What They Say:
Narihira is quite the ladies’ man, but when the bride to be of emperor catches his eye, he begins to change. Yukihira, his oldest brother, was always the opposite when it came to love.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Part of the fun of each new season is that if done right, you can go into most series without any preconceived notions. Utakoi is definitely one of those where there’s been little advance word on it, promotional videos and so forth. With its story revolving around romance and poems, and the way they can be adapted to be relevant, there’s a lot to like. The show also hits some good style notes right from the start, with thick character outlines that separates it from most other shows and the use of static imagery within the clothes themselves, giving it a rich feeling that would be difficult to create in general with the traditional method.
The mixture of poetry and romance is a welcome show to be brought to the stage and has the makings to be something that stands out from the rest of the summer crowd. This episode introduces us to a flirtatious young man named Narihara from the days of the Emperor. HE’s always moved among the women easily, but he’s now discovered someone that has caught his eye in more ways than before. With the woman in question being the bride to be of the emperor, it presents all sorts of trouble. But through poetry, he does what he can to win her heart, whiel also using other methods to get close to her that would cause him to be executed easily enough. The first half gives us an interesting story with Narihira going after Takaiko and the way she ends up being interested yet not, making for some confusing, awkward but ultimately fun and sometimes hilarious situations for the two.
While more than the first half deals with this relationship and the direction it goes, the second half shifts to his brother, Yukihira. While his brother is a playboy, Yukihira is a bit more restrained and has the serious side to him, including scolding his brother for his ways. Seeing the chewing out he tries to give him is comical since Narihira is just plain laid back and lives his life the way he wants, which frustrated his brother. You can see that Yukihira is just trying to look out for him, to save him from future pain and problems, but he also seems to know that he won’t be able to get through easily. It’s an interesting position to look at after having so much of the episode focus on Narihira’s womanizing ways and the use of his poetry to try and reach Takaiko. And having a look at an important woman in Yukihira’s life, Hiroko, also shows us another side of the man and how he lives his life.
Utakoi has an intriguing feel to it and definitely stands on its own with what it does. The focus on romance isn’t new when it comes to anime or manga, but with anime it’s much rarer that we get shows dealing with adult romances. So much of it is focused on high school kids and the whole will they or won’t they admit their feelings and possibly kiss. With this series, we get the intriguing mixture of politics, position and poetry in a classic setting that lets it have a larger and more atmospheric feeling to it than it might otherwise. It’s got a lot of the trappings of the upper class to be sure, at least in this opening episode, but there’s a real draw to seeing how it plays out within the social constructs of the day and the moral gray areas that some try to navigate. The show very much has me curious to see more, but it hasn’t won me over.
Streamed By: Crunchyroll
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