I became quite a big fan of this show shortly into the first episode. I rememeber watching Otogi Zoshi for the very first time with my cousin Brett, who has rather refined tastes in entertainment: I thought for sure he would ask me to pop in a different, non-anime DVD. But as it turned out, he wanted not only to continue watching the current DVD -- he wanted to see the next one as well, and the one after that. Before long, I had all six DVDs. This is an epic.
The story is divided in two story arcs. The "Heian Chapter" takes place in Kyoto during the Heian period and follows Minamoto no Hikaru, the younger sister of Minamoto no Raiko, on a quest to save Japan. The "Tokyo Chapter" follows the reincarnations of Hikaru and her comrades as the ancient evils of days past manifest themselves in present-day Tokyo.
The Tsuchigumos were considered renegades - those who refused to submit to the Yamato Dynasty and so must be annihilated. According to Nihon Shoki (the oldest chronicles of Japan), the Tsuchigumo were first crushed by Emperor Jinmu. Nihon Shoki describes them as a class of people “short of stature, but with long arms and legs.”
According to the some scholars, however, “Tsuchigumo”, which means “ground spider”, might have been more a derisive term for those provincial leaders who dared to resist imperial authority (and might also have lived in caves), rather than an allusion to their physical appearance. The spider connotations came later and in force, as the depiction of Tsuchigumos in Noh and Kabuki will attest.
In the Noh version of this famous tale, Minamoto no Raikou and his 4 retainers infiltrate Shuten Doji’s stronghold on Ooeyama by disguising themselves as mountain priests. That night they induce the demon to get so drunk on sake that he falls asleep; he is then slain with the sword, Onikirimaru. But before his demise, Shuten Doji drunkenly opens up to his guests about his past: his people were the original inhabitants of Heizan (Mt. Hiei) in Shiga Prefecture, but were unceremoniously driven from the mountain when Emperor Kanmu relocated the capital to Heian-Kyou in the late 8th century.
Heizan’s Enryakuji, a temple built to guard against demons, is situated northeast of Heian-Kyou). After much wandering, Shuten Doji’s people finally settled on Ooeyama (which Urabe points out is southwest of Heian-Kyou, the Ura-Kimon). But the Imperial Court was to continue its relentless subjugation. Much like the Tsuchigumo clan, Shuten Doji’s people came to be looked upon as renegades – those who refused to submit to the Yamato Dynasty and so must be annihilated.
In Otogi Zoshi, the character Iburake is a woman, supposedly Shuten Doji’s lover, who sometimes “haunts” Rashomon at the behest of Seimei and the Minister of the Right. The Ibaraki of folklore and the arts, is actually another “oni” (demon) from Ooeyama: Ibaraki (of Ibaragi) Doji, a subordinate of Shuten Doji.
As the story goes, Ibaraki disguises himself as a beautiful young woman, walking alone late at night. The ever-chivalrous Tsuna offers to escort her home (just as he accompanies Urabe, on her way to the Onmyo-Ryo to ask Seimei to lift Raikou’s sentence of confinement)…whereupon he is attacked. However, Tsuna manages to slice off Ibaraki’s arm with his aptly-named sword, Onikirimaru. Ibaraki flees, but not before vowing to reclaim his arm, which he indeed does not long after, this time by transforming himself into an old woman, infiltrating Tsuna’s home (where the demon’s art is kept in a box) by claiming to be his aunt.
The only other Magatama that needs to be acquired in order to save the capital is the Magatama of Fire one, which supposedly is in the hands of Shuten Doji in the land of Chinzei. This particular adventure starts off badly as a huge tsunami wave sends the group in all different directions and allows for some short tales for each of them to be told until they all get back together to deal with the issue of Shuten Doji himself.