「炎上」 (Enjou)
“In Flames”

It feels like Itsuwari no Kamen is pulling its punches, when following through would work much better.

Half Measures

I feel like Itsuwari no Kamen is an example of half measures, and why you shouldn’t take them. If you don’t know what a half measure is, google it. Also, watch Breaking Bad. I haven’t finished the series myself, but I’ve seen the half measures episode, and it’s revelatory. Also see: Ron Swanson on whole-assing one thing, and on the wrong way to consume alcohol. The second link has no relevance on anything I’m saying, I just think it’s funny.

The biggest culprit this time was Aruruu and Kamyu’s plan to draw Kuon’s group away and turn back the Yamato supplies. The former element was fine, I have no problem with them trying to make sure their adoptive imouto doesn’t get killed in their attack. But they never attacked. I can imagine Kamyu not wanting to do it herself, but they didn’t even take the supplies, even though we saw Benawi doing exactly that in a still.

Why? Why do they keep holding out on the action? The people of Tusukuru aren’t saints. Viewers of the original series know that, but even here they show them harassing and stealing from Yamato. This is war, but Itsuwari no Kamen seems constitutionally unable to follow through with the themes it presents. Instead, it’s all fluff—pleasing fluff, funny fluff, but fluff nonetheless. And a man cannot survive on a diet of fluff alone. Not unless that’s what we go in expecting.

Penalized For Being Utawarerumono

Perhaps the greatest failing of Itsuwari no Kamen—and I realize it sounds like I’m delivering a postmortem before the season is over, but I’d like to lay this out there while the thought occurs—is that it’s an Utawarerumono series. That saddles it with certain expectations, some of which have to do with quality, but many of which have to do with story structure, theme, plot constructions, or mood. And the problem with expectations is that, when you violate them, people tend to end up angry. Even if the result is better than what the audience was expecting.

I’ll give you an example: The Wachowski Brothers’ 2008 Speed Racer movie. I recently watched it for the first time, and I loved it. It was like Redline where the love story swapped was out for a family friendly aesop, and also there was a monkey, a spunky kid, ridiculous car kung-fu action, and John Goodman beat up a ninja with wrestling. Yet the critical reception was terrible when it came out, because people expected a live action racing movie, and what they got was the purest distillation of an anime-by-way-of-Nickelodeon’s-color-palette aesthetic that watched more like the clichéd perception of an acid trip than a traditional movie watching experience. Expectations were violated—violently, in this case—and audiences hated it, even though I, for one, loved this movie. Though then again, I went into it knowing it was a live action anime, so I was expecting what I got. I just didn’t expect it to be so damn good.

In Itsuwari no Kamen, viewers went in expecting the same mix of elements we got in Utawarerumono. The strategy, war, and politics. The mysterious post-apocalyptic world. The light-hearted episodes sandwiched between the dramatic arcs. The bevy of beautiful kemonomimi girls who all wants to bang the main character. Not all of this is necessary—the harem, in particular, is entirely optional, and many viewers greeted its apparent lack with happiness—but many of those elements are non-negotiable. Itsuwari no Kamen didn’t need to be as arc-based as Utawarerumono was, that’s fine, but not having the drama at all is a deal-breaker. Hardly getting into the strategy and war until the second cour is a deal-breaker. So little focus on the mysterious world is a deal-breaker … as an Utawarerumono series.

But if Itsuwari no Kamen is being penalized in our perception for being an Utwarerumono series that doesn’t feel like an Utwarerumono series, it’s not alone. That’s one of the (many) reasons why the Star Wars prequels were so reviled, and why The Force Awakens is, I would argue, overrated at present. The big question is whether Itsuwari no Kamen is good on its own terms, and while I will wait until the final episode to render judgment on that, I can tell you now that it’s not looking good. It would take a doozy of a last few episodes. Even Tokyo Ravens, which radically improved in the final stretch, was up to full speed by this point.

Kuon’s Reason For Helping Yamato

Moving back to the episode at hand, while I did find all the fluffy elements duly amusing, the one part that was legitimately interesting was Kuon’s stated reason for helping Yamato. It’s not that she wants Yamato to win, it’s that she’s sure they’ll lose if they go toe-to-toe with Tusukuru in earnest, so she wants to stop the war before it comes to that for the sake of her friends in Yamato.

