The Tale of Genji Anime Review
Murasaki Shikibu - Genji Monogatari
US Release By
What's In It
- Classic Literature
- Court Life
- Reserved Romance
- Violence: 1 (mild)
- Nudity: 2 (moderate)
- Sex: 2 (moderate)
- Language: 1 (mild)
Based on the classic Heian Period novel by Murasaki Shikibu, the story follows Genji as he seeks out love and beauty in a string of relationships.
Based on the first novel ever written, Murasaki Shikibu's history of Genji, famous lover of the Edo period, The Tale of Genji is a beautiful and fascinating film. The book is very long, so the movie obviously only touches on it, but it richly captures the feel and faithfully retells interesting bits of Genji's long and lurid history.
That said, while Genji has many lovers and even an encounter with the supernatural, the film is notably quiet and evenly-paced--less exciting than the material might otherwise be, but the reserved style is perfect for the authentic feel. On that note, remember that this Tale is an Heian-era court drama, not a samurai story--there isn't a sword fight to be found. Despite the lack of action, the visual style is both the finishing touch on the authentic feel and the thing that makes the film a unique piece of anime. It is essentially a moving version of classic Japanese art of that period; the character designs have the refined but exaggerated proportions of classic art, and the settings (though a bit more filled out than most paintings) are appropriately sparse, elegant, and period accurate.
Unique among anime, The Tale of Genji is far too slow for fans of bloody, sword-swinging historical dramas, but the story is interesting, unusual, and somewhat educational, and the visual style is striking and beautiful.
Notes and Trivia
This anime is based on the early parts of the epic tale of the same name by Murasaki Shikibu, written around a thousand years ago and generally credited as being the first novel ever written.
Formerly available in North America from Central Park Media on subtitled VHS, now long out of print. You can still find copies on Amazon and eBay occasionally, but at last check they're liable to cost you a small fortune: Tale of Genji (Sub) [VHS].