「素顔の家」 (Sugao no Ie)
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.