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「素顔の家」 (Sugao no Ie)
“House, Unmasked”

Now that was more like it. Building on the strong first half last week, UN-GO delivered a conclusion to its first two-parter that was exactly what I hoped this show would be – smart, funny, dark and extremely interesting.

I think this episode worked on pretty much all levels. It was entertaining, it provided a mystery that was well-conceived and executed in its own right, it was enlightening as far the recurring plot and it provided some very cutting political commentary to boot. I’ve suspected from the beginning, but “The New Information Privacy and Protection Act” is definitely a stand-in for Bill 156 – writer Aikawa-sensei has definitely taken the gloves off now. “Interfering with the wholesome upbringing of young people”? LOL! Given the genealogy of this series what I think is proved here is that some things never change, and there’s always room in public life for narrow-minded ideologues, fascists and self-promoting cretins. Of course, the larger issues specifically as related to RAI were dealt with in a rather balanced way – but we’ll get back to that.

The big twist in the mystery was that Komamori Sasa had faked his own death – goodness, who could have predicted such a thing? But the conspiracy ran much deeper than that – Kazamori wasn’t the only RAI in the mix. Dr. Taku being a ‘bot was an interesting twist, as was giving Kazamori the ability to jump from device to device wirelessly. Komamori’s reasoning made perfect sense – the military wanted to co-opt his technology for their own use under the guise of the N.I.P.P.A., so he staged his death using the real Taku’s body and went underground. While I don’t doubt his sincerity in not wanting to see his RAI used for war, his actual philosophy seems to be a sort of sybaritic libertarianism – anything goes, as long as it feels good. I thought the debate between he and Shinjurou was one of the better-written and more interesting conversations I’ve heard in anime in ages. There were some big ideas being tossed back and forth there, and no answers were forthcoming – just differing viewpoints. The arc finished in an almost totally open-ended way, and that felt right to me.

In addition to the innate desire of mankind to possess beauty, the notion of the rights of artificial intelligences and the idea of justice, we also got a healthy dose of very clever humor here. I was especially struck by Kaishou’s refrigerator scolding him for choosing an unhealthy snack (we’re much, much closer to that reality than most people realize) and the doll possessed by Kazamori attempting to pleasure Shinjurou in the car. For that matter, Inga’s monologue over the preview about NoitaminA being “TV Manga” spelled backwards was pretty clever, too – and I never expected to see a Miyu Irino character slap the cuffs on a refrigerator. Everything about the episode was sharper than the first three have been, including the dialogue.

We also learned that Inga ‘”eats souls, the feelings left by humans…” even if we don’t know exactly what that means. The youkai theory seems to hold the most water for now. Also learned – his/her Vulcan mind tricks don’t work on RAI, only on humans apparently. We know that Shinjurou was “on the battlefield” – perhaps he died on one, and that’s where Inga came into the picture? What’s also becoming more clear each week is the depth to which the military & intelligence collectives are running things in this world, controlling everything down to seemingly very minor details of life – and that there are at least two (and probably more) major factions jostling with each other for power. Shinjurou’s role continues to look like that of a tool in the hands of Izumi’s group, but I get the feeling that both he and Rie will end up causing them much trouble before the series is over.

For the first time I’m really starting to get a handle on how the pieces of this universe fit together, and that makes the story much more compelling. With the massive talent involved in the writing, direction and original material I’m surprised it’s taken this long for UN-GO to find its stride. But the fact is that it appears to have done so, and that’s the most important thing. It does, of course, once again point out the limitations of the 11-episode format – we’re just now at full speed, and the series is more than a third complete.

 

Preview

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November 3, 2011 at 4:39 pm
34 comments »
  • November 3, 2011 at 4:53 pmNeptune

    Ooo this anime is actually starting to be not so bad :o

  • November 3, 2011 at 4:55 pmHrmmmm

    I’m actually really digging the ED. It’s funky and works well with the psuedo-post-apocalypse Japan.

    Here’s to hoping for some action scenes. I mean it’s not impossible since Shinjirou has a military background and Inga has, well, Demon Arms but I guess it won’t really work with the whole setup.

    On that note you should have capped the Demon/Shadow arm that Inga used to lift off the SP. It was probably the most interesting bit of character backgrond they had this ep.

