Monday, January 16, 2012

Uraboku (anime TV series), via Crunchyroll

Uraboku's full title is Uragiri wa Boku no Namae o Shitteiru. If it ever gets released on DVD in the U.S., its title will probably be The Betrayal Knows My Name, in order to match the manga (which is why I've tagged this post the way I have).

Synopsis:

Yuki Giou grew up in an orphanage. His greatest desire is to be useful to and wanted by others. His world is turned upside down when a man named Takashiro arrives and says that he is his brother and has been looking for him for years. After Yuki is attacked by a strange creature called a Duras, he learns that several members of his clan, including him, have special powers that they use to fight Duras.

The Giou clan's Zweilts (pairs of fighters with special abilities) try to protect Yuki, who has the ability to wield God's Light, from Duras and from a mysterious enemy named Reiga. Many of the members of the Giou clan, including Yuki, are reincarnations of former Giou clan members, and events that happened a thousand years ago hold the answers to why Reiga is trying to attack Yuki now. In addition to worrying about his and others' safety, Yuki also wonders about the relationship his past-life self (who was female) had with a mysterious and protective man named Luka.

Review:

I wanted to love this show, I really did. It has angst, it has bishounen, it has bishounen angsting over one another. It has battles with pretty effects. It has friendships so close that you'd swear they're actually romantic relationships. In the end, though, this show was a giant tease that never delivered.

The pacing, while not nearly as excruciating as, say, Hakuoki's, could have been better. Yes, Yuki was introduced to the Giou clan and told about the Duras fairly quickly, but the show didn't seem truly interesting to me until approximately halfway through, when Hotsuma and Shusei hashed out their relationship issues, Reiga revealed himself, and Reiga and Takashiro had their big battle. I really got into the show at that point, and I was convinced that, finally, there would be some answers.

And there were, sort of, but not nearly as many as I had wanted. Reiga and Takashiro's past was shown, although I didn't find Reiga's sudden transformation into a friend-killing mass murderer to be entirely believable. After that part, I waited expectantly for new information about Yuki's past life and history with Luka...only to get nothing. Yuki even noted that he could have asked about his and Luka's past but didn't. So I continued to wait for something more about Yuki's past...and suddenly it was the final episode, Yuki and Luka  gazed soulfully into each other's eyes, and still nothing was said about Yuki's past life.

The few snippets of Yuki's past life that were shown made it clear that, yes, Girl Yuki (Yuki was female in his past life) and Luka were lovers. How they met and came to love and trust one another was never shown. Several snippets of Yuki's past life showed Girl Yuki talking about her death and how, in the end, she wanted Luka to be the one to kill her. Was there some special reason why Girl Yuki expected she'd have to die? Was the use the Giou clan had for her different from the use the Giou clan had for Boy Yuki (healer, energy recharger, Duras-destroying light bomb)? If the show gave the answers to these questions, it did so only vaguely. Really, would it have killed the writers (or, if this closely followed the manga, the manga's author) to show more of Yuki's past, maybe even how Girl Yuki died? For a good chunk of the show, Luka seemed convinced that the Giou clan would betray Yuki – what made him think that?

This show was an enormous pile of unanswered questions, but it was just appealing enough that, if a second season came out, I would watch it – although I'd want that second season to not be so vague, because I don't need another season's worth of unanswered questions. While this show was able to capture my attention to a certain degree, I haven't been able to decide if it would be equally appealing to people who didn't share my weakness for bishounen in semi-romantic relationships.

The Zweilt pairings were perfect excuses for near-romance – true, they could have all just had really, really close friendships (or, in Tsukumo and Toko's case, be really, really close siblings), but that much angsting and soulful/pained gazing says “romance” to me. With the way the show's pacing was handled, plus the sheer number of characters, 24 episodes wasn't quite enough to do justice to all of the relationships, but there were some good, fangirly moments. My favorite overall pairing was Hotsuma and Shusei, mainly because they were one of the few Zweilt pairs to get plenty of relationship screentime.

As far as individual characters went, I most preferred Kuroto's brand of angst – his Zweilt partner was permanently killed, leaving him with a single-minded focus on revenge, until he opened up a bit and eventually ended up with a new partner (who promptly had to break his engagement with his fiancee, because Zweilts have to be totally devoted to one another and to preparing for battle...sure, they're just friends, riiight). If you're looking for m/f pairings, this show is probably not for you, because you'd have to settle for either the few Girl Yuki and Luka scenes or Toko and Tsukumo scenes (the first time they came onscreen, I assumed they were a couple – I had to do a mental double take when I found out they were brother and sister).

