October 2011 Anime Season – Fate/Zero Episode 4

Saber and Lancer rant. Saber and Lancer fight. Kotohime and Tohsaka observe. Irisviel gasps. Rider intervenes. End episode.

That really is what Episode 4 is in a nutshell. Of course, there’s a lot more detail. Saber and Lancer talk a lot. Lancer’s master is around but elusive. Kotohime seems to have feigned bowing out of the game to allow himself to be a more effective observer and that Assassin being ‘taken out’ by Archer was a staged event by himself and Tohsaka. Irisviel seems rather smitten with Saber while Saber is the dashing, honourable woman we know her to be. Lancer acts incredibly FAB-ulous and even cockier. You could virtually feel the pheromones flooding from him like ravenous vultures. Rider has a much more knightly, honourable approach to the battles and decides to break up the fight between Saber and Lancer – as only Rider can! RIDING LIKE A BOSS! XD

But in all honesty, if it wasn’t for Rider’s hilarious antics in the closing minutes of that episode, I think I would have been underwhelmed by this episode. Don’t get me wrong – the battle was intriguing and better than ones in Fate/Stay Night in terms of action and bloodshed. But there’s one thing that prevents it from being exhilirating – the dialogue. There’s SO MUCH of it…Look, I like the dialogue overall. When Rider rants, he’s damn entertaining! When Saber does, she’s charming yet sharp. When Lancer does, he makes every sports player on the planet look pretty not fabulous in comparison. The problem is the amount being fired out! There’s parts where there’s half-a-minute to a minute of blazing action, then they go into rant mode once more. Maybe it’s just me, but every time someone rants I always get the ‘Can’t I have slashed you up eights ways from Sunday by the time you finished saying that?!’ urges when they flap their tongues for so long. I guess since several of the Servants are Knights, they are somewhat honourable and love to rant. But sometimes it’s overbearing…it breaks up the flow and moments that should have felt epic feel a bit sedate in comparison. Then again, what can I expect when Nasu Kinoko was one of the major writers for the Fate/Zero novels? I generally like Nasu’s ranting, but he has a tendency to not know when to quit. And it just kills some of the atmosphere/thrills to be had within this episode.

That said, good episode. Not great. I appreciate how honest and dedicated to the source material it is and that Type-Moon fans are rapt. But for the not-so-hardcore fans, they’re going to be tested at times by the sheer volume of dialogue. Fate/Zero is still at the top end of this season, either way. I just hope future battles are more gripping.

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October 2011 Anime Season – Mirai Nikki Episode 3

If you get the feeling halfway through this episode this one’s getting too light – don’t worry. As Yuno is a yandere, the first half is prety dere-dere, then it ends with a truckload of YAN!

Yuki and Yuno spend the 1st half of the episode hanging out in an amusement park. Fourth is using them as bait to lure out Ninth, who has gone into hiding. There is an indication via a flashback that Ninth is the monster she is due to her family being killed in a war.  Not much happens – a bit of attempted love-play with a drink, a haunted house, a couple of rides and a swim where Yuno temporarily loses her swimsuit top. Things pick up when they’re on the ferris wheel when Yuki has a flashback that explains Yuno’s obsession with him. Apparently a promise was made that Yuno would become Yuki’s bride one year ago. The two end up going to Yuno’s home. Ninth is supposedly rescued by a ‘stranger’ – who soon reveals himself as another competitor, but we don’t know his number or diary power. Yuki’s diary entries mention a weird room in Yuno’s house. For some reason, Yuki decides to go against the diary and look inside. That one decision changes ALL the players’ diaries immediately and sends the time continuum into disarray. Deus ex Machina begins to gloat, saying Yuki is what he had been hoping for. Inside the room, Yuki finds rotting corpses…presumably Yuno’s family?! Yuno appears looking anything but lovey-dovey, saying ‘It was all going so well.’ Yuki flees to his home but Yuno tracks him down, glaring through the door with a VERY yandere look in her eyes! Episode ends. And notably, the cute mascot that accompanies Deus ex machina doesn’t make an appearance after the ending credits.

