At the end of the Heian period, the Taira clan prospered and became one of the strongest clans in the region. Yet, one of the family patriarchs, Taira no Shigemori, is still worried about their future. That is when he met Biwa, a girl whose father was killed by the clan’s warriors. Feeling guilty, Shigemori invited Biwa to live at his family residence. This is the tale of a clan also known as the “Heike”, whose downfall would start a new era in Japanese history.


For some people, Naoko Yamada’s name is almost synonymous with Kyoto Animation. After all, Yamada’s ability to capture the beauty within the narrative space is a perfect match for Kyoto Animation’s ability to create beautiful moving pictures. But now we find ourselves in a time where she has left the studio she was most associated with, directing an anime inspired by the classic Japanese tale about the fall of the Taira clan, in a place with its own distinct animation style.

Fortunately, while Science Saru’s animation visual style is very different compared to Kyoto Animation, Yamada’s visual prose is still noticeable. This is most apparent in the first episode, where Yamada is credited as episode director and storyboarder. The episode is opened by a picture of flowers, a motif that is apparent in Yamada’s work, and sequences of pictures that capture the everyday life of people who lived during the Heian era. Just like Yamada’s other work, she invokes empathy by capturing the details that are often overlooked in our daily life. The animation style may be different, but it is full of Yamada’s personal touch.

But this is not the story of Yamada; this is the story of the Taira clan. Historical context may be needed here because the epic of The Tale of Heike (“Heike” is the other name of Taira clan) is inspired by a real historical event that happened at the end of 12th century Japan. Yet, the main character, Biwa, is an original character created for the anime. Her inclusion in the story makes it more interesting, as she lost her father because of Taira clan but she also saved by that same clan. Moreover, she represents the normal people who lived in the era, whose lives were greatly affected by the actions of Taira clan.

We all know from Tamako Love Story, Liz and the Bluebird, and A Silent Voice that Yamada has the ability to create a very personal story. In this case, Science Saru’s rendition of The Heike Story could be another perfect slate for Yamada to show her skill. It’s a story of a little girl who befriends the same people responsible for her father’s death. Historically, the Taira clan would receive karmic downfall at the end. The question is: what would be Biwa’s role in the story? Would she be  a passive bystander, or would she play an active role in the upcoming war? Would Biwa survive and live to tell the tale?

Facts and Figures

Alternate title(s) Heike Monogatari
Source material Hideo Furukawa’s modern translation of Heike Monogatari epic
Cast Aoi Yūki as Biwa
Kikuko Inoue as Taira no Tokiko
Miyu Irino as Taira no Koremori
Natsuki Hanae as Taira no Kiyotsune
Nobuhiko Okamoto as Taira no Sugemori
Saori Hayami as Taira no Tokuko
Shigeru Chiba as Emperor Go-Shirakawa
Takahiro Sakurai as Taira no Shigemori
Tesshō Genda as Taira no Kiyomori
Director Naoko Yamada (A Silent Voice, K-On!, Liz and the Bluebird)
Scenario Reiko Yoshida (A Silent Voice, Shirobako, K-On!)
Character design Takashi Kojima
Opening theme “Hikaru Toki” by Hitsuji Bungaku
Ending theme “unified perspective” by agraph feat. ANI
Studio Science Saru
Official website
Twitter @heike_anime
Broadcast date 15 September 2021 (1500 GMT/ 2200 WIT), 16 September 2021 (0000 JST)

Screenshots and Trailer

© “The Heike Story” Production Committee
© “The Heike Story” Production Committee
© “The Heike Story” Production Committee
© “The Heike Story” Production Committee

The Indonesian Anime Times

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