October 2011 Anime Season – UN-GO Episode 3

Perhaps things are about to pick up.

The once-prominent Sasa family is attending a ceremony for the 7th anniversary of the death of the former house head. The current head dies in a bizzare immolation. Or so it seems…Cut to Rie tracking down Shinjurou and Inga in the ‘Restricted Zone’ to get their help to solve the case. The Professor seems keen to cut them off before they get involved, but even the Professor can’t weave a plausible enough lie this time. The episode ends with the revelation that the supposedly murdered son was actually a robot…and that the computer within the household holds the key to the truth of what’s going on.

There were some improvements this episode. As I suspected, Rie doesn’t approve of her father’s methods and prefers Shinjurou’s ways. Rie gets some much needed character development and now has potential to be a good character. Whoever picked her outfits deserves credit – Rie’s got style. The specific role Professor Kaishou plays within the system is now spelt out in more detail – this guy’s power and how casually he weaves his lies is chilling. A conflict between those two will happen sometime soon. What was best about this episode was it tried to break free from the formula of the first two episodes. Once the Professor wove his fabrication, evidence to counter it came to light and Shinjurou deduced the truth. That computer’s final line was priceless. In terms of world setting, the opening minutes with the slum, ruined nature of the ‘Restricted Zone’ were rather effective and a good device to promote Rie’s defiance.

 

Still…while the roles Shinjurou and Inga played in this episode were better…we still know next to nothing about them! And they’re the main characters! Honestly, I think this is what’s really hindering this show. If we knew at least something about what caused Shinjurou and Inga to pair up, the source of Inga’s powers or how Shinjurou cheated death, I think we as viewers would care a LOT more about them! I seriously hope that’s not something they only explain in the Episode 0 movie. That doesn’t get released until November 19 and to release that info that way could really backfire. Indeed, while the world setting and second tier of characters intrigues me, the primary characters don’t because we’re not allowed to know anything about them! This needs to change…The mystery quality isn’t an issue anymore, really. The lack of development of Shinjurou and Inga as characters has hurt this show. Even a 5 minute flash back explaining why it is Shinjurou and Inga pursue the truth like they do – SOMETHING to make us care about their plight – would really lift this series! A moment like that make so much difference. At present, Rie is probably the one character with motivations and a purpose that are clear thus far. I care about what she intends to do, but not the main protagonists as much, which shouldn’t be happening…

On a final note, Shinjurou seems rather keen to get the Professor to unlock the device he has at any price. Perhaps getting one up on the Professor this time will get him what he wants? Or will it take a bigger mystery for Shinjurou to outperform the Professor and cause him to cave in? Either way – develop Shinjurou and Inga as characters ASAP, please!

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.