「無文の沙汰」 (Mumon no Sata)
“Unwritten Affair”

Sometimes the acts you commit come back to haunt you-in Kiyomori’s case, this is literal. In the Heian era, it was believed that illnesses were caused by vengeful spirits possessing people. Families would send for mediums to receive the spirits’ message, pacifying them through honoring their requests. The spirits in Tokuko’s case were the three men- Shunkan, Yasuyori, and Naritsune-that Kiyomori banished out to the boonies of Kikaigashima.

The anime handled this poorly. There was no lead up to it-they dropped it on you even though in the book, this was a detailed part. The pious Yasuyori and Naritsune were so obsessed with returning home from exile that they constantly prayed to the deity of Kumano and Yasuyori even made 1000 Sotoba (planks with holy words on them). The anime just doesn’t get across the frenzied longing these men had for home. Nor does it emphasize their isolation- portraying them as scruffy men who hadn’t showered in a week, rather than wild eyed, pitiful, scruffy messes they would have been.

The anime doesn’t seem to care much for their fate and neither does Kiyomori. He only cares about what they did to him, like a child throwing a temper tantrum when someone tries to take their toy. When he does pardon them (and he only does so for the sake of the unborn prince who would grant him more power), he pulls the jerk move of freeing only two of them because he just can’t forgive Shunkan. Seriously? Power in the hands of an adult-sized child is dangerous.

Shunkan’s brief cameo unfortunately misses the deep impact of his desperation and despair while trailing behind the last boat home. Given that this is a Buddhist tale, Shunkan’s lack of piety is explained as the reason for his fate. Although I just blame his fate on Kiyomori’s rampant selfishness.

I question why the anime is putting so much time into non-canonical things such as, Biwa and Sukemori’s fling with Tokuko’s lady in waiting, while glossing over so many meaningful points in the source material. I don’t like Biwa and I think she was unnecessary-she doesn’t make the plot any simpler and doesn’t add anything to the story. Sukemori’s romance also makes no sense-it has nothing to do with the plot and takes away from time that should have been spent on introducing characters like the exiles.

The scenes shown here are of holy rituals in the form of chants and dances, performed to appease the spirits so that Tokuko can safely give birth to her child. Much to Kiyomori’s joy, the child is a boy and thus, the crown prince. Those tears certainly aren’t ones of fatherly pride-more like selfish relief at owning a new pawn in his massive power play.

Ominous clouds of ill fortune are hovering on Kiyomori’s horizon. First, with the freak tornado storm that damages the peasant villages in his domain. Then, the death of Tokuko’s younger sister, who he married off for power. Lastly and most importantly, there is Shigemori’s vision of Kiyomori’s death. This comes as no surprise, given how much Kiyomori has neglected the welfare of others in order to see to his own profit. People are not going to sit and take that treatment forever.

Some of the scenes in this episode painted a telling picture of the contrast between the lavishness of court society with the threadbare huts and clothing of the villagers. In history, whenever the political balance tips heavily towards excess, a social storm will force it onto the other extreme, as seen in the French Revolution or the Russian Revolution. This oncoming doom will change the fabric of the Japanese government for centuries, stretching beyond the fate of a single clan.

Another contender for Man-Child of the Century award-Retired Emperor Go-Shirakawa, who prefers to play 24/7- giving little thought towards the growing instability in his court. I do give the anime writers credit-while they add in many non-canonical things, with Go-Shirakawa, they at least add in historically correct details.

In the book, Imayo (the pop tunes of Go-Shirakawa’s day) was barely mentioned, while the anime is constantly referring to his fondness for music. This isn’t something they made up. Historically speaking, Go-Shirakawa was famous for his obsession with Imayo and the arts in general-spending lots of money and effort into entertainment, which the anime portrays quite richly. As much as Go-Shirakawa is locked in a power battle against the Taira, with his preoccupation for singing (even going so far as to have a party with Shigemori’s sons while Shigemori is on his deathbed), it doesn’t look like he’ll be able to accomplish much. Hands more capable than his will have to be the ones to tear down the Taira.

