Chouyaku Hyakuninisshu: Uta Koi (mid-season comment) ~ a pretty flower must wilt one day

August 5, 2012

A rare anime that concerns itself mostly with the past times of adult characters.

Chouyaku Hyakuninisshu: Uta Koi (hereafter Utakoi) is an unusual anime in several respects: the primary subject is the Hyakuninisshu, or 100 poems by 100 poets; it has a very distinctive art style, that uses bold lines, and if you look at the screen cap above you will see something very unusual in recent anime, a nose! As noted above, the characters are older than the typical school-going anime cast, and that plays into the unusual themes for the stories: love that didn’t work out, reconsidering mistakes one has made, and questioning whether one’s life has had an impact.

The bold outlines, natural scenery, and beautiful women depicted are reminiscent of the art style of Alphonse Mucha.

“Even in the age of ancient gods, I have never heard that the Tatsuta River dyed its water in autumn red.”

Utakoi is an interesting show in terms of character development. The series is very episodic, and yet there has been a lot of effort put into showing the connections between many of the poets, so that their stories are revealed, and the poems are provided as lenses through which we can see different sides of people and social relations. In essence the show uses biographic details to shed light on the meaning of the poems, and also to educate the viewer about the temperament of the Classical period.

More shows should feature the stories of grown women.

As an older viewer I find the wistful tone a lot easier to relate to than most anime. Unlike the typical anime hero, whose life is full of choices to be made and as yet unsuspected possibilities, my own life is more than half full of choices that have already been made and opportunities that were already seized or squandered. Utakoi speaks in a language from 500 years ago, but I have no trouble understanding what it says.

4 Responses to “Chouyaku Hyakuninisshu: Uta Koi (mid-season comment) ~ a pretty flower must wilt one day”

  1. David A. Young Says:

    I’d originally been interested in this series because of the tie in with Chihayafuru, but then all of the reviews I saw of it were pretty critical, so considering the limits of anime-viewing-time available to me, I eventually decided to pass on it. Your review is causing me to reconsider that decision.

    • Joojoobees Says:

      I don’t know which reviews you read, but I can see lots of people not liking this. It doesn’t really have a plot, the characters are not trying to battle space aliens, and the only character with a harem (some emperor) hasn’t appeared — there was an episode about an Emperor, but he only had one wife.

      It really is mostly glimpses of people’s lives in Heian period Japan. With some extra weirdness thrown in. If you do try it out, let me know what you think.

  2. Lucretia Says:

    I quite like this anime, I similarly became interested because of Chihayafuru, and although not a lover of poetry, I do enjoy a nice Chinese poem now and then and thought why not try this. The interpretations are indeed interesting adding more substance to the game karuta, at least in my opinion, and I find the short plots based on the poems quite entertaining. Though I’m not sure if the interpretations are exactly what happened, I still enjoy the connection they have with the poem and how it originated and what the person was feeling or thinking at the time. Poems are deep indeed.

    • Joojoobees Says:

      Yeah, I don’t know how much of the stories are real. I guess you should pretty much assume all of the particulars are fabrications. Even if there is a lot of interpretation and made up dialogue, I still think it is pretty good about revealing what the intention of the poems might have been.

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