What They Say:
Sadaakira became emperor at the age of 9 and for a time was served by Narihira, who attempted to teach him how to become a man.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Utakoi certainly gave us an interesting show with its first episode in what it presented as we got a look at some of the one hundred poems and the romances that spring forth from it, centering largely on the character of Narihira. It was pretty enjoyable to have a show that avoided the usual high school tropes, especially for shows centered on the past where they’d be thrown through time, and instead get adults dealing with complicated situations. What worked even better for me was the style of the animation itself which gives it a very romantic feeling without going so far as to turn you away. The character designs stand out very well and there’s a certain warmth that comes from them that’s hard to get across a lot of the time.
With Narihira being a strong focus in the first episode, he has a good role in this one as well as it focuses on the young emperor Sadaakira, who of course is the son of the woman he was attempting to seduce before. With the boy at nine years of age, Narihira is one who will spend his time teaching and advising the young lord in many things, including how to be a man. Part of what he wants to do is teach him poetry, but he’s not always able to do that. What he can do is to teach through stories. Since you can often get away with this when it comes to kids, usually regardless of privilege, it allows you to tell some blunt stories in cute ways about how it means to be a man or a woman. Narihira tells a creative story to help deal with some of the trouble he’s having with someone of the female persuasion by doing a tale of two mountains, Mount Male and Mount Female. It sounds awkward, but there’s a lovely sort of charm about it.
Sadaakira is a kid though in the end and while he gets parts of it, he misunderstands others and uses his position to torment one particular girl in a way (with censored snakes of all things?) which doesn’t exactly please Narihira. That just reinforces his resolve to teach him right, but it’s difficult when you have a boy that’s as powerful as he is and spoiled in so many ways. Narihira’s attempts at smoothing things over for Sadaakira doesn’t come from him approaching Yasuko and trying to ease her into things but rather with him. The show takes a curious turn as it moves forward several years though, giving us a seventeen year old Sadaakira whose life has changed dramatically and seeing how what he was taught years ago comes back into play in a way. Seeing how he is as a young child and then as a young adult certain shows the influences of the right teacher.
I’m still at a loss as to how to take Utakoi, but it’s the kind of series we get once a year on average and it has a lot going for it. There’s a neat feeling to it as it deals with the mixture of the past, poetry, romance and men from this time period. This episode gives us more Narihira but it also shows that it will go beyond that and explore different aspects and characters from this period in ways that may be surprising. While I can’t say that even in the end that I was won over by Sadaakira, or even Yasuko when you get down to it, it’s an interesting look at that time period and the social customs for those in that position at the time. The show hits a lot of the same kind of quality feelings that we got out of the first episode so there’s a lot to like there and with its narrative, you can’t be entirely sure what you’ll get from episode to episode, which certainly makes it more interesting for me.
Streamed By: Crunchyroll
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Dell 10.1 Netbook via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.