17 Comments

  1. I wish this anime given more budget. The erratic pacing, constant unannounced time skip and almost bizarre choice of focal point is very uncomfortable if you watch it blind without foreknowledge of Heike Monogatari or at least read the novel by Eiji Yoshikawa, or at least read manga that retell bits of this era like Shanaou Yoshitsune or even Osamu Tezuka’s Hinotori . 11 episodes felt like picky eater.

    Especially with the source material (this modern novel adaptation) author being unfair to Kiyomori’s portrayal. I mean he is like Japanese’s Tywin Lannister to a root; a great man a visionary even, who built his family/clan prestige from nothing and make it soar to highest honor that not even the fujiwara nobility can not underestimate. Rising from scorned poor warrior clan who is considered as no less than dogs into prominence where as karmic retribution allows them to callously declare “Anyone who is no Heike is no human.” . If there is one failure in his life it is the fact that he had no one capable of succeeding his great legacy amongst his descendant to continue his herculean political scheme. Not even munemori, not even tomonori and not even shigemori who had his political insight and ingenious; as they like the other Tairas has already drowned in Heian lifestyle and acted like the Fujiwaras nobility whilst Kamakura is busy building their country silently far from the watch of Rokuhara.

    Porn
    1. I am with you on that one-I wish that the anime was given more time and budget, but alas, that’s the way things are.

      I find your comparison to Tywin Lannister interesting and I totally agree. Like Tywin, Kiyomori is ruthless enough to build his own empire and to coldly use his children to do so in the process. I agree that it takes a lot of logistical skills and smart-thinking, as well as, strength of character to bring your family into high status like how Kiyomori did. But, I don’t know that I would call him a visionary or even a great man. Yes, he was powerful, but Kiyomori, at least in the book, is selfish and cold-manipulating those around him and his children, much to their detriment (take his youngest daughter that he married off so young and refused to re-marry her after she was widowed early, just for the sake of keeping her property. Or poor Shunkan who he jerkishly left alone in exile). While he did build his own personal empire and made an indent in the history books, from what I know, he didn’t really contribute to society in a positive way (unless you count his building of Tsukishima Shrine) and benefitted no-one but himself and his family. And even then, that didn’t end so well.

      Princess Usagi
    2. “Especially with the source material (this modern novel adaptation) author being unfair to Kiyomori’s portrayal.”

      The source material they advertise is Furukawa Hideo’s recent retranslation of the original (or, well, the most widespread variant text, the rufubon) into contemporary Japanese. There’s no novel mentioned anywhere?

      11 episodes for, pretty much, a 1082-pages thick book (which would be the count of this version) is a bit ridiculous though. A Taiga drama gets 50 episodes a 45 min for this kind of story!

      Morricane
        1. Well, as in 2012, in the Taira no Kiyomori one (which included Hôgen and Heiji). I think every Taiga-adaption of Kamakura-period material revolves around the Genpei War, with the exception of the Hôjô Tokimune one (2008).

          The ’72 one was based on Yoshikawa Eiji’s novelization of the same title (Shin Heike monogatari), although I haven’t seen that one either 🙂

          Morricane
  2. > I question why the anime is putting so much time > into non-canonical things such as, Biwa and
    > Sukemori’s fling with Tokuko’s lady in waiting,
    > while glossing over so many meaningful points in
    > the source material.

    The story at times is really hard to follow and even so, Heike Monogatari is more interesting than many other titles for the Fall Season.

    > I don’t like Biwa and I think she was
    > unnecessary-she doesn’t make the plot any
    > simpler and doesn’t add anything to the story.

    I think the goal is to get a perspective from the viewpoint of a child who oddly enough can see the outcome of everyone.

    > Sukemori’s romance also makes no sense-it has
    > nothing to do with the plot and takes away from
    > time that should have been spent on introducing
    > characters like the exiles.

    Sex sells, with most audiences enjoying salacious material in a story, this tactic keeps eyes on the screen.

    Not everyone enjoys historical media without some embellishments…

    RenaSayers
    1. I am glad that you are enjoying it! If you enjoy this show, I would recommend reading the book as well-it is a good read and it would also explain some of the things that are confusing.

      That is an interesting insight. It is true that sometimes children can have wisdom in the simplicity with which they see things, which adults cannot because adults often can’t see the forest for the trees.

