Genre: Action/Adventure, Fantasy, Supernatural
Episodes: 26 eps, comprised of two distinct story arcs.
Notes: Otogizoushi refers to a collection of short stories spanning different genres in Japanese literature; often urban legends or supernatural myths
In the Heian era, disease and famine run rampant through the country and the capital. The Emperor orders Minamoto No Raiko to find and return the legendary magnatamas, yin-yang shaped articles with supernatural powers, in order to which bring peace to the capital. But Raiko is sick from the epidemic so his younger sister Hikaru impersonates him. Accompanying Hikaru on her quest is her faithful servant Watanabe no Tsuna and they are later joined by a few other characters. But there is a power struggles within the government and at the center is a mysterious fortune-teller, Abeno No Seimei.
The character designs are different from typical anime and are drawn in a beautiful realistic, or rather surrealistic, way. The first half is better animated, and with a nice sense of atmosphere, than the second half. But sometimes the characters seem stilted and the fight scenes suffer from too many still shots. Voices are fine, nothing notable. The overall score/opening and ending themes are okay, ranging from traditional Japanese music to contemporary music.
The 26 episodes are divided into two separate stories tenuously linked by the characters and the beliefs of reincarnation and yin-yang, opposing but balancing forces.
The first arc, which occurs during the Heian era starts off interesting enough, but the pacing is slow and despite the magnatama quest and political manipulations plotline, the execution is not terribly exciting. The second arc takes place in modern day Tokyo and focuses on supernatural urban myths where with the help of her brother's friend, Tsuna, Hikaru tries to find her brother who disappeared a year ago. The second set set of episodes is like "Ghost Busters" but it's not scary or amusing, just mildly interesting. The last two episodes go back in time a bit to explore the role of two characters, Mansairaku (the actor and Hikaru's love interest) and Urabe (fortune-teller) in the overall scheme of overlapping time.
The central problem is the characters are just not interesting. The main character Hikaru shows little emotion. Her retainer Watanabe is her stoic defender. Attempts at humor in the first arc with the monstrously strong wild child and the playboy samurai are unnecessary, weak and all too obvious. The character interactions, dialogue and situations are for the most part just plain boring in both arcs.
Rated PG for some blood and slightly scary situations, but kids will probably find this boring anyway. Recommended for those who have a good attention span.