Un-go Review

Hello there. This is review number sixty six and I’ll be reviewing the other anime of the noitaminA banner of Fall 2011. It’s Un-go, an eleven episode anime full of detective stories, murders and lies. All lies. I actually already seen this anime and I hate rewatching anime. I need to though because I don’t remember much from the anime. I’m surprised I wrote so much on it though.

Story

Shinjuuro Yuuki, dubbed as the “Defeated Detective”, goes around Japan with his partner, Inga solving murders and mysteries they come across with. He pursues the truth behind dirty lies but he is up against a powerful man who twists the news and makes himself look good. That doesn’t stop Shinjuuro for seeking out the truth though.

Taking the Pants Off

Ungo is the second show that aired under the noitaminA banner for the Fall 2011 line up. The other one was Guilty Crown which people deemed to be massive failure. To be fair though, Guilty Crown had all the elements present but people claimed its cliché dragged it down. It’s 2011 for f*cksake, everything is cliché. Guilty Crown is like a stew that needed to develop its flavor by having the ingredients marry each other but was taken of the stove before it could. It’s incomplete and the flavors were competing. To the open minded though, they can see Guilty Crown’s potential. The same can be applied to Ungo. It’s deceptively weak with competing elements but upon further analysis, you can truly understand its beauty.

People dismiss Ungo as a wreck because of the weak mystery element it had. That is correct. The anime had a horrible set up of having this detective solve the murder in his mind. He gets invited into a gathering, someone dies, and he collects the clues and then just solves the murder without any explanation of how he did it. We can’t just suspend our disbelief and just nod to the fact he solved the murder with very little information. The murder mystery was also a bust. There was a small cast of one shot characters and you often just have to guess among the ones that are heavily spotlighted. You can decipher that pattern upon further watching. For a mystery anime not giving us a satisfying mystery then it’s certainly a failure.

It also doesn’t help that there was a lot of incomplete plot points in the anime. The anime is about Japan after surviving a war and it’s now trying to rebuild its society. The government has taken a dictatorial approach trying to stop anything that can break the country’s rebuilding spirit. Anything deemed unfit is prevented from reaching the public by any means necessary. An information dealer has seemed to worm his way up on the top of the food chain and he governs what goes in and out of the country. He is deemed as a great detective solving murders even if he isn’t at the location of the murder. His genius has spread and his notoriety builds his status as the man that can help revive Japan. This important information isn’t introduced clearly in the anime. It was fed to us in bits and pieces. That plot point served merely as a backdrop to the mysteries but it was part of the overall plot. The anime didn’t clearly established this before the story got moving, it became confusing. The viewers is tasked to piece this plot by themselves and in a world where people prefer being spoon-fed information then this approach of the anime just became clutter.

That’s not all the anime didn’t clearly establish. The anime is about Shinjuurou Yuuki and his partner Inga. Shinjuuro is a detective and his brilliant deduction is what helps police uncover the truth behind the murders. Inga is a strange being that appears as a young hyper active boy that transforms into a sexy big busty woman who corners one of the suspects and asks them a question using magic. This questions are something the suspects cannot refuse answering. Think of Lelouch and his Geass. It had the same set up. I’m all right with the fact that a mysterious woman would just appear and ask a suspect a question that helps thicken the plot but the anime never explain who Inga is. Inga’s relation to Shinjuuro isn’t mentioned as well. How did they meet? Why does Inga transform from a boy to a sexy woman? Are they bound by a pact? If so then why didn’t the anime mention it? We are, again, tasked to realize this fact by ourselves because the anime will never tell you in detail. You must piece it together.

The anime is seriously out of sync and it only started to make sense on episode 5. Yes, about halfway through the anime. By the time you reached the fifth episode, you must be able to piece together all the important information about the main cast and discover each of their roles in the anime. Think about it. A weak mystery element, indirect character introduction and an established status quo, the anime is doomed to fail. Or is it? While the mystery aspect of the anime is indeed weak, the story accompanying it is very strong. All the mysteries had a nice story about “conspiracies” attached to it. So while the mystery is indeed a bust, the idea that a high ranking official used the war as a means to get richer is a very strong plot that can easily intrigue you. Now this idea of a corrupted officer is just mere speculation. A conspiracy. Shinjuuro is then tasked to uncover the truth behind this conspiracy that happens to affect the direction of the mystery of the anime. It such a strong plot and it has a very subtle social commentary to it that isn’t easily recognized because of its confusing set up.

