Chouyaku Hyakunin Isshu: Uta Koi Ep1-7
Being the history and sappy romance buff I am, I was naturally attracted to this low-key series about famous Japanese poems, specifically the 100 poems that are related to karuta (which features prominently in Chihayafuru). However, I let the show go out of my radar for quite a few weeks thanks to procrastination. Now, after a marathon to get up to speed-here’s the low-down on this love-saturated anime.
First of all, anyone else just copypasta the title when looking for this anime? Don’t worry, I did that many times too. It’s a mouthful and frankly just nonsense to fans like us who are used to straight to the point titles, which is why I’ll be giving you a mini lesson:
Chouyaku Hyakunin Isshu: Uta Koi
超訳(Chouyaku): Super-liberal interpretation
百人一首(Hyakunin Isshu): 100 people, 1 poem
うた恋い(utakoi): Love poems (note:’uta’ can also mean ‘classical and modern poems’ besides ‘song’)
So, in short, Chouyaku Hyakunin Isshu: Uta Koi means “Super-liberal interpretations of the Hyakunin Isshu: Classical Love Poems”.
What is the Hyakunin Isshu? It refers to a traditional anthology writing style with 100 poems by, you guessed it, 100 poets. However, one particular version was so famous it was dubbed ‘THE’ Hyakunin Isshu, and that is the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu compiled by Fujiwara no Teika, who serves as our narrator and guide throughout the series so far. Thanks to good ol’ Teika as well, we’re stuck with a ton of love poems in this anthology.
It’s not so bad though, since the stories behind those short love poems are quite captivating and informative. Here’s a short run-through on the couples we’ve had so far on the show. For the sake of convenience, I’m afraid I’ll be skimming through every episode except the latest, so please forgive me. Now, shall we start?
Narihira x Takaiko
Details the passionate trysts between playboy aristocrat and future Empress Takaiko. I found this segment to be a little too clean-cut and predictable, especially the part where Narihira ‘sacrifices’ their love. However, the delightful banter between Takaiko and Narihira gave the series a good start and set the right tone for future episodes.
Yukihira x Hiroko
Details the more mature love between Narihira’s brother Yukihira and his wife Hiroko. Nothing of note here, except that we see the disillusioned side of the usually charming Narihira.
Saddakira x Yasuko
Details the love between the jerk tsundere prince Sadaakira and his wife Yasuko. I liked this episode for two things: moar Narihira and Sadaakira’s legacy. Here, Narihira is a wizened general who guides his charge Sadaakira through life as a prince. It’s quite interesting since we get to see another side Narihira-that of the nurturing guardian. However, bad-boy Sadaakira was also quite fascinating for me since his legacy (according to Teika, anyway) is so controversial-was he a despicable prince…or just a misunderstood child? Teika’s (the narrator) epilogue was the highlight of the episode for me. In the end, thanks to Sadaakira’s poem, we know that there’s more to history than meets the eye.
Yoshimine x Ono no Komachi
Details the love between Yoshimine and his close childhood friend Ono no Komachi. I initially thought this was incest thanks to Komachi calling Yoshimine ‘dear brother’, but it turns out that she’s actually unrelated to him and only called him that out of affection. Yoshimine’s dedication and patience was somewhat moving, especially when he nearly died near the end. Ono no Komahci’s determination to make a name for herself by sacrificing her marriage with Yoshimine was also commendable. Another notable thing about this episode was the rain effects as well. We see only glimpses of it during Sadaakira’s story, but here the unique and eye-catching depiction style definitely shines.
Narihira + Fun’ya no Yasuhide + Ono no Komachi
Note that it’s not ‘x’ here but a ‘+’, because this tale focuses more on the friendship between these three esteemed poets. Of all the episodes, I think I enjoyed this one the most because of the abundance of banter between the dysfunctional trio. Narihira here shows yet another side of his complex nature-this time, that of a person who is willing to forgo romance for friendship instead. We also see a more friendlier and casual Ono no Komachi in this episode. However, my favourite character has got to be Yasuhide. Besides being a goofball and comic foil for the gang, he’s also an earnest and charming fellow. What’s not to like about this guy?
