[12 Days of Anime] Day 2: The Heike Story

Let me preface these next two posts by saying that it was ridiculously difficult to order them—both The Heike Story and ODDTAXI took my breath away with their writing, visuals, and even soundtrack. I knew they were classics very early into their respective seasons, and I’ve already recommended both numerous times to friends in the hopes that more people will appreciate these works for the masterpieces they are.

In the end, I chose to place The Heike Story on the penultimate day of my 12 Days of Anime not because it’s inferior, but because of transparency. I was not surprised in the slightest before starting this series that it would succeed. Everything about it screams, “Look at me! Listen!” And I did, and will do so again, and again.

When you hit play, you’re greeted with silence, a lone butterfly, white flowers in full blossom. All is peaceful and beautiful, which makes the following scene of a poor man and his daughter walking through a 12th-century village all the more stark in contrast. The acts of violence that immediately occur set the tone for the rest of the story, one where beauty and death walk hand in hand.

There are many factors that lend a hand to this anime adaptation’s success, one of which being the fact that it is based on an epic, a work of literature with no known single author, yet has been retold in art, music, and translations multiple times over. The Heike Story in its original form captured hearts then, and continues to do so now.

The anime also has its protagonist to thank for giving viewers a singular character to follow—even though Biwa is anime-original, her position as storyteller and witness allows us an uncontested spot in the fall of the Taira clan. Making her a biwa player is just as important as the power of her prophetic eye; we see the future, and it resonates within us as the biwa string to her voice.

“The Buddha’s temple bells toll the message that all existence is impermanent. The sal tree’s blossoms turn white to grieve him: a reminder that all who flourish must fall. Indulgence does not last. It shall be like a spring night’s dream. The dauntless shall meet their end. They shall be as mere dust before the wind.”–Biwa, “The Impermanence of Worldly Things, The Heike Story.

Draggle and I spoke about this show in our most recent podcast—go check it out!

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