      While I do agree that sex tends to sell, I don’t think this romance (at least as of yet) is particularly salacious. It is just too modern for the setting-but perhaps the modern touch is meant to make it something the audience can relate to in the midst of the unrelatable (though utterly fascinating) warfare and political tug of war.

      Princess Usagi
        1. There’s multiple translations of the Heike monogatari out there.
          In English, the go-to options are those by either Helen McCullough or Royall Tyler, both acclaimed translators of classic Japanese literature.

          Morricane
        2. As Morricane said, there are multiple English translations. The one I have been reading is by Royall Tyler and I quite like that version (it even has some liner notes and pictures!).

          Princess Usagi
  3. Thank you, i appreciate your reply . I didn’t expect one because i was writing it more for complaining with how one sided the Taira’s portrayal here that they neglect bits of his great accomplishment. Felt so Genji’s biased.

    Well, as far as i remember (correct me if i’m wrong. Been while since i read Heike Monogatari);

    He built the big harbour, knowing that Japan’s greatest strength as island nations (archipelago) and future as maritime power. This will play big in the future trading with North/South Song Dynasty, Korea (either Goguryeo, Baekje or Silla), Jurchen Jin and maybe Xixia or Khitan Liao.
    He concentrated power in his base in Rokuhara instead of the Old Imperial Capital (Kyou) that is far from his influence. A move imitated by Yoritomo when he build his Kamakura , and perhaps later warlord.
    He began reducing the Fujiwara clans influence in the imperial court, the know wealthy clan with their long history as regents.
    The separation of monk monastery influence toward imperial house also (i am not sure with this one)

    I can not say anything about his decision to not let his daughter remarry (too few story or record that i know about it). But about those three man he exile….

    Well, all of them were implicit and (heck even it happened in their very house) involved in dangerous scheme and conspiracy to oust Kiyomori and even going as far to assassinate him and negotiating with his enemy (Minamoto and disgruntled Fujiwara who lost his job). The two of them cries to no end of their fate (yeah.. imagine that, who thunkked of it that there is repercussion for an action), one of them died of starvation and Shunkan is a monk; a man who supposedly should have casted away any wordly desire and bound by his Buddhist oath (poverty, and such). Seeing a man who took kassaya embroiled in something like this (intrigue and politics) was kinda off…..

    Porn
    1. The more powerful you become, the number of enemies increases exponentially, which Kiyomori is experiencing first hand. While the the exiles are guilty of plotting against Kiyomori, I still think that leaving Shunkan alone while pardoning the others blatantly in front of him is too harsh. With all of the plotting and betrayal going on, it leaves me with the impression that it must have been a very difficult job for the people involved to decide which faction to side with. It would be hard to tell if it was worth it to rebel and risk exile or death for the huge benefits you could (but may not be likely to) receive, depending on who is in the enemies party or even random events that could be out of the leaders’ control (like the weather).

      I believe he concentrated his power in Fukuhara, although he also had property in Rokuhara. In this episode, Shigemori even mentions that Kiyomori is out in Fukuhara. You are correct, though that he chooses his power base to be somewhere other than Kyoto, which caused a huge stir in the imperial faction.
      Yes, Kiyomori, and by extent his whole clan, was famous for maritime trading (and which explains why he devoted Itsukushima Shrine to water goddesses).

      Princess Usagi
        1. I do remember having read that when I previously looked Fukuhara up. I find it very fascinating and exciting that the places in Heike Monogatari are not just made up places, that they are very real and historical sites.

          Princess Usagi
    2. Umm, Rokuhara is on the outskirts of Kyoto, but very well considered a part of the city. A tiny difference to Kamakura which is about 400 km away!

      It used to be mostly a Buddhist quarter (there’s a reason an entire school of Buddhism is called Rokuhara , including graveyards – the Taira pretty much “settled” it, possibly because it had generous amounts of free space due to court nobles not wanting to live there. This permitted warriors to cluster their mansions around that of their lord (which was quite a typical pattern).
      Due to this 12th-century connection with warrior authority, both Yoritomo later chose the quarter as the location of his residence while in Kyoto, and the Kamakura shogunate the location as the seat of its local dependency, the Rokuhara tandai in the 1220s.

      Morricane

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