|great first half but not so great second half||3 out of 4 users found this review helpful.|
Volume 1 is the Heian Chapter and it is set in the Heian period of and it is by far the strongest of the volumes. Focusing on the story of Hikaru and her quest to retrieve the stolen Magatama beads to save the capital of this volume focuses heavily on action and suspense and contains a huge plot twist that I did not see coming and was one of the best plot twists that I have seen in a long time. These days plot-twists can be seen coming a mile away but this one totally hit me for six and I love when a show/movie succeeds in doing that. Anyway the focus of the plot is the five Magatama beads which represent the 5 elements of earth, fire, wind, water, and metal (not Heart, lol) and it is believed that when the Magatamas are together and arranged in the order of Affinity that the capital will prosper. Currently 3 of the beads are missing and the capital is suffering with famine and death and the task to retrieve them falls on the Minamoto clan. The head of the clan Minamoto no Raiko is gravely ill and so his sister Hikaru impersonates him and takes his place on the quest. What I loved about this volume is that straight away it is apparent that there is more to the Magatamas and that Hikarus quest is about more than saving the capital. While Hikaru and her party believe in the quest to save the capital, we see the scheming politicians the Ministers of the left and right clearly have an agenda, as does the onmyoji Abe no Seimei. And the mysterious warrior Mansairaku clearly has a big role to play somewhere. Everyone seems to have an agenda so it was great to see the story unfold. As the Magatamas are retrieved we see them regarded as cursed objects that bring suffering to those around them so their destiny to save the capital comes into question. As for the characters I love how a new character came into Hikarus group every few episodes as it keeps things interesting. All the characters are fun to watch even if they do seem to fit the same classic staples. Watanabe no Tsuna is the proud warrior who would give his life to protect Hikaru. Usui Sadamitsu is the cocky warrior with an eye for the ladies. Kintaro is the energetic kid with a huge appetite. You get the picture but the characters do have some depth to them. Tsuna hides feelings for Hikaru and Sasamitsu is looking for redemption.
The Animation and character designs are top-notch but my one complaint was how they drew the characters eyes. For the most part it looks fine but up close they just looked weird. The battles look great and being set in feudal you get what you expect but they are directed and animated well. As for sound the music is great and I really liked the opening for volume 1. Voice work is all around great and as usual I watched the dub. My one complaint on the voices is that Kintaro is voiced by Mona Marshall who has done a crapload of voiceovers in anime and video games and I felt Kintaro sounded too similar to other characters she has voiced.
But overall the first volume of this anime is excellent. Great story with a quick pace so you are never bored. Great animation and sound and a killer plot twist at the end. I was all pumped up for a great second volume but alas I was let down.
Volume 2 is the chapter and it is set in modern day and it features the descendants of the characters from the Heian chapter or to be more exact their reincarnations. So while all the characters are here they are very different people yet maintain some traits of their ancestors so they are believable reincarnations. Hikaru is now a landlady of an apartment building and all of her party from the previous volume are residents there. While everyone is different from their ancestors some of their traits are still present. Tsuna is still a very proud man and still wants to protect Hikaru, Sadamitsu still likes the ladies and Kintaro still eats anything in sight etc… The story here revolves around the disappearance of Hikarus brother Raiko a year ago and it does eventually tie into the events from the capital from the end of volume 1. My problem with this volume is that the story moves at a much slower pace and there is not really much action to speak of. The story evolves very slowly and how it all ties into volume 1 does not become clear until the very end. All of the episodes follow the same pattern. Hikaru and Tsuna investigate reports of paranormal activity mostly because Tsuna is a reporter/photographer and these are his assignments and other times it’s related to some photos that Raiko took before he vanished and Hikaru believes these are clues to finding him. Each time Hikaru witnesses some paranormal event like seeing a ghost train with her brother on board, or in another episode Hikaru and Sadamitsu witness Sadamitsus fathers’ last fight as a boxer on the night his mother died. Along the way Hikaru meets a strange man who turns out the Mansairaku and while it his clear he knows what is going on he just talks in riddles and warnings. My problem with this volume stems from the fact that all these paranormal events and the stories around them were just not interesting and while you always sensed it had something to do with the events at the end of volume 1 none of this becomes apparent until the last 2 episodes. Now it does all tie up nicely and at the end and we understand the significance of the paranormal activity and the plot from volumes 1 and 2 come together nicely. But the problem was that you knew this was inevitable and they just took too long to get there and what happened in between was just not interesting enough and was plain boring in parts. There are about 4-5 episodes in the middle that do nothing to move on the main story and while the story ends nicely I felt they could have stretched the finale over more episodes or at least developed the main story better along the way. The most interesting thing for me in this volume was trying to figure out how Mansairaku was connected to the paranormal activity and was he the cause or was he trying to stop them. My other main complaint was the Hikarus ing cast had very little to do in the second volume and compared to their ancestors in Volume 1 they came across as downright dull.
Animation and voice acting is at the same high level as volume 1 and the opening and closing themes are different and they fit the less serious tone of Volume 2 quite well.
Ok so overall this is an enjoyable show but I would be on the fence about recommending it on the basis that Volume 2 is nowhere near as strong as the first. But I think Volume 1 was just that good that I would suggest you check it out.