Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Genji Monogatari Senneki review

Rating: B+

Like any good romance novel, the feel of Genji is that of delicate and refined beauty. The atmosphere is very courtly, elaborate and deliberate. Watching Genji is like watching a painting move, rather than watching an animated series. As something based on a book written during Japan's Heian period, it is understandable why the themes of courtly life are much more prominent than armored combat on horses, why a story about royal intrigue is much emphasized than the brutality of feudal warfare and why cassanova love is more important than martial values.

Sexual promiscuity aside, Genji's characters are all things of beauty. Not only in the physical aspect, but also because they are developed artistically. They know dance, music and weaponry, and are pretty good at them. Vis-a-vis the courtesans (who only know how to gossip and serve), our imperial characters seem to operate outside the boundaries of slave morality, which is a definite plus. They, especially Genji represent the uber-maximalist approach to life, with lavish spewing out of every corner of their world. I mean, when was the last time the heroes were lords who acted and lived like lords? This series is a very good example of lordly characters not coming off as antagonistic--and I like that.

The dichotomy between the lordly heroes and the common folk is also evident in the way they acted. Although nominally limited by their tradition, the main characters pretty much acted on their own whims and did what they want while the common folk wasted their existence on gossiping and trying pull the lords down (episode 10, though this was partly due to courtly envy). If there's an episode which demonstrates how the envy of the herd became the driving force in the shaping of their morality, that was it. To me at least, the common folk appeared as the meddlesome force. Not necessarily villainous, but the only unlikeable thing amidst imperial beauty, representing envy and mediocrity.

Belieing the artsy appearance of this series is its lack of mindfuck value. Genji does not really impart anything intellectual. There's nothing really profound in coutrly love. Even its "taboos" are quite ordinary. Much of the series is based on emotion and appeals to the viewer's emotional judgement. It does not have the same intellectual depth of something like Mouryou no Hako, which also matches this series in terms of beauty.

Anyway, this is a good watch for those who are curious about the refinement of the age that preceeded the era of bloody and dehumanizing civil wars. Just don't expect something intellectually challenging.

Stay tuned.


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