Sorry guys for last week. Since it was suddenly summer (we’re back in winter again though, never take anything for granted it seems) I suddenly got a lot of “urgent” work to do. (Urgent as in “should have been done yesterday” urgent. People these days…)
Today I am going to review something a bit strange, or at least unusual: it’s an anime called Hyouge Mono. It takes place during the Sengoku era, in Japan, and revolves around a man named Sasuke Furuta. This man is a bit peculiar, as he is both a warrior and an aesthete, he just can’t help but love beautiful things and it sometimes puts him in some difficult positions.
The anime was originally advertised as something educational about the tea ceremony, and, while it does take a big part in the course of Hyouge Mono, I didn’t find it overwhelming. Because, you know, Japan can be very strict about some things. I was a bit scared it would weigh the anime down, but the contrary happened. I found Hyouge Mono to be quite liberating because it showed you can still show your own self inside very strict codes and that sometimes these should be broken. I really, really liked that in this anime.
The plot, while set in medieval Japan, thus nearly having to deal with popular warlords (hello Nobunaga, long time no see!) is definitely a work of fiction. (As it is nicely repeated at the beginning of every episode.) There is no way in hell Sasuke could have existed.
As I said before, it was supposed to deal with tea, and it does, and even more than that, it shows how tea is really serious business. And by serious business I mean that it spurs various conspiracies and behind the scenes dealings. In the end, it did deal with tea but not exactly with the ceremony itself, more with the people who made it their way of life. In every event that happens in Hyouge Mono, you can be sure to find in one way or another, either the ceremony in itself and those who’re practicing it as their job, or some famed work of art used in the ceremony.
In a way that was maybe more educational than showing countless ceremonies and explaining countless times how the ceremony works. Hyouge Mono doesn’t tell, it shows. It shows how a ceremony is conducted. It shows to what length people could go for social status. It shows what wabi-suki is. (Didn’t you always wonder what that was? I know I did, and reading about it never really helped in grasping it.) The best thing of them all is that, while it was educational, it never was boring. Things were shown in context, how could Sengoku Jidai ever be boring? Hyouge Mono is full of wars, of murders, of people trying their best in their definitely not easy era, and of colorful characters.
The main one being Sasuke, as previously mentioned. Sasuke literally lusts over tea wares. The show has (tasteful) sex scenes (ok we don’t see anything but it’s tastefully implied) and these are quite interesting. Sasuke himself was interesting, in everything he did he had a hidden motive. He was quite the conflicted character, always hesitating between his life as a warrior and his love for work of arts and wabi-suki. It was quite entertaining to see how far he could go for something, we follow his social growth from his beginning to the end and he never stops to be funny, but at the same time you can’t help but admire him in a very strange way.
Obviously, everyone was quite entertaining, let’s mention the mandatory Oda Nobunaga and the not-any-less mandatory Akechi Mitsuhide (my favorite warlord, of course I’d mention him). Hideyoshi was quite the man as well, so was Masamune. Also worth mentioning that he’s voice by Kazuya Nakai, the one who also voices Masamune in Sengoku Basara, which is pretty hilarious. But the biggest plotting bastard in this was Rikyuu, the tea master. I have seen plotting characters but this one is especially sneaky and interesting. Better of it all, I still don’t get exactly what his motives were.
While I really loved this series, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. If you’re curious about a more realistic take on medieval Japan this is for you, but know that it starts a bit slowly, and that the pace of the whole series is slow. Which in this case, makes it even better, because it has a lot of information to digest.