「帝都」 (Teito)
“The Imperial Capital”

I’m split between wanting the plot to develop faster, and wanting it to take its time.

Starting Slow—For Better, or for Worse

Since I finally started the original Utawarerumono (update on my impressions below), I can begin to compare them. And in having watched the first five episodes of the original, a stark difference shows itself. Several, to be truthful, but one in particular struck me. By the fourth episode of the original, the plot was already appreciably moving, and any character development we got was while things were happening. Here, it still feels like things are building up, and I’m torn on whether I like that or not.

On the one hand, the plot up to this point in the original was more simplistic. I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t watched it, but it’s a basic premise that has played out plenty of times, both in medieval-style fantasy fiction and in reality. The plot in Itsuwari no Kamen is harder to nail down. Partially because it still doesn’t feel like it has begun, though there are shades of it ramping up, but also because I have a feeling it won’t be as simple as the base, beginning plot of Utawarerumono was. Which I like, but it has risks!

I’ll use a book example. In my Overlord END post, I mentioned that I had just finished Throne of Glass. Since then, I’ve read the second in that series, Crown of Midnight, which was better in a lot of ways (author Sarah J. Maas really puts her characters through the wringer)—and yet, I find myself having trouble defining precisely what happened, a problem I didn’t have in the first book. The reason is structure. The structure of Throne of Glass was simple—there’s a contest, the main character needs to win it, dastardly stuff starts happening on the side. That structure underlines everything the book does, making it easier to internalize. In contrast, the structure of the second book is far looser, which made it harder to grab a hold of, despite the greater strength of the character moments.

Itsuwari no Kamen strikes me as a story that may follow the same path. Granted, I might be jumping the gun here—it could launch into a fairly typical quest next episode, and was just building to it slowly. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the storytellers are trying to do something more ambitious, or at least less typical, with the structure that undergirds the story. Which sounds like praise, but let me be clear—a little structure is not a bad thing. Either way, now we’ll get to see how prophetic I end up being, or how completely wrong. Wouldn’t be the first time for either.

Character Development Before Plot

I mentioned before that in the original, it felt like the character development was happening while the plot was progressing, whereas here it feels like the two are almost separate. This episode was all character development, particularly for Nekone (Minase Inori), but also for Haku as well. But no, that’s not right—it’s not that Haku received any development, but we received a crash course in Haku. And it kind of worked.

To be clear, it’s generally a better idea for character development to happen along the way, because taking time out to develop or illuminate character specifically, such as by giving Haku a random part-time job that I doubt he’ll keep, feels like a waste of sorts. But nearly every storytelling rule can be broken, and I think this episode ended up working fairly well. Or if it didn’t, I still found the dive into Haku’s character interesting.

The reasons Hakuoro attracted love and admiration were obvious and immediate. Once again, it’s a story as old as time—the charismatic, stoic leader. Whereas with Haku, a more difficult path is being tread. I said last episode that Rurutie fell for Haku too quickly, and then this episode they tried to build up Haku’s strange charisma. I’m still trying to decide if they told us too much instead of showing it, but they kind of did both, and it kind of worked. Possibly because Haku does have a strange charisma, at least to the audience.

Haku embodies a unique kind of wish-fulfillment. Instead of being the Destined Hero, with a shining sword and a boisterous personality that the (stereotypical) gamer and anime fan is assumed to not possess (because all nerds are introverts, right? No, but quite a lot are), Haku seems more obtainable. He’s laid-back, even lazy. He has both traditional intelligence and emotional intelligence, the latter shown through how he has no problem asking for help, albeit perhaps a bit too readily at times. He’s well-balanced, and he doesn’t let pride get in his way. He admits what he doesn’t know, he doubts what doesn’t seem right, he doesn’t get into pointless fights, and he seems to empathize with people readily. He’s the hero an introverted procrastinator can see themselves becoming, because he doesn’t take the initiative readily, and yes, he has to be pushed forward on occasion, but if he has someone on hand who can help him with that, he can excel.

(By the way, there’s truth in people liking Haku more because be asks for help. People honestly like helping others out. Not constantly, and not without good cause (even if that cause is simply that they like ’em), but we do like to help others out. It makes us feel valued, which feels good, and that feeling is transferred to the person we helped. You’ll see this most of all when you’re asked (or you ask for) intelligent advice.)