My first instinct is that war is messy and uncertain, and it’s pretty bold to say that with such confidence. Yet Kuon has seen Vurai rampage with the mask, and still she’s sure that Tusukuru will win. That’s bold, certainly, but she may be right. I still feel like there should be more tension between Kuon’s belief and Haku, who is now helping Munechika come up with a plan because … he’s the protagonist? Because for some reason Oshutoru, Munechika, and the princess trust him that much? That feels unearned as well. Whatever the case, at least Kuon hasn’t gone totally nuts.

tl;dr: @StiltsOutLoud – A trip to Atui’s country, a chase after a wild Mukkuru, and suddenly Haku is leading Yamato military strategy. Wait, what? #utaware s2e19

Random thoughts:

  • Too close, dude. That’s your grown-ass daughter, not a dakimakura.
  • Little Atui was a tyrant, while older Atui is seriously endangering Haku’s life. Some things never change.
  • If the kemonomimi humans have stories of cars, trains, planes, and space ships (these kinds of things are always travel related), I’m surprised they haven’t advanced further technologically. A big part of the challenge of inventing is getting it into your head that something might be possible. Is the emperor holding them back, or their mistaken belief that it’s magic? Hmm…
  • If you’re good at defending fortresses, you probably know how to attack them, yes. That doesn’t mean you’re good at executing an attack. Knowledge isn’t the same as ability. Whoda thunk it, Dekoponpo is kind of an idiot.
  • I also think Itsuwari no Kamen is hurt by holding back too much, probably because they were greenlit for two games and they wanted to save some material for the second one. That’s stupid. Use all your best material now, and trust you’ll come up with more by the time the next one is due. But that’s a dissertation for another day.

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.

Full-length images: 10.




  1. @Stilts: “In Itsuwari no Kamen, viewers went in expecting the same mix of elements we got in Utawarerumono. The strategy, war, and politics”

    For what it’s worth, I read somewhere that the creators of the game took note of this ‘issue’ many people had with the pacing in The False Faces and the seeming lack of those very elements that defined the first series. They did promise that the third (and final) game would feature a lot more of the stuff the original series had (in terms of combat and drama among others) so here’s hoping.

    “Because for some reason Oshutoru, Munechika, and the princess trust him that much?”

    I am not sure if the anime touched upon this, but the kemonomimi people were genetically engineered to react positively towards humans. The humans would come across as charismatic, mysterious (in an appealing way) to them, and their presence — their very being — basically works as a command prompt that presses all the right buttons in the kemonomimi people. So, rather than conscious trust I’d rather say that Oshutoru, Munechika and the others who place their trust in Haku are guided by their ‘instincts’ and are automatically drawn towards the ‘superior’ humans.

    Hakuoro worked in a similar way, as people gathered around him and, as you mentioned, a lot of beautiful kemonomimi girls all wanted to bang him. The fact that the latter was also a God basically gave him a x2 boost to charisma and everything; perhaps that is why Hakouro climbed up to being an Emperor in a relatively short amount of time and Haku is mainly stuck cleaning gutters in-between the (increasingly) occasional errands.

    1. That’s interesting information about the charisma thing (also makes sense), I don’t remember either of the series touching it. I do have this vague memory of Hakuoro’s “mysterious charisma” being mentioned at some point but not looked into more though.

      The difference is though, that original Utawarerumono provided enough proof early enough that Hakuoro is worthy of the trust he receives that viewers didn’t need to know this tidbit.

    2. @ReylandAZ

      The charisma thing reminds me of the excuses a bunch of harem LN adaptations use for why the characters don’t bone. Sure, it makes a certain amount of sense, but it doesn’t seem necessary when a simpler reason would work much better—make Haku actually earn that faith, as Hakuoro did. Alternately, that’d be something they need to show (and then emphasize) again and again and again, so it doesn’t feel so damn odd.

      1. This came up earlier, but since you finished the original, the reason is that:

        Show Spoiler ▼

  2. I would add one more thing as Itsuwari no kamen‘s shortcomings: its fluff was too misfocused, especially early on when new characters were being introduced. As lovable as Kuon is, it takes more than 1 great girl to carry a 25 episodes long Utawarerumono series. It takes several of them (with great guys and some war mixed in).

