I finally finished Phoenix today after starting it approximately one year ago. This isn’t due to any fault of the show but due to my poor watching habits – I’ll start watching something and then either forget about it or not want to finish it because I like it and if I watch it it’ll be over. I still have about five episodes left of Utena which I started two years ago, and two episodes left of Lucky Star which I began three years ago. And in that interval I watched the first ten episodes of Lucky Star at least three times… But fortunately I remembered Hi no Tori yesterday and it hasn’t suffered the same fate. One of the advantages of having nothing new to watch on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Hi no Tori is a collection of short stories, each one to four episodes long, which involve the titular Phoenix to some degree. It’s based on the manga which is widely considered to be Osamu Tezuka’s masterwork, which unfortunately I haven’t read. Initially all the stories seem completely disparate, but the way the creators bring the stories together in the end really stands out. I’m generally wary of shows which depend on separate plot arcs (especially episodic shows), but Hi no Tori did an excellent job at telling the shorter stories in the span of a few episodes without feeling rushed at all. In the last two arc, they managed to compress several billion years into two episodes and make it feel like a really long time, so the creators were definitely doing something right on this front. Making the best use of the time a show has is really a challenge which so many shows screw up on, but Hi no Tori manages to do just right. In just thirteen episodes it manages to have a larger, more developed cast than most two-season shows with at least double the plot content.
The other character that all the stories have in common besides the Phoenix is Saruta, who plays a different role every time. He’s never the main character of the arc but always a side character. I thought this was kind of strange, until at the end all the pieces came together and it became clear why this was so. Many of the characters are cursed with immortality and long lives. Saruta never is, but he lives as long as any of them in a sense. And the true driving force of the narrative in each arc is not the main character of that arc; it is the Phoenix throughout the entire story.
- Plot / Script – 10 / 10 – Very compelling stories in all of the arcs.
- Characters – 9 / 10 – Suffered a bit from their short shelf life.
- Production – 9 / 10 – Pleasant visuals, although I’ve noticed that none of the hands are very lifelike…
- Overall – A-
Recommendations – sola, Simoun (can’t say I’ve seen anything quite like Hi no Tori)