  • November 3, 2011 at 4:57 pmZen

    I haven’t had a chance to see this yet, (How the hell did you get your hands on it this early?!?) but if this episode truly does everything you say it does, then UN-GO will have proven itself to me to a significant degree. I was about to say last week, but I didn’t because it was so obvious, that the overall quality of this mini-arc would largely depend on how they resolved it. More on the matter when I’ve actually seen it…

    • November 3, 2011 at 6:03 pmGuardian Enzo

      I think you’ll find it satisfies.

      • November 3, 2011 at 10:59 pmZen

        Well, what can I say? Well done, BONES team! They weaved the underlying political issues and the mystery together quite seamlessly this time round.

        And they didn’t go for the cop-out that I was half-anticipating where they would disconnect the AI story from the overarching plot just to simplify the premise and make it easier to craft a convincing story. No, instead they managed to quite fluidly reveal a feud between two different governmental factions- (From what I gather, it was between the Military and the civilian [prosecutor = executive???] branches of government), through the resolution of this case without making it feel forced- far removed in quality from what they did in the first episode (positively, of course).

        And as a bonus, they even went as far as weaving some emotion into the story with the whole family drama, especially with how that girl sincerely loved Kazamori as her brother, regardless of the fact that he was an AI. And they even managed an adequate depiction of the subversive use of fear tactics for propaganda’s sake- leading up to a competent philosophical conversation between Komamori and Shinjurou- this actually had some real depth to it- compared to anything you see in typical mainstream stuff these days, which tends to be all spirit and no substance (Think Alice’s little speech in last season’s Kamimemo, spirited, but pure poppycock by philosophical standards)- this had spirit, and was backed by real philosophical logic.

        And to top off the cake with a cherry, looks like the AI’s going to become a new main character. I knew from the moment I saw him that he would, more likely than not, turn into a new character (in some form) and become an exceedingly useful ally (or painfully frustrating enemy, or anything in between) for our heroes, but as I’ve mentioned above, I thought that they might cop out and use his intro arc as solely an intro arc, without tying it in significantly to the main storyline- and in the worst case scenario, even do away with the AI at the end of the arc, a character with so much potential. But they didn’t do any of that, and instead chose the higher, more difficult path of attempting to tie this arc directly into the overarching story, and retaining the AI as a (major???) character.

        I do think, however, that they would have been able to improve this arc by dedicating more time to fleshing out the aforementioned governmental feud, perhaps inserting a little more foreshadowing and showing more concrete conflict between the two governmental factions to spice things up. But with a season of just 11 episodes, I very much doubt that there’s time to do this, and, hey, things were great the way they were- short, but sweet. I suppose there will be an adequate number of opportunities for them to do this as the show progresses, and I’ll wait for it patiently- patience is a virtue, after all.

        As the show continues and the plot thickens, it will only become progressively harder for the UN-GO team to competently and convincingly weave the underlying political issues into the overlaying mystery; I am convinced now that they will potentially be able to do so- but it is still no simple feat, with the exponentially increasing stakes and the ridiculously low episode count- I shall continue to watch with the utmost anticipation…let not this cherry-topped shortcake be a lie; instead let it be a herald of the rich, sinful Black Forests to come…XP

    • November 3, 2011 at 10:09 pmKurisu Vi Britannia

      I saw it subbed even before they posted this on here, you need to get your sources fixed ;)

      • November 3, 2011 at 11:05 pmZen

        Lol, thanks :) What I need to do is get my eyes checked; I thought I saw a “5″ as the episode number instead of a “4″ and searched based on that, not finding anything…totally idiotic of me…XP

  • November 3, 2011 at 5:02 pmMarow

    This is only getting better and better! Didn’t expect that it would be this amazing when watching the first episode.

  • November 3, 2011 at 6:12 pminfinite

    “I never expected to see a Miyu Irino character slap the cuffs on a refrigerator.” Same here, I LMAO soon as I saw that.

  • November 3, 2011 at 6:27 pmDragonite88

    I dont know about you guys but it has a Ghost in the Shell feeling to it. With the sci-tech and futuristic yet simple concepts.

    I m liking this series and hope it gets even better. I want to know more about Inga and see what is their rellationship. I also love ost which sounded almost like the bleach ost. The sort spanish feel to it.

