Connected through their relationships in the Heian past, five people reincarnated are drawn together once again to fulfill a new quest. Along the way, they encounter popular urban legends of the modern Tokyo landscape.
What They Say
Karma dictates that souls will be reincarnated to right the wrongs of history. Driven by a need to complete what was left unfinished, 17-year-old Hikaru is joined by the freelance writer Tsuna. They travel across modern Japan and stumble across strangely familiar personalities from a long-forgotten era in their search for Hikaru's missing brother. As past and present collide, the enigmatic, black-coated man known as Mansairaku may once again tip the scales of destiny.
Much like the Heian Arc, the Japanese 5.1 sounds better than the Japanese 2.0 track, in which there is an audible fuzziness. The English 5.1 language track sounds pretty decent (even if Sadamitsu's voice actor made me cringe at his Horseshackiness.) English 2.0 isn't nearly as bad as the Heian Arc, but there's a burr on the lower registers.
The video looks crisp and clean, as one would expect from Studio IG. The video is presented at aspect ratio 1.33:1. The art is subject to personal taste, however - the faces are somewhat distracting with high shadowing and weird eyes, which contrasts poorly with modern clothing and backgrounds. The background art is rendered in a photographic style to recall the photos that drive the actual plot.
The packaging is tidy and neat - all six discs packaged in single DVD case. Three of the discs contain the 9-episode television series and the two extra episodes created for the DVD release, while the remaining three discs contain the Extras.
The menu for the anime is primitive. Still art backs a three-option menu, each of whichopens up into a larger, but no less simple menu. One wastes no time figuring out an overly clever setup. However, it would be nice to have a "scene access" menu that lists the episodes up front, instead of having to forward through the scenes to find a later episode, and I look forward to the day when companies make menus that default to "Subtitles On" when the choice of a Japanese soundtrack is made.
The three Extra discs are quite rich, containing group discussions with the Director and other staff members, which gives us an inside line on production issues and decisions. The Tokyo lecture series continues with Suzuki Hiroyuki, a professor at the Tokyo University architecture department, who discusses the modernization of Tokyo and the stories that grew up around and about the city, such as the legend of Manseibashi station. Disc 2 includes a discussion with director Nishikubo and Kawabe Chieko, the singer and lyricist of the ending theme, "Cry Baby Cry."
"Today and Tomorrow are the Same" Music Video and Tokyo TV Cast Interviews with Misuzama Fumie (Hikaru,) Kenta Miyaka (Tsuna,) Sugiyama Oki (Sadamitsu,) Sakuma Kumi (Urabe,) Mizuta Wasabi (Kintaro,) and Shinichiro Miki (Mansairaku) round out the series-specific extras. These are accompanied by trailers for other AnimeWorks series.
Content (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Hikaru and her companions have all been reborn into lives that connect in modern Tokyo. Although they have no memory of their past lives, they quickly find themselves once again caught up in a search - this time for Hikaru's missing brother, Raikou. Hikaru acts as landlady to Tsuna, a freelance cameraman, Sadmitsu, a street punk informant, Urabe, a fortuneteller, and Kintaro, a street urchin who hangs with Sadamitsu.
In the middle of a heat wave, Hikaru traces her brother to a phantom train stationin the middle of Tokyo. Although she does see him as the train passes on the one-year anniversary of his disappearance, , she is unable to reunite with him, stopped by Mansairaku. From the air, we can see the Yin-Yang symbol created by the glowing ghost train as it travels it's phantom path through Tokyo, in a pattern that is mirrored by that on a photograph Hikaru finds in her brother's room.
Tsuna tells Hikaru that her brother went searching for the "true face of modern day Tokyo." Hikaru argues with him and runs off after her brother. The next photo leads her to a homeless tent city in Shinjuku, where she is seen by Mansairaku. The gem she wears around her neck begins to glow and she is suddenly confronted with hidden waters beneath Shinjuku. After making it past the challenge of water, Tsuna offers to look for Raikou with her, so she doesn't go off again on her own.
