Random Curiosity

UN-GO: Episode 0 – Inga-ron »« UN-GO – 10

UN-GO – 11 (END)

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「私はただ探している」 (Watashi wa Tada Sagashiteiru)
“I’m Just Searching”

The little show almost nobody watched certainly went out with a bang, delivering up a classic finale to one of the most satisfying mysteries anime has seen in many a season.

There was certainly a lot to cover in the final episode, as BONES and (to whatever extent all this was original) Ango-sensei had spun a very complex mystery over the past two weeks. Some speculations turned out to be accurate, some not so much – but for me, the most satisfying moments of the episode were those contained in that final confrontation between Shinjuro and Kaishou – a short conversation with encapsulated so much of what UN-GO has been about for the last eleven weeks.

I was certainly not surprised to discover that Kaishou was indeed alive, as I think that was the direction the series had been pulling us towards for most of this mystery. Equally, it was unsurprising to discover that Hayami was intimately involved in the creation of the fake Kaishou, and indeed it turned out to be the most base of all motivations – love and lust –that apparently drove him. For Kuramitsu, there again was not much hidden depth to her motivations – she was simply a naïve idealist and a bit of a fool, chasing conspiracy theories and telling herself she was manipulating the truth for the benefit of the country. For Mizuno, it was simply a matter of being a double-agent – he being a member of Full Circle as well and driven by his urge to expose the truth of Kaishou’s corruption to the world.

I loved the way all these threads were woven together, and the fact that what mattered in the end was that Kaishou and Shinjuro were the two smartest guys in the room. Hayami, Mizuno and Kuramitsu were simply in over their heads, because Kaishou is the master manipulator. As he so often did, he used Shinjuro as his stalking horse – while Kaishou played dead to prevent the imposter he knew was out there from usurping his power, he left clues – the conflicting train/car stories, the song – knowing that Shinjuro would do the leg work and eventually reveal the truth. For Inga, he was simply beaten down by the belief that Bettenou was a God, and not someone he could defeat. It was only when Shinjuro punctured the Kami’s aura of invincibility that Inga realized he could indeed triumph – Bettenou was just another soul to be devoured. That’s fitting, because more than any other show this season UN-GO has been about the power of words, and especially in Bettenou’s case, perception is reality.

It really seemed that all would be peaches and cream between Shinjuro and Kaishou in the end – it was certainly the dream conclusion for Rie – but I never quite believed it. For while Kuramitsu’s wild fantasies might not have been the truth, that doesn’t mean Kaishou’s hands are clean. In fact, it seems impossible not to assume he killed Mizuno to shut him up about several abuses of power that Shinjuro was about to elaborate on before he was interrupted, their exact nature unclear – though we know they involved collaboration during the war in exchange for profit afterwards. Never was the difference between these two powerhouses more clear than here. Kaishou is the ultimate relativist – disabused of any notion of absolute right or wrong, never mind justice, everything in life is viewed in the form of an equation. Shinjuro, by contrast, does believe in justice and absolute right and wrong – though he’s no naïve idealist after having seen what he has. He simply believes that for every evil there is a righteous justice to be found, and that there is an essential beauty to human nature that can be admired and aspired to. It’s for this ideal that he exposes people’s souls, for the truth to Shinjuro is a Platonic ideal of beauty. For Kaishou, the truth is merely a tool – an extremely powerful tool to be manipulated in the service of what he sees as a larger goal.

 

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Final Impressions:

Like Mashiro-iro Symphony, UN-GO was a series that failed to captivate me out of the box and turned into one of the better shows of the Fall season. With it’s odd source material, strange character designs and washed-out visual style the initial impression was more off-putting than striking. And it didn’t help that the first mystery was somewhat obvious and poorly constructed. But from there, the quality train was a one-way express – the series continued to improve, slowly at first and then picking up steam. The mysteries got better and better, with the RAI story that introduced Kazamori really the first indication that the mystery side of the show could be something really special.