 

Admittedly the first half is slow and very unlike the show just far. It’s happy and Yuno is not in a crazed mood. If anything, for nearly 20 minutes, Yuno resembles any normal girl her age. Someone who has no issue with killing others is frightened of a haunted house, amusement park rides and when she loses her swimsuit top. While this all may seem rather weird, it does go to show that parts of Yuno are…normal. It’s a reasonable way to develop Yuki and Yuno as characters but not stellar. Something set her off on the yandere angle and it wasn’t just Yuki. There’s ‘probably’ a SOMEWHAT decent explanation for why corpses are in her home. Thing is, if they were her family…why wouldn’t the police have come looking for them, checked Yuno’s home, etc? Something isn’t adding up. And why is THIS the revelation that sets the game into chaos? Deus ex Machina seemed ecstatic. I almost wonder if the guy has had enough of being omnipotent wants someone else suffer his position.As for the atmosphere, it was better executed and some good mood music was present.

 

And that’s all I can say about this episode. It was very light on content and events compared to the first two but did hit a goof climax in the final minutes. Mirai Nikki doesn’t seem to thrive on positive events but the cruel and twisted instead. Sounds criminal of me to say it, but we need more bloodshed and bodies flying post-haste!

October 2011 Anime Season – Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai Episode 3

This certainly is one very…daring episode…

Sena is still in gaming mode, but for some reason she’s playing a H-game in the clubroom. Yozora can’t resist the opportunity to torment Sena and makes Sena read the dialogue of a ‘scene’ out loud. Sena stumbles through it then gives up and flees. Upon returning home, we get to see Kodaka’s younger sister, Kobato, who dresses up loli-goth style to mirror a character from ‘Full Metal Necromancer’. The next day, Sena makes the comment that she can’t swim. It ends up leading to a trip to a swiming centre for Sena and Kodaka so she learns to swim – so it’s the first time we get two see more than one member of the club outside of a school setting together. It goes well for Sena and there’s service in plentiful supply in this part of the episode – but nothing absurd. The conversation between the two over lunch reveals some interesting things – Kodaka’s dad and Sena’s dad were friends for a long time. Sena is actually fond of being called ‘Meat’ since it’s her first nickname.  While Kodaka uses the bathroom, Sena gets surrounded by a bunch of guys and her mouth further inflames a bad situation. Kodaka uses his ‘image’ to scare the guys away. Sena replies with her usual manner – and Kodaka doesn’t let her get off lightly. The severity of Kodaka’s words gets through to Sena and she temporarily shows a moment of indirect gratitude before going back to normal. But the effect lingers – Sena is finally able to see Kodaka as a person she values and not just another guy. Sena’s manner in the aftermath is smoother and grateful. There’s a service moment with Kobato shortly afterwards that’s appropriately censored (thank flock) and the scene quickly switches to a flashback. It is revealed Kodaka once had a dear friend in his childhood – and it’s Yozora…The preview to the next episode indicates the reverse trap and mini-nun characters will appear in Episode 4.

So…this was definitely a more loaded episode. The ecchi factor was ramped up for sure this episode and I think it will remain to be on a similar level of stimulation from now on. Still, no character got degraded. Sena’s swimsuit was revealing, but in all honesty, clothing that revealing at swimming centres, the beach and general garb during summer is quite revealing anyway. Sena’s attire isn’t cheap or demeaning. I actually found the scene to be fairly well animated. Rather than relying on the cliche effect of breast bouncing or butt-flexing, Sena’s movements weren’t exaggerated – she is naturally a looker. It also helps that Kodaka didn’t act like a lecher plus he avoided overreacting like a lot of generic males in the genre. And when he needed to be the man but not a prick when Sena needed bailing out, he pulled it off. The scene with Kobato was clearly to appeal to those who like their lolis (I sure don’t…) but it wasn’t creepy or anything and thankfully didn’t last long. Although it must be said Kana Hanazawa is a good choice to voice Kobato – she sounds naturally suited to the role and sells it well. Plus the heterochromia is a nice feature. As for game references, I hope they don’t pop up every episode or the Sena-Kirino similarity will be overemphasised and hurt Sena’s popularity.

