「壇ノ浦」 (Dan-no-ura)

The power play continues. So long as the Taira have the 3 imperial treasures (a sword, a jewel, and a mirror), they hold onto some legitimacy over the throne. By demanding the return of those treasures, Retired Emperor Go-Shirakawa is seeking to strip them of the last remaining threads tying them to the throne, especially now that the Taira are on the run with Emperor Antoku.

I loved how they used the beautiful sunset colors, especially in the one scene with Koremori. It beautifully symbolized the hastening sunset of the Taira’s fortunes. Another poignant bit of symbolism they incorporated was the peony, which they frequently showed in the scenery shots and in conversation referencing Shigehira. In Japan, the peony represents good luck, courage, and conscientiousness-making it an apt symbol for the righteous, bold Shigehira. Shigehira’s conscientiousness shows through in acknowledging his and the Taira’s sins and accepting the karmic retribution for it, rather than trying to run away from it. The image of the light fading on the Taira’s fortunes was further accentuated by the scene of Koremori’s suicide occurring with the dimming twilight in the background.

Retired Emperor Go-Shirakawa is in his glory with the pesky Taira on the run. It is interesting how they incorporated symbolism in the background of Go-Shirakawa’s scenes with a gorgeous pheasant featured prominently on the walls. In Japanese mythology, the pheasant served as a messenger to the sun goddess Amaterasu, from whom the Japanese emperors are said to have descended from. As such, the pheasant in the background is a nice touch, emphasizing the link between Go-Shirakawa and by extent, the Fujiwara, with the imperial line.

Assailed on every side, the Taira are still not ready to give up. Desperation is starting to sink in, with Sukemori deigning to plead with Tokuko to intercede on his behalf with Go-Shirakawa to leave the Taira alone. This scene was not in the book but nonetheless, it conveys the escalating desperation the Taira are feeling as their fate comes closing in on them. Koremori sinking into utter despair showed a more intimate, personal side that the great, battle epic focused novel does not get into. However, by focusing so heavily on the mounting despair that Koremori and other of the Taira experience as the end draws near, it feels as if that is eclipsing the stalwart bravery and utter fierceness that I sensed from the characters in the novel. Skimming past or entirely skipping out major battle scenes also doesn’t help matters.

While I’m sure in real life, these historical figures must have experienced inner turmoil when they saw defeat looming, I do prefer the boldness with which they are portrayed in the novel. It made them feel larger than life, legendary. As opposed to the puddle of tears and regrets that the anime reduces them to. The problem is not that they show the characters’ weaknesses-I do like that they try to represent a more human side to them (and the novel does touch on this a bit, towards the end). The problem is that the anime doesn’t balance out the weaknesses with their legendary strengths-leaving them flattened into flimsy one dimensional shapes.


  1. That shell matching game Go Shirakawa and Go Toba played , isn’t that for girls only?? Wtf, lol.

    So the scene Sukemori begging Tokuko to write damn letter was made up? No wonder it felt odd and out of place. Because he died valiantly in the end.

    Poor Koremori. His whole life can be summed up as a tragedy. First his pop neglect his education, and his mom raised him like a girl turning him into a sissy (i wonder if he also gay because that odd samurai paige tradition) . His military career was strings of comedic disaster and mockery of total joke (even though he do fight in Fuji) enough to drive him into suicide, branded coward for fleeing because he missed his family, now… he was forced to listen to monk silly love story about yokobue (that i doubt anyone care) while in despair. He is truly the antithese of his much more brilliant cousin Noritsune.

    By this point, Yoshitsune is already a married man when he met Shizuka Gozen. And well, i wouldn’t say she is a lucky girl when you know her story later.

    It is always made me confused, why do Yoritomo ordered Noriyori for Kojima instead of Yoshitsune? At this point do he already lost faith to him or insecure because of Yoshinaka’s ambition? Or did he sees Kuro Yoshitsune’s promotion as Keibi-hei as Go Shirakawa attempt to sow discord again that he lose his faith on his brother? Or was he ever trust both Yoshitsune and Noriyori’s sincerity or at least loyalty to him? When he led the troops to Yashima and Dannoura, Yoritomo didn’t give him absolute authority but instead left Kajiwara Kagetoki for overall military overseer (counselor).

    Yashima was very heroic. Too bad we weren’t shown the details like the argument prior the start of battle where Kajiwara Kagetoki suggested putting reversal oar to help withdrawal, while Yoshitsune sees it as act of cowardice (well, i mean we had Xiang Yu in the past who break every means of escape to forcefully raised the soldier’s morale to zenith and force them to fight beyond desperation). And then, the sailing beneath the storm, Noritsune’s deadly assault on Yoshitsune’s troop.

    I wonder in final episode, the director and producer really get what Heike Monogatari is all about, a story of where everyone seems lust for power but in the end no one really won it.
    Where Taira lost with only Kenreimon left to mourn its fate through her rest of life, Genji won a phyrric victory that left them with nothing.
    Go Shirakawa attempt for political scheme was reduced into ceremonial and formality position that left him with no real power nor authority.
    Fujiwara Yasuhira’s backstabbing was repaid with the same betrayal he inflicted (not like we will get Koromo anyway)
    The monk and monastery remains a convenient tool for future political/power struggle.
    And the Houjo? Do they really won? I’m not sure if they really won. Tokimasa were ousted by his daughter the nun shogun and the nun shogun herself were forced to kill all her sons to keep her rule and authority.

    Not even Illiad and Odyssey end this bad after Trojan War. At least Menelaus forgave his cheating wife after getting netorared…. or not.

    Btw, holly sheeett ! I do remember now how awkward would it be if the final scene is Kenreimon seeing the aging Go Shirakawa who asked for consultation for making peace with their life. In past episodes we see scene of Tokuko being offered a chance for grampaxgranddaughter or being hole brother with her father in law…. wtf producer and director!?!? This is not K-On! Why you make that awkward scene before!? I mean can anyone imagine that !? Lol remember when i insinuate for you to have fun with me your father in law who is also your granddaddy tokuko chan??? What did they smoke, really??

  2. I feel sorry to Biwa, she has to watch all of this unfold on the Heike who took her in and treated her with respect. Biwa’s role seems like that of Homer who wrote the Odyssey. Keeping the Heike alive by poems.


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