Hi no Tori is a somewhat unorthodox anime broken into five smaller stories: Dawn (4 episodes), Resurrection (2 episodes), Strange Beings (1 episode), The Sun (4 episodes), and Future (2 episodes). The series expresses a primarily Buddhist viewpoint. Any subtle ideological expressions in the show should not offend viewers. I am certainly not Buddhist, and the show did not offend me.
Hi no Tori is a show driven primarily by story. It reminded me a bit of The Twilight Zone in some regards. It doesn't really have a twist at the end of each arc, but the quality of storytelling and thought-provoking situations were similar. Each story takes place in a different setting and with different characters. The atmosphere feels entirely different in each one, the two most similar being Dawn and The Sun.
That said, the story of Hi no Tori is difficult to judge by traditional standards. Pacing is never a problem, owing to the brevity of each story. Clichés are mostly avoided through the course of the series. The cartoony look certainly belies a mature, though not ingenious, story. Characters die, are reborn, and kill others. Despite a few combat scenes, the story isn't particularly violent and very little blood is shown.
The binding force throughout each mini-plot is the Phoenix. Symbolically, it (or she, as depicted in the show) is the renewing cycle of life. One must keep this in mind while watching, as the concepts of life and the passage of time are important to the plot.
You should come with low standards in regards to animation. The character designs reminded me strongly of an American cartoon; the show looks nothing like a 2011 anime. Animals look like they're from a Hanna-Barbera production. Colors are somewhat bland. Character models (names as well) are reused from story to story. There is one particularly ugly character with an enormous nose that appears in every arc.
Hi no Tori has a good orchestral score and a few pieces of music even gave me pause. The opening theme is particularly good. I liked the ending song as well; however, it is sung (unlike the opening) and rather short.
Voice actors were sound in the dubbed version, which I watched. The narrator deserves commendation for a good performance. None of the other voice actors stood out to me.
Given its limited time to develop characters, Hi no Tori does surprisingly well. No character was particularly annoying. On the flip siide, no character stood out to me as particularly interesting or noteworthy. Each serves his or her role and quickly departs from the screen. The Phoenix is the only truly recurring character, if you count it (her). It only has a few enlightening lines per story, though.
Conclusion (7.5--fairly good)-
Hi no Tori is a good anime with unfortunately poor animation. I bumped the overall score up to a 7.5 owing to the unorthodox presentation of the series. That is, having it divided into five smaller shows. This was a refreshing change for me. If you're looking for a shounen or something, go elsewhere. If you're looking for a solid mix of adventure and philosophy, this is for you.
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