About Sena – she definitely got some significant character development this episode. It is clear that while she acts superior generally, Sena does yield to Yozora rather easily and is provoked into a reaction soon after. Yet with Kodaka, we get to see the other side of her. The Sena that genuinely wants to have a good time, be happy and hang out with friends. The day out with Kodaka serves as a lesson to Sena that she can see males as potential friends/actual people rather than just typical guys who lust after her. Kodaka’s rebuke also serves to show he isn’t the typical guy or harem guy. He isn’t going to be their beat-up toy or plaything. He will demand their respect and make that clear. It evokes an interesting change in Sena’s persona when someone not submitting to her normal behaviour makes her realise it is that behaviour that has created the issues that prevented her from making friends. Sena now realises Kodaka does genuinely care about her – and Sena finally lowers her boundaries, daring to be nice to Kodaka in return. As hoped, Kodaka is not just excess baggage – he is an active participant and important to the mix. Now the dynamic is not just between Yozora and Sena. There is now a dynamic between Kodaka and both females. And in the case of Sena and Kodaka, it is now at a state one can call friendship as Sena now has openly acknowledged the fact she does want to spend time with Kodaka on a regular basis. This episode sets Sena apart from Kirino big time – for which I am grateful. Sena is able to communicate without being violent or majorly condescending – something Kirino could never quite do.

The flashback scene was very effective and allows Yozora to have her moment this episode despite getting little airtime during it. Yozora certinaly seems like the childhood friend from Kodaka’s earlier years. Okay, this plot point is fairly cliche, but the scene had impact because of the timing, execution and good source material to back it up. This was not your generic revelation scene. It allowed the viewer to feel for Yozora but realise her stubborn nature is a major hurdle and going to hinder her from being able to move forward. Five seconds was all Yozora needed to be able to match the impact Sena had over ten minutes. This scene sets up a key difference between Yozora and Sena. Yozora is unable to admit her feelings when it comes to the crunch – or at least nowhere near as easily as Sena can. The potential for romantic possibilities between Kodaka and either girl have been set up – and with that comes a lot of potential tension between the trio. Still, at this point, there are plenty of reasons to like both girls, which is a good thing.

Again, this show continues to do what it does well – provide some light, silly fun with a bit of steam. And the arrival of the reverse trap and the nun are bound to kick things up a few more notches! For being nothing out of the ordinary, it’s excelling at character development and key moments a rightside better than most series this year.

October 2011 Anime Season – Mirai Nikki Episode 2

Business has definitely picked up big time in Episode 2! Episode 1 was child’s play compared to what goes down this time!

Yukiteru is not handling the scenario he is in well at all. Fortunately, Yuno is willing to do ANYTHING to make sure Yukiteru lives. With his ‘Bystander Diary’ and her ‘Love Yuki Diary’, they have a formidable combo of predicting the future. Certainly doesn’t help Yukiteru sleep at night though!

Things get worse for the pair quickly. It becomes glaringly obvious their home room teacher was Third – and his sudden disapperance bring more competitors into the fray. Ninth appears first – and is one bomb-happy bitch, to put it lightly! After blowing up an entire floor to get everyone’s attention, Ninth is seemingly ready to blow up the entire school to take out Yukiteru and Yuno. A thrilling game of cat and mouse ensues with the pair barely evading attack after attack. Yukiteru’s attempts to check on his ‘friends’ result in betrayl and being captured for Ninth. And then comes the real reason Ninth set up this ordeal – to draw out Fourth, her real target, who just happens to be a cop and have a diary that tracks down criminals. Yuno makes a very yandere-like move to throw a spanner in the works of Ninth’s plan and provides Yukiteru with one chance to end the ordeal without a major catastrophe being the result and saves the day with Yuno’s guidance, but Ninth manages to escape thanks to her ‘Escape Diary’. All four competitors live to fight another day. The episode ends with Fourth proposing a triple alliance to take out the more evil competitors of this twisted game. Yukiteru agrees and Yuno also complies – but for much more ‘personal’ reasons. The time points on Yuno’s dairy indicate Episode 2 took place on May 2 and that as the game stands at present, it could end on July 28, meaning this show’s duration would take place over a three-month span.

