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Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen – 24 »« Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen – 22

Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen – 23

「脱出」 (Dasshatsu)
“Escape”

Maybe all the meandering of the plot was to build up to this.

Splitting the party is bad for the party, good for the audience

Conclusions first: I enjoyed most of this episode. Conventionally, there comes a point in every story where all the odds are stacked against our heroes, and this is probably the time for Haku and gang. The two wars were just mostly just a mess, either just one side stomping the other, or nameless troops mashing together without much coherence. Itsuwari no Kamen is much better at handling the small scale than the large (more on this later), which is what they’re finally getting to now. After all those episodes dallying around Yamato, it’s about time that we get a payoff. And this is probably the best that we’ll get: finally, the country that has treated Haku so well, that seemed so nonchalant to all troubles while under the watch of its immortal emperor, is turning on itself. Splitting the party also helps, because keeping the gang together feels far too secure. I’d prefer a clearer sense that they were outnumbered, divided and hunted, though what we got was overall good enough. Special commendations to the soundtrack, which is one of the most consistently good things about Itsuwari no Kamen.

I also wish that the tension was maintained longer. While most of the episode did a competent job juggling comedic moments to break up the sphincter-clenching, it all sort of deflated at some point. It’s that persistent issue with Itsuwari no Kamen again; it just seems so loathe to commit. Come on, don’t stop here; make her shiv someone instead of having Big Bird intervene with a morality lesson like it was an episode of Sesame Street. I think it was exacerbated by having the climax of the episode too early with the Suddenly Kuon. While the cliffhanger we actually got was good as well, this one’s bigger. We’ve already seen Vurai go Super Saiyan and kill a lot of people; Kuon doing it should be much more significant and much more traumatic. In the end, it takes away from the rest of the episode. For example, Atui’s silent confrontation with her father didn’t feel as dramatic as it really should be, because Itsuwari no Kamen released a bit too much tension already.

A question of scope

I could keep picking at bits of the episode, but again since I liked it overall, let’s talk about some big picture ideas instead. I’ve come to a strange sort of conclusion lately; instead of Itsuwari no Kamen being too slow, didn’t it actually go to fast? That is, it tried to take on too many lines of plot and couldn’t see them all through to a proper conclusion. The war with Tusukuru mostly fizzled, the war with the barbarians was not really, Kuon, Rurutie and Atui all didn’t struggle nearly enough about the decision to betray their country and their families—I think it’s a matter of Itsuwari no Kamen not having a clear understanding of its scope. Generally, we can look at the fantasy world of Utawarerumono from three different levels: the individual, the national and the international. Itsuwari no Kamen tries all three—it focuses a lot on the characters living within Yamato, it gets into the domestic politics of Yamato, and also Yamato’s relationship with its neighbours (fights a few wars, etc). Unfortunately, it hasn’t always been very good at all of that, the large scale stuff in particular, but it does it anyway because, hey, Utawarerumono. Now that Itsuwari no Kamen has lost the ‘international’ stuff (until someone invades Yamato, at least; it’s a prime time to do so), I think it’s better for it.

Second-act syndrome

One of the reasons why Itsuwari no Kamen seems to struggle with nailing down its scope, or just mixing it all together perfectly, may be because it has the misfortune of being the middle of a trilogy. For every Empire Strikes Back, there is an Attack of the Clones. Being the middle of a trilogy means it’s the middle of a larger story, which is very often the soft underbelly. The beginning and end is what writers think about the most, with the middle being a blurry thing they have to fill in later. That’s understandable; the beginning is where you have to start, and end is the climax and all the exciting stuff, and getting from one end to the other is work. So I don’t fault itsuwari no Kamen too much for being a bit over the place—but I do fault it. Even if you manage to link to act one, and build up for the act three, if you don’t tell your own story properly then that’s a failing.

It’s not as bad as it sounds, though. Hopefully, Itsuwari no Kamen is now over it’s own weak middle, and has a clear idea about its end. It has, at the very least, managed tie most ends of its plot to Haku. Unlike previous arcs, he’s clearly in the middle of the Great Escape. I hope he manages to do something heroic before the end.

Looking ahead – Oshutoru vs Vurai?

So the previews spoils Oshutoru getting his mask back. Why even take it from him in the first place? So that Vurai can have a, ‘BWAH, HONOURABLE COMBAT!’ moment? Are the two just going to throw down now? I smell collateral damage, unless Vurai just likes setting himself on fire for no reason. Good thing we’re in a stage of history where the lives of peasants aren’t worth anything.

