「平家流るる」 (Heike Nagaruru)
“Heike Flowing”

According to legend, Okata, a retainer of the Taira, claimed to be a descendent of a scary snake god and even fierce warriors didn’t question him. The heads of the Taira clan, however, do question his betrayal of them. It seems hypocritical for the Taira to cry over Okata’s breach of loyalty when they themselves are disloyal to Go-Shirakawa who gave them their power and positions in the first place. But, history and legend are made from breaches of conduct.

The crescendo of the falling Taira fortunes hits Kiyotsune the most visibly. As a wealthy, powerful Taira, he was raised in the luxury that disregarded the affairs of the poor. Now that he has to face the hardships of betrayal and fleeing for his life on foot through the mud like a commoner, he does not know how to cope. In a way, he symbolizes the nobility as a whole at the end of the golden age before the court and society as a whole descend into years of strife and warfare with the Sengoku Jidai (Warring States Period).

As Biwa noted, like Shigemori, Kiyotsune died before he could witness the final destruction of his beloved lifestyle. Unlike Shigemori who grieved his clan’s many sins and foresaw the turning of retribution’s wheels, Kiyotsune (at least in the anime), grieved the loss of his carefree life. I suppose this is a stage many people go through (but perhaps less drastically) of grieving the loss of childhood in the face of adult responsibilities.

While Kiyotsune grapples with and succumbs to the tragedies inherent to a greedy world, Tokuko continues to be the image of a perfect-or rather, 1D- being- never questioning the turn of events. Even in fleeing for one’s life on foot in the grimy mud to boot, she doesn’t complain. While her enlightenment in looking beyond the physical world fits with the tale’s Buddhist roots, her lack of personality in always showing one set of feelings does not make her compelling.

The Taira were known for their seafaring in establishing naval trade with China. It is interesting that with this history, they are now defeated by the Minamoto on the ocean at Mizushima. Unfortunately, they continue to drastically downplay Minamoto Yoshinaka’s intelligence, emphasizing his crudeness in demanding to be the commander and then burning things down while shaking hairy fists in the air. Sure, those things happened, but there was also a lot of calculation that went into those moves-calculation that is omitted here.

Another casualty of the script was the stirring scene between Yoshinaka and his retainer. His retainer pledged to protect Yoshinaka’s honor to his death, urging him to leave. When Yoshinaka finally leaves, his horse gets stuck in the mud and he is struck by a passing arrow. Skipping the meat of this scene in jumping right to his death totally misses the irony of Yoshinaka getting stuck in the mud and dying. Not to mention that they completely omitted the scene where Tomoe charges with elegant fierceness for one last battle, taking men’s heads with her as she goes. I loved how they described her as an elegant warrior in the novel-it isn’t often I read about female characters who possess both those qualities and so it was terribly disappointing that they missed the mark on that one in the anime.

They finally introduce Minamoto Yoshitsune who I feel is even more of a main character than Yoshinaka, not just the novel, but also in the history books. If you look at many of the books (at least the ones I’ve read), Yoshitsune is mentioned far more than Yoshinaka.

How could they skip past the charge down the Hiyodori Ravine?? Who in their right minds would do that-what on earth were they thinking? This is such a famous battle and highlights the military genius of Yoshitsune in forging a path down such a steep incline, determined to take the victory at all costs. And to only hint at what happened, then move right on to the aftermath. Unbelievable.

I get it, they are more interested in the personal dynamics than in the battles of Heike Monogatari. But if they were interested in personal dynamics, why choose to adapt Heike Monogatari where warfare is the backbone of the story? Why not adapt Genji Monogatari where there are no battles and personal dynamics are the main feature?

Another burning question was why is the only animated fight scene (probably the only animated one in the whole show) the one between Atsumori and his challenger? Atsumori is a legendary figure and the inner conflict of the challenger as he struggles with killing someone reminiscent of his son is heartrending. But of all the battles to animate, this wouldn’t be one of them-there are far more epic ones, like the Hiyodori Ravine, that could have been brought to life.


  1. I think it’s pretty clear that the creative team behind the anime aren’t doing a faithful adaptation of the book, but instead are using the well-known setting as a springboard for a story of their own. Writers do that kind of thing all the time. With King Arthur, for example, they’ve been doing it for centuries. Even what’s considered the ultimate Arthurian legend, Mallory’s “Morte d’Arthur,” is in fact Mallory’s appropriation of the older Celtic stories, as well as the French Lancelot legend and other tales.

    I do feel for you and some other bloggers who obviously love the original and are suffering through what you’ve seen. If it’s any consolation, you all have persuaded me to get my own copy of the book.

