Heike Monogatari Kicks Off the New Anime Season With a Bang
Let’s dive into Heike Monogatari’s premiere episode to see how it kicks off the new anime season with a bang before October starts.
WARNING: The following contains spoilers for “If You Don’t Belong to the Heike, You Won’t Be a Person,” the premiere episode of Heike Monogatari.
With the fall anime season really beginning in October, some new shows have started airing early, with Heike Monogatari being one of them. The premiere episode, “If You Don’t Belong to the Heike, You Won’t Be a Person” has been catching quite the buzz thus far, with a clever blend of history, substance and style. With that in mind, let’s dissect how it kicks off the new anime season with a bang.
Firstly, the anime must be commended for the plot so far, which cleverly blends humor with drama. The plot begins with young Biwa and her father walking through a town governed by Emperor Shirakawa during the Genpei War period. Sadly, after seeing some of the royal soldiers — the “kaburo boys,” who work for the Emperor’s enforcers, the Taira clan — enacting violence against naysayers to the throne, Biwa comments on their cruelty as well.
This leads to them killing her father to teach her a lesson, beginning a bitter path for the child. Ironically, she ends up in the Taira household, promising an end to these injustices. However, Shigemori, one of the sons, realizes Biwa has a gift — she can see into the future — so he wants to harness this to save the clan. He seems like a good person, and he has a similar gift: he sees the dead and can spot the ghost of Biwa’s father. Thus, he wants to make amends, taking her in to atone while hoping she can help redeem his family.
The problem is, his sister Tukoko is to be married off to the royals, and with his own father Kiyomori hating on the Emperor, it creates a lot of conflict. Kiyomori wants to punish some of the Emperor’s guards for scolding his grandson, Sukemori, for breaking etiquette and being disrespectful to their caravan. The episode hints at plenty of familial tension, civil war and a coup — all of which Biwa may end up being a pawn in as she and Shigemori decide their destinies.
Clearly, this is an intriguing angle of redemption amid all the politics. Outside of the palace, viewers also see rampant classism, as Biwa is viewed as an outsider by the children in Shigemori’s court, which touches on Asian dynasties and the centuries-old caste system. Watching Tukoko being part of an arranged marriage adds some intrigue to the proceedings, not to mention how Biwa is berated for being a tomboy — something Mulan lovers would enjoy, as it speaks to feminism in a feudal era where women were viewed as little more than concubines.
Most of all, the duality in Shigemori is what stands out because apart from The Last Samurai angle of earning Biwa’s forgiveness, one has to wonder if his soul will eventually become corrupted. He is loyal to the crown and views his father as overly hasty, so he will have to choose wisely, as betrayal could easily mean death. Conversely, it could mean power and control, and Biwa will likely be treading carefully as the man becomes a father figure to her, hoping not to be used.
These are all powerful statements in the narrative that make for an alluring watch, but what eases this is the aesthetic of the show. Its visual style isn’t heavy and thick a la Boruto or My Hero Academia — it’s light and feathered, evoking that classic style that truly acts as a nostalgic draw for conventional anime fans. Along with the thin linework, the fluttering music and truly ethereal hum of the show add so much to pave this as a strong period piece. Moreover, it’s not as dense or morose a title such as Moriarty the Patriot, as its brighter feel offers beauty amid all the darkness in which Biwa finds herself entrenched, compounding this as more a cerebral story than one steeped in physical war and turmoil.
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