Haku’s an odd character, and perhaps it’s good that they’re starting slower and deliberately showing us what makes him tick. Without a readily available archetype to base him off of, we need to know him, not just people like him, for anything that follows to work.

Fun Times in the Capital

In between all the background development that’s (hopefully) shaping the story to come, we had plenty to enjoy in this episode in particular. Bath-time aficionado Kuon was fantastic, for several reasons, and I really don’t have to say more. But I will—Kuon best girl 4ever!! I also laughed at Rurutie’s yaoi shipping, though three times in one episode was probably beating that particular drum too hard (hur hur hur). Though as fanservice, it certainly did the job (those abs, DAMN!), and there was plenty for everyone.

On a less goofy note, Nekone is definitely kawaii as hell, and though her realization that she should lighten up and just become friends with people when she wants to was perhaps a bit too rapid as far as development goes (people don’t usually change their natures that quickly), it did lead to a sweet scene at the end. Fun times had by all.

Looking Ahead – Oshutoru’s Identity

I’m sure some viewers were wondering if Oshutoru was Hakuoro from the first series, but the reveal that he’s one in the same as Ukon would seem to put a tail nail in that theory. (Or does it!?) It doesn’t lessen my curiosity in the least as to what the heck Oshutoru/Ukon is up to, though. That, and whether this emperor who has lived for centuries really is one person, and what that means for Haku and crew.

Original Utawarerumono Marathon Update (up through episode five):

Show More ▼

tl;dr: @StiltsOutLoud – It’s character development week for Nekone & Haku (also. Oshutoru). Plus bath-time fanatic Kuon & yaoi shipping Rurutie! #utawarerumono s2e4

Random thoughts:

  • I like that both Haku and Kuon are in agreement about their relationship. Sure, that could change later on, but it’s nice seeing two people who have other shit to do other’n constant sexual tension. Not that that isn’t fun, but variety is nice.
  • Perhaps the reason Haku’s character works for me is because I agree with so much of what he says. From it not being any fun if we knew what others were thinking (true—that’d be too easy) to it being a waste if you don’t enjoy life (pursue challenges and have fun!), this guy says nice things.
  • I laughed when Haku revealed he’s illiterate! Which does make sense, even if Hakuoro never apparently had that problem (unless it was addressed “off-screen” in the original anime, i.e. in the game only). He did lose his memory, after all.
  • Whereas the original series (up to this point) already felt like it was totally Hakuoro’s story, this season feels more like Haku’s and Kuon’s story. They feel more like equal protagonists.

My first novel, Wage Slave Rebellion, is available now. (More info—now in paperback!) Sign up for my email list for a FREE sequel novella. Over at stephenwgee.com, the last four posts: It depends, Momentum & mental space, The best content is in email, and My morning routine

Full-length images: 07, 09, 15, 30.




  1. Under all those robes… Kuon is fairly well endowed…

    Also, Ukon being absolutely ripped? I mean, he would have to be doing weights and protein shakes every day or something to get that ripped. Usually a well fit, strong and balanced man would have big pecs and abdomen, but sure as hell not a six pack that sticks out like the rocky mountains. Oh well, guess the artists are just getting their point across.

    Also, coincidence that Ukon is an anagram for Kuon? I mean, they are such abstract names that it can’t be coincidence can it? I don’t know, it probably won’t go anywhere… But it won’t surprise me if it does.

    Goodwill Wright
      1. I’m just being a bit picky (note: not in a negative way). Even if they are not… completely human, it still wouldn’t explain why he’s ripped.

        I get the feeling that the artists wanted to depict him as insanely strong, and thought that chiseled abs would be the best way to convey that. However, if you want to be real or believable, it’s actually unhealthy to be that ripped. Also, Ukon doesn’t look like the type of guy to push 50+ reps an hour and guzzle protein shakes (snack?). In reality, he’d definitely have huge pecs, biceps, triceps and abdomen. But not chiseled as if an artist had sculpted him. He’d be more fit than strong.

        Anyway, although I am being pedantic, just note I am not holding against the show. I’m loving it so far and it’s because I’m loving it, I love to pick out details like this and have some fun discussing it with my mates (which was the initial reason I brought up this point since they are both physiotherapists and they had a good chuckle at it).