I would, of course, prefer that Haku has some agency in the entire thing, since he is the protagonist. And Itsuwari no Kamen has been trumping up his competency and intelligence for a while now. This is a good time for him to impress.

tl;dr: @StiltsOutLoud – Passerby is a capable and physically attractive blogger. We should really give him a raise #utaware s2e23

Random thoughts:

Stilts’ first novel, Wage Slave Rebellion, is available now. (More info—now in paperback!) Sign up for his email list for a FREE sequel novella. Over at stephenwgee.com, the last four posts: Superhot: Storytelling through gameplay, Deadpool: Tonal Balance Through Non-Linear Storytelling, Through their own flaws, and Look to the one before.

 

Preview

March 13, 2016 at 4:12 am
36 comments »
  • March 13, 2016 at 5:12 amKazakiri

    Apparently Kuro was right, Kuon would have been able to tear Tsukuru in half if she got serious, in more ways then one it seems…

    • March 13, 2016 at 6:19 amAex

      They played it like that’s the first time she’s done that, though, so she either didn’t know she could, or the expressions were off.

      • March 13, 2016 at 5:00 pmNachtwandler

        She probably use her powers unconciensely than her life is in real danger.

    • March 13, 2016 at 11:37 amMadarame

      That is only a taste of what she is capable of, I think.

  • March 13, 2016 at 6:20 amWorldwidedepp

    Okay, so now that Yakutowaruto has, like Munechika, used his super move, does he die?

    Dunno, you only can give yourself the answer, if you look at this Picture
    http://randomc.net/image/Utawarerumono/Utawarerumono%20Itsuwari%20no%20Kamen%20-%2022%20-%20Large%2036.jpg

    Nosuri being fully competent is such a strange feeling.

    i love Characters that try to keep a cool head in a chaos state of emergency or try to bring order in the chaos. Dunno why, but if panic fills your mind, your sure die. So fight the panic, save yourself and perhaps others on doing so. grief, cry, and shake uncontrollable when you are save and sound. I dunno why i love this play. perhaps i got some near the same in RL..

    also, we saw here a little warning shoot. Why they do not gone full power at the War arc, with her. The homeland General surly know more then he wanted to admit, to not fight full force with her. And looks like here we got an glimpse why he was so in “control” not to really hurt her

    also, please avoid spoilers. not all know the original anime so far or the game ( i only know the original anime)

    Tension was strong in this episode, i like it

  • March 13, 2016 at 7:09 amvaans

    Its funny and amusing when Haku and Nekone agreed in burning Dekonponpon’s place and get bonk in
    the head by Oshutoru.

    http://randomc.net/image/Utawarerumono/Utawarerumono%20Itsuwari%20no%20Kamen%20-%2023%20-%20Large%2025.jpg

    • March 13, 2016 at 7:36 amBob

      I wonder why they didn’t do it anyway. It’s not like things can ever go back to the way they were before so, no pun intended, burning that bridge is no major loss. Also, Dekonponpon is supposed to be one of the people pursuing them. Starting a fire at his palace would be a good way to divert his attention elsewhere.

  • March 13, 2016 at 7:20 amMangaman

    Kuon is Show Spoiler ▼

    I even wonder whats gonna happen this time. Will Haku’s secret be reveled. Will they make it out a live?

    Will ruterias’ dad be waiting ,like Atui was on the river?

  • March 13, 2016 at 8:11 amzrnzle500

    I’m glad kokopo knocked some sense into rurutie. I mean, unless they planned to divorce her from the party, she wasn’t going to stab anyone. Primarily, her plan to turn them in would not have worked the way she hoped. They kidnapped the princess (from the perspective of the eight generals) and broke out the guy accused and sentenced to death for poisoning the princess. Either is likely a capital offense i.e. They aren’t getting off with a warning. If you turn in your friends, rurutie, they will either be executed or die in prison. So beyond not doing what you don’t believe, it’s just dumb

    • March 13, 2016 at 7:46 pmPasserby

      To be fair, it was very specifically a plan that she did not believe in. But she was the daughter of one of the ruling establishment of Yamato. She’s evidently a person of more doubts than Atui.

  • March 13, 2016 at 8:41 amewok40k

    What has me really womdering is who is real culprit behind poisoninng the princess:
    -Vurai? he is ruthless but pretty straightforward in his cruelty. Plus he seemed stalwart supporter of Emperor…
    -The Chessmaster? that would be fitting his manipulative nature…
    -Dekoponpo? he is more of an ibumbling idiot than serious enemy.
    -Atui’s father and Oshutoru’s drinking buddy seem to be at the very least trying to help our gang by not being too effective in search…

    Also Kuon being living nuke was noted before by the Tusukuru general who mentione she could have nuked the place if she gone all-out…

    • March 13, 2016 at 8:49 amWorldwidedepp

      how got the feedback, that they found the princess?…

    • March 14, 2016 at 6:04 amNachtwandler

      I think it’s Woshisu (glasses guy). He was the last one seeing an Emperor and he has the most influence in the Capital. And he tried to play neutral during poisoning investigation.