    Sadly rest of Haku’s party has been largely underused, even though they are all shown to have qualities that would make for a great, varied cast if developed properly. Take Rurutie for example: she’s great cook (and proud of it), is/was apparently timid to a fault, has a giant fighting bird and is fascinated by yaoi. She could have easily been the heart of the group (or personification of the home to return to), with an interest in yaoi. Instead she’s the yaoi fangirl who we sometimes remember to be able to cook too.

  3. Am I the only one hoping that Dekoponpo actually dies during this war? I mean, right when we met him, he screamed “incompetent” or even possibly “traitor” at some point (given all the “disrespect” towards him and such), and now he tries to pull the whole “I was born a noble so I’m automatically higher than you no matter what you say” crap with Munechika (even the Emperor just outright said initially that Dekoponpo only has the position because of inheritance and the Emperor feeling some kind of debt towards his father, the one he actually handpicked for the position). And, once again, he shows his military incompetence, thinking that just throwing more and more troops straight at the enemy with no strategy behind it will automatically net them the win despite it clearly failing (both here and previously with the Uzuurusha).

    But I do agree that it felt like there was quite a lot of wasted time with a lot of the fluff. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t necessary nor did it lead anywhere.

    1. Why is that meatball even in charge when the “brilliant strategist” is standing right next to him? That makes about as much sense as throwing your best defensive player into a forward position. Her ability is a giant wall of power, not that great of a thing to attack with.

  4. The Atui/daddy parts were cringeworthy.

    And about Haku being a reliable commander in the eyes of the kemonomimi ppl (except Vurai). I imagine that the game fights might have to do something with it. They probably skipped a couple of those in the anime.

  5. “I feel like Itsuwari no Kamen is an example of half measures, and why you shouldn’t take them.”

    I think that’s spot on. I also think my patience with this show is finally starting to wear thin. I’m not dropping it, but… my tolerance for the “fluff” & “comedy” hijinks isn’t want it used to be, especially since a lot of the “comedy” still isn’t working for me.

    So I ended up fast forwarding (FF) through a good chunk of the early part. Another supposedly powerful warrior (8 pillars and all) who’s wacky and acts kind of creepy towards his daughter (or young girl)? Yeah, FF. Ye ‘old (and I do me old) misunderstanding leads to “comedy” hijinks? FF. More BL jokes? FF (and sorry, that doesn’t count as “character background” as far as I’m concerned). Valiant speech ending with a vomit joke (which you knew was going to happen since they beat that into the ground before)? FF *sigh* I get that comedy is subjective and all, so other viewers may have enjoyed it, but if you don’t it’s just tiring. Been there done that in spades with this show.

    So yeah, half-assed and now barely interested. Stilts makes a good point about not showing the ambush on the remaining supply train. I guess the budget’s run out already, or would that be “too serious”? I wouldn’t think so since we’ve had implied r@pe, hostages taken, people killed (including a young boy cradling his apparently dead mother before dying himself). I stand by what I wrote before in that this show lacks focus – including an overall tone. Just doesn’t mesh serious with comedy well.

    Agree with Stilts that the castle siege being left to Haku feels unearned – power of protagonist. Not the first time either. ReylandAZ’s comment above helps explain some of that (albeit awfully convenient reason), but why wasn’t that tidbit included when the emperor was having his exposition moment. It would be, uh, kind of helpful.

    Frankly, that entire plot line (castle siege) struck me as incredibly scripted. The “all-knowing” tactician guy just washes his hands of it because… the script called for it? Seriously, he’s GOT to know that Dekoponpo’s an idiot – a disaster waiting to happen, but “Eh, whatever. Just don’t screw it up”. That guy was very into the last “war” when Yamato was pawning its foes, and now when things get tough, he just sits back? Isn’t he in command here? As for Munechika, I reiterate what I said before about at least in the anime, there’s been nothing substantial IMO to support her liking Haku beyond a professional acquaintance level. Yet she sure seemed to be part of the “harem” now.

    The lone bright spot for me was the show addressing why Kuon decided to join the supply mission. I can’t say that it was fully satisfying, but at least some plausible reason was given. The comments about the “old world’s” tech was a bit revealing. Not that it existed (that was a given), but that the animal-eared folk knew about these “legends”. Still, the show just kind of sprung up Kuon’s “ancient history” hobby. Um, OK. Thanks for letting me know.

