SAKON (Doll Puppeteer Sakon)
in April, 2001 by Mark Vallen, Jeannine Thorpe, and John Lentini
Screen shots generously provided by John Lentini.
by Jeannine Thorpe) I knew
nothing about this series when I first saw it, so I was most
pleasantly surprised. I was expecting another Rurouni Kenshin,
judging by the costumes and character design. Instead, I was
presented with a wonderful mystery series so rich in Japanese
cultural traditions, that I was left breathless with almost
every frame! The main character, Sakon, is one of a long line
of bunraku performers, a kind of traditional Japanese
theatre using large, perfectly detailed puppets. But unlike
most bunraku puppeteers, Sakon also spends his free
time as an amateur sleuth, with his outspoken red-haired puppet,
Ukon, always at his side! In the first arc of the series,
Sakon is called out to an abandoned schoolhouse after former
members of the puppeteering club are all threatened that they
must return together to the school, or else!
the mysteries that are crucial to the stories are certainly
riveting, what truly captures my attention about this show
is the concept itself of having a bunraku puppet as a lead
character. Ukon is so animated and has so much personality,
that it is often nearly impossible to believe that he is not
really sentient. While Sakon is always quiet and reserved,
Ukon is the exact opposite, filling the room with his presence.
To be perfectly honest, I really wasn't 100% sure that Ukon
was a puppet until I noticed his jointed fingers! I
have been told that their names traditionally refer to right
(Ukon) and left (Sakon), such as in political parties or in
art (right or left side of a canvas). This further illustrates
the point that Sakon and Ukon are two sides of one personality.
This is truly an unusual series, one that cannot be seperated
from its traditional Japanese roots. The entire series has
a dark and meloncholy feel, a combination of the violent mysteries
that Sakon has to solve, and the rich Japanese imagery itself.
The screenshot above of Ukon at rest while snow melts down
the windowpane, is a perfect example of this.
by Mark Vallen) When
I think of Japanese animation what comes to mind first are
the attributes that make it different from animation in the
United States, and Doll Puppeteer Sakon offers plenty
of those differences. As Jeannine noted in her review, Sakon
is full of Japanese culture references... but what impressed
me the most was the dramatic seriousness of the show. The
series almost plays like a live action drama, and the first
two episodes were devoid of comic relief or other distractions.
Sakon is first and foremost a crime/detective series, and
every effort is made to present a storyline engaging enough
to interest the most sophisticated of viewers.
A case in point... I have a Japanese
friend who happens to be a professor of philosophy. We viewed
Sakon together and he was completely enthralled by the mystery
presented in the first two episodes. In fact, he was so impressed
that he requested to see more of the series! Sakon is a dark
and brooding detective series that is at times violent and
downright scary, which is to say, it's not for kiddies. However,
if you are a fan of the mystery/detective genre then this
remarkable series is right up your alley.
has none of the cuteness of that other crime/detective anime...
Detective Conan, but it shouldn't be viewed as the
stuffy and overwrought realm of intellectuals either. Sakon
is great fun, in the same way that any good crime/detective
novel can be fun. The animation is at times breathtaking,
particularly the opening and closing sequences... so even
if you're not an aficionado of detective stories, you'll appreciate
the wonderful animation style and insights into Japanese culture.
This anime has not enjoyed a commercial release in the West,
in fact, the reviews on this page are based solely on untranslated
Japanese video tapes. I would urge... no, beg, fansubbers
to pick this series up as a translation project. Doll
deserves to be seen by anime fans outside of Japan.
by John Lentini) The
first 15 minutes of episode one are fantastic for those who
want to see Japanese culture at it's best. There is plenty
of eye candy to go around while they set up this intriguing
detective story. Fans of Detective Conan should take
note, because you really get to use your head in this anime
series. For those looking for a couple of good seiyuu with
your mystery, Ayatsuri Sakon has that as well. Bishounen fans,
pay attention to the main character, Tachibana Sakon,
voiced by Ogata Megumi, who has had many great roles
including Ikari Shinji from Neon
Genesis Evangelion, and Tsukishiro Yukito from
Card Captor Sakura. Not to be out done, Kumai Motoko
gives a very lively voice to the puppet Ukon. Kumai
Motoko was also in Card Captor Sakura as Li
Shaoran, but don't worry there's no magical cards in this
series... just magical story telling. Karakurizoushi Ayatsuri
Sakon may appear slow at first with a ton of dialog, but don't
worry. There will be plenty of good plot lines and fantastic
Art work to go around, so enjoy this one while you try to
figure out the truth to the mystery.
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