In Shiba Park, Hikaru and Tsuna encounter the story that the faces of the dead appear in TV static because Tokyo Tower is built above a cemetery. While watching TV, Hikaru sees her brother's image. When Tsuna is hired to investigate the recent radio interruptions at Tokyo Tower, Hikaru asks to go along. Kintaro arrives and invites himself along as well. They find a picture of Shiba Park, the park below Tokyo Tower, among Raikou's photos.
Looking down at the Zoujou-ji Shrine from the binoculars at Tokyo Tower, Hikaru sees her brother and runs off. Kintaro follows, but gets lost. Hikaru and Kintaro get caught in a gap of time, and are able to reunite an old man with his long lost older sister in Shiba Park. The official word states that the signal interruptions were caused by crows, but as the TV announcer begins to read the statement, the signal is interrupted.
Sadamitsu and Hikaru encounter a haunted boxing arena and the apparition of Sadamitsu's father, who was a boxer. On the wall at Kourakuen Hall, writing says that when the draw sheet is filled, the hall will go down in flames. Late at night, they can hear the cheering crowds, Sadmitsu breaks in with Hikaru and they can see his Dad fight. When he wins, he dedicates it to his hospitalized wife, Sadamitsu's mother. Sadamitsu watches on in amazement as his father comes up and asks him if he was the one who shouted encouragement. He thanks his own son for giving him the strength to win. Sadamitsu replies by telling him that it was an amazing fight, whereupon his father disappears and so does the vision of the crowded hall.
In a tent city in Ueno Park, a homeless man sees a tree burst into flame. Hikaru has a dream of herself surrounded and consumed by flames. She awakes from the nightmare at the sight of Mansairaku. After a consultation, Urabe points them to Ueno, and to the meaning of "heaven" and "sea" for the flowers in the next of her brother's pictures. Urabe mentions that the poet-priest Tenkai (heaven-sea) who built the pond and temple in Ueno.
The homeless man who saw the burning tree recognizes Hikaru, but as she questions him, Mansairaku appears and warns her off. In trying to find the truth, Hikaru sees a vision of Heian-kyo, the Heian Capital in flames and is caught in a pillar of fire. Mansairaku pulls her from the pillar of fire, but won't tell Hikaru what he knows about her brother. He says he's been waiting for her.
Tsuna and Hikaru head off to Shibuya to investigate the occult mystery of the "white dog" that is appearing in Shibuya station. She runs into Urabe at a shrine dedicated to wealth. Urabe points her to the guardian dog there and tells her the story behind the shrine's guardian, a story about a temple thief. The wolf, money going missing, and the history of Shibuya are all tied to the next of Raikou's photographs.
The tenants of the Miyamoto apartments gather on the roof, wishing on shooting stars. A visitor, a reborn Ibaraki, comes looking for Tsuna, but he is not there. A misunderstandingleads Hikaru to seek out Urabe who suggests obtaining a gold star that grants wishes. Urabe points to Azabu as a place to find a gold star, a nugget of gold. Hikaru finds her brother,a gold star and a gap in time.
A photo leads Tsuna to a tree in Ikebukuro. He disappears leaving only the photo behind. There are reports of burst pipes all over Ikebukuro leaving people w/out water - tree roots are causing the pipes to burst. Hikaru invokes Mansairaku's help and, together they enter the distortion, and find themselves in Ikebukuro 200 years ago when it was a dangerous forest. Mansairaku tells Hikaru that the stone she wears on her neck has been guiding her all this time.
Winter comes and with it, Christmas. It is the Winter Solstice. Hikaru broods, thinking about Mansairaku. She wonders if her visions are of a past life and is distressed by the idea that Mansairaku, whom she loved, caused her to lose everything.
