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It’s time to look at another “Please buy the manga!” OVA set. This go around, the anime in question is Izumo, an adventure that takes place in ancient Japan with a blend of the historical and the mythological. The show introduces some reasonably enjoyable characters and a fun story that feels like it could be going places. Unfortunately, as interesting as this all is, it just slams on the breaks with a cliffhanger ending that never got resolved. This leaves viewers, especially in the West, with very few options as to how everything plays out. Doing so would require tracking down the manga on eBay, which is hard to find (not to mention expensive), as well as becoming proficient in reading Japanese in order to know what’s going on. So, good luck with that.

The show is about a young prince named Izumo from the kingdom of Nakatsukuni. He’s not at all interested in his princely duties and would much rather be out and about watching the airships arrive at port and generally having a good time. One day, a young girl named Sanae arrives on one of these ships. Normally, one in such a position would be arrested, but she managed to warn Izumo’s uncle of an assassination attempt, so she was invited into Izumo’s home as a guest. Over time, viewers learn that the political situation in the region is not exactly stable. A neighboring region is eager to take over Nakatsukuni and they have the backing of a powerful foreign empire from beyond the ocean. From there a tale of intrigue arises as Izumo and his kingdom must defend against invaders. Making things even more complicated is that Sanae is one of the few remaining members of the Naga tribe, a once extremely powerful group with unmatched magical skill. She doesn’t know this, but the leaders of the empire helping with the invasion of Nakatsukuni do, and they want to capture her.

Overall, it’s an enjoyable story. The characters are pretty typical for an adventure story emerging from the 1990s. Izumo and Sanae are likeable enough, although they are prone to the occasional bout of youthful recklessness. There are some fun battles and fight scenes in the show, and all of the hinting at Sanae’s origins is interesting. However, as mentioned earlier, this all abruptly comes to a halt with the second OVA, which ends with Sanae being whisked away on an airship by the foreign empire that wants her magic. It’s extremely disappointing seeing as this destroys any sense of closure the show could have had. One other thing that hurts the OVAs a bit is that they both have lengthy sections with singing while showing a montage of scenes. It comes off as something between meaningless filler and an attempt to sell CDs for whoever the lady doing the song is. Sure, anime has often been a vehicle for selling products in other mediums, but these scenes felt forced.

A lot of the character designs are very typical of the time the show came out. However, some of the costumes are interesting as they reflect an era in Japan’s distant past which one does not often see. This is also the case with regard to the environments. Architecture is noticeably different with lots of straw thatched roofs, and wooden structures that look very different. It’s nice to see an anime that is historical but manages to avoid both the Meiji and Edo eras. Izumo takes place in approximately the third century, and visually this really stands out. Also of note is how vibrant the colors are here. Both scenes and characters really pop out at the view, bringing a very nice sense of vibrancy with them.

While it is disappointing that Izumo ends the way it does, the show provides a window to an interesting world with enjoyable characters. It’s not often that anime or manga touch on the Yayoi period in Japanese history, so the OVAs provide a whimsical glimpse into it. So, go ahead and give the show a try if what described sounds intriguing. It’s fun while it lasts. Just be prepared for the story to slam into a wall at the end.

- IroIro
May 23, 2019
Directed by: Eiichi Yamamoto
Studio: Studio Hibari / Grouper Productions
Released: 1991
Episodes: 2

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