  • March 13, 2016 at 10:39 amVoyager

    Passerby you got me. I thought it was a Stilt post, as usual, very good and on point etc. and then I read “tl;dr: @StiltsOutLoud – Passerby is a capable and physically attractive blogger” so I was like WTF Stilts, why posting something like that in YOUR review … then I checked the author and all made sense.

    Stilts, Passerby, you surely are similar you know, at least for someone like me that can’t tell the differences between English styles.

    Well, who cares in the end, I got my good review in a way or the other. :)

    • March 13, 2016 at 7:50 pmPasserby

      I confess: we’re actually the same person. Why else have we never been seen in the same room at the same time?

      • March 14, 2016 at 2:41 amSmokex365

        When they combine the magnificent Onmi awakens!

      • March 14, 2016 at 2:06 pmVoyager

        Uhm, being apart 13.000 km (or 8000 miles) _may_ be part of the reason, I think ;)

  • March 13, 2016 at 11:26 amRay

    Seriously, the anime made too many original edits to the story and just ruined the whole thing for me at this point. Now I’m just watching this to see if they can make it worse.

    I’m gonna leave some of the difference between the game and the anime here and let you guys be the judge of which is better.

    Don’t read past this line if you don’t want to be spoiled, is case the spoiler tag stopped working.

    Show Spoiler ▼

    They are some other parts of the final arc that I was tempted to put in there, but the story of the anime version wasn’t there yet and I think I should refrain myself from putting them in.

  • March 13, 2016 at 3:07 pmHalfDemonInuyasha

    *somehow still alive after destroying his head last episode*

    Maybe it’s just my cynicism because of how episodes have been, but I just didn’t really feel the good points of the episode. If anything, it felt like the whole chase was being dragged on as long as possible. Add in Kuon’s sudden deus ex hax power, more Dekoponpo idiocy, Rurutie’s naive stupidity, and the attempted comedic moments that I felt weren’t really needed at all and…yeah…

    • March 13, 2016 at 5:02 pmNachtwandler

      Kuon is the Show Spoiler ▼

      .

    • March 13, 2016 at 7:43 pmJuan

      You have to remember that this is Part 2 of a Series as pointed out in the review. I’m guessing you didn’t watch the first series nor play any of the VNs this was based off on so you don’t know the reason she has that power or at least like me that while I didn’t know she had that power, you aren’t surprised knowing her roots

    • March 13, 2016 at 9:01 pmHalfDemonInuyasha

      I know Kuon’s origins and I’ve seen the first series (though never played the VNs).

      I’m just saying that, up until this point, based solely on the anime, we’ve never had any good or consistent foreshadowing of Kuon possessing such power (and no, just because we know who her parents were does not excuse such omissions on the part of the writers and such) and now it just conveniently is pulled out when she, Nosuri, and Anju would have otherwise been shot up with arrows.

      I mean, even Gohan in Dragon Ball Z has had a consistent foreshadowing of very strong hidden powers ever since the very beginning of the story up until it was finally (first) completely awakened against Cell. It wasn’t like he was a relatively normal, seemingly “average” character and then explodes that power out of nowhere at a convenient point like Kuon did here.

      • March 13, 2016 at 10:09 pmdaikama

        @HalfDemonInuyasha: Yep. From an anime only standpoint it’s out-of-nowhere ass-pull. Just a plot convenient power-up. Even if you do count in “origins”, it’s still kind of ass-pull, though not quite as bad. Frankly, I’m not sure what the trace-like state when it happened means, but at this point, whatever.

      • March 14, 2016 at 1:11 amPasserby

        @HalfDemonInuyasah and @daikama
        I wouldn’t go as far as to call the development as out of nowhere since, as other commenters have noted, Kuon does have a pedigree and some hidden power has been hinted at, even if obliquely. Furthermore, a perilous situation triggering a hidden power is fairly standard for anime, and people usually don’t have much trouble with that. I would guess that what most people are actually finding trouble with is the timing of this development so late in the story, which makes it feel more sudden and more jarring than it could have been.

      • March 14, 2016 at 6:06 amNachtwandler

        Frankly speaking it was foreshadowed at least once (during battle with Kuroh).