The anime has a very high political commentary to its story. The idea of an oppressive government using the aftermath of war to pin down its people and control their very existence is told in a very effective manner in the anime. It tackles a lot of topics like terrorism, false patriotism, corruption and conspiracies. The mystery element doesn’t end when a murder is solved; it also applies to the current socio-political state of the anime. Again, that fact is to be connected using bits and pieces. The anime is deceptively smart and it took me two run through of the anime to understand its true potential. The idea of the government controlling the media is also very effective told in this anime. Whenever Shinjuuro uncovers a conspiracy, this information dealer who sits atop the country, would instruct the police to tell a different story to the news. It’s a theme of a convenient lie in place of a painful truth kind of approach to it. It’s something very common nowadays and something viewers can relate to. The anime did a wonderful job of building all of these conspiracies. It starts out simple and it snowballs. The further you proceed in the anime, the bigger and more earth shattering the conspiracies are. By the time you reach the second half, you’re already giddy with excitement of what conspiracy Shinjuuro is going to uncover next.

If you look closely too on the information dealer, you can clearly see the concept of the “cult of personality” in him. According to Wikipedia, cult of personality is when an individual uses mass media, propaganda, or other methods, to create an idealized and heroic public image, often through unquestioning flattery and praise. That is the very idea behind him and it’s such a strong political idea that the anime deceptively folded in. I love it and I only understood that when I watched the anime again. There is a lot of political concepts here too. You just need to keep digging. A proof to which I believe the anime is truly smart. Too smart for its own to be honest.

The characters in the anime started out rocky as well. The first part of the anime had both the recurring and the one shot characters to be exactly the same. They were bland and they only move when the story calls for it. It wasn’t until episode five when all the pieces line up that you get an idea of the main character’s role in the anime. Even if you understood their role, it doesn’t mean that they become more interesting. Clichéd and run of the mill characters are all the anime offers. Some characters stand out like the little robot girl that was introduced on episode five but everyone else are all normal characters. Shinjuuro himself seems uninteresting because they anime withholds important information for the viewers to understand him some more. His relationship with Inga seems to be the only thing interesting about him because it will intrigue you. The bland characters actually add damage to the mystery element of the anime.

The anime is deceptively plain but it takes a deeper inspection to fully appreciate what it holds. I watched the anime two times to understand it fully. The first time I watched it, I was confused with the clutter and the story being so fragmented. The second time I watched, knowing how the story would turn out, I was able to appreciate the subtle political theme of the anime. You’ve read this review so you should know what to look out for. Un-go is an anime you’d enjoy watching. Don’t take the mystery aspect as the only thing the anime holds and try to appreciate the backdrop about terrorists and the oppressive government. It’s really good.

Sight and Sound

The animation is pretty OK. There is really no stand out in terms of animation. It’s good enough to keep you watching the anime and some of the key animations are nicely executed. Some of the terrorist attacks are nicely done despite its content. There was one scene that almost mimicked the 9/11 attack but instead of the building going down by floor, it went sideways. It may not be a 9/11 inspired thing but it did feel like it.

The background is amazing. It sets the mood of the anime. You really get the idea of how much the supposed war damaged the country. We never saw the war but the rubbles in the street are enough to get a grasp of it. The depressed state of the people in the anime and the demolished buildings conveniently placed in the background nicely established a post-war fictional Japan.

The character design is plain. It doesn’t stand out and it’s just the type of character design you’d expect to a 2011 anime. There is nostrong fan service or moe which makes the anime really plain. Yeah, Inga’s woman form is sexy but it’s not really accentuated by the anime. Really, the anime’s best strength is its story and themes.

The opening song, “How to go” by school food punishment, has a serious vibe to it and the opening sequence isn’t really that special. It introduces the main characters and it doesn’t have any spoilers but that’s about it. The ending song, “Fantasy” by LAMA, has a nicer appeal to it. It reflects the anime’s detective element and the song is a great touch. The ED sequence is the same as the OP. It shows the characters and that’s about it.

Overall Score

7/10 “It’s too smart for its own good. Sadly, that ruins the anime’s appeal.”

The anime has potential but if it could’ve fixed the pacing, the characters and deliver a stronger theme rather than a subtle one then I believe the anime would’ve been greater. Nonetheless, the anime has a lot to offer. You just need to look hard.

8 thoughts on “Un-go Review

  1. It wasn’t exactly what I was expecting at first, but Un-go had its own special appeal that was hard to recognize. Like you said, the pacing differently was an issue, yet it was bearable. The OVA prequel however was a bit more satisfying for me.

  2. As one of the comments above say, you really need to see the OVA. It at least answers some of your questions.

    It definitely wasn’t a great anime, but it had some life to it and Inga was an interesting character that kept me watching. As you mentioned, my biggest problem was how as a mystery it completely failed. Nobody who was watching could ever piece together the solution,which ruins all the enjoyment of watching a mystery.

    • haha. well as you can see, i’m more inclined to watching series than OVAs so i rarely pick them up but i do plan on watching the Ungo OVA someday. XD

      the mystery aspect was just a tiny bit of what the anime has to offer though. I didn’t focus much on the mystery and just tuned in to the stories behind them. I particularly love that episode about three guys sacrificing their lives and a monument was built for them but it was actually a rue for the guy who stole those gold bars. It was pretty well done despite a lack of a good mystery.

Thoughts~

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