Final Review: Chouyaku Hyakunin Isshu: Uta Koi

DISCLAIMER: Anime reviews on this blog will attempt minimal to no spoilers unless otherwise noted. If a review seems dull or shallow, it’s because I’m trying to make sure not to go into too detail for those who are actually interested in the show before or after reading the review or those who have yet to finish the title. If you want further details, there are usually tons of reviews that can be found elsewhere on the internet. Furthermore, anime reviews in general are the sole opinion of the author writing it and thus differ across the users. There is no such thing as a “right answer” only a majority agreement. You are free to have your own opinions and thereby free to state and/or argue/debate in the comments section below or on the Fansub TV Forums. The review is not necessarily meant to serve as a recommendation but rather a personal opinion of having completed the series.

Chouyaku Hyakunin Isshu: Uta Koi (or Utakoi for short) is a brief compilation of  the origin of some of the Hyakunin Isshu (or 100 poems) from the Karuta card game. It is based off an ongoing josei manga that began running in August 2010. Utakoi ran during the Summer 2012 anime season and was simulcasted by CrunchyRoll.

Utakoi is the other josei title of the Summer 2012 anime season. Like Natsuyuki Rendezvous, Utakoi is another example of a overhyped title because of it being of the josei genre. Story wise, it tells the origins of the 100 poems of the Karuta card game, but all the “wacky” comedy really ruins the story, especially when you consider the more realistic setting that these were written in. The narrator is also not very interesting and the characters are bland overall. Overall, the story ends up being more of a tale of romantic comedies instead of serious romance, which I’m sure the latter is the more accurate interpretations. In essence, it’s hard to take this show seriously.

Production quality is clearly low for this show. The art is as cheap as it can get today with linear backgrounds and basic character designs as if they were drawn ages ago. I’m not saying that retro works are bad, but one can definitely feel that this show’s purpose was not to make that “retro-like” art style be the highlight of the show unlike say Nazo no Kanojo X from Spring 2012. Animation is also low budget with effectively stick figure like movements. Complex motion is minimal if any at all and scenes are mostly composed of still shots. As for TYO Animations, the studio behind the animation for this show, they have clearly done higher quality work than this, including Legend of Koizumi and the ongoing Ginga e Kickoff! Granted both titles are low budget titles, Utakoi clearly takes the cake for being of even lower quality.

OP/ED are forgettable and not really good to listen to. For a show trying to tell the origins of ancient Japan, at least put some proper music here if you’re going to try something different. Background music is average and sound effects are pretty much cliche and unnoticeable. Seiyuu wise, the show operated with a relatively high quality cast. It’s a shame many were forced to play really silly roles though. I should also note that the emotions in this show are far below average to extent that many reactions and tones feel out of context when done.

Enjoyment? None. The show had an interesting set up but ended with being a huge snooze fest from beginning to end. The ongoing Furusato Saisei Nihon no Mukashi Banashi (Folktales from Japan) ended up being much more interesting to watch and I should also note that you may as well go watch Chihayafuru or Genji Monogatari Sennenki if you want a title related to the 100 poems. The former is an amazing title (though I have yet to finish it) but may not be directly about the 100 poems and more on the Karuta card game instead. Genji is an average title but it’s far more serious and interesting than this junk.

Overall, Uta Koi is an over hyped josei title that really doesn’t deserve much merit. It’s certainly different in this current age given all the titles we have been getting lately, but several years down the line, this show will likely be forgotten and likely be deemed as another piece of junk.

Story and Character:

  • Premise (0.5/1): Tale of 100 poems is always an interesting setup. Tried to be too wacky/comedic and killed the mood of the show.
  • Character Personalities (0/1): Dull and boring.
  • Character Development (1/2): Some development but large and similar cast impedes on proper development.
  • Character Usefulness/Presence (0/2): Some repeated characters but too many similar characters for them to maintain a proper presence. Even if they are “the same character” at times.
  • Pacing: (0/1): They’re all one shots but it doesn’t really give much insight into the 100 poems in 13 episodes time.
  • Reasonable/Plausible (1/2): Based off of poems so sure it can do whatever it wants. In terms of accuracy though to its origin, probably not given that it’s hard to take this show seriously at many points.
  • Conclusion (0/1): Not really a satisfying conclusion if at all one.
  • Total: 2.5/10

Art and Animation:

  • Backgrounds (1/2): Basic as you can get. Looks like it was drawn by an elementary school kid. At least it was consistent though
  • Character Designs (1/2): Retro like feel but clearly not fitting for the type of show.
  • Fluidity (0/2): Not enough dog fights. A lot of simple and basic animation. Pretty consistent nonetheless
  • Visuals/Special Effects/Flashiness (1/2): Certainly colorful but they don’t give off the proper ancient Japan feel.
  • Art and Animation “Expectation” (0/2): TYO can do much better than this.
  • Total: 3/10

Sound and Music:

  • OP/ED/Insert Themes (0/3): Entirely forgettable.
  • Background Music (1/2): Average
  • Sound Effects (0.5/2): Below average and not noteworthy
  • Seiyuu (1.5/3): Solid cast lineup. Emotions need work for this show.
  • Total: 3/10

Enjoyment:

  • Amusement (0/2): None
  • Weekly/Next Episode Anticipation (0/2): None.
  • Presentation (1.5/2): One shots make it easy to pick up and drop. Episodes are presented as if they have little relationship with each other even though the poems themselves may be.
  • Re-watchable (0/1): Zero.
  • Recommendation (0.5/2): Some people may like it because of its uniqueness. Genji Monogatari Sennenki and Chihayafuru are better. This is not a recommendation if you’re looking for josei though.
  • Value (0/1): Long term, definitely none.
  • Total: 2/10

Preliminary Score: 5/10

Final Score: 3/10

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