Ironically, the character styles that made me stop watching Guilty Crown after seeing Episode 2 a few hours ago are the same for the two leads in Mirai Nikki. Yukiteru is somewhat weak and he knows it. Yuno is obsessed with Yukiteru and is willing to do literally ANYTHING to have him – even if it means being used. However, within Mirai Nikki this dynamic actually works rather well. And here’s why. Yukiteru’s paranoia and reluctant action are believable – he’s been thrown amongst a bunch of psychos! Who wouldn’t be rattled?! Furthermore, he realises that all his life, he’s been a bystander and never taken action. He hates that part of himself and wants it to stop. As for Yuno, she is quite a magnetic personality. It’s hard to not be enthralled by how determined and passionate Yuno is towards Yukiteru, or the insanity of the degrees of her actions. In the second half of the episode, Yuno is appalled that Yukiteru’s supposed friends betrayed him and gave him up to Ninth and adds in the fact if she doesn’t take drastic action, everyone dies right there. Her resultant action – evade Ninth’s elaborate bomb network and to make sure resultant explosions take out anyone who betrayed Yukiteru! Yuno is definitely one twisted girl – but she is so damn captivating because she is able to cast morality aside when needed and do what needs to be done to survive with such optimism. Morals won’t keep you alive in a game filled with the crackpots and psychopaths this one is loaded with and while some of Yuno’s actions would be shocking if another person did it, it really enhances the yandere qualities of Yuno’s character and makes the darker side of people go ‘Damn…that girl is something! Crazy – but she sure is something!’ While Yuno is willing to be used in some ways, she is able to dictate action by herself and be the one directing Yukiteru around when she wants to or has to. The pragmatic nature of Yuno is the only relative safe option for Yukiteru. He will live if he sides with Yuno for now and appreciates the fact but doesn’t take it for granted. Throw that in with Yukiteru’s determination to no longer be a bystander and he somewhat breaks out of the typical shounen emo male lead archetype. This oddball pairing has a very bizarre appeal, but they deliver thanks to some solid writing and not being the victim of crude/untimely service attempts or the story/characters warping into something other than was promised. Yukiteru and Yuno both know what they will get from siding with each other and accept the consequences. And those staying with this show will get a good laugh out of Yukiteru having to pair with a sociopathic yet optimistic stalker to live – the situation is so absurb yet so hilarious! You wouldn’t want to see it in real life, but on the screen – it’s very gripping.

There still are a few problems. Helmet-hair animation was a bit annoying. The music soundtrack in-episode is weak – a better soundtrack could have made this show utterly delectable, but thus far the content has been so gripping it’s still quite delectable. And ultimately, the system of this twisted game provides a potential flaw. Is there a way this show can end in a way that will be worth remembering? Thus far, I see three options in this order of likelihood:

1. Yukiteru ends up being Deus ex Machina due to something he finds out late in the game or Yuno killing herself because she could never kill Yukiteru.

2. Yukiteru and Yuno are the last two alive and avoid ending the game or take out Deus ex Machina – staying as the twisted couple.

3. The curent Deus ex Machina was just bored and kills the last/final two survivors because he’s had enough of the game and would never give up power anyway!

I can’t see one of the other contestants winning – the care factor for it would be virtually nil. Which means one of those two are going to win. As it stands now – Yukiteru is utterly mortified by this all and the concept of Deus ex Machina. Yuno wouldn’t want to end the game because she wants to be with Yukiteru no matter what. But Deus ex Machina doesn’t seem the type of guy who would let them get away with that – unless something even more twisted comes up between those two.  So Option 1 seems the most likely – not to mention in line with the twisted nature of this show. The key to figuring this out is something we don’t know yet – WHY Deus ex Machina has put this game in motion. WHY Deus ex Machina would put itself in a scenario where it is potentially replaced by someone else. And I get the feeling that will be held back until the closing stages. So that minefield won’t be explored until the final stanza of the game. Option 2 could happen – but considering the very twisted, chilling nature of this show – I doubt it. Either way, the lead-up to the end promises to be rather entertaining. Whether the ending can deliver on that and potentially surprise us – or do a predictable ending but execute it well – is the real question and will determine whether this show ends up being good or great.