    1. @BBOvenGuy

      Would be less severe and less painful if only they not have the audacity to title it ‘Heike Monogatari’ whilst claiming it as direct adaptation of modern 2016 translation of the original material. I mean, Hogen-Heiji-Heike-Genpei-Houjou and finally Genko are part of japanese history rarely adapted or used as background setting for nowadays adaptation. So personally it is something to be celebrated because there is no modern Toshiro Mifune, no modern Akira Kurosawa, no modern Eiji Yoshikawa with budget like HBO’s Game of throne or Romance of Three Kingdom 1994 production quality/effort…. or at least as memorable as BR. Chopra’s Mahabharata.

      So far, watching Heike (Biwa) Monogatari felt like watching Disney Star Wars,… you had hopes at first and then……


      You know, as bad as this anime was… the part about them shirabyoshi trio’s exposed legs are nice. I want it a bit higher at least… because they are cute like the yurucamp girls.

      @Princess Usagi
      Battle of Mizushima were won by Taira led by Taira no Tomomori (and Noritsune) . Not Yoshinaka.. as the episode noted, it was won by using planks board between sekibune tactics that according to description seems to be melee boarding tactics. I personally think that it was a platform built to create stable archery shooting position though, as the battle description started with a volley of arrow shot, followed by flanking and routing Yoshinaka cavalry at the shore from two sides with quick landing from downstream while catching them unprepared and perturbed by the sudden attack.

      I mean, would it be possible for those mountain born Kiso samurai to own lots of sekibune fleet and familiar with naval tactics? Though it is often explained as older mindset of treating ships as nothing more than extension for ground combat… it still leave me unsure. I mean even Turnbull write it like that.

      After turning Yoshinaka (and Noriyori) into off-hand remark, they make Kuro Yoshitsune into a ruthless general… well, i can accept that because he burned civilian house just to corner Heike … but isn’t he a bit lanky and pretty? For someone living in Kurama monastery, being tutored by Tengu and capable of doing Hasso Tobi i expect someone a bit nimble or remarkable… yeah i know he crossdresseduring Benkei’s bridge affair, but that is far before he went Hiraizumi… well at least they show Benkei… no need for sanzoku Issesaburo Yoshimori, Tsugunobu Tadanobu… even if they are known as his caturmaharajjika.

      Bye Atsumori, fifty years in Getter indeed. I seems to remember Kumagai Naozane moment a bit more solemn, but oh well. When V Gundam felt more poignant when the BESPA’s pilot felt more remorse when he realized League Militarie are all filled with childrens and orphan…. it felt more impactful.

      1. I’m not going to respond to all of that, but re: Yoshitsune being “lanky and pretty”… you do realize he’s more or less a fictional character at this point, right? We have no idea what he was like in reality, the Yoshitsune we know even from historical records (such as they are), is more legendary than real. And as such he’s been interpreted and re-interpreted and re-re-re-reinterpreted in millions of ways. There are so many variations of Yoshitsune, if you’re weirded out by this one don’t look up the one in say, Drifters. Or hell, the Yoshitsune taiga drama…

        1. It reminds me a bit of the game of Telephone, where with each new interpretation, the original image gets just a little more distorted. I suppose the same could be said with Heike Monogatari as well. What we get of Yoshitsune is the end product of a long line of re-imaginings.

          Princess Usagi
    2. Yeah, same here. I really don’t know what people expected – it’s not like any adaptation of a story like this MUST be a certain way. The point of this anime is not chronicling the events as they appear in Heike monogatari, it’s about chronicling the downfall of the Taira, presenting it as a somewhat theatrical tragedy. I’m not saying the show is flawless (the whole Biwa aspect doesn’t work for me, for one), but its approach is perfectly valid, and mostly very well-executed.

      People who are raging about this show and the way it approaches the subject must not have seen a lot of taiga drama…

    3. It is true that in Western fiction, as you say, they do it all the time. Even in Western fiction, though I never liked that. I usually tend to be more of a “stick to the source” kind of person when it comes to historical novels. I am glad to hear that @BBOvenGuy, you have bought the book!

      Princess Usagi
  2. @skyhopedango

    …. Minamoto no Kuro Yoshitsune is at least accepted as real. And he had his portrait drawn since Heian era that is collected as Chusonji collection from Hiraizumi, Ousshu (A place where he spent his teenage day until he was called to Kamakura to join his two brother). It is accepted as historical evidence so far. And well, at least the Drifter Yoshitsune seems to do him more justice because he looks like he can do Hasso Tobi with ease. This one? Not even his exploit in Ichinotani were shown aside from his historical ruthlessness.

    Btw, a little bit of advice. Next time you are trying to do some sock-puppeting as different people to support your own opinion, try to use different name before posting comment. I know small mistake, it just it shows more legitimacy when the name is different….


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *