Otogi Zoshi vol 3 - Legend of the Magatama

UK Distributor:  Manga Entertainment

BBFC Certificate:  15

Suggested Retail Price (SRP):  £17.99

Episodes:  1-5 (of 26)

Audio Options:  English & Japanese DTS, 5.1 & 2.0

Subtitles:  English

Reviewer:  Rich (Webmaster)


If you want a shedload of really cool action with a side-order of honour and drama then a samurai is your man, or – in the case of Otogi Zoshi – woman.

Set in the Heian Era, a time renowned for its artistic achievements and the rise of the samurai class, Otogi Zoshi seems to have picked a more sedate setting than usual, however, things are not all poetry and painting.  Plotting in the Imperial Court coupled with growing disease and famine is causing turmoil, and in a last ditch attempt to restore peace and enlightenment the samurai Minamoto no Raiko and his retainer Watanabe no Tsuna are dispatched to recover the legendary Magatama – an ancient artefact which is believed to have the power to restore order.  However, not everything goes to plan, Minamoto is struck down with illness and his younger sister Hikaru – posing as his younger brother – takes up the mission in his stead.  It’s not going to be easy either, to get to the Magatama our cross-dressing heroine will have battle through the vicious bandit group who originally stole it and defeat their giant leader, before even attempting the perilous journey home.  Tension and political manoeuvring are rife in the capital following a mysterious illness which has also struck down the Emperor so the need for the Magatama is stronger than ever, but have things reached a point where even the legendary artefact could fail to bring much needed peace?

Samurai seem to be the big thing in anime at the moment, with high quality samurai actioners like Samurai 7, Samurai Champloo and Peacemaker leading the way.  Now Manga Entertainment have got in on the act, but their series is a very different animal.  Most recent samurai series have tried to update the medium, whether using a sci-fi setting or even throwing in pop-culture references and modern styles and values.  Otogi Zoshi doesn’t do this.  Instead the series is exacting with its period detail, avoiding modern elements to give itself the feel of a classical samurai drama.

Don't make fun of the hat...

If this makes you think it would be stuffy and ponderous, stop, because its old-fashioned style, somewhat ironically, is a breath of fresh air.

Otogi Zoshi vol 1 contains five episodes of pure, serious, action and drama.  No pointless comedy sidekicks, no demons, no magical powers… it’s surprisingly refreshing to watch an anime devoid of these things and what made it even more enjoyable was the fact that it is also very good.  The story is fast paced and exciting, the music – combining traditional Japanese music with rock – is superb, but the most striking thing is the art and animation.  Animators Production I.G. have done a great job of recreating not only the look but the feel of feudal Japan, the attention to detail is amazing and they have subtly incorporated Heian art and painting styles into the backgrounds.  It gives it a completely different look to most modern anime, and makes it feel far more authentic than its peers.


In many ways it is surprising that the story is original as it feels like a retelling of a legend or a historical tale, a pure hearted hero trying to bring peace whilst ministers in their finery scheme and plot, concealing their intentions behind half-opened fans.  It is classic stuff, in fact it is only during the actions scenes that the realism slips, anime directors know that fans want to see samurai chopping up inhuman-looking ninja bandits so that’s what they provide.  They seem to have got the balance right though, and the action and intrigue compliment each other well rather than clash.

Otogi Zoshi vol 1
is exacting in its period detail and conveys a really epic, historical feel because of it.  There’s tonnes of action and plenty of cloak and dagger plots and counterplots to sink your teeth into, all wrapped up in beautifully realised visuals and supported by great music.  I do think that the lack of realism in some of the fights detract from it slightly, especially considering how far the creators have gone to ensure authenticity elsewhere, but it still works very well.  If you are a fan of samurai drama then you’ll love this, it’s brilliantly done and highly entertaining, with good characters and a gripping story.  Manga have excelled themselves once again.


As with pretty much every major Manga release there is a veritable feast of extras available.  As well as the usual trailers, Manga promo videos and clean opening/ending sequences, we are also treated to a two part group discussion from several members of the creative team, including the director and character designers.  On top of this there is also an intriguing, if a little dry, discussion on the Heian period by Doctor Kazuto Hongo, a respected historian who acted as the historical consultant for the series.  It's great to see extras like these, as the UK is often deprived of such insights into the creative processes and historical aspects of anime series, so well done to Manga!


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