Utakoi 12-13 [END]
Here we are at the final stretch of Utakoi! After 12 episodes filled to the brim with love and heartbreak (with more heartbreak obviously), we’ve come to the end. Will we be ending Utakoi with happiness or more sorrow?
I guess it’s sorrow again, huh?
Poems of Regret
After I determined to abandon my love;
My only regret is that I have no way to tell you in person.
As the years pass, I will find myself longing;
For the sight of a midnight moon;
~Former Emperor Sanjo
Each poem in this episode marks a different yet similar view of this episode. The first, of course tells of Michimasa’s regret at not being able to say goodbye to Masako while the second elaborates on Masako and Sanjo’s regrets.
For me, I think the second one has much more of an effect compared to the first. Michimasa earnestly states his feelings, but I think it’s too plain and doesn’t leave much room for thought. Makes me wonder why such a poem was included in the Hyakunin Isshu… As for the second, it lacks specific meaning, but coupled with Masako and her father’s predicament, it gains a new level of depth that makes it that much more poignant.
During this episode, we get to see both sides of the story, unlike in previous episodes. From Michimasa’s concern about his family’s fall from grace, the story segues into Toko’s hope for romance, only to end with both parties tragically separated by a reluctant but firm father. I’m happy they’re willing to experiment with the formula they’ve been using so far. Still, I’m a bit peeved that they repeated some scenes for far too long.
Whose Fault Was It?
At first glance, Toko’s father seems like the obvious culprit in this tragic story. However, you could also point the finger at Toko or even Michimasa. Who’s to blame for this tragedy? Let’s do some brainwork and peer into the motivations of each of our suspects.
An earnest and honest fellow whose family has fallen from grace thanks to a power struggle. His claim to blame lies in that he refused Toko’s pleading out of concern for his and her family’s position. Personally, I don’t think he’s such a bad guy. I mean, he once gave young Masako a rare chance to venture out of the palace. Furthermore, he even refuses to use dirty tricks such as usurping head honcho Michinaga or using Masako. In my opinion, he’s just a guy who got caught up in events and couldn’t respond thoughtfully and decisively.
Now this is a hard one…Masako is right in the sense that she should love whoever she wants. Also, she seems like quite the level-headed person (at the end, at least) but love seems to have blinded her to the realities of the day. Overall, although she’s the catalyst for this entire tale, she’s simply just a woman who wants to be with the one she truly loves-a concept that is far from common in her time.
Former Emperor Sanjo
You may think that as an ex-Emperor, Toko’s father had not much incentive or business in stopping his daughter from eloping with Michimasa. But, back in the day, retired Emperors (also known as cloistered Emperors) were still able to exert power and influence in the court and they often acted as counterbalances to Fujiwara dominance. With rivals and enemies eyeing a chance to take him out, how can you blame Sanjo for doing what he did?
So, in my view, all three played their parts in breaking up this relationship before it even began. Still, I think the bigger culprit is the society and culture around them. If only royalty could marry whoever they wished, if Emperor Sanjo didn’t have to carry the burden of power, perhaps things would have turned out differently…
Call me indecisive for not pinning down a sole guilty person, but that’s what I think.
What Went Right (and Wrong)
-Multiple sides to the story.
-No clear culprit for the tragedy.
-The second flashback took far too long
-Michimasa side of the story was resolved far too quickly.
In your opinion, who would be the guiltiest party in this tragedy?
What would you have done in Emperor Sanjo’s position?
Should Michimasa have eloped right away with Masako? If so, why?
What would have been the consequences if Masako and Michimasa eloped?
Nothing can be worse than living a moment longer;
When I cannot bear growing any weaker
Though my feelings and dreams will never be realized;
I only ask that you bear growing weaker than you already have.
As I wait for someone who will never come;
My body burns like the seaweed drying on the shores of Matsuho.
Upping the ante at the finale, we have not one, not two, but three poems for us to think about.
Princess Noriko’s poem is pretty wistful, don’t you think? It perfectly captures the feelings of a pained lover. The question is though, was it really true love she wrote about?
Moving on, Teika’s second poem is a rather blunt but fitting response to Noriko’s lamentations. Although it hurts for him to stay with her without being true lovers, he agrees to do so just so she has the strength to live on. A touching poem, but it’s sadly not enough to prevent Noriko’s death, after which he composes a final poem in tribute to his first love. A poem which symbolizes the warmth and pain that was left when Noriko departed this world.
Poet Without A Cause
Although I found Teika’s impressionable personality hilarious, I can’t help but see part of myself in him. With little knowledge and experience of the real world, it’s no wonder Teika chooses to follow the path of those he thinks are ‘cool’. For me, the science electives back in high school were cool because of the interesting tales and personalities from the world of science. I only found out later (painfully) that I’m just not ‘wired’ for Science…
Btw, I find Shunzei’s (Teika’s father) seiyuu Shinji Ogawa a treat to listen to. He just exudes that warm and humorous personality when he speaks, making his character Shunzei that much more down-to-earth and relatable.
I have to admit, Utakoi doesn’t have the most thrilling scenes in this summer populated by action fests such as SAO. However, the confrontation between an enraged Teika and a despairing Masako was keeping me on the edge of my seat!
That brief snapshot of a lunging hand followed by a dramatic shot of Teika grabbing Masako through a screen was in my opinion one of the best scenes in Utakoi. Granted, it was quite a jump from pleasant joking to angry accusations, but it was worth it for the emotional payload. I’m a bit curious about Teika’s accusation towards Masako though. Is she really a ‘cruel woman’ as he (and she) says? Or is she just a pitiable princess who can’t even pursue what she desires in a restrictive Heian society?
At first, Teika refuses to pass on his father’s legacy of poetry. Later on, ironically, he upholds and even builds upon that legacy after meeting Masako. Although it was sad that their love had to end with Masako’s passing, the end was hopeful as well since Teika decides to continue poetry in honour of her. I also felt warm and fuzzy inside when Teika says his line in the end about people having the same worries throughout time. When you remove the period traits of all these past tales, what you get are simple tales about love gained, strengthened and lost, I think.
What Went Right (and Wrong)
-Stellar chemistry between Teika and Shunzei.
-A relatable protagonist in Teika.
-A short but emotional ride through Teika and Masako’s relationship.
-Masako only really grabs the spotlight during the final confrontation, but dies way too soon for any feelings to develop for her.
-No weird Teika and Yoitsuna skit at the beginning. I miss being surprised!
If Teika had never met Masako, do you think we’d have the Hyakunin Isshu today?
Did Masako really love Teika? Why do you think so?
Do the poems in Utakoi have any relevance in today’s world, which is mostly free of restrictions on relationships?
What was the best thing/moment about Utakoi, and the worst?
Who was your favourite couple, and why?
As For the Final Touch…
Well, it’s been an enlightening and entertaining 13-episode ride through the Heian period. From playboy Narihira to witty Sei Shonagon and finally youthful Teika, we’ve been having glimpses into the legendary yet relatable lives of these poets.
A rigid Heian society nearly always plays a role in these unfortunate events, something that made me mad throughout the series. Still, when love failed, these poems always provided refuge for many of our broken-hearted heroes and heroines. Perhaps, as Masako tearfully said, they were the only way of escape from a merciless society?
Whatever their motivations may be, these poets have given us a little gift of sorts that has lasted reigns, wars and time-their feelings. Anger, hope, despair or love, I hope that you’ve taken something away from Utakoi as I have.
And on that sappy note, good night… ^_^