Chouyaku Hyakunin Isshu: Uta Koi – 04
「康秀と業平 文屋康秀」 (Yasuhide to Narihira Fun’ya no Yasuhide)
“Yasuhide and Narihira – Fun’ya no Yasuhide”
I guess bromance is still romance… kind of. The interactions between the three poets Narihira, Yoshiko, and Yasuhide (Chiba Susumu) are at the core of this week’s episode, making it more of a character study rather than an episode dedicated to unfolding a love story. It’s certainly a welcome change since as wonderful as those stories are, they don’t offer much depth to the characters themselves, or offer a very skewed view of them – a perfect example of the latter being the last episode. I realize upon another look at it that the portrayal of Yoshiko is told mostly from Munesada‘s point of view, and is going to be heavily laced with his biases as a result. She’s presented through his eyes, so what Munesada interprets as Yoshiko’s thoughts are translated onto the screen, even during non-monologue scenes where she is speaking herself. Suffice to say, my criticisms of her character should have taken into account the skewed perspective that resulted from the episode being grounded on Munesada’s story to seem more objective and structured.
The fourth episode of Uta Koi presents the same sort of loose continuity the previous three episodes offered, and I like the idea of these poets co-existing at the same time – it gives a cohesive sense to the show’s universe, and the thought that they could have influenced one another (whether they did or not, I really wouldn’t know) lends a different perspective to the poems presented so far. Timeline-wise I’m not entirely sure where this week falls into, except to say it’s clearly before Narihira passed away.
Narihira is always a welcome sight, and I dare say this man is a charmer of epic proportions. He’s historically lauded as the epitome of the “beau homme”, and he definitely embodies every bit of that distinction. This episode takes a closer look at his character, and ties the idea of freedom within poetry back to the idea of using poems as a medium for one’s true feelings. I’ve touched on how melancholy that idea is before, and it’s enforced here as Yoshiko, Narihira, and Yasuhide all face restrictions of some sort they hope to escape from through words. Societal shackles once again play a huge role here, as Yasuhide stands on the opposite spectrum when it comes to wealth – it’s a painful way to judge people, but it is also the easiest method of determining a person’s worth. For people of no fortune, it leaves very little choice, even if they are brimming with talent. The confines of society become a difficult, if not impossible, hurdle to overcome. Poetry then becomes the symbol of freedom from those restrictions, as there is no individual value placed on words, only connotations. A poem’s worth is denoted (should be denoted, at any rate) by its atmosphere, the emotions and messages behind it rather than who wrote it. This is why an anonymous poem can flourish through the ages even though the author’s identity is unknown – what matters are the words rather than the person writing them.
For Yasuhide, poetry is his own, a brush he can wield to his liking and a clear symbol of his abilities. His conversation with Narihira is telling – it is an acceptance of who he is, who Narihira is, and what makes them different. It is a moment where Yasuhide recognizes neither his social standing nor Narhira’s social standing has as much influence on who they are as poets as he assumed. “Freedom” is a subjective concept, and it probably means different things to the two men. The conversation is a wonderful depiction of Yasuhide coming to terms with who he is. His background, although poor, is his own and it affords him experiences and emotions that are completely his own, that no one can imitate. The recognition of his self-worth was great, and watching Yasuhide finally stand on equal ground with Narihira as poets was a fitting end to the episode. It was he himself holding him back from acknowledgment, not social standing, or Narihira’s sheer greatness.
The rest of the post is spoiler tagged for convenience.
I’ll hold off on Yoshiko’s analysis until next week to keep the post as short as possible, but also because I feel it would be more relevant when her poem is actually presented.
This week’s poem is arguably the most difficult to hack apart since it involved a play on words in Japanese that’s difficult to reproduce in the English language. It’s even harder to try and analyze this, but after bit of thinking, this is what I came up with: