Chouyaku Hyakunin Isshu: Uta Koi Weekly Update – Episode 8


Sei Shonagon was the sole reason I was excited for the Mid-Heien era arc of Uta Koi. In Japanese history she was famous for writing the Pillow Book, a series of poems that collect Shonagon’s thoughts on Emperor’s court and documented the seedier side of the Imperial capital. Her work is often compared to her contemporary Murasaki Shikibu and her most iconic work The Tale of Genji, which had a more glorified depiction of the noble life.

While I won’t doubt that The Tale of Genji is a classic, the Pillow Book, has always had a way with my literary heart. The poems feel more intimate and their seductive allure pull me in. It’s as if she’s telling us a secret in dead of night, whispering into my ear so no one else in the court can hear. Her verse licks at my lobe for a moment to tease me, before she pulls away with a coy smile playing on her features.

I could go on and on about how I feel about Shonagon but you came here to read about the episode right? I don’t know if its me or my biases talking but I absolutely loved this outing.  Everything wasn’t perfect, but Uta Koi has become comfortable in its skin, hitting all the right notes every week.

The episode is framed into three sections, depicting Shonagon’s childhood, adolescence and adulthood. In each scene she has to deal with the terms of love, both as a spectator and a participant. She learns it isn’t logical and that the contracts two people sign with their hearts are not bound by blood but elements more transient, such as trust and passion. It’s a hard feeling to reconcile being as analytical as she is. There isn’t any probable cause for the phenomenon, and its effects are incalculable because of the variables that pull it every which way. At the end of the episode, after one of her own trysts, she doesn’t fully understand the meaning of love but at least learns to appreciate the way it made her feel.

Last week I said how I was worried they would repeat the forms of the characters from the first arc. Sanekata is supposed to be the Mid-Heien eras Narihira. His mannerisms and soft spoken voice are reminiscent of the fabled playboy to an extent. At times he seems to be possessed by the great waka poet’s ghost. At times he does show that he is a bit more thoughtful than his counterpart, but you could interchange the two with little to no effect on the outcome of the tale. Hopefully this doesn’t become a trend for the series.

Nothing really ugly except the poor animation was very noticeable in this outing. I don’t know if the budget has dropped even further but apparently I’m not quite used to it though. I guess fantastic storytelling can only mask so much.

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