        Goodwill Wright
      2. I wouldn’t think too much into it. Most people don’t know how the human body works well enough to understand that six-pack abs are hard to get (especially not with the kind of definition Ukon is showing … that would entail an extremely low body-fat percentage, like maybe 8% or less? Which isn’t sustainable without a TON of work), in the same way that they don’t understand how difficult an hourglass figure can be to keep (Kuon eats a ton and still maintains that figure? Yeah, maybe for a few years while she’s young, but only if she won the genetic lottery BIG TIME, and it won’t last).

        They just know that visible abs on a man is a flag for “muscular” and “sexy”, because they’re much more distinctive than other signs of fitness, and because they’re assumed to be the product of hard work alone, unlike large arm, shoulder, or back muscles.

      3. (Kuon eats a ton and still maintains that figure? Yeah, maybe for a few years while she’s young, but only if she won the genetic lottery BIG TIME, and it won’t last).


      4. Lol, winning the genetic lottery, she certainly has.

        I’ll say that at least Ukon has absolutely big pecs which is needed for good arm strength and flexibility. Six packs are actually easy to get, hard (or painful) to maintain. Assuming that you already don’t need to go through the cardio to burn all the outer fat. I’ve never had chiseled abs (had a few bros take one for the team first). One of them is a vegan and he said that unless you do reps everyday, those abs can be gone within a few days or even a day. Also they found out that chicks look for more than just a six pack (unsurprisingly) in a guy and they thought the effort was not worth it.

        Anyway, now that you bring up Kuon, bit of a double standard that I’m not at all fussed by her curvaciously, heavenly body. I can’t really comment since I’m not female, but I’d probably assume that a body like that is probably nearly nigh impossible to have realistically. Also if you consider circumstances.

        I guess I only like making a fuss about things I can genuinely comment on. No point in me pretending I know how the female anatomy works. But still, you’re right about that Stilts.

        Goodwill Wright
      5. Different genetic lottery, ya perverts! I meant having the metabolism that can process all that food and not get fat when her main exercise appears to be walking, plus occasionally fleeing in terror from giant bugs and/or curses (not bad exercise, mind, but she eats a LOT).

        Also, I like hearing that, Goodwill Wright. “You’re right, Stilts.” More, more! :3

      6. Actually, not being standard humans is a perfectly legit explanation for having a six pack, all it would require is them to have less body fat in general since six packs are more of a result of low body fat percentage than muscle definition in general. It would also explain Kuon at the same time. Maybe beast people just burn fat like no tomorrow?

        Obviously the real answer is fanservice/anime (same reason ‘ugly’ girls in rom-coms are still gorgeous) but arguing for a more defined species of human would require relatively little alteration.

      7. Different genetic lottery, ya perverts! I meant having the metabolism that can process all that food and not get fat when her main exercise appears to be walking, plus occasionally fleeing in terror from giant bugs and/or curses (not bad exercise, mind, but she eats a LOT).

        Actually you could say that Kuon broke the bank on the genetic lottery given that her SPOILER is SPOILER who is actually SPOILER, which means that Kuon is SPOILER.

  2. You must check out this preview for game and this anime if you have not done so. Warning the song and visuals can be so catching you will watch it over and over and over. https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=3&v=STg4Ya8bEFo

    I’m really liking it. Loving all the detail in the background. Glad they brought up the charisma because although you can show part of this in a visual medium parts of charisma are hard to show visually compared to the effect one gets live. In example you can see a charismatic figure on TV and hear them but their full reality warping charisma is only noticed by the people who meet them in person.

    The first anime does have for me a major hook this one does not you will see it in the first OP so not much of a secret.Show Spoiler ▼

  3. Kuon and haku being equal protagonists was the exact statement i had made while watching episode 3. Though i will say that Kuon carries more of the show than he does if only for her personality. She has this snarky, sort of light cynical nature that i can get behind

    1. Kuon is just an all around amazing character. Confident, self assertive, and just a bit ecchi… but in the more believable kind of curious way (see episode 1) versus how anime often portray ‘pervy’ girls. She’s a strong and enjoyable character, but still one that’s very distinctly anime. I really do hope stronger and more interesting female leads become a main stay in action orientated series like this.

  4. I think part of the reason with regards to the pacing difference (yes, we’ve all felt it) is that the original/S1 consists of all these mini or ‘sub-plots’ that are all part of or connected with the ‘greater whole’: every arc, no matter how small, had one or more elements in it that also moved the main story forward.