October 2011 Anime Season – Why I’m Dropping Guilty Crown

Well…I guess when I had picked eight titles to continue with from the October 2011 anime season, it was inevitable that something would not stay the distance with me. And I’ve found one – Guilty Crown.

I honestly did try to like this one. But Episode 2 offered me a good number of moments that offended me and some glaring flaws have already appeared that I don’t have faith in being rectified anytime soon. The basic premise of the episode is that Shu and Inori escape the battle scene and return to Gai and the ‘Undertaker’. A very brief introduction of Ayase, a pilot/fighter in the group, is made. It’s clear Gai wanted to be able to control the power Shu now has and is very angry with Inori for letting things happen as the did – but he finds a way around it. A counterattack measure is made to liberate hostages in the area. It works. Shu declines an offer to join the Undertaker group, thinking he’s returned to normal life. No surprise the episode ends with Inori transferring into his class.

So – what in Episode 2 convinced me to drop this show? Well, several things: (and no, similarities to Code Geass were not any of the reasons. I longer find this show similar to Code Geass.)

1. There is no standout character that is screaming out to me to like them. Shu is a fairly weak protagonist. Gai seems quite untrsutworthy overall. His subordinates seem rather tokenish/generic. Inori seems more like a sex object/tool than a character. This is not a cast that is appealing to me at all. Ayase, voiced by Kana Hanawawa, was rather submissive and Hanazawa’s normally superior voice was rather lacking in giving Ayase anything substantial or definitive. Granted, Hanazawa usually voices very shy characters, but Ayase just didn’t have an edge or an obvious appeal. It was one very weak character introduction indeed. Tsugumi, voiced by Ayane Taketatsu (Azusa in K-ON!, Kirino in Ore no Imouto), is one incredibly annoying character. The voice and character are either intentionally irritiating or a very poor match. The catgirl behaviour just doesn’t seem to fit either. Gai – he’s a prick. And probably bound to turn evil. What else is there to say about him? Inori’s behaviour just creeps me out. Candidly placing Shu’s hand on her chest while she says she exists for Shu to use her  – this doesn’t make for a likeable heroine. I’m not keen on her singing either. Plus that scene where Shu and Inori are crawling through ventilation shafts and there’s a very crude behind shot of Inori wearing thigh-highs and skipmy underwear – it just didn’t match the mood of the  (people were being murdered!) at all and was completely unnecessary. And Shu – freaking Shu. I don’t find one thing to like about him and he’s…emo. There, I said it. Someone in the top 2-3 characters needs to be charismatic or have genuine appeal to carry a show like this. Instead, the cast comes off like a generic shounen cast, seasoned with sleaze and a dash of Black Parade to boot. And seriously, who came up with calling the group ‘ Undertaker’?! That is not a name that works. The person who performs under this name would probably find this use of the name rather pathetic and make this show ‘rest in peace.’

2. The music is very hit and miss. The ED was okay but the OP was very cheap. Inori’s in-episode singing isn’t doing it for me either. The visuals in Episode 2 were  a far cry from Episode 1. It seems a case of ‘here’s a beautiful looking episode -now here’s an episode more representative of how things will be!’ I.e. Someone probably spent too much of the budget in the first episode and things are already being reined in. Not that the visuals are now bad – they’re not. But they’re markedly down this episode. And this show was clearly relying on its visuals, so this is not a good sign.

3. The world setting/plot barely moved an inch this episode. A lot of the good shows this season had very powerful second episodes that really got the plot and world setting to the point you had a fair idea of what is now going on. Guilty Crown wasted any potential character development – side characters got minimal offerings with nothing to be impressed by. The leads are still fairly weak. And nothing of significance happened this episode. I know this is a two-season show, but come on…you can do better than this!

What I will say in favour of Guilty Crown is similarities to Code Geass can be left at the door to Episode 2. It’s got its own identity. However, what lays inside may not be what you are looking for. It certainly isn’t for me. And when I’ve got seven other titles I’m continuing with still, spending more time on another one I don’t find much to like about doesn’t seem worth it. What seemed potentially epic now feels like medium-grade shounen, which I’m not in the mood for. To those continuing – good luck and I hope it’s worth the watch for you. For me, it won’t be and I say goodbye to Guilty Crown.

