Review: Genji Monogatari Sennenki (源氏物語千年紀)

Based on the classic Japanese novel, The Tale of Genji (源氏物語), this series follows the life and (some of the loves) of the second son of a emperor, known to readers/viewers as Hikaru Genji. As the second son born to a lowly concubine, Genji cannot succeed the throne, but is loved deeply by his father and thus granted education and assets befitting his place in royalty. However, none of this can give him that which he most desires…love.

Genji 4When I first told a friend I was watching this, I remember her being taken aback because Genji Monogatari really is all about one extremely libidious individual and all the relationships he has. However, I expected that the animators would keep it relatively tasteful…and given what a smooth talker Genji is, and who he is voiced by, not watching this was quite unthinkable. At first, it was actually a bit tough to keep a straight face. After a relatively tame first episode, this Casanova started sleeping with a different woman every single episode…(-_-;) The character design is also one that does not especially appeal to me, though it seems like an anime approximation of traditional Japanese art, similar to one of the stories in Ayakashi~. However, it was the seiyuu and the atmosphere that kept me watching.

Seiyuu: a lot of people, both from Japan and overseas, have praised the seiyuu work in this production. I will always be biased for my favourite, so I’ll just look at a few of the female roles. In particular, the voice behind Yugao gathered a lot of attention, for even the fans of Koshimizu Ami were genuinely surprised at the fragility that she depicted. Genji 1In hindsight, knowing who it was, it sounds slightly reminiscent of the “sickly front” that Karen put on in the first season of Code Geass. But she was fantastic in that one episode, and Tamagawa Sakiko (Fujitsubo) and Hirata Eriko (Aoi) complemented her well as two other women that had great impact in Genji’s life.

However, it was the atmosphere created by the visuals and the sounds that really drew me in. The gentle stills of noble houses and gardens and the sweeping drifts of scattered cherry blossoms, all painted in soft watercolours, were nicely complemented by the chirping of insects, the pattering of raindrops and even the swishing and howling of the wind. Some of the background music was also especially memorable – especially the Koto piece associated with Lady Fujitsubo – as was the ending theme. Although the opening ruined what might have been a perfect anime in terms of sound, it was easy enough to skip, and everything else just breathed life into this glimpse of Heian nobility.

Genji 2 This being my introduction to Genji, I can’t say much about this series as an adaptation. In terms of content, the language in Genji was incredibly difficult for me to follow, especially the overload of honourifics. Whilst I was able to get the gist, a lot of the detail escaped me…so it is difficult to say whether my confusion over the relationships and event sequences was due to omission by the creators of simply me missing the meaning an implications from the dialogue and narration. I used Wikipedia to supplement it, discovering that much material from the 54 chapters of the novel had indeed been left out. Some of the omissions are probably not of much consequence – after all, do we absolutely need to know what happens after Genji passes away? – and it turns out that the original text was rather obscure and difficult to follow as well. But if the point of Sennenki was to draw viewers to Genji Monogatari, then it has succeeded with this viewer at least. 7/10

hm…OTT, but I have seen – and for the most part, liked – more than half of the series that have taken the noitaminA timeslot on Fuji Television…

About karice
MAG fan, amateur translator and political scientist-in-training. I also love musicals, travel and figure skating!

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