    In this sequel though, it seems we if we are heading for just one big ‘main’ plot that needs its time building up. A different kind of structure indeed; one that technically allows for more character development and world building compared to the original, but I have yet to see it happen. I mean, the art and scenery is jaw-dropping for sure, but aside from Kuon/Haku the other characters just seems kind of flat. Generic. Harem fodder.

    We’re only 4 episodes in, things may change, but it’s a bit of a slow start for sure. I really hope things pick up soon.

  5. There is certainly a different kind of pacing here. A different kind of story, I think (hope). Yet I continue to find this series fascinating in its own way. Drawing us into the story one step at a time, while we get to know the characters and the world; this is working for me.

    It’s possible a lot of that can be attributed to Kuon: I really really like her. The other girls are cute and likeable in their own ways, but Kuon really steals the show for me.

    Re: Stilts’ watch-through of the previous Utawarerumono Show Spoiler ▼

    1. Responding to the S1 spoiler:
      Show Spoiler ▼

  6. Maybe this is a silly question but how come no one seems to have commented on how Haku looks different from everyone else? He seems to be the only person so far without the furry ears and a tail.

    1. Might be the reason the Emperor is interested.

      Also might help pick up chicks too as some people are very attracted to foreigners, helps get new genes for the gene pool. Yes seen scianfic article on it.

      One the the things the Original StarTrek got criticized on was all the girls hitting on Kirk but if you read real earth history all the explorers got hit on everywhere they went. 🙂

    2. Ignore that, they’ve all got tails in the village. Of course that makes me wonder why no one remarks on Haku’s lack of tail or furry ears. You’d think someone (maybe a kid) would ask how he lost them at least.

    3. Bit of an elephant in the room, to be honest. It could be that there are some (what we would call) regular humans around, so they don’t think he’s a mutant, just a foreigner.

      Though actually, think of it this way—there are a lot of people with a lot of different types of ears. They’re not all built along the same form factor. They might all just be assuming that he has a type of ears they haven’t seen before. Probably isn’t the first time that’s happened. (And Maroro already has a small tail, so a tail-less person wouldn’t be such a big leap.)

  7. I feel Haku and kuon will end up together hinted in the opening with them walking towards each other. To me their relationship is like ryuji and taiga from toradora they are so comfortable around each other that a romantic relationship hasn’t crossed their minds yet.but down the line I can see it happening once they spend more time with each other. Princess liking bl was kinda outta left field was it in the game?

    1. Quite possible on Kuon x Haku. In fact, it’s my running assumption, though they could still easily subvert it. As for the BL part, the game just came out (I think? Pretty sure it was to coincide with the anime release), so I don’t know if anyone who waltzes by here has played it yet. If so, please use spoiler tags as usual.

  8. I’ve never been really attracted to furries, but, damn, the animators have changed my mind. Back off Stilts! Kuon is mine! The uncensored BDs are going to sell well I think. The other girls are not bad either. My only real complaint with the show so far is that it needs even more Kuon! The ED makes me want to see her in a show like Kino no Tabi (Kuon no Tabi?)

    Could Haku be the Emperor’s long lost son?

  9. I’m starting to wonder if Haku will become the new Oshutoru in Ukon’s stead.
    On another note, the tvtropes page has a big spoiler linking this series with the original, or more accurately with the game.

    Weird D
    1. Couple problems with that, though they’re all spoilers right now. Just bear in mind that we don’t know how long its been since s1, and since this is”Yamato” it’s probably Japan geographically, where s1 seemed to be Europe-esque with no country by that name around, and this Imperial City is centuries old built by the same emperor as now. Feels more like an attempt to troll us, sadly.

      1. This series is set “16 to 20 years” after the original, according to sources. However, this is a completely different country. Show Spoiler ▼

    1. Eruruu is adorable, but she has a different kind of appeal than Kuon. For some people (including myself, and apparently Stilts,) that results in us liking Kuon more. Not because there is anything wrong with Eruru as a character, don’t misunderstand! She is a remarkable girl, who Show Spoiler ▼

      and that cannot be praised enough. This is simply a matter of taste.

  10. Okay, this series wins for “most beautiful costumes”. Female and male. Is this the “Edo fantasy style”, or something unique to this anime/game?

    But I do have a beef with Kuon! Why is she making Haku do menial labor when she has already proved his mathematical ability? Haku should be shown to the Merchant Guild, or the Emperor, not made to serve tables and clean dishes. It’s wasting his talent.

