I think the overriding message of Utakoi is, “You know – maybe people just aren’t meant to get together.”
Utakoi took a slightly different tack this week, offering the same series of events from two different perspectives, and fancifully imagining that two poems in the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu referenced that scenario. We’ve often seen the theme of how rigid class structure in the Heian period was an enormous obstacle to personal happiness, especially as it comes to romance, but rarely have we seen it in such bleak and depressing terms. The first part of the story is told through the eyes of Fujiwara (duh) no Michimasa (Kiuchi Hidenobu, who as far as I know holds the distinction of being the only seiyuu to appear in both versions of Hunter X Hunter), as he has a chance encounter with the young princess Masako (Hanazawa Kana) on the evening before she’s to be sent off to be a Miko at the Ise Shrines.
Things would have been hard enough for Michimasa and Masako anyway, as he’s the scion of a once great clan in decline and she the daughter of a former emperor, but the fact that she was a priestess at the holiest shrine in Shinto makes things even more impossible. Though a child at their first meeting, Masako remembers Michimasa’s kindness well – and when he sends her a letter welcoming her home three years later, an illicit romance is born. She wants to elope with the intention of forcing her father to acknowledge their relationship and elevate her lover’s status, but though he loves her, Michimasa refuses on the grounds that it could shatter what was left of his family’s reputation. After her father hears of their tryst and forbids them to meet, Michimasa pens poem #63 in the Ogura:
Ima wa tada
To bakari woHito-zute nara de
Iu yoshi mo gana
Is there any way
Except by a messenger
To send these words to you?If I could, I'd come to you
To say goodbye forever.
Fujiwara no Michimasa
Unlike so many of the poems in the Hyakunin Isshu, the meaning of this one is pretty indisputable – whether the words refer to Masako or not, the situation it depicts seems clear-cut. The second part of the episode recounts the same events from the point of view of Masako, with a focus on her aging father Sanjo (Yara Yuusaku). The tragedy here is that if he could, Sanjo would have loved nothing more than the bless the marriage and make his daughter – the apple of his eye – happy. But he can’t, and hates himself for it – and Masako hates herself for being naïve and putting both the men she loves into an impossible situation. There are no villains in this trio, just an untenable situation that brings unhappiness to all of them. In despair, Sanjo pens Ogura poem #68 upon his retirement to the life of a monk:
Kokoro ni mo
Arade ukiyo ni
Yowa no tsuki kana
Though I do not want
To live on in this floating world,
If I remain here,Let me remember only
This midnight and this moonrise.
Sanjo’s poem is subject to a bit more interpretation, but here it’s conceived as a lament from a man who’s given up on life, wishing to recall a moment he shared with his daughter, staring at the moon (possibly for one of the final times of his life, as his vision was failing). Sadly, both Sanjo and Masako seem to have given up all hope (she contemplates becoming a nun), and one can only assume that Michimasa is similarly bereft. Again, we have a father who wishes he could have given his daughter what she desired and a daughter who holds him blameless for not doing so – yet, this offers little comfort to either. Of all the stories Utakoi has used to illustrate the Hundred Poets, this just might be the saddest.