    Again, I’m not dropping the show, but… I’m at the point I’m starting not to care. Yeah, Kuan is great and all and there’s a couple others I like, but really don’t have much affinity for the bulk of the cast unlike the first season. If I had to describe the show in one term, it would be “wasted potential”. Frustrating is another. So MUCH time wasted with this show. So inefficient. So half-assed. I suppose the ending could be great, but at this point I’m not not optimistic. I fully expect it to meander across the finish line.


    @Stilts: Re. “Penalized For Being Utawarerumono”

    Yes and no IMO. Those that watched the first season (such as myself) but didn’t play the game this season is based upon, almost surely had some level of expectation. That being said, I do question how much better my impression would be if I hadn’t watched the first season. I seem to recall some who haven’t watched the first season being disappointed with this one. This just isn’t a good show, and it’s flaws would still be noticeable regardless of comparison with the first season. The jokes would still either work or not work for viewers. The slow pacing, faffing around the first cour would still be there. The lack of action is still lack of action where one would expect something. We’ve had battles before. The show even started off with two episodes of that vs. giant insects.

    It cuts both ways IMO. So maybe the bar was raised a bit for those who watched the first season, and maybe people expected something closer to the first. However, I think this show also benefited from built-up good will the first season generated for those who watched it. Some may have been willing to give the show a break, stick with it longer based upon that. Had I not watched the first season, I cannot say with certainty I’d still be watching this one.

    1. Good point about it also getting breaks because it’s Utawarerumono. But my point was not that it’s being unfairly judged. I was saying that it’s being judged against the original, and it’s different … but it’s also not as good in its own right, though I danced around that for lack of wanting to tie a bow on the series before it’s over. i.e.:

      The big question is whether Itsuwari no Kamen is good on its own terms, and … I can tell you now that it’s not looking good.

      That kinda thing.

      1. True you did mention that. Just wanted to emphasize the point that it’s not simply an “unfair” comparison to the original series. That and vent a bit I guess. Not sure what happened, but for whatever reason, this episode just crossed some line with me. :<

  6. About Kuon’s confidence, Tusukuru have Amaterasu, the satellite weapon that can wipe out the whole country. And they also may have Avu Kamu since they defeated Kunnekamun in the first series.

    And for the worst case scenario, they still have their god who is sleeping under the laboratory.

  7. So what did we learn from this episode?

    Tsukuru = smart

    Yamato = dumb

    This episode reinforced for me, that the characters from the first series are just superior to the new ones.

    While the last episode made me want to punch every character in the face, the first 9 minutes of this ones, made me want to vomit. Luckily, they did finally get their act together, with a nicely done conversation with Kuon and Haku. Honestly, the episode should have just started there. The rest of the episode was kind of hit or miss for me. The exception were the parts with the Tsukuru natives, who, as I mentioned, just continue to remind me how much better they are, than these new losers.

    Here’s hoping to more of Tsukuru and less of Yamato going forward, b/c that has been a winning formula so far.

  8. If the kemonomimi humans have stories of cars, trains, planes, and space ships (these kinds of things are always travel related), I’m surprised they haven’t advanced further technologically. A big part of the challenge of inventing is getting it into your head that something might be possible. Is the emperor holding them back, or their mistaken belief that it’s magic? Hmm…

    I don’t know if there’s more detail in the original series but does their civilization have access to even simple steam engines? While the pure concept for powered land/sea/air travel is important without a means of providing that power they’d still be far off.

    Even though the Wright brothers had centuries of aerodynamic theories on heavier than air flight behind them they simply would have built another glider if it wasn’t for even the simple internal combustion engine they used to achieve powered flight.

    1. I’m probably minimizing the challenge involved. It could also be that they’re advancing at a pretty good clip, but technological development tends to start out pretty slow, until a civilization hits upon the runaway (and accelerating) freight train that is our modern technological development.

  9. Well, at least this episode had 2 good scenes which would be Kuon informing Haku that Yamato would lose in a full on war, and the war council scene.

    Honestly, the fluff in Itsuwari no Kamen is pretty much un-needed. Hell, the fluff in this series seems to be the war, political, drama aspects rather than the comedy hijinks.

    It worked in the original because it was a way to cooldown between events. And to take the main character’s minds off the tragedy of war. Plus to show character quirks, and even development.

    In Itsuwari no Kamen, it is at least showing the quirks, but those are quickly forgotten the next episode making the point fairly irrelevant.

