Nobuyuki HiyamaShigeru ChibaYuuki KajiMiyu Irino
Heike Story
Episode 1 also reviewed here: Anime 1st episodes 2021: H
Also known as: Heike Monogatari
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2021
Director: Naoko Yamada
Writer: Reiko Yoshida
Actor: Aoi Yuki, Ayumu Murase, Inori Minase, Kenta Miyake, Kikuko Inoue, Kotaro Nishiyama, Miyu Irino, Miyuki Satou, Natsuki Hanae, Nobuhiko Okamoto, Nobuyuki Hiyama, Saori Hayami, Shigeru Chiba, Subaru Kimura, Takahiro Sakurai, Tessho Genda, Tomokazu Sugita, Yu Miyazaki, Yuko Kaida, Yuuki Kaji
Keywords: anime, historical, samurai
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 11 episodes
Website category: Anime 2021
Review date: 17 November 2022
Heike  Monogatari
It's a 21st century adaptation of a historical epic (written in the early 14th century about true events in the late 12th century). The original's a classic, apparently, and has been translated into English at least five times. This anime version bored me, but it's a lot better than it could have been.
The problem is with the source material, obviously. It's about the power struggle between the Taira (aka. Heike) and Minamoto (aka. Genji) clans, including the Genpei War (1180-1185). Don't care. Not interested. Bunch of tossers. One lot of idiots tries to outdo another lot of idiots. There will be battles. Samurai will die, which is the best thing to do with them.
It's probably impossible to make this story interesting, but some worthwhile efforts have been made here. It's not just a military history. There are lots of women, children and bald old frivolous men. There's quite a range of characterisation on display, with military men who hate fighting and are better suited to dancing. Pathetic, incompetent men take power.
We learn quite a lot about the lives of women in this era. It's decided that they'll marry an important man for the sake of his money, then when he dies might not be allowed to be remarry for the same reason. Moriko becomes Lord Fujiwara's bride at the age of nine, then his widow at the age of eleven. "Age of consent" wasn't a thing in those days, although I presume even these people wouldn't do it with a nine-year-old. They also get raped by soldiers, or forced into sexual relationships with nobles to whom they can't say "no". They become nuns, biwa players, or shirabyoushi (cross-dressing singers and dancers who travelled the country and performed for nobles). Mind you, others become sinister Lady Macbeths who want their husbands to take the most macho, bloodthirsty option.
The show has two engaging characters. One is a brusque, psychic little girl called Biwa, who's not in the original narrative and has been added as an observer-protagonist. Heike soldiers murder her father in front of her, but then the most important Heike family shows sympathy and makes her their adoptive daughter. Does she love them or hate them? Neither. She just watches, really. Biwa's great, but she's also just an observer and doesn't really make any difference to anything.
The other likeable character is that adoptive father, Taira no Shigemori. He's kind, level headed and responsible. (He's also psychic, like Biwa.) Shigemori's the Heike leader and a bit boring in the eyes of others, because he knows better than to let idiots go apeshit. Everything gets worse after he dies, both for the Heike and for the audience in the remaining episodes.
I enjoyed the first episode, which is all about Biwa, but I guessed that she'd diminish in importance later. Unfortunately, I was right. This is a Science SARU show, though, which means the animation's unusual and interesting. I'm also undoubtedly the wrong person to watch this show, given my opinion of this kind of narrative. It's a bold experiment. You might consider sampling an episode or two, just to experience its world... but get ready to drop it like a stone. If you think you might be starting to lose interest in its storyline, (a) you're absolutely right and (b) it'll get even worse later. (Despite the cute shirabyoushi in ep.9.)