Hyouge mono - tea and aesthethcis
Studio Bee Train is rather infamous for having particularly lacking production on their shows. While I am unable to confirm or deny this as I haven't watched any of the studio's other shows, if this claim is to be belived, then I can say that Hyouge Mono is an outlier to the greatest degree. For I would be lying if I were to say that this work is lacking, for Hyouge Mono is really, really good. Based on a manga of the same name by Yoshihiro Yamada, Hyouge Mono is a thirty-nine episode long TV anime which aired in 2011 and was directed by Kouichi Mashimo, whose other directorial work conists almost purely of other Bee Train shows. He did, however, also direct Musekinin Kanchou Tylor, which I have heard a lot of praise for, as well as some other positions on various Tatsunoko Pro shows. The plot of Hyouge Mono revolves around a man named Furuta Sasuke, who is subservient under the great war lord Oda Nobunaga. Furuta is an aesthete, and is highly knowledgable about tea ceremonies in particular. His endevaours vary greatly, but he often does negotiating between Nobunaga and his adversaries, and he finds himself everywere from banquets to expansive battlefields.
One of my favourite things about Hyouge Mono is the way it applies it soundtrack to various scenes, because the tracks always fit. It also knows when not to have musisc at all, such as at 11:23 of episode 1, where there is no music or sound effects increase the suspension, along with a panning shot of the two. Even when one of the two characters begin to talk and breaks the silence, there is no music to emphahise the seriousness of the situation. It does this because we aren’t used to there being no music, and through this, makes the scene all the more suspenful. During 20:50 of episode 2, when calm music plays as the main character pours water over his hands and ponders various thoughts. Or in 11:11 of episode 13, when rather lighthearted and rambunctious music plays as Furuta drinks lots of tea in one sip, his facial expression is also rather exaggerated during this scene. This extends further than just music. For example, during the beginning of episode 1 the main character talks slowly, this is to epmhahise that he is in the presence of important people who it is important he is respectful towards. Not only does this establish the main characters position in the surrounding hierarchy, it also shows us how powerful the other men in the room are. The music is also very relaxed while he talks, later on in the episode it is more intense and suspenseful when it needs to be, such as during a castle siege.
Considering the time period, it makes sense that the dialouge is very formal and sometimes over the top and excessive, which i like. Lines such as “The Sixth Demon Lord is too merciful, once more allowing amnesty for my rebellious ways.” ep1 - 10-39 // or “I desire only articles of grandeur.” from ep 1 - 19:59. The quality of the storyboarding varies a lot, but it looks good most of the time, and often manages to have a lot in just one frame. It's good that this is one of its strengths, because the show istelf looks a bit too clean. Drab woudn't be correct, as it does have a good sense of variety in its use of colours, but it doesn't have enough of a rustic feel to it that a show from this time period should have.
The series pace does slow down a bit during the mid section, however it manages to pick back up into the later parts again. The show isn't always engaging, per se, and sometimes it feels a bit too much as if I am simply observing a simple action, rather than actually watching a show. That's definitely something I feel could have been improved upon, although that may go against a lot of what the show is trying to convey. It is mundane and minimalistic thematically, and including such subjects in the way one experiences the show itself... I'm struggling to write out my thoughts on this clearly. Before I conclude this, I want to touch a little upon the voice acting. Sasuke's seiyuu, Kouji Ohkura has only done one other role in an anime, that being a character from FLCL I must admit I don't remember. Despite his lacking track record in terms of voice work, the performance is stellar and he really makes the character single-handedly. Especially since the show is so dialouge heavy.
In conclusion, Hyouge Mono is a very weird work. Its mundane subject matter plays directly into the viewing experience at times, for better or for worse. The show attempts to evoke emotions that remind one of times long lost, when life was simple and extravagance rare. Does it succeed in doing that? Not really. The visuals feel all too modern and clean and therefore contrast poorly with the subject matter, so while it does fail in its execution in some aspects, the premise and simply experiencing such an unusual thing was more than enough to keep me hooked. 7/10.