Narihira + Fun’ya no Yasuhide + Ono no Komachi
Yes, it’s the trio again, but this time, things aren’t so peachy. Why? Because of that bane of life-age. The trio meet up again after a while and reminisce about their past regrets, present problems and fears about their legacy. This is my second favourite episode because it develops the characters even more, making them more relatable and into people that’d you’d care about. This, I think, is one of Utakoi’s strengths. Moreover, this episode also talks about philosophical stuff such as regrets and legacy-which is another win.
Still, I wished they had animated more of the road trip to Mikawa, I wanna see more fujoshi fangirling from an ancient poet otaku. Wait……did I just type that out?
Everyone x ???
Also known as the batshit crazy episode. Seriously, I will never get rid of the image of dignified poets getting jobs as hosts… Besides that shining example of making history interesting, I also thoroughly enjoyed the interview sessions with Teika, especially the one which included Narihira and the one with the tsundere Sadaakira. Nevertheless, I was disappointed with the barely animated ox-cart Grand Prix and the drawn-out poet card battle.
And now we’ve arrived at the latest episode. This week, we have two couples:
Fujiwara no Yoshitaka x Minamoto no Yasumitsu’s Daughter / Fujiwara no Michitaka x Takako
The first tale is a bit tame and uneventful compared to the ones told so far. Here, we have Yoshitaka’s and his fiancé’s engagement. Yoshitaka isn’t too hasty about the marriage and takes it slow and easy, only communicating through letters with his future bride-to-be. He wants to delay the marriage for the sake of his future in-law’s happiness. Michitaka, his cousin, disagrees and thinks he should go on the offensive. Later, after being reminded of his mortality by a prankster uncle, he finally meets his bride-to-be.
Michitaka’s and Takako’s tale, on the other hand, is a little bumpier. Suspicious of Michitaka’s fidelity when he tries to court her, Takako refuses his advances. That is, until sly Yoshitaka slips a word about an arranged marriage by Michitaka’s father. Feeling pangs of love and conflict, she lashes out at Michitaka when he visits-accusing him of being a womanizer who would cast her aside later on. Michitaka clarifies things and finally convinces her to take the leap.
Yoshitaka is just like your typical romance protagonist who realizes that he’s got it all wrong just in the nick of time. Frankly, because of that, there’s not much to write home about regarding this episode. Yoshitaka does dwell a bit on mortality and living life to the fullest, so I guess it’s not a total loss. It makes you think as well when he says that he was ready to die until he met his wife. Do you think that one cannot live anymore when their beloved partner dies? In any case, I loved the part where he opens the shade to reveal his wife’s face. The music, art and atmosphere really harmonized in that few seconds.
Anyway, don’t you think that Yoshitaka’s uncle was kinda going too far with the prank? If he had gotten careless, we might have had a tragic ending for once…Or would that be good for a change of pace? Speaking of death, I actually thought Yoshitaka’s spirit was speaking to his fiancé with that sudden, hollow voice of his. Anyone else think so too?
As for Mishitaka’s tale, Takako played a more major role than her female counterpart in the first tale. I definitely liked how they portrayed her as a jaded woman who is not blinded by mere sweet words. On the other hand, Michitaka also surprised me by actually being serious when asking for Takako’s hand in marriage. He was the fool in the previous segment and now he is the serious suitor-what a change! Takako’s words about dying sooner, but in bliss was also a moving part of this episode. Would you have done so too, if given the chance? I’ve had a few times where I think I would do so. But, I don’t think I’d have the guts…
Before I leave, I apologise for the late and short post. Assignments and appointments have been breathing down my neck for the past week. Well, I hope to write a more in-depth post come this Tuesday. Until then…keep singin your Lu…