    1. The look is in part based on the Ainu the native people of Japan who were almost wiped out over thousands of years and pushed to the most northern part of Japan and parts of what Russia currently occupies. After all the push and attempts to make their culture disappear in the past I like that this anime brings some of their culture and look back. And it’s a cool look.

      1. To be fair, she didn’t know that until AFTER she got him the waiter job. I’d been trying to set him up as an accountant or something, until that glaring illiteracy thing cropped up.

        She probably picked that job because it was something he could get immediately. She’d need connections to get him something better, which fortunately, they appear to have (Ukon etc).

      2. Haku is illiterate in the CURRENT language. You take me from the USA and put me into ancient Japan and I’ll be “illiterate” as well (add to the fact that I only speak/write 21st-Century American Deep South English).

        It’s too bad Haku couldn’t have picked up a charcoal stick and shown “modern” writing, compared to the ancient brush-strokes. But that might have labeled him as “foreigner” instead of “unknown”.

      3. True. I remember when I was visiting a friend in Shanghai (he’s a caucasian American dude as well), and we were going around the city, and I was like, “Wow. So this is what it’s like to be illiterate. Been a while.” That, plus not even having Haku’s advantage of speaking the language made things fun at times, haha

        Also, bear in mind that Haku referred to them as “strange symbols” (or something to that effect). He didn’t seem to recognize the IDEA of written language, not just that one in particular (if I’m remembering correctly).

      4. I noticed that. Very odd word choice. Where would he be from that he doesn’t know what writing is? It might just be them playing with the idea of amnesia, but it adds to the mystery of just what Haku is (I haven’t played the games or watched the first show).

        Also, I first moved to Japan (and later Korea) with zero knowledge of the language. Illiteracy can be a lot of fun if you have a sense of humor about it. I do believe in picking up the language if you’re going to live there, especially since half the words are loanwords nowadays as long as you can read the alphabet.

  11. This is a show I really really _want_ to like, since I absolutely loved the original. However, ep4 got me dangerously close to dropping, for two reasons.

    1) In the original, I liked _all_ of the characters. Some more, some less, but all of them were enjoyable. But here? Haku’s selfish-lazy NEET-ness is constantly getting on my nerves. So is our fujoshi princess, Nekone’s overzealous attitude, and please don’t get me started about our jealous magician. Kuon is the show’s saving grace for me, but will this suffice? I start to wonder, and for someone who loves good characters and interactions between them like me, it’s a bad start if 4 out of 5 initial characters are people I absolutely don’t care about.

    2) Slooooooooow. The main plot better be really awesome to justify this approach, but I’m beginning to harbor doubts here, too.

    I’ll probably give the show 2 more eps, and then drop it and rewatch the original instead to overwrite the memories of this. And at the end, if Stilts’ reviews are raving, I’ll reconsider picking it up again.

  12. know I’m going to get flagged for this but why can’t little girl characters in anime nowadays like boys their own age for once for nekone I’m sure there are plenty of boys in that world who are in the same age range as her that she isn’t related to where she can have a relationship with.

    1. Honestly, it isn’t too weird for females to like older men. Happens enough for it to not be rare in my opinion. Although in hindsight, it’s usually just a phase they are going through. An older man tends to have more of the features and experience certain young girls are looking for. Well built, mature, experienced (can take that a lot of ways) and is responsible. You’d rarely find that in a boy at a young age.

      I’d say she’s just going through that phase and I doubt it would go anywhere. If you’ve seen the original, you can look at that for an example as well. If not:
      Show Spoiler ▼

      So I doubt they’d do the same here.

      Don’t forget that Nekone is also antisocial. So it’s no surprise she isn’t in a relationship (or looking for one) already.

      Goodwill Wright
  13. “Several, to be truthful, but one in particular struck me. By the fourth episode of the original, the plot was already appreciably moving, and any character development we got was while things were happening.”

    One of reasons is that the newer one wastes many scenes for meaningless Otaku pandering scenes – bath scenes, nudity of loli character -, boring otaku-ish jokes (meaningless, possibly even stupid from story telling’s point of view). Related to the problem is the lack of story-moving element such as agony, trouble and problems to deal with, conflict for the main character.

    Art work is way more splendid, refined compared to the old one. However that’s the only strong point of the current one.

    In a word, much poorer story-telling and direction with more clean and splendid art work, compared to the old one.


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