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Otogi Zoshi Vol. 1
Author: Ross Locksley

Ross founded the UK Anime Network waaay back in 1995 and works in and around the anime world in his spare time.

Otogi Zoshi Vol. 1

Manga Entertainment
03 Jun 2006

Set in the historical Heian period of Japan (around 970AD), Production I.G’s latest takes a break from the high-tech world of Ghost in the Shell, and has produced a series that plays with history and legend to create an earthy drama which mixes styles and palettes to create something rather unique.

The story opens with Watanabe no Tsuna and his young charge Lord Raikou engaging warriors from the Tsuchigumo clan. It is soon revealed that Lord Raikou is in fact the Lord’s sister Hikaru in disguise, searching for an artefact called the Magatama which will cure her brother’s illness and restore the health of the land.

The series uses period stylings for its backgrounds, ranging from watercolours to detailed pencil sketches, which should be at odds with the sharp and detailed characters, but the series manages to blend rather splendidly. The use of shadow is also excellent, and in terms of artistic merit, I can’t think of any other series that comes close to this.

Despite numerous action sequences, Otogi Zoshi focuses on drama to drive the narrative, with political intrigue rife within the capital, and the character interactions taking up most of the screen time. Because of this, action junkies may wish to look elsewhere for their fix (may I suggest MVM’s Samurai 7 for thrills without the deep narrative) but those of you who enjoy a rich atmosphere and a meaty plot will be very well served here.

The music is minimal to say the least, using traditional Noh rhythms and the occasional flute melody, but what is here is beautiful to listen to.

The dub is functional and contains some solid performances, but for a series seeped in such historical trappings, there is something to be said for listening to the series in the original language. Sadly, Otogi Zoshi suffers from one of my pet peeves – no translations on the dub for place names or character introductions. Hell, if fansubs can manage it, so should multi national distributors. Still, it’s a small flaw, if somewhat irritating.

Extras include some interesting features on the making of the series, with a round table discussion by the production team and even the first part of a lecture on historical fact and deviations made by the series. With 5 episodes and this plethora of extras, this volume offers superb value for money.

A well rounded historical drama that has much to offer.
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