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[Taisho Otome Fairy Tale]
AKA: 大正処女御伽話 ; Taishou Otome Otogibanashi
Genre: Romance
Length: Television series, 12 episodes, 24 minutes each
Distributor: Currently available streaming on crunchyroll.
Content Rating: TV-14 (suggestive dialogue)
Related Series: N/A
Also Recommended: In This Corner of the World
Notes: Based on manga by Sana Kirioka, published by Shueisha

Taisho Otome Fairy Tale


Tamahiko Shima has been disowned from his wealthy family, apparently largely because he lost the use of his right hand in the auto accident that killed his mother. His father nevertheless grudgingly provides him with a bride, one Yuzuki Tachibana. Yuzuki's innocent exuberance ends up improving all those she spends time with, especially Tamahiko.


Sentimental drivel and cloying claptrap (try saying the latter fast ten times), and, honestly, lazy storytelling; even the TITLE is generic as they come. Those were my general impressions; but let's dig into the details:

First, Tamahiko himself is a study in extreme self-pity: "I'm a pessimist" is his mantra, which he has to keep repeating, over and over, even when Yuzuki enters his life. Now, it's true that even the locals shun him because of his family (he's occupying one of his family's country homes), and the show portrays his father Tamayoshi (and, indeed, all his siblings, with the later exception of one) as haughty and devoid of human compassion; but Dad nevertheless "bought" a wife for our hero. Since she's slightly underage, even by the standards of the time (I'll come back to this), she's more a full-time housekeeper than anything else, but Dad apparently spent the extra money to get a literate female. (Yuzuki was essentially sold to pay a family debt, once again bringing up the twin negatives in Japanese culture of inherited debt (which is still a "thing" there) and women-as-property (which, we hope, is NOT so much a thing anymore.) Also, Dad seems to be paying something to Tamahiko in addition to letting him occupy the house, since he can buy groceries. (Perhaps he's basically "employing" him as a caretaker.) I guess the show feels the need to counterbalance these positives with some more cruelty from his father, so that it wouldn't occur to us that in SOME ways, Father isn't COMPLETELY awful. Therefore, more disrespect must be laden onto Tamahiko by Dad later. (EVERYONE disses our hero, come to think of it- a doctor and nurse do later, and, as I said, for reasons unstated the townies don't like him either.) And yet, while Tamahiko has plenty of legitimate grievances, his incessant whining self-pity just grates after a while.

Yuzuki,of course, is another example of the "manic pixie dreamgirl" sort, always cheerful, upbeat- AND, of course, self-sacrificing. Besides our hero himself, she gets to improve, through her seemingly boundless energy and compassion, the personalities of some other characters as well. The marriage age for the time (1920s) is stated to be 15, so despite Yuzuki's description of herself as "a fine, upstanding adult woman of 14", not much will happen in the romance department. (Note: I didn't say "not anything"; I said "not much".)

The first on Yuzuki's improvement list is Tamako, Tamahiko's younger sister, who comes complete with the Shima disdain for all her "inferiors" (though she's a "generous" tipper- wait until you see what inflation's done to Japan in a century!) She reserves special scorn for Tamahiko; but she, like everyone else who spends time with Yuzuki, succumbs to the charm of our "drafted" bride (though she sort of remains tsundere to her Big Bro.)

And then there's Ryo Atsumi, who's a thief. An early encounter with her lands Tamahiko in trouble with Yuzuki, partly because Tamahiko fails to be completely honest with Yuzuki at first, but mostly because Ryo, like everyone else (except Yuzuki) delights in causing Tamahiko gratuitous grief, despite his doing a tremendous favor for her. (She's also rather slow to apologize for all this, too.) We're supposed to view her as a victim of circumstance (familial abuse), but the show later seems to forget that she's living in an abusive household. (Maybe she moved out? Or, more likely, the show itself got bored with this particular attempt to pull our heartstrings, since there were other avenues for audience emotional manipulation that needed their time on stage.)

And let's not forget Kotori Shiratori. She's an itinerant singer with a massive following. (I guess idol stars really DO go way back in Japan.) In possibly the silliest subplot here, Kotori wants to hang out with Tamahiko and Yuzuki, because their "love" would be an inspiration to her songwriting. (I have to be irreverent here: my own observation is that romantic breakups seem to be more of an inspiration to contemporary female singer/songwriters; Taylor Swift once said that breakups of her own relationships were often her inspiration, and as for Alanis Morrisette's "You Oughta Know", nothing more needs saying. Perhaps Kotori should try breaking up Tamahiko and Yuzuki; after all, it seems to be a popular pastime with just about everyone else anyway.) Kotori has a brother, Hakaru, that she's semi-estranged from, to give us another source of low-key melodrama. When Tamahiko goes back to school, Hakaru does help him with his socialization, but I thought Hakaru as a person was mildly obnoxious. Kotori's songs are simple, pleasant, and that's about it.

The character art here is also not exactly impressive; whatever love Tamahiko and Yuzuki are supposed to share, the artists obviously weren't feeling it. (Yuzuki actually looks about 10 years old rather than 14.)

I got hit with a feeling of deja vu; specifically with another rendition of the tune that we know in the West as "What A Friend We Have In Jesus", but its Japanese version is a song about the stars. I first encountered this in Planetarian, and here it's used in the episode openers, where a narrator explains what "otome" means. (An "untouched" (as in, "unfertilized") flower, apparently; a "maiden who does not dare to dream of a kiss." Not to worry, she does at least get to the point of dreaming about it. Maybe even more.) And after I do my PhD thesis on umbrellas on Japanese culture, I really do need to write a scholarly tome on the Japanese obsession with flowers and their symbolic meanings.)

Oh, just one last thing (as Lt. Colombo used to say): Using a particular era for your setting opens up the possibility of using specific events from that era in the story. TOFT does too, though it's in the same crassly emotionally manipulative manner as it does everything else. But the details of the tragedy that strikes near the end are fascinating because they are handled fairly realistically, though this is something that the Japanese are quite familiar with.

The Rec is from a slightly later time period (WWII era), but it handles some of the same issues with much greater maturity and depth.

OK: while this might be trite and mawkish (I spent a lot of time with a thesaurus on THIS one), it's basically intended as a lowest-common-denominator, crowd-pleasing tearjerker. I'm as sentimental as anybody (yes, I really AM), but I prefer a bit more depth, and thought, in my entertainment than this one provided. If you LIKE schmaltz (and there's nothing wrong with that, I guess), then feel free to give this one more star, or even two more, than I did. If you want to give it THREE more than I did, I'll wonder about you, though.Allen Moody

Recommended Audience: Crunchy says TV-14, for "profanity, suggestive dialogue". Does the "suggestive dialogue" refer to when Yuzuki talks about SOMEDAY having children with Tamahiko? Someone here does lose bladder control, though. Let's say Mature Situations and be done with it.

Version(s) Viewed: Crunchyroll video stream
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Taisho Otome Fairy Tale © 2024 Sana Kirioka/Shueisha
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