As this was happening, the show was burrowing its way into my consciousness through other channels as well. The characters, who at first seemed somewhat stiff and flat, became more and more interesting and I began to care about what happened to them. And the series was revealing itself as incredibly smart, creating its own fascinating alternative-present mythology that playfully twisted the realities of Japanese history and current global politics into a funhouse-mirror version of today’s world that often seemed a little too close to reality for comfort. The politics was the cornerstone of this show more than the mysteries themselves, which is why it was so fitting that the final mystery was fused so completely with the political intrigue underpinning the series. No show this year – and maybe for a few years – examined political issues with as much insight and wit as UN-GO. In a year where we’ve seen several anime seemingly adopt a xenophpbic and somewhat nationalistic tone, UN-GO attacked those ideals head-on in the person of its protagonist, who in the final episode specifically decried the false ideology that took Japan to its near-destruction in the second world war.

The series managed to tie in the “Episode 0” mythology at the very end, as Shinjuro took Rie to the scene where it all happened and explained his story – and Inga’s – to her. That he would do so under the circumstances says something about Shinjuro as a character. Despite having just exposed her father’s corruption and accused him of murder, he recognizes that Rie is a different person, and puts his faith in the power of the truth to guide events. Rie is more aligned with Shinjuro ideologically than with her father, though unlike Shinjuro she still seems to do so from a position of eager idealism. Shinjuro went from being a cipher to looking like something of a tragic figure, before revealing himself in the end to be a rather proud and defiant man. He’s a soldier for the truth, and as such he will always be Kaishou’s enemy – though a grudging respect certainly exists between them. I suspect Shinjuro might not even be opposed to Kaishou’s stated goal of a world without borders, though he would never walk the path Kaishou walks to try and get there.

As for what sort of relationship ultimately exists between Shinjuro and Inga, that seems to be a matter left to speculation. I think some sort of affection has grown between them, and I don’t think Shinjuro’s concern for Inga after his disappearance was solely a practical one. Inga is certainly an odd duck, one of the weirdest characters of the year – a boy, a woman, a youkai, a kami. In its own way Inga is a soldier for the truth, too, as Inga literally consumes the truth in order to live. Theirs is a marriage of convenience I suppose, but a marriage just the same. With the utterly fascinating Kazamori added to the mix they make an appealing trio that I’d love to see more of. Kazamori added so much to the series with her offbeat RAI perspective, a wry and cutting view of humanity cut through with a great deal of curiosity and just a hint of longing to be a part if it.

Of course I think it’s highly unlikely we will see any more of these characters, at least in anime form. This series is one of the least commercial I can recall – it’s not pretty, it has no moe (maybe a bit with Kazamori), it’s dense and difficult and requires a lot of hard work to yield up its delights, though they’re well worth the effort. Sentai has licensed Episode 0 so we’ll likely see that released on Blu-ray, at least, but the “other” NoitaminA show this fall seems destined to go down as a barely-known curiosity, which is a real shame as it’s one of the smartest and oddest shows I’ve seen in a while. And though I’d never have believed I’d say it a couple of months ago, I think UN-GO managed to give this NoitaminA block one “heart show” after all, though one of a much more caustic and remote nature than the ones that preceded it in 2011.

December 23, 2011 at 11:47 pm
40 comments »
  • December 23, 2011 at 11:58 pmReaper

    Un-Go such a great series, I’ll miss looking forward to it and your excellent review.

    • December 24, 2011 at 12:17 amGuardian Enzo

      Thanks, Reaper. It was a fun show to blog.

  • December 24, 2011 at 12:07 amoutcast

    Good show i glad i watched it after seeing those interesting half black faced inga caps.
    Though the show has a lot going for it psychologically and mystery wise. Best moment of the show for me was when the little toy robot was doing a fingerblowjob.

  • December 24, 2011 at 12:33 amLonelyRurouni

    I’m glad this series was blogged. It was a great review. This show had the most intriguing plot twists and everything to make it one of my favorites this season.

    • December 25, 2011 at 1:40 amBlueFalcon

      I’m totally agree with you, and I’m glad too, for started to watch this series. Thanks Enzo for having blogged this great series.

  • December 24, 2011 at 12:43 amwaqasj

    This was one of the beast series of the season, i am surprised that a lot of people didn’t watched it. I recommend it those who didn’t watched it…..

  • December 24, 2011 at 1:01 amKoeix

    1 of the most interesting series of late

  • December 24, 2011 at 1:21 amLitho

    Thanks for blogging this series, Enzo. Truly sad to see it end.
    Hoping to catch the Episode 0 BD release/rip soon.

    • December 24, 2011 at 1:24 amLitho

      Oh, and I disagree with your remark about UN-GO being “not pretty” (your last paragraph). I personally think the character designs were quite nice. Sure, they’re not ground breaking, but at least the characters don’t look like the walking embryos wee see in almost every other anime.