Tsuna makes the connection between the distortions in time and Raikou's photos and thinks that Hikaru must know something. Earthquakes are occurring, with increasing strength. Hikaru runs away to save everyone, assuming that her presence puts in danger just as Sadamitsu, Kintaro and Tsuna confer and realize that the mysterious incidents all involved Hikaru.
On a train station platform, Hikaru sees Mansairaku, who asks for her help to seal the last distortion. He holds out his hand, and she once again has a vision of him from the past. She pulls away from him, accusing him of ruining her life, but he replies that that was a distant past, he needs her now, and they are running out of time to save everything.
He tells her to meet him at the "Gate to Tokyo." On the subway, another earthquake forces the train to stop. She realizes that she has to help Mansairaku and jumps off the train, heading toward Tokyo station.
She gets a call from Tsuna, but tells them to stay away from her. Urabe figures outhow to find her by using Raikou's photos. She locates the water of Shinjuku, the metal of Shibuya, the fire of Ueno, the wood of Ikebukuro and determines that the element Earth will be represented by Tokyo station. Urabe points out that the five elements are connected in the pattern of Enmity, that they train lines are like a Yin-Yang on its side, and concludes that none of this is accidental. There is something at work involving the principles of Onmyo alchemy. They find Hikaru at Tokyo Station.
Mansairaku tells Hikaru that they need to eliminate the distortion at its source and that he needs her help. They must repair the distortion in the past age of the Heian capital. A train pulls up - Mansairaku says he is taking her to where her brother is. The train makes the circuit of the city in the reverse order, connecting the five elements in the order of Affinity as the train passes. When they complete the circuit, the gate at the phantom station Manseibashi opens.
Hikaru and Mansairaku enter the Heian-kyo and Mansairaku explains that the gem she wears is the Magatama, and that if they restore the Magatama, time will flow correctly. Hikaru now remembers the past completely, as Mansairaku reaches out to her, she rejects him. He says all he wanted to was to purge the world of grief, but found that he couldn't. He came to save the future because of her.
He begs her to replace the Magatama, as he collapses from his wounds. Whenthe gem is replaced, Mansairaku says that the cycle of Affinity has been completed, everyone can return to their own world. A new era will begin, not tainted with the flow of time he created. He tells Hikaru that he has been released from an eternity of pain by her and even as she reaches out, they are parted.
Hikaru finds herself back at Tokyo station - there is no earthquake damage. It is 4:32 on the Winter Solstice and she and her companions are gathered, waiting for her brother to arrive on the train.
As it begins to snow, her brother Raikou arrives. The final credits play as Hikaru runs towards her brother.
The first DVD extra episode tells a story from before Hikaru meets Mansairaku. Down and out, Urabe meets a cat that ultimately leads her through a labyrinthine tale and to the company of Hikaru and the others.
The last story follows Mansairaku as he meets an old man who understands the true meaning of the history of the city.
As a huge fan of Otogizoshi of all kinds, I found the mix of ancient magic and modern urban legend to be irresistible. It made me want to fly right back to Tokyo and track down the temple in Ikebukuro, the pond in Ueno, and really *look* at Tokyo Station. The photographic quality of the cityscapes was appealing, and the extras captivated me with the full force of the history of these Japanese tall tales. The cover price, like the Heian arc, is $29.99 and any good shopper could find it discounted. One of the most common errors of watching anime is to assume that the distorted lens we're looking through reflects real life in modern Japan. In this anime, you can see some of the mysterious ("fushigi") power that the Japanese themselves are quite comfortable with, but that we might miss completely. Lovers of folklore, the gray places where science and magic merge, will want to be sure to get this anime.
Japanese 2.0 Language, Japanese 5.1 Language, English 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, 3 discs of Extras, Textless Opening/Ending, Tokyo University Lectures, "Today and Tomorrow are the Same" Music Video, Original Promotion Trailers, Tokyo TV Cast Discussion.
RCA F32648 33" TV, Phillips DVP140/37 DIVx Ultra DVD player, no additional sound system