October 2011 Anime Season – Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai Episode 2

This series just continues to make me laugh in a way I’ve wanted to all year. It’s not pretending to be spectacular. It merely promises entertainment that is neither highbrow nor lowbrow.

The trio of Yozora, Sena and Kodaka are intent on determining how to find friendship. Yozora makes the suggestion of games as a method to strengthen friendship. Teaming up on their PlayingStates (Got to love those copyright-altering names!), the trio get into an RPG game. But the effects are not as intended – or perhaps they actually were! Yozora and Sena merely use this as a medium to beat each other up with amusing results. Their dislike of each other is more intent than ever, particularly with Yozora calling Sena ‘Meat’ on a regular basis while Sena fires back with ‘dumb witch’. After seeing the purpose of this exercise fail, Sena suggests playing a dating-sim. (I’m serious – it happens!) Perhaps the most amusing aspect is not that Yozora and Sena both see this as a way to learn how to makes friends with females – but that it actually causes the two to get along for a while! Their reactions to characters within the game and related events are virtually identical, although it could be argued Sena is more emotionally invested in it. Episode ends with Sena revelling in her ‘success’ and getting Kodaka to do his own playthrough.

Again, nothing spectacular, nothing truly original and definitely no shirking off the link to Ore no Imouto. But honestly, SO WHAT?! Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai is a rightside better than that ever was! Firstly, the character dynamic is better. Kirino’s scenario was just too comfortable and she was made overly bitchy while Kuroneko was rather sedate and ‘safe’, but most of all, the concept these two got along overall didn’t really seem believable. In the end, Ore no Imouto geared itself to satisfy Kirino fans short term then provide the link for the Kuroneko-oriented series. I.e. It set the fandoms to war against each other and hurt the title – it was more a marketing tool than anything.

In the case of Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai, that doesn’t seem to be happening. Yozora and Sena may bicker – as all people do at times – but there are core issues that they agree upon, plus they share similar distrusts within people in general, which become apparent when they play the dating-sim. They both instantly distrust the overly nice girl and make the same slanders. They both like the intelligent girl and value intelligence as a quality more than anything. Both of them are fairly resistant to budge when presented the idea it could be them that are somewhat responsible for their failures to not make friends. The other key appeal is that it is actually quite fun to see Yozora and Sena argue. Yozora’s ‘Meat’ puns are genuinely funny and Sena’s facial expressions/barbs at Yozora/Kodaka are very effective dialogue. It’s not malicious – they’re natural human emotions that aren’t unnecessarily amplified to the point the two become unlikeable. The banter is great for the chemistry between Yozora and Sena. Thus far, I still have a fair number of reasons to like both, which is something that could rarely be said for the Ore no Imouto duo. Generally, people could usually only like Kuroneko or Kirino. This time, liking both Yozora and Sena is very plausible.

That said, there are noticeable differences between Yozora and Sena, though. Sena is more emotional while Yozora is generally somewhat cold. Sena seems to find the concept of having a male friend inconceivable yet Yozora doesn’t seem to have such an issue. Sena’s physical features are more extreme while Yozora’s aren’t and go for the zettai ryouki appeal. They’re distinct characters. They have valid reasons to dislike each other on some levels. But ultimately, it is rather conceivable they will get along in the long run.

There are several levels of appeal for me within this show. The art is pleasing – it’s not an overly-exaggerated moe style giving me diabetes. The animation actually looks like some effort has been put into it. During the battle scenes in the RPG section of the episode, weapon movements and effects were fairly smooth and somewhat detailed. Not on a Last Exile/Guilty Crown level, but the effort was noticeable. Costume/uniform designs were good. The reversal of clothes/roles during the dating sim was a very clever scene. The dialogue is very loaded and is entertaining throughout. There are fanservice moments but nothing over the top. There’s definitely an ecchi element to this show but it’s not overly exaggerated. It’s been dealt out in amounts that haven’t cheapened Yozora or Sena thus far. I hope that continues to be the case. Whether the inevitably increasing character cast changes that is another issue. Kodaka got little focus in Episode 2, but with the inevitable arrival of his little sister, the reverse trap girl that likes him and the science girl that tries to jump him – Kodaka’s airtime will increase soon. I’d like to find out more about him and see him progress.

