Uta Koi (final thoughts) ~ beyond even the clouds

September 30, 2012

As I wait for someone who will never come.
My body burns like the seaweed drying on the shores of Matsuho.

Chouyaku Hyakunin Isshu: Uta Koi is now over. I rather enjoyed this series, which offered many things one does not usually get from anime. Many of the characters were older, there was a lot of poetry, the artwork was quite distinctive, and the Classical Japanese setting were all important factors in making this series stand out. But one more aspect really impressed me: it’s approach to the love story.

Above: the Uta Koi OP “Love Letter from Nanika?” by ecosystem.

Typically the love stories we get in anime are about young love in the earliest stages. A typical romance anime would cover up to a confession of affection (and frequently not even this far). Thus the Romance genre in anime skews te concept of love strongly to the initial feelings of attraction, and the courage one must summon to admit (confess) your true feelings, even though there is a chance of being rejected. I’m not going to say that EVERY Romance anime dwells solely on this aspect, and we did get a couple of other shows this season that went somewhere else, but the norm for Romance in anime is clearly the build-up to a confession.

Uta Koi was a series of romantic tales, but instead of focussing on the confession, the show emphasized relationships coming apart. The majority of the stories were about how some couple could not be together. Often the separation was caused by differences in social standing. Sometimes it was pure stubbornness,

Uta Koi was a beautiful show to watch.

I suppose part of the explanation for the differences in emphasis between classical stories of love and the typical Romance anime lies in the differences of the audience. The old stories were targeted at a general audience, which is likely somewhat older than an anime audience. Another explanation might be that class differences were much more important in classical society, so the topic of social obstructions to Love was more relevant in the past.

Is it possible that our tastes have also changed? I tend to believe that “human nature” is effectively unchanging. One aim of Chouyaku Hyakunin Isshu: Uta Koi  is certainly to say that stories (and poems) of the past are still relevant to us today, because the fires that burned in their hearts resemble our own passions and anxieties. But is it possible that these stories show that we have changed? Whereas once stories of love emphasized the pain that love brings, and the almost certainty of being separated from the one we love, now our love stories emphasize the early stages of infatuation, and end with the assumption of a happily ever after.

Regardless, Chouyaku Hyakunin Isshu: Uta Koi was a rare series that looked at love from a perspective not often seen in anime.

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4 Responses to “Uta Koi (final thoughts) ~ beyond even the clouds”

  1. Cratex Says:

    You pose an interesting question.

    Personally, I think most anime focus on the “before” rather than the “after” simply because of their nature – the overwhelming majority of anime protagonist are young, and the majority of the audience are young.

    The “old” stories, however, consider this. Compared to how long humans have been surely telling stories, writing is a fancy new invention. “Love” is a thing with a past stretching back eons into the dark recesses of human past. I don’t think it’s a thing that can easily change in *just* a thousand years.

    As for me, well, my own “story” didn’t work out so well either, and I certainly have no interest in seeing the wreck of others’ stories with similar ends. On the other hand, when I was a young man I know I wouldn’t have appreciated the typical romantic comedy anime common today, but the me of today sees them in a different light than the me of long ago.

    • Joojoobees Says:

      Yeah, I think the average age of the anime audience has a lot to do with it. I have always thought it strange, though, that traditional Japanese love stories are more like Romeo and Juliette (or Lancelot and Guinevere) than they are like the typical modern anime romance story.

  2. Sushi GoKart Says:

    Hey I agree with you that Uta Koi is trying to tell us that our fundamental feelings have stayed the same. The trappings of our world might affect how we may communicate those feelings, but those base building blocks are ever constant. Great post!

    • Joojoobees Says:

      “those base building blocks are ever constant”

      I wonder if that is a good or bad thing. Part of me wants us to be evolving: becoming less selfish, less bigoted, less arrogant, less belligerent, less short-sighted. The downside of an unchanging Human Nature is that we make the same mistakes in every generation.

      Thanks for your comment.


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