Although I did enjoy some of those angsty relationships, they could have been done better. It really didn't help that I wasn't entirely fond of the series' primary near-romantic relationship, involving Luka and (Boy) Yuki. Yuki was one of the most worthless characters in the entire series, despite supposedly being the reason (sort of) that everything was happening. He could heal, but only by taking on others' pain, which meant he spent a lot of time passed out and/or bedridden. He could use God's Light, but he couldn't control it and didn't really know what it could be used for. Yuki's only purpose was to exist and occasionally put himself in harm's way.

It's quite possible than an inanimate object would have been less worthless than he was, because at least an inanimate object wouldn't have potentially gotten Luka and others killed by begging for no one, not even the enemy, to be hurt. An inanimate object wouldn't have walked out of a safe zone and gotten itself captured. I didn't really hate Yuki, but I disliked his wimpiness, and I found him to be kind of boring.

Unfortunately, Luka was fairly boring as well. For the most part, he consisted of little more than his fanatical devotion to Yuki - there were bits and pieces of his past, prior to meeting Yuki, but, as with nearly everything in this show, not enough to satisfy me. It didn't help that Luka's devotion (which survived 1000 years of separation from Yuki) wasn't entirely believable, in that, although he insisted that what he was in love with was Yuki's soul, it seemed like he was actually more in love with Girl Yuki. Had the show not been so busy with the overall storyline and the various other pairings, Yuki and Luka's relationship could have been explored in a bit more depth. As it was, it was one more thing that was developed just enough to keep me watching, but not enough to leave me feeling satisfied in the end.

I've purchased the first couple volumes of the manga, but haven't read them yet. I have a feeling I'll prefer the anime over the manga, simply because the anime has the whole package, visuals and sound (I really liked the voice actors), but I'm at least hoping that the manga will fill in some of the anime's information gaps.

Watch-alikes and Read-alikes:
  • Kyo Kara Maoh! (anime TV series) - Another TV series that flirts with m/m romance and features some similar "you're the reincarnation of my deceased lover" aspects, if I remember correctly. The series is about a high school student who gets flushed down a toilet and ends up in another world. In that new world, he's told that his black hair and eyes mark him as the new Demon King. It's a strange, humorous fantasy series that gets a bit more serious later on.
  • Black Blood Brothers (anime TV series) - A series starring a couple vampire brothers. This is another one that those who'd like more reincarnation and "love lost" might want to check out. I've written about most of this show.
  • Loveless (manga) by Yun Kouga; Loveless (anime TV series) - This is another angsty show that features pairs of fighters who are fiercely devoted to each other. Unfortunately, it's also like Uraboku in that there are a lot of unanswered questions, although there's at least a chance that the manga will be wrapped up one day.
  • Nabari no Ou (manga) by Yuhki Kamatani; Nabari no Ou (anime TV series) - Another show in which a clan of fighters tells the main character that he is special, has great power, and must be protected. A very close friendship forms between the main character and a deadly, damaged enemy. I've only seen a little of the anime and haven't read any of the manga - I don't know how similar the two are.
  • X (manga) by CLAMP; X (anime TV series) - Those who'd like some beautiful angst and lots of gorgeous characters might want to check this one out. I don't know how similar the manga and anime TV series are. I do know one thing - you're better off not watching the anime movie. According to everything I've read about it, it's a beautiful, confusing mess.
  • Soulmate (book) by L.J. Smith - Those who liked the idea of a love that survives the multiple reincarnations of one of the characters, as the other character waits broodingly and beautifully for them to meet again, might want to try this. I've written about this book.
  • Mirage of Blaze (anime TV series) - Those who'd like something else featuring reincarnation, romance, and lots of bishounen characters might want to try this.
  • Vampire Knight (manga) by Matsuri Hino; Vampire Knight (anime TV series) - Vampire Knight has a look that's similar to Uraboku, and there's a similar dark, brooding tone. One of the characters clearly knows things he's not telling. Those who liked the sorta kinda love triangle going on between Reiga, Yuki, and Luka may enjoy the love triangle in this series. I've written about the first season of the anime and the first volume of the manga.

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