I hope you finished watching the original Utawarerumono before this episode. I finally did.
I Finally Finished Utawarerumono
At the suggestion of several commenters—thank you Aex, Goodwill Wright, Worldwidedepp, and anyone else I missed—I finally got off my butt and finished the original Utawarerumono! If you’d like to hear my final impressions of a ten-year-old series, click the spoiler below. Obviously don’t do this if you haven’t finished the series yourself. Unless you’re not planning to, but then what are you doing here? And why did you watch this episode? So shoo, go finish it. We’ve all slacked enough.
The World’s Past Revealed
This seems a good point to move my coverage from “Trying to avoid spoilers on the original series” to “Fuck it, let’s spoil away,” because let’s be serious here—Itsuwari no Kamen just did all of that for us. You’ll be missing details if you haven’t seen the original, but the events and characters of Utawarerumono just became vital to the understanding and future of Itsuwari no Kamen, so let’s talk about them.
Even though this episode was all exposition, I enjoyed it because it did something I don’t feel Utawarerumono did very well—it explained what the fuck was going on with this world. I felt like the meshing of science and magic was accomplished much better here, since the magic hardly made an appearance. The whole humans devolving into jellies thing is still weird, and even though the ramifications are accurately horrific—if you don’t know if/when you’ll turn, and see your friends and family melt and then attack you, it’s going to make people a bit paranoid—the unknown reason for it almost makes it less scary. The brain just shuts down in the face of unknowable danger that can strike without warning or reason—which, if your living it, if a fuckin’ nightmare (see humanity’s reaction to the Black Plague, when it kept hitting villages again, and again, and again, and again … and they just got beaten down, accepting death even as they still walked around). But as a viewer, we shut down and disassociate ourselves from the horror, so it doesn’t work as well. Also, I can’t help but think of Yahtzee Croshaw’s Jam, which was good for about two scenes before underwhelming the rest of the way. Mogworld was much better. But I digress.
The curses aside, at least the rest of it finally made sense. The planet was poisoned, people were living in bubbles, the kemonomimi people were lab subjects, and then this disaster strikes and the humans all orbital laser themselves because they’ve been playing too much Command & Conquer or something. That part was odd too, but at least we’re finally getting some answers.
Yamato vs Tusukuru: The Battle For Hakuoro’s Tomb
The more interesting elements are what these reveals entail, and this is the first time in a while that Itsuwari no Kamen is showing signs of breaking out of its predecessor’s shadow, but using its predecessor’s plot to become something more. The revelation that the emperor is Haku’s older brother … well, I got spoiled on that (my fault, I clicked on a spoiler I shouldn’t have), so it wasn’t a surprise, but it does more firmly ensconce Haku in Yamato’s sphere. Which has ramifications on what’s coming.
The emperor wants to save all humans from their gooey fates. Hakuoro, AKA the Iceman, might be the key to accomplishing that. But the people of Tusukuru don’t want to let Stan Lee and his minions muck about with Hakuoro’s grave. It sounds like Yamato and Tusukuru are about to come to a head—and where does that leave Haku? Also, where does it leave us?
I’ve always wondered what would happen if a war story was told from two sides in tandem. A story where neither is exactly right or wrong, and where both sides could be considered the protagonists, so you honestly don’t know which side will win. Itsuwari no Kamen has managed to do something like that. Haku is bound to be split: On the one side is his disdain for war, as well as Kuon, who’s from Tusukuru (and suddenly, having her family stop by a few times has more of an effect than just nostalgia, because it’ll make Haku realize that there are things in Tusukuru that Kuon will not want to lose). He’s also liable to disagree with his aniki that the decoys—the kemonomimi people like Kuon and his friends—are somehow less fulfilling than original humans. On the other side is his only living family, to hope of resurrecting the human race, and all of his other friends in Rurutie, Nekone, Atui, and the others. What side will Haku ultimately take? What decisions will he make, and how will it make the story turn out? And, will we get to see Hakuoro again as well?
The question extends to us. Between the old protagonists in Tusukuru and the new protagonists in Yamato, who do we vote for? Especially since Yamato’s larger goal here might, er, actually be the right one. My gut is that most viewers will side with Tusukuru, because Yamato is shaping up to be the aggressor, and it certainly still has Vurai, who needs his ass handed to him. But I’m not entirely sure that Tusukuru, who miiiight just be standing in the way of progress (unknowingly), is the side we should be supporting. Even though they seem like the one we should. It’s the old ends vs means argument, and as much as I’d like to say that good ends never justify brutal means, that’s not a black and white question. There’s a lot of gray, and a lot more we need to see before a judgment can be made.
Regardless, this is the first time in a while that Itsuwari no Kamen has a chance to do something interesting. I can’t remember another time when the emperor of the ruthless empire is the kindly big brother of the protagonist, as opposed to being outright evil. This is finally getting interesting. Now run with it, Itsuwari no Kamen. No more screwing around.
tl;dr: @StiltsOutLoud – You’d have better finished the original series before watching this one. The plot just got real #utaware s2e17
- I laughed aloud when the two brothers both made sounds like they were throwing up from being sincere. That’s brotherly love for you.
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: Star Wars: The Force Awakens – The Introduction, What Star Wars: The Force Awakens did right, What Star Wars: The Force Awakens did wrong, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens – The Conclusion.