  • December 24, 2011 at 1:24 amXin

    Its been a long while since I’ve felt so satisfied with the ending of a series and for it to be a time-constrained NoitaminA one speaks volumes. Your impressions were spot on in summing up my feelings for the series (right down to the comparison with Mashiro-Iro), and its been a pleasure reading your reviews throughout the journey.

    The brilliance of the dialogue in this series is beyond words. Airing alongside Fate/Zero, which also has amazing dialogue and several episodes that can really only be described as “epic”, has certainly made this season a treat. While the later has ufotable behind the animation and the fantasy setting in general backing its dialogue, UN-GO daresay felt more impressive by pulling it off in its rather plain setting and visuals.

  • December 24, 2011 at 1:24 amTez

    I felt completely trolled by that ending sequence.

  • December 24, 2011 at 2:03 amronri

    I’ve been keeping an eye at the blogs for this particular series, must say it has piqued my interest and I’d gladly watch the whole series just to check out based on people’s comments. :D

  • December 24, 2011 at 3:21 amshinkirou

    from what i heard there is going to be an ova/ona something to explain about shinjirou how he meet inga and so on together with blueray release in april .hope they will explain the 2 unknown men from the opening credit Show Spoiler ▼

    and unknown women in the ending creditShow Spoiler ▼

    which have yet to make an appearances

    • December 25, 2011 at 10:53 pmiron2000

      There an ‘Episode 0′ that was shown in theaters in Japan some months ago.

      From the JA wiki it is about the Bettenou cult arc and probably more, probably set in the past.

      About the 2 characters in the ED, i think:
      Show Spoiler ▼

    • December 25, 2011 at 11:21 pmiron2000

      Heres the link to the JA wiki for some spoilers:
      http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/UN-GO#.E5.8A.87.E5.A0.B4.E7.89.88

      Show Spoiler ▼

  • December 24, 2011 at 4:19 amnodbgp

    Really great series, you said it all, better than I ever could.
    I just feel sad that Guilty Crown was the one who got 2 seasons.

  • December 24, 2011 at 4:54 amUnFear

    Best original series of the year. Madoka be damned, this was the best original series of the year.

    • December 25, 2011 at 12:46 amUnFear

      Did three people actually dislike my comment because I like Un-go more than Madoka? Seriously?

      • December 26, 2011 at 12:42 amZammael

        For every step a genius takes, he is met with 10,000 mediocre minds. –

        Not that you’re a genius, but that you dared to utter something not quite common or agreeable with the majority’s opinions.

        I feel Madoka is a superior work due to other reasons, such as the epic nature of deconstruction of a genre, but Un-Go had more original, interesting characters & fascinating premises, on top of a subtle discourse on truth and power.

  • December 24, 2011 at 7:45 amhoh

    Great review for a great show. Really enjoyed both (especially given the two other rather disappointing show this season).

    As a side note, I don’t think there could be true or false ideology though. In the end, they are all “beliefs” and are all “false” and relative in a sense.

  • December 24, 2011 at 7:52 amDarkWind

    Very classy end. Even to the last minute there was a little twist. A series to add to the personal favorites.

    Thanks for blogging this Enzo as I almost missed out on the show completely until reading your reviews.

  • December 24, 2011 at 8:40 amKurisu Vi Britannia

    Sad to see this end, i’m on a backlog of a few episodes but I wished this would go on longer

    :(

  • December 24, 2011 at 9:31 amPen3

    there was a couple of characters in the ending that never appeared in the show. i wonder if they plan for a 2nd season or show was just cut short.

  • December 24, 2011 at 10:41 amClick

    I thought it was alright. While the use of supernatural powers is kind of a cheater move, its got class and style. But while the characters were interesting, they never actually grew on me. In the end, its still one of the better series this season, but best not one of the better offerings for the entire year. I’d still recommend it to others though, especially if their into this stuff.

  • December 24, 2011 at 12:28 pmD-LaN

    Its turns out tht Inga and Bettenou is not so omnipotent after all… So wht are they? Are there a yokai or god?

    And I assume those characters tht didn’t appear is killed off in Episode 0?

  • December 24, 2011 at 5:07 pmDragonite88

    I loved every moment of this with so hints and twist and turns it kept you alert. Loved it

  • December 24, 2011 at 6:20 pmTheVoid

    I don’t believe that Inga is a Kami. Otherwise Inga shouldn’t fear Kamis like he does.