      • March 14, 2016 at 11:07 amHalfDemonInuyasha

        @Passerby + Nachtwandler

        Yeah, but the only ones who would know or care about pedigree are those who have seen the first series and/or played the VN. From a purely anime standpoint (of this alone), the only time we ever got any notion of hidden power was, as mentioned, Kurou before but that was just one time and even that felt more like a passing statement that’s easily forgotten due to it being made in the middle of a more action-based sequence. It also doesn’t help that the following episode felt like it completely negated that episode so I had almost entirely forgotten about Kurou even mentioning it.

        I also don’t have a problem with it happening in life-or-death situations since, yeah, that’s usually the cliche, but there’s also usually a few “sparks” leading up to the explosion of a hidden power like that. Like maybe if Kuon inadvertently used a small bit of it a few times throughout earlier in the series against various large creatures or something. Even now, I feel like the big reveal would have been better used against someone like mask demon Vurai rather than a bunch of nameless foot-soldiers and archers. (And how many innocent civilians did she possibly blow away with that blast? x_x)

  • March 13, 2016 at 6:55 pmSK

    I was a little surprised that there wasn’t a single mention of what Kuon did, at least during the down-time on the boat. Clearly Nosuri is an idiot with a hard head, so I’d expect her to be curious about power seemingly on the same level as the masks. No one except the tactician (Raikou?) seemed to even notice the beam explosion. Kuon herself doesn’t seem aware of what she did, though this does explain why she would be allowed to wander foreign countries by herself.

    On another note, I think you guys all deserve a 100% raise :)

    • March 13, 2016 at 7:44 pmJuan

      I’m guessing we will get that next episode. You have to remember that they do have more important things to worry about at the moment than debating what exactly happened.

  • March 13, 2016 at 9:43 pmRedRocket

    Enjoyable.

    Splitting the party is fairly normal and not bad tactics when doing escape and evasion as the point is you can’t win a fight better to keep the groups smallish so you don’t lose everyone if one is found.
    Here splitting very important one group has the Empress the other the wanted killer it is good not to risk both in one basket. The pursuit was done well to limits of the troops used so nether group evaded fully, failure of tactic does not mean it was the wrong one.

    • March 13, 2016 at 10:33 pmdaikama

      @RedRocket: Agree on splitting up the party. Good idea even if kind of forced upon them initially (“good job” with the friendly fire SwordGuy). Anju (now Empress) is, uh, kind of important. Then again, I have to wonder why each group didn’t just meet up at the ship or docks -> closer to the point of escape. Seems to me that would solve a lot of the problem. Per above, at this point whatever. I mean, we did have a character bitch-slapped some sense by a giant bird.

      As for the enjoyable part, I think that is a YMMV type of deal.

    • March 14, 2016 at 1:06 amPasserby

      Not disagreeing with you, but think about it from a storytelling point of view. In a story like this the default assumption is that the good guys (or at least the protagonist) survive, so when the party is together it raises everybody’s chances of survival as a group, because a total party wipe is unlikely. When the party is split, it increases the chances that somebody will be left behind, which is good for raising the tension.

  • March 15, 2016 at 11:09 amSolaris

    >A question of scope
    It’s a fucking slice of life. SCOPE = SOL.
    And everybody knows SoLs start sucking as soon as some kind of plot/drama is added, which is exactly what happened with this anime.
    Had they stated it in advance, we’d gladly accept some kind of fantasy Fomuffu-like series. I mean why not? Former Utawarerumono’s specials were actually completely sol/commedy and they were so nice.
    But this sequel was expected to be something other than sol, and that is why everybody is so disappointed.

    • March 15, 2016 at 8:58 pmPasserby

      That’s a bit of a broad generalisation about both this show and slice-of-lifes in general, no? Having slice-of-life qualities should not automatically disable a show’s capacity for drama (and I daresay the former usually leads to the latter naturally enough), and if a show disappoints, we could perhaps look to specific flaws in execution.

      • March 16, 2016 at 9:20 amSolaris

        Well, no, it depends a lot. You can have good examples of sol with drama such as Gakkou Gurashi, but that series was made different from Utawarerumono. Or terrible commedy with a forced and ridicule plot just like Korezombie.
        I’ll say it from another point of view. Just look at sol episodes in utawarerumono and those with a hint of plot. Which are done better and why?
        And the disappointment came from expecting this serie to be just like the first one, but getting an half assed commedy in the end.

      • March 16, 2016 at 4:45 pmPasserby

        So… we agree? Neat.

      • March 16, 2016 at 6:06 pmSolaris

        Not that much, but I blame my lack of time and poor explanation.
        I’ll write the essay another time. Sorry, it’s a bit late here and now.