Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Un-Go Review

Studio: Bones
Year: 2011
# of Episodes: 11
Synopsis: [Anime News Network: Un-Go]
"With the help of his strange assistant Inga, "defeated detective" Shinjūrō Yūki solves crimes in a near future Japan still suffering from the ravages of war. Problem is, the credit always ends up going to super detective Rinroku Kaishō."

This 11-episode anime by BONES approaches the mystery genre with a unique angle, one that you don't see very often in anime. In the end, it's a series I appreciate more than I like. It's fascinating on an intellectual level with all the questions it raises, but all the while I had a hard time connecting with it on an emotional level. Nonetheless, it was an unique experience worth reflecting on.

If you are looking for a standard mystery series that prizes itself on elaborate case cracking, then this is not the thing for you. Un-Go is not particularly strong on the mystery front. The deduction process is usually short and almost superficial in a sense, as the motive of the crimes and the personalities involved are never explored in depth. The highlight isn't the verdict that comes at the end of each case, but the political message presented through the mystery itself. Set in a futuristic post-war Japan, a nation still plagued by the traumas of war, the government keeps a tight control on information access and the propaganda machine fabricates the illusion of freedom. While terrorist attacks are undeniably terrible, they also granted the government an opportunity to spin heroic tales, through which to raise national morale. It goes to show when actions are carried out in the name of justice, the consequences become much easier to accept.

Shinjurou, the protagonist of the show, is a detective with a cynical worldview. He seeks for truth but soon finds that it's not all that easy to grasp. Reality is not as dichotomous as we like to think, depending on whose perspective we take, the boundary between truth and lie is often blurred. 

His biggest rival in the show is probably Rinroku Kaishou, a genius who monitors the information network and who has the power to manipulate reality through the connections he possess. By the end of the series, it's clear to us that the two of them share different beliefs regarding truth. Shinjurou, the idealist who wishes to uncover the motive behind everything that happens, and Rinroku, the artist who bends reality to his own needs. Who is right and who is wrong? 

There is a common saying that ignorance is bliss. Would we be better off believing there are heroes in the world? I don't think there is a convenient answer. We need both Rinroku and Shinjurou in the world to keep the balance in check. 

The magic aspects of this show felt more like plot devices to drive the points home. Shinjurou's assistant Inga, a strange boy who literally feeds on truth, or "soul" as the show puts it, transforms into a mature sexy woman whenever he needs to ask a question. The person being asked has no choice but to answer her question with honesty. It may feel quite deus ex machina sometimes with Inga's power conveniently revealing much of the mystery, but that shouldn't distract from the overall atmosphere of the show as it is never about the deduction process in the first place. Frankly, the plot is very convoluted with many abstract symbolisms threaded in between, my head was spinning by the end of it. It's not a show that everyone would enjoy, but it is thought provoking on many levels.

I don't have much to say about the art style other than it deviates from BONES past works. If I didn't know beforehand, I would not have guessed this is a BONES production based on the animation alone. It's a unique look I like but not crazy about. The ED is strangely enchanting. I don't really know how to describe it, but it captures the mysterious feel of the show very well. All in all, the production value is not as astonishing as the studio's other shows, but is still quite decent.   

Story: 7/10
Character: 7/10
Animation: 8/10
Music: 7/10
Directing/Style: 8/10
Enjoyment: 7/10
Overall: 7/10

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