Friday, 16 January 2009

Genji Monogatari Sennenki - Episode 1

It almost feels a little odd to be writing here on this 'Blog about what is arguably the world's first novel, a book believed to be written exactly one thousand years ago back in the eleventh century by a Japanese noblewoman. What would she make, one wonders, of the world of 'Blogging and the Internet? Perhaps more importantly, what would she make of this anime translation of this ancient work? Funnily enough for the first ever novel, it was written in a way that should translate perfectly into its anime form, split as it is into chapter by chapter instalments. So, what to make of Genji Monogatari Sennenki (or, to give it its English title, The Tale of Genji: A Millennium Old Journal) from its opening episode?

If you haven't guessed from the title, Genji (or rather, Hikaru Genji to give him his full name) is the focus of the story, and for much of this first instalment we're lead through part of his childhood, most specifically from the age of nine, where one day he spies a beautiful women, immediately becoming besotted with her and taking every possible opportunity to see her. Imagine Hikaru's shock then when this girl, Fujitsubo, is revealed as the new wife of Hikaru's father, the reigning Emporer of Japan.

Initially it seems as though Hikaru has quickly gotten over this shock, enjoying the company of his new mother who is young enough, in practical terms to be his sister, but inwardly this is clearly not the case, and one day he plucks up the courage to kiss her on the lips. This event is never spoken of again, but hangs between the two of them until Hikaru's twelfth birthday, where his rite of passage as an adult means that he should never see her again. All of this is intertwined with short scenes involving an older Hikaru, who has built up an impressive reputation as a ladies man by all accounts.

So, in essence, this opening episode of Genji Monogatari Sennenki is a love story, the kind that (slightly incestuous plot aside) could grace any modern romantic novel. The anime treatment of this first instalment seems to work pretty well, keeping things moving along in a clear and concise fashion, and with an animation style that suits the era and feeling of the piece (although the same can't be said of the opening theme music). This series isn't strictly "my kind of thing" in anime viewing terms, but as a piece of cultural knowledge it's fascinating to watch in its own particular way, enough so to make me want to dig up and read an English translation of the original novel after having done a little digging about the story on good old Wikipedia. I have no iddea whether this series will manage to hold my attention for its entire eleven episode run, but at least I feel like I've educated myself ever so slightly about something new today, and that can only be a good thing.


hashi said...

I think the authoress would have loved blogging and the Internet. She wrote her story chapter by chapter and had to make copies to hand out to other ladies at court. "You mean I can write my story bit by bit and just post it and people won't be coming to me demanding that I make a new copy for them? Cool!" is what I think she might say -- in more elegant terms.

Anonymous said...

The entire run is only 11 episodes? The english translation I have is 1090 pages long, so each episode would have to cover about 100 pages. I wonder how accurate, in comparison to book, the show is going to be?

Anonymous said...

I think she would have loved the anonymity of the internet, since back then Japanese women were only supposed to use the "women's language" and not be able to read and write in the "men's".

Ay4n4mi said...

after watching the 2nd episode, i felt that it does great injustice that this anime's really under-rated and that no one really talks about this title

Anonymous said...

it reminds me of a book i once read. horses of heaven by gillian bradshaw. it basically has a similar plot. the son falls in love with the father's young wife. the son and wife arent related