Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Un-Go (anime TV series), via Crunchyroll

Un-Go is an 11-episode mystery series with supernatural and sci-fi elements.


This series takes place in a futuristic Japan that has recently survived a major war and several terrorist attacks. Many people are still adjusting to their post-war positions - things they did that seemed right and just during the war are suddenly deemed wrong and/or illegal.

The series looks at the investigations of Shinjurou, known as the "Defeated Detective." Every time he solves a mystery, Rinroku Kaishou swoops in with another solution - except, as it turns out, Shinjurou is pretty good at solving crimes, and Kaishou is equally as good at tidying things up so that influential people won't face any blame or embarrassment.

Shinjurou has a partner/boss named Inga. Usually, Inga appears to be a playful young boy/girl (Crunchyroll's subtitling says that this version of Inga is a boy, although I don't know if that was a translator decision or not). At times, however, Inga transforms into a sexy woman. In that form, Inga can ask a person one question, and that person must answer truthfully.

A good portion of the series is composed of 1- or 2-episode mysteries. Shinjurou observes things, asks questions, investigates, and, when the time comes, he tells Inga who to talk to and what question to ask. Usually, one or more members of the police follows Shinjurou around, so they can swoop in and cover up anything he discovers that might be politically embarrassing.


My synopsis is terrible – it makes this series seem much more boring than it is. My biggest complaint about Un-Go is that it's too short to properly explore the world and characters packed into it.

The series' earliest mysteries are pretty simple, so simple that I could usually figure out “whodunit” well before Shinjurou laid things out, if only because the list of possible suspects was very limited. What those earliest mysteries really do is lay out who the series' principle characters are and what the world they live in is like. People whose actions were lauded during the war found themselves being quietly swept under the rug after the war was over, or even imprisoned. Kaishou approached the series' various crimes from the perspective that there is more than one “truth” - and he worked to ensure that only the most beautiful (and least uncomfortable) of “truths” got the spotlight in the end. Shinjurou, on the other hand, believed that there was only ever one truth, and he wanted to find out what it was.

There was a lot of mystery surrounding Shinjurou and Inga. Shinjurou repeatedly stated that he had been out of the country for some time and didn't always know things that everyone else in Japan seemed to know. He referred to sexy-woman-Inga as his “boss” and didn't seem to be completely comfortable around her, and yet he also seemed to be fond of kid-Inga. Sexy-woman-Inga, for her part, was very flirtatious with Shinjurou, but with a vibe that seemed to me to be like a tiger with a reasonably full belly sauntering up to something it would usually consider to be prey. It takes some time for viewers to learn (sort of) what Inga is and what she does, and viewers aren't given Shinjurou's reason for keeping her company until the last few moments of the series. I can only assume that Inga stayed with Shinjurou because she enjoyed the company.

In the first half of the series, I was mostly carried along by a need to learn more about the mysteries surrounding Shinjurou and Inga. I also wanted to learn more about the world they lived in. In the last half of the series, the mysteries became a bit more complex, especially when the addition of one particular character made it difficult to tell whether certain details were true or not. However, I admit to being more than a little disappointed that the series didn't end with a greater focus on Shinjurou and Inga. Actually, I think my disappointment is more general than that: I would have liked to have learned more about Shinjurou, Inga, and Rinroku Kaishou. Those were the series' most interesting characters, and I felt like the series was only just starting to do more than scratch the surface of those characters when it ended.

I'd definitely recommend this to fans of episodic mystery anime, with the caveat that viewers should prepare themselves for a less-than-satisfying ending. Also, the series does have some objectionable content, particularly during one of the earlier mysteries. In that mystery, Shinjurou and Inga learn about R.A.I., artificial intelligence programs. Until R.A.I. were banned, they were implanted in human-shaped robotic bodies and either made to fight against each other for the entertainment of humans (think “mud-wrestling women,” only with hair and chunks of face getting torn off) or used for porn and prostitution. The R.A.I. Shinjurou and Inga meet was implanted in a young girl body and owned by a man who made it fairly clear that he used his R.A.I. to indulge his pedophiliac interests. I'm still baffled by the man's daughter's non-reaction to this news – if I were her, I'd have been horrified.

Other Comments:
  • I loved the opening and closing songs.
  • One particular character, who referred to himself as a "novelist," strongly reminded me of characters in Yun Kouga's Loveless. Then, while writing this post, I learned that Yun Kouga was one of the people involved in the series' character designs. Go me, for spotting that!
  • Apparently there's a 45-minute "Episode 0" that, from what I've read, gives a lot of explanations the series itself doesn't. Unfortunately, this episode isn't included on Crunchyroll, although I've heard that Sentai Filmworks has licensed it. I don't know if I'll ever get around to seeing it, though, because Sentai Filmworks' prices tend to be higher than I would like, especially when you consider what they include. The Sentai Filmworks titles I've reviewed have been sub-only, with limited extras at best.
Watch-alikes and Read-alikes:
  • Death Note (manga) story by Tsugumi Ohba, art by Takeshi Obata; Death Note (anime TV series) - Those who'd like another darker mystery series that delves into some "gray area" ethical issues might want to give this series a try. The original manga is best, although the anime is okay, just laughably dramatic at times. I've written about the first live action movie.
  • Gosick (anime TV series) - If you'd just like another good-looking episodic mystery series with supernatural elements, give this one a try. Victorique is another genius detective who doesn't get any of the credit for the mysteries she solves. I've written about the TV series and the first light novel.
  • Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion (anime TV series) - Those who enjoyed the darker political and mystery aspects of Un-Go might want to give this a try. Just be warned, Code Geass is not an episodic mystery series - it has more of an overarching story and quite a bit more action than Un-Go.
  • Kindaichi Case Files (manga) story by Yozaburo Kanari, art by Fumiya Sato - Another episodic mystery series, with a similarly "traditional" style to its mysteries - when new characters appear, their names and basic info are given, just as in Un-Go. Those who enjoy "whodunit" mysteries and liked trying to figure out who committed the crimes in Un-Go might want to give this series a try. It has a more naive (maybe not the best word, but it's the best I could think of) feel than Un-Go, but the mysteries are still enjoyable. I've written about several volumes in this series.

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