All in all, this series is the light-hearted entertainment with a bit of steam I’d been hoping all year. This won’t be for everyone and it’s nothing that new. What is giving Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai its edge is a more balanced character cast, sharp dialogue and proper execution. I will never have high hopes for it but reasonable ones. If it continues to entertain with a bit of cheek, a bit of tongue-in-cheek, a bit of flesh and a bit of heart – I’ll gladly give it my time but remember that there are better shows out there this season.

October 2011 Anime Season – UN-GO Episode 2

Now here is a show that makes a LOT more sense after its second episode! Most of all, its main intentions are now MUCH clearer. And the reasons for watching have changed dramatically with this episode.

 

The first minute of this episode makes a big difference. There’s a somewhat secret sale of a new expansion for an idol program (the ‘Vocaloid is ancient!’ line was gold!), but it’s quickly shut down and declared illegal. Oddball detective duo Shinjurou and Inga proceed to investigate the murder of a prominent businesswoman. Her daughter takes the news in a weird way, as if she knows much more than she’s letting on. Turns out our murder victim managed a once-popular idol group that was banned after the war. The intrigue lies within the supposed 4th member that was allegedly killed during the conflict, which was a key part of the group’s success. Things go haywire once it’s revealed there never was a 4th member and that it was a lie designed by the murder victim. Worst of all, the voice supposedly posthmously used in future recordings was the victim’s daughter. And therein lies the motive and perpetrator. Shinjurou and Inga beat the hapless prosecutor to the truth, but it matters for little. The victim’s lover is pinned for the crime for the supposed ‘greater good’ by dear Professor Kaishou. Seems that the dear Professor was responsible for a lot more fabrication in this saga, too. And thus, Shinjurou and Inga lose out again. Although, the ending suggests that not everything can be quelled, as the daughter’s song manages to occassionally dodge censorship measures and find their way to others, including Rie.

It is now much clearer what UN-GO intends to explore. The whodunnit aspect is smoke and mirrors. There are two other aspects that are the true focus – the use of lies to warp reality and how it can be done to create a tyrannical, dystopian world. This is a future where technology has hardly progressed from what we have here in 2011. Censorship is in full effect – even on the future’s version of Youtube and the like. The use of lies to create a false reality that is supposedly more orderly for society is something that fuels Inga’s hatred of the prosecutor and Professor Kaishou. It also seems Shinjurou is required for Inga to ‘transform/genderbend’, but we don’t know why. The Professor’s daughter, Rie, seems unaware of the effect that her father’s lies have on the world. I get the feeling that once she does find out, Rie will rebel and side with Shinjurou and Inga.

 

Some very interesting social aspects are brought up here. Imagine if censorship to the point of only what the government aprroves was enforced. Could you imagine modern life with things like Youtube, the Internet and other media in general being only what someone else approves as right for all? Not to mention a world where the truth is meaningless – endlessly woven into lies to supposedly make life more comfortable – and where those that are supposed to pursue justice instead dispense a perverted, ruined form to suit the state. It is very reminiscent of the worlds depicted in literary classics like Nighteen Eighty Four and Fahrenheit 451. Not surprisingly, the source novel for this show came out in the era those novels did. UN-GO is not about crime-solving – it is about how a state-ruled country can be brought to its kness and have its citizens at the mercy of whatever whim the rulers and their enforcers dictate. It is about the desecration of truth and justice.

Now I have much better reasons to watch this show. Certainly, the whodunnit aspect is still fairly weak and character development is a bit slow. But rather than the nationalistic rhetoric which is getting too common this season, UN-GO is exploring society on a much more crucial level. Where it intends to go will be rather intriguing. But it needs to ramp up the crime-solving aspect and get Rie into the mix more. UN-GO needs a character with more appeal to get the sales needed for profit – thus far, it hasn’t quite given one with enough reasons or qualities for the viewer to identify with. Hopefully that changes soon, but with a clarity of story and better animation this episode, I have hope it will happen.

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