「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.

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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:

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Full-length images: 3, 8, 10, 12, 14, 15, 19, 24, 29, 30, 34, 36.




  1. I don’t really see this as a “bromance” episode – there’s no deep affection between Yasuhide and Narihara – as much as it’s about the love of poetry itself. And I took the poem as presented in the episode as an example of “art for art’s sake”, if you will – a poem that isn’t deeply symbolic or full of meaning, but an example of skillful craft and construction.

    1. Yeah I wasn’t particularly gung-ho about my own analysis, to be honest – it works, but I have a feeling it wasn’t intended to be viewed like that. The translations were all godawful, too – well perhaps godawful is being too dramatic. All 3 “sources” I looked at had varying translations, so I figured there really wasn’t anything “central” the poem was trying to get across.

      I guess I’m of the mind POETRY MUST CONVEY SOME DEEP MEANING, hence my tl;dr analysis.

      1. Honestly, I have no idea if there’s a deeper meaning behind the poem – but I don’t think there is in the way it was presented by Utakoi. All anyone is really doing – including the mangaka here and Kana-chan in Chihayafuru – is guessing as to what the poems might mean. For me, Utakoi’s Yasuhide represents the craftsman vs. the artist – someone for whom poetry is most primarily a way to make a living, and not necessarily to plumb the deep dark mysteries of the soul.

      2. For me the episode wasn’t really about the dichotomy between the craftsman and the artist or art for art’s sake. This has a Wildean concept of what the purpose of art actually is which I think the ideology of the episode directly opposes. We see art here as a conduit of self-expression and salvation for the two characters. It lets them act outside of societal norms. Yasuhide is bound by his class while Narihira is constrained by the accepted acts of courtship. Poetry paves a way for them to ‘rebel’ against the status-quo. The main reason for my belief is that neither Yasuhide or Narihira composed poetry to make a living. During the middle Heien period poetry was mostly considered an intellectual sport for the noble class. Considering that Uta Koi is billed as a ‘super-liberal’ interpretation of that time, I think the series as a whole is trying to shed light to the fact it was more than that to the poets in question. This all stems from the dual uses of the tanka, one as a description of nature, the other as a window into domestic issues. During the middle Heien period we see the use of the latter fall out of favor as it created political issues for many nobles. For poetry buffs like myself the show takes the stance: What if these were just not descriptions of nature? What if these were something more. If you dig a little deeper into the history it sheds a lot of light as to the meaning of the episode.

  2. LOLs, that beginning skit with Teika and Tsurayuki dissing the poets and getting punished by Kuronushi was fantastic!!
    *menacing tone of voice* “It’s not nice to shun people…” XD

    Autumn The Cuzzy
  3. Yeah, this certainly isn’t my favorite episode. I come for the romance, which kept me guessing as to whether Yoshiko and Yasuhide were going to fall for each other, as implausible as that seemed.

    But it was still entertaining, and I found the discussion on how the purpose of poetry differs for people quite interesting.

    And seeing Narihira again was great. Good to know the show isn’t done with him just yet.

  4. For the timeline, we’re in the (late) 840s, before 850 when Munesada took orders and became Henjo. It looks to me to be almost exactly a year after episode 3, but it could be two or even more (both episodes take place in autumn).


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