  • December 24, 2011 at 7:00 pmSeishowmeu

    This was an AWESOME series! I will miss it!

  • December 24, 2011 at 8:33 pmsealouse

    Man I was thinking that’s totally not fair. How could they do such an awesome show and end it right there. At least there’s episode 0 to look forward to.

  • December 24, 2011 at 11:02 pmAlec

    This anime does not get enough love -_-

    It is perhaps the best anime this season.

    I just love how uniquely weak the criminal’s motive is. Normally in anime, we’d see criminals with grandiose motives. But this… nice

  • December 25, 2011 at 12:59 amKumaKaori

    Hmn, So Mashiro turned out more than a predictable, VN harem series?

    I was already watching way too much and chose to cut it :/. This is also known as C^3 and Silverlink beat it to the punch.

    Where Fate/Zero takes my SHINY medal of the season. Un-Go takes my STORY medal. All the 8 or so other series I’m watching this season just do not stack up to these two. … OK Mirai Nikki probably does >>;. but uhh just dont tell it I’m ranking it third, it’ll probably try to KILL me AUGH!. *runs away*

    … *got away safely* so! I’m going to miss this series. Just means I get to re-watch it and see if I can catch all the mystery hints!. Sort of like that Sherlock Holmes movie >>;. I got fooled in that movie so many times~… *sigh*. rematch !! rematch!!!

    Thanks Enzo ^_^! Bring on Next Season >D!

  • December 25, 2011 at 1:54 amSaangi

    AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH WHY DID UN-GO AND HORIZON END WHEN BLEACH IS STILL CONTINUING ON(Ok that’s my opinion)!!!!!!

    But still, epic series.

  • December 25, 2011 at 5:06 pmMarow

    This was a great review, thank you :)

  • December 25, 2011 at 7:38 pmBoo

    I was expecting Shinjurou x Rie. Too bad this is a mystery anime, should’ve known it wouldn’t come.

  • December 25, 2011 at 11:02 pmiron2000

    lol
    When they go about the Solar Thermal energy thingy part, I thought about Gundam 00.
    Than I thought about a bald Kaishou :P

    Well, they left the ending open.
    Theres a chance that the story might be revisited.
    Battle between the 2 great minds.

    Was wondering how the early teasers of the series (i remember a person disappearing from a swing or something) tie in to the story?

  • December 25, 2011 at 11:22 pmFlappy

    There goes another good show. Thanks for picking it up ENZO!

  • December 26, 2011 at 6:33 pmoshaku

    I was quite put-off by the first episode of UN-GO, but after reading your reviews, I decided to give it another go. Needless to say, I am now very sad to see it end. But without your weekly reviews, I would’ve never picked up this wonderful show. So thanks, Enzo.

  • December 27, 2011 at 8:52 amMelfingTime

    Great series.

    While Kami-sama no Memochou was a bit illogical at times, this really made a lot of sense and made me nod in agreement with many of our “defeated detective’s” statements.

    Enjoyed it thoroughly.

  • December 28, 2011 at 2:18 amPellino

    I’ve been raised better than to believe in conspiracy theories, but there’s something really appealing (and scrary) about the idea of there bieng an elitist few, above our democracy that is, acting on behalf of the greater good for humanity and in the process bending and hiding truths for the general public. This is especially relevant in light of the wikileaks revealings that has been happening lately even though they only served as confirmation for something most of us allready had a healthy suspicion about.

    I guess what i wanted to say is: GREAT SHOW! if not the best of the season, it’s at least up there! thx for blogging it Enzo <3

    • December 29, 2011 at 1:29 pmZewho

      I agree with you, Pellino. Funny enough, I told someone Kaishou looked a little like Julian Assange. Unfortunately, Kaishou manipulates the truth to wipe clean any events related to the past incidents, so he seems to be the opposite of Julian. Even though they both are computer experts, and they seem to want to create a world without borders.

      Another show that is creepily relevant to the real world is Naoki Urasawa’s “Monster.” The type of corruption that we witness occurring in that show (the events take place back in the mid-1990′s) remind me of why we need these whistleblowing organizations that try to combat any abuse of power. Also, any futuristic show with data manipulation or terrorism like “Ghost in the Shell” or what not makes me think the same as well.