  • November 3, 2011 at 6:30 pmLitho

    Yeah, this anime has been getting better. This was the best ep so far.
    Not the greatest plot in the world, but it has something that’s been sorely lacking for me in anime recently: characters I actually enjoy watching.

    Nice to know there’s still something to look forward to every Thursday, now that I’ve dropped that crowning of shit called Guilty Crap.

    Oh, anyone else notice the awesome in-anime BGM this ep? … the part where they were talking to the father.
    Pure class, that track.

  • November 3, 2011 at 6:37 pmSoiyeruda

    Handcuffing a refrigerator. Too much win. And dat stuffed toy rape.

    I found the first few episodes a bit of a stumble but this recent arc has given me new faith in the series. It’s incredibly clever. Shame it will only be 11 episodes.

  • November 3, 2011 at 7:23 pmmtle

    I had the impression the dad wanted to sex with kazamori .. hah

    • November 3, 2011 at 7:52 pmZero

      Im pretty sure he probably already has when kazamori was in that little girl body. I mean was hugging and almost kissing it for a second when he was speaking about desires. He was probably a pedophile so he made a robot in the shape of a little girl to express his sexual desires.

    • November 3, 2011 at 8:03 pmTheAllseeingeye

      I pretty sure he did actually…

    • November 3, 2011 at 8:08 pmHrmmmm

      Oh my… hostess, miko, nurse and maid custumes… I think this man had some very interesting hobbies.

  • November 3, 2011 at 7:54 pmZero

    Reminds me of Chobits

  • November 3, 2011 at 9:06 pmZhiroc

    Eh, I’m still pretty bored with the series. I think the biggest problem is that the characterization feels flat to me. And if the characters don’t grab me, it really doesn’t matter how good/bad the story is.

    • November 3, 2011 at 9:10 pmZwei

      i find it hard to believe you are not liking the characters, after this ep, i’m liking Shinjurou and Inga a lot, especially now w/ Kazamori to add up. so far, best anime of the season for me. I can’t help but smile in the end of this ep. I just love its mix of politics, conspiracy, mystery drama and philosophy, reminiscent of what i love w/ Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex,though they’re utterly different.

      • November 4, 2011 at 4:58 amLitho

        Well, it’s turned out to be a weak season, tbh.
        Guilty Crown is just rehashed crap of crap that’s been done 1000 times before, while Last Exile Fam isn’t exactly living up to my expectations. FateStay Night really isn’t my thing, I just can’t get “into” the whole setting (it’s definitely not on Kara no Kyoukai’s level) Unlike LE:Fam, I had no expectations for UN-GO, which is maybe why I’m liking it more than the others.

        But yeah, the main characters are hard to dislike. They seem to tick all the right boxes for me. Plus it has the best music/BGM this season.

        Kinda sad its only 12 eps, though

  • November 3, 2011 at 9:48 pmZwei

    oh, and this came to me after waking up this morning,
    from what i’ve seen, Inga feels an “irresistible need to feed” (thus transforming) when she’s near humans who are feeling a great deal of emotional guilt or burden, like for ep.1, when she’s near the victim’s wife, in ep.2, when they are talking w/ the 2 of Yonagahime’s, and in ep.3, when they are w/ Itoji and her family
    entirely different from her voluntary transformation w/ Kazamori in the car

  • November 3, 2011 at 10:15 pmAlec

    Imo, best episode of the entire season so far!

  • November 3, 2011 at 10:45 pmlilu

    I loved every minute of this episode.

  • November 3, 2011 at 11:12 pmx

    This episode finally delivers what I was hoping to see in this anime. Best episode so far. Still not my favorite anime of the season yet, but it is getting a lot better than the first two episodes. The third episode had indications it was getting better, and this episode confirms it. Hope the next episode will be better still.

  • November 4, 2011 at 8:16 amReaper

    I know this kinda seems random, but every time i see this it reminds me of DtB, with the guy in the trench coat in the OP & ED that looks like Hei, Inga looking like that kid in the casket at the end of Dtb RnG, the statues of Izanami & Izanagi in the ED, and the war torn japan that looks similar to the end of RnG. IDK, just random musings.

