the same names and personalities and they have, as of yet, no connection at all to their former lives, except in so far as they are all still clumped around Hikaru and her brother. Her brother has been missing for a year, but Hikaru has begun to see him in connection with some paranormal happenings around the city. The rest of the cast are renters in the building Hikaru runs in her brother’s absence.
The animation for Otogizoushi is not great, but it is original, which is something these days. The characters’ eyes are drawn especially strangely. But they also look more like Japanese people than most anime bother with, which gives it an edgy, realistic feel – which, in turn heightens the magic/horror stuff when it arrives. Paranormal occurences in Heian Miyako, sure…but on a Tokyo subway line? Way more creepy.
Story – 9
Characters – 8
Art – 7
Music – 8
Yuri – 1
Overall – 7
All told, Otogizoushi is a thoroughly enjoyable, slightly different take on the paranormal/magic genre. With, sadly, only the barest hint of yuri. :-(