    I am disappointed that this series isn’t turning out as good, pacing, characters, and story-wise as the original. But I do not regret watching or following it. I’m happy to know the series isn’t dead and seeing it updated with current animation and graphics is nice. I hope they animate the 3rd game with 2 cours and I hope it involves more of what made the original. If they want to have fluff, fine. Just make it relevant.

    Goodwill Wright
  10. “I feel like Itsuwari no Kamen is an example of half measures, and why you shouldn’t take them.”

    That probably explains why I enjoyed this episode but felt disappointment at the same time. Didn’t really mind the fluff. Viewing Atui and her dad as cats also seem to have negated the creepiness somehow. But I really wished they gave the animators some more work to do.

    Speaking of animators, I really loved looking at Munechika this episode. She managed to show all those expressions while wearing a mask that covers her mouth. That was a joy to watch.

  11. https://randomc.net/image/Utawarerumono/Utawarerumono%20Itsuwari%20no%20Kamen%20-%2019%20-%20Large%20Preview%2002.jpg

    What a sinister smile! I feel that it is likely that Kuon has hidden motives for joining the resupply expedition. During the time she hid upstairs, Karura could involve her in a tsukurusian plan. Her suggestion of an alternative way to the Yamato camp felt a bit strange, as if she was aware that Kamyu and Aruruu are watching them.

  12. @Stilts I you mean “Kuon’s reason for helping Yamato” and not Tusukuru. Because it’s a bit confusing, sorry.. On another note, I haven’t watched the Speedracer movie…

  13. Considering how difficult it is for some shows to get made (or get a sequel), to see wasted potential like this is somewhat…well, “unconscionable” is probably too strong a term. It is painful to watch, however, but as was stated in the OP, it is all about expectation. While the anime Aria (or last season’s classroom anime set on Mars, IIRC), isn’t my cup of tea, it didn’t have as much bile directed towards it b/c it delivered what was expected. Thanks for the post, as always!

    Also, it’s amusing how Kuon’s motivations are almost a direct ham-fisted explanation for the story failures and character flaws Stilts pointed out last time. If they had the presence of mind to come up with such explanations, they really should have had the wherewithal to create a more focused story…I rather doubt they’ll be able to properly turn it around in the remaining episodes. And even if they do, many of us will still be lamenting the wasted time on filler, however amusing that filler may have been.

    1. It’s like they know where the issues are, they just don’t know how to effectively fix them. Though I point most of the blame at the source, unless the anime has diverged from the game faaaaar more than I suspect it has.

      1. I suppose there’s something in that. However, one might suppose that the anime is a chance to address and amend those issues. Adaptations do that sort of thing all the time. Now that I think on it, I’ll have to replay the original game and compare to the first series again, but I can’t help feeling that the end diverged more than a bit (potentially to its detriment in that case, but the material was solid enough regardless).

        Perhaps that’s the problem with catering too much to what one perceives to be “fanservice,” b/c that definition changes depending on context/fandom. Considering how often anime takes liberties with source material (less so nowadays, more often back during the original anime), it’s interesting to wonder whether they were afraid to diverge too much, or just didn’t care to.

  14. I late so will try to put reference to this in next week too.

    All easily mined resources have already been emptied way back. They are probably actually mining what were landfills for their iron. But more importantly the easy to get coal and oil is gone there is no power source for modern inventions. I’m sure they will manage in time but first they also need a enlightenment as well, and a university system.

    And here Yamato is acting like China did a power that first advanced things but then held technological advancement from going forward. The Chinese actually invented a dual bellows forge that got blast furnace hot allowing them to make way purer steal than any until the blast furnace actually got invented. The Chinese were actually making titanium steal weapons. But the Chinese government keep it a secret and then the knowledge was lost. The Chinese invented a form of the printing press way earlier than the west but did not export it or heavily use it in China. I call things like that and the Viking explorations in North America pre discovered thus to be a discovery you have to discover and spread the news. (of course that a discover for the Eastern Continents thing) The special sword that I’m sure many thought was magically hard and light in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was not magical it was just titanium steal.

    Tsukuru is doing what we pointed out was major flaw in concept of Heavy Object. Tsukuru is going around the super powered enemies and hitting their opponents supply lines.

    1. You’re absolutely right. It doesn’t matter if you do something first if you don’t get it out into the world. The proverbial Great American Novel (note: it’s a fallacious idea and doesn’t exist—the market has fractured too much for that) might have already been written, but it could be in a drawer somewhere, never to be published. If you don’t spread it, it may not count.

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