    • November 4, 2011 at 11:48 amFallenrock

      Agreed, swear i saw Hei in Both OP and ED; While Persona has the best OP this season in my opinion this definitely has the best ED.
      Guilty Crown OP 2nd place though ^.^

  • November 4, 2011 at 11:16 amAlec

    I’m hoping Un-Go can maintain their amazing episodic episodes

  • November 4, 2011 at 3:26 pmFlappy

    Kazamori seems to be… rather strange. For what reason did he/she try to pleasure Shinjuro? Anyways looks like there would be another interesting character thrown into the mix. Good to see BONES doing something excellent for a while now. Really how many books are there? Can 11 episodes really do justice to the source? Second season please.

  • November 5, 2011 at 8:16 pmsealouse

    So it really was a corpse that was burned. Ah well. Very good episode. I was quite frankly shocked that they would quote the bill like that. Dammit.

  • November 6, 2011 at 12:10 amYuumei

    It really creeped me out when the robots tore each other’s faces off and such… ’cause I wasn’t expecting it.

    But I really liked how they ended it, sort of tying it in to the rest of the series. I was wondering when we were going to see that girl in the sweater in the OP and ED. I also liked that you pointed out the outcome was open ended. It’s kind of realistic in the way that neither is shown to be right or wrong and that was pretty cool. Can’t wait to see the next direction it’ll take.

  • November 6, 2011 at 7:05 amZwei

    this.
    http://www.un-go.com/03chara_ingaron/index.html

    i’m fucking excited.
    looks like Yuuki long haired version is a movie exclusive.

  • November 6, 2011 at 8:05 pmthreeheadedmonkeys

    The most interesting part of this episode to me is how, while it continues to paint the government in an unfavorable light (it can’t not, really), it also takes some potshots at otaku culture. There are obviously plenty of parallels between banning violent robotic sports and robot sex dens, and banning extremely violent and or pornographic media, including anime and manga, in the name of protecting “the wholesome upbringing of young people.” The latter is, of course, something that really happens.

    Yet the cold depiction of the brutality of RAI abuse, Rie’s commentary about it, and Shinjuurou’s takedown of Komamori’s hedonistic ranting/open embrace of perversion all suggest that maybe banning RAIs, which Komamori brought in to the world precisely for such abuse, isn’t a bad thing. It’s worth noting how childish and petulant Komamori is, blithely dismissing the murder of Dr. Taku and vengefully tearing Kazamori apart in what can only be described as a temper tantrum. I don’t think that “there were no answers forthcoming” from Komamori/Shinjuurou discussion: I think the show is very much against Komamori, even as it allows him to state his case. Furthermore, I think it’s right to be against him.

    What does that say about those who indulge in the more perverted underside of otaku culture: the gorn, the pedo stuff, or even the simple hentai manga? What does it say about those who hole up in their own apartments, like Komamori, to engage in their twisted fantasies, completely detached from real human experiences that would force them to respect the prerogatives of others, or any desires save their own? Nothing good. Komamori is a stand-in for the men who swear by 2D girls: girls who are creations of the human imagination, and thus are unable to say no.

    I don’t think Un-Go is going whole hog in favor of censorship, either in the RAI debate or in its real world parallels. Un-Go isn’t a show to favor the censor. But it also is willing to acknowledge the problem with falling to far in the other direction. And that it does so in a way that takes its primary audience to task. Now that’s daring.

  • November 18, 2011 at 11:09 amAshen

    I’m a longtime diehard fan of detective series, so it’s no surprise that I’ve liked UN-GO from the start, but thanks to this episode’s conclusions and the questions it raised, I can now say I love it.

    The complexity of the characters is always a huge plus, and as you said, the parallels with real-world issues as well as the ever-expanding reach of the governement factions is fascinating too.

    On a final note: I found it at once tremendously intriguing and more than a bit kinky by that whole “the doll possessed by Kazamori attempting to pleasure Shinjurou in the car,” scene. The fact that Shinjurou lets Inga do what s/he wants to him, and even in this incident, he didn’t really put up a fight, makes him all the more interesting a character to me.

    I wish this series were much, much longer (24 or 26 episodes, you feel me?) but with any luck it’ll get released stateside and maybe even green-lit for a second season, depending on the nature of the ending, so I’m still cautiously hopeful. <3