If we count the laurels, Heike’s story is the biggest release of this season. A team of stars of the best in the anime industry united under one studio and one award-winning director, you’ll be hard pressed to find more talent than that working under the banner of one project.
Spearheading everything is Naoko Yamada, the critically acclaimed director of K-On, A silent voice, Liz and the blue bird, and more. Heike’s story is her first production at a studio other than Kyoto Animation, where she has spent the past decade developing her signature use of the language of flowers, expressive feet, and intimate examinations of femininity in stories that have often found queer audiences at United States
After leaving Kyoto Animation, she has now partnered with internationally renowned Science SARU studio of Eunyoung Choi and Masaaki Yuasa. But Yuasa, who made acclaimed titles like Japan Sink: 2020, Devilman crybaby, Surf your wave, and Hands off Eizouken in Saru is not involved in Heike. Rather, Yamada brought in former collaborators to work with Saru’s lesser-known names on one of fall’s cutest anime.
Prolific screenwriter and longtime Yamada collaborator Reiko Yoshida returns, unsurprisingly. She wrote all of the director’s filmography and recently won awards for her work on Violet Evergarden. Kensuke Ushio, who scored A silent voice and Liz and the blue bird, also followed Yamada. “Rather than a story of major historical events, this story is one of, to borrow the director’s words, ‘the lives of real people’,” Ushio said in a comment to Funimation, “This is each of their stories. It is the story of everyone’s joy, anger, sorrow and laughter. I hope the music encompasses and complements all of this.
The Heike Story features character design from mangaka Fumiko Takano, while Saru’s Takashi Kokima (Surf your wave) adapts them for animation. Bring Them To Life is a star voice cast featuring Aoi Yūki (My hero university, Force of fire, etc.) and Takahiro Sakurai (Ring! Euphonium, Fire force, etc.).
Heike’s story is an adaptation of Hideo Furukawa’s 2016 translation of The tale of the Heike. A 14th-century epic exploring a 12th-century civil war. Heike’s story follows Biwa, a far-sighted young orphan. She is taken in by the leader of one of the factions of the war, Taira no Shigemori of the Taira clan. Visually, the show will remind many of Isao Takahata’s 2013 The tale of Princess Kaguya, using a similar artistic style reminiscent of period art.
Similar to Kaguya, Heike’s story delights in the comedy of manners presented by royal etiquette. But while both works engage in examining the restrictive gender roles of their respective eras, Yamada’s presentation has so far been more successful than Takahata’s sometimes overt portrayals of femininity.
Heike’s story is streaming on Funimation.