The 2nd year of my HND computing course at college has been a bit stressful since I was worried that I might struggle to complete my units but thankfully, my break from reviewing and blogging has helped me get through most of it. So, to celebrate my return to writing about anime, I have decided to review one of the forgotten anime of 2011 – Hyouge Mono.
Before I properly go into this review, Hyouge Mono has no streaming rights anywhere, neither does it have any planned western DVD release, in matter of fact, it took fan-subs a few years to fully sub this show and since this is a anime I feel I will never get a chance to watch legally or own on physical disc, I felt that watching it fan subbed was acceptable, with that out of the way, here begins my review.
So, when did Hyouge Mono start airing? Well, interestingly enough, it started along with the Spring 2011 anime line-up which included big titles like Tiger & Bunny, Steins;Gate and Maria;Holic Alive. It’s also interesting to note that this is a 3-cour show (39 episodes) that lasted until the end of 2011, last thing to mention is that the show was animated by Bee Train who come up rarely in anime season’s but do pop up, they were behind the show Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom.
The show is the story of two characters, the main face of the show is Furuta Sasuke, a warrior who serves as a messager to Nobonaga Oda during the warring states Edo period, but during the first episode, we also find out that Sasuke has a thing for materials, aesthetics and tea ceremonies which normally triggers the silly faces.
“Holy Wow, a Hyouge Mono review”
At the beginning, you see that Sasuke wants to further his aesthetic ambitions but also knows that rising that ranks of a warrior is important as well, which begs the question that is said at the end of every episode preview “To be a aesthete or a warrior?”.
The other major character that needs to be mentioned is the one of Nobonaga’s Tea Masters named Rikyu, he is a silent, calm man who has a liking to the colour black, which shows since he wears black & uses black on his materials, it is not long after the start when these characters meet and Rikyu sees Sasuke’s potential as a aesthete, so much that Sasuke becomes Rikyu’s apprentice, thus begins the fascinating relationship between these two throughout the series.
There are also a huge amount of memorable characters, obviously Nobonaga Oda is his enthusiastic yet terrifying self but also surprisingly shows his interest in foreign clothing & cuisine, it’s interesting to see the reaction of Sasuke’s reaction to a pineapple since his never seen one. Again, important figures such as Akechi and Tokugawa which brings some political interest into Hyouge Mono, Hideyoshi is another important figure during the later episodes but I will have to go into spoilers if I continue (I did want to most of this spoiler-free)
Now, it’s particularly hard for me to review the aesthetics side of Hyouge Mono, since I don’t know much about Japanese history and have no interest in art, so the discussion of the beauty of imperfection or the design of tea bowls, doesn’t interest me for the most part, however when you look at the aesthetics on the political side, it’s a completely different story for me.
This is one of the reasons why I really like watching the show and why I liked Sasuke as a character, well known aesthetics items such as bowls or tea handles which hold large value can be used as gifts, so for example, it could make a general surrender a fortress or depending on what items you have, show how much power you hold, this is where Sasuke’s aesthetics come in handy and why his such an interesting character, especially as a messager, he’s very smart when it comes to convincing generals, he always seems to get out of situations when he’s in a war, even using fake items created by himself to nudge generals on taking these items and surrendering, so he’s very good at making up bullshit.
Hyouge Mono is a very slow series but it’s Sasuke and Rikyu themselves and there master and apprentice relationship that make’s the show interesting, there are twists and even violent moments that they both see throughout right into the last episodes, it’s rare that a final episode makes me both laugh for a moment & right away make me unbelievably sad a few moments later.
“‘Laugh for a moment’, so far your making this show sound like a serious, historical, political drama”. True but that’s the strange thing, Hyouge Mono can be very good at comedy as well, as you can see from the screenshots, the faces they pull are ridiculously funny. There are two moments that are unforgettable comical moments, one is Sasuke’s visit to Tokugawa’s land and one of Tokugawa’s officers does a dance that makes me laugh throughout but it’s also a wonderfully done scene. Another is a scene with Masamune Date, Sasuke’s brother is fond of western culture and Date needs to do something to make one of the lords forgive him for invading some land, so the brother off screen convinces Date to drag a huge holy cross on the streets of Kyoto, it’s such a great scene.
Masamune Date died for your sins.
While Hyouge Mono is a fictional story (Since it does add things that obviously never happen), the setting feels like it could of actually happened back then (from someone with political power back then), which is refreshing change from all the games (Samurai Warriors) and all-girl (Sengoku Collection, Battle Girls) warring states stuff i’ve been playing & watching.
The screenshots i’ve presented look great, unfortunately there are moments where the animation or character models suffer from some limited budget, which I can understand, Hyouge Mono had no re-cap episodes but I will give huge credit to Bee Train because they did nail the important scenes.
So the question is, do I recommend Hyouge Mono to all? I will sadly have to say no to that, there are hardly no action scenes and the slow pace & 39 episodes is a hard sale, however, if you’re the opposite & you liked a show like House Of Five Leaves, then you may like this show like I did.
Thanks for reading and I’ll leave you with the Tokugawa dance scene.