Otogi Zoshi: the manga

Minamoto no Hikaru may be a girl, but she certainly doesn’t want to act like one. She’d much rather be out swinging her sword around like her beloved big brother Raikou than sitting around demurely waiting for him to come home- and even the best efforts of her father aren’t going to change her way of thinking. But what started out as a bit of childish fun becomes something far more serious when Hikaru becomes embroiled in a plot to take revenge on her brother for the massacre of a village. Can Hikaru really step up to the plate and defend the ailing Raikou now that the stakes have become so much higher?

Although it wasn’t perfect, the Heian arc of Otogi Zoshi was generally enjoyable, but with half the series then dedicated to events in modern day Tokyo, viewers couldn’t be blamed for wanting more of the original and somewhat more appealing setting that drew them into the series in the first place. Fortunately, those wishes have been granted with this manga, which dispenses with the usual task of adapting the anime in order to provide a prequel story instead. 

For everyone who ever wondered about the back story of the Minamoto family, or how Hikaru came to wield a bow and impersonate her dying brother in the first place, this manga is most definitely for you. Not only does it answer some of the questions generated by the anime, but it also presents a unique storyline of its own, introducing some new characters and facets into the Otogi Zoshi world without ever feeling forced or contrived to cover certain areas. In short, as welcome as it is in giving the Otogi Zoshi world more depth and development, it would still be an enjoyable story even if you had never touched the anime.

As to be expected, therefore, character development for the Minamoto family (Hikaru, Raikou and their father) is in ready supply here, with the latter two become much more fleshed out than the anime could ever hope to achieve. With only two volumes, others, such as Tsuna, Seimei and the manga-only characters must make do with a reduced share of the spotlight, although what we see of them paints a group of well-defined personalities who could have easily been delved into more, given the time. In fact, there’s plenty of room for further prequels of this type, not to expand this generally self-contained piece, but to expose more of Raikou’s life in the Otogi Zoshi version of history. 

Visually, the art style is perhaps more appealing than one might expect from the sometimes ugly designs of the anime- character designs remain in keeping with their anime counterparts, but the mangaka has also managed to make them more aesthetically pleasing, with young Hikaru and the new characters looking particularly good.

Final Thoughts
Whether you’re a fan of the Otogi Zoshi anime or just period samurai tales in general, this manga is definitely one to pick up- and at only two volumes in length, it won’t break the bank. As a solid story with a good chunk of character development, it may not be one of the greatest series ever written, but it is still worthy of attention.

Essential Facts

Volumes: 2 (complete)

Creator: Narumi Seto

Licensor: Tokyopop