Execution is still rough, but the underlying thrust of the story here isn’t bad. It just needed to happen twelve episodes ago.
Not Enough Difficulty
As I’ve mentioned in recent episodes, I find myself down on Itsuwari no Kamen in a way that I wouldn’t be if it hadn’t been screwing things up for so long. When KonoSuba does something a little goofy, and I happily give it a pass because it’s been killing it; Itsuwari no Kamen has not. But I tried to be as objective as I could in appraising this episode (objectivity is impossible, of course, but the attempt has worth in and of itself), and my conclusion is that the thrust of the plot right now isn’t bad. It’s leading in an interesting direction, finally. Most of my qualms come in execution.
Dekoponpo drops the Akuruka; that’s overly convenient. Haku throws together a half-assed plan and splits the party; it still works. Haku can’t get inside the palace because magic is useless again; Karura and Touka show up to conveniently save the plot. There are only a few token guards defending the princess and Oshutoru; there should be many. Kuon heals the princess effortlessly, they have a debate in the dungeon, they take too long to get on the boat for no good reason, and probably more.
All of these are instances where the writers slapped together a script without really pouring their heart and souls into it. There are elementary mistakes happening here. I famously said that Comet Lucifer watched like a first draft; this watches like the first draft of an adaption. It’s better because it has the benefit of source material to work off of, but they needed a few more iterations to tighten everything up, and a good editor to tell them when they were being dumb. Or maybe they shoudlda just played the source material more.
Karura and Touka especially annoy me. Haku didn’t even go searching for them, thinking they might have a way; they just show up when he needs them. It becomes clear that this is why they didn’t defend Tusukuru, but it’s the needs of the plot perverting the characters. Not good writing.
Where We’re Going
All that said, the actual story they’re trying to tell is moving in an interesting direction. A civil war could be fascinating, especially since it could see the antagonist generals (Vurai, Dekoponpo, probably Raikou, and I’m guessing Woshisu, though I don’t have any proof of that), directly opposed to Haku/Oshutoru’s group, whereas I expect Oozen (Rurutie’s father), Soyankekuru (Atui’s father), Tokifusa (the Evenkuruga-looking guy), and Munechika (if she’s alive) will line up on Oshutoru’s side. Oh, and Mikazuchi too, unless they want to get some real angsty shit going up in here. This could give Itsuwari no Kamen—or rather, the forthcoming sequel—a sustained core of antagonists in a way that the original Utawarerumono never really had. That was to the original’s benefit in some ways, and its detriment in others, so I’m willing to say that it could elevate the sequel, even if it won’t necessarily do so.
This all just needed to happen twelve episodes ago. There’s been a whole lot of not much going on for the longest time, they diverted over into Tusukuru for what seems like fanservice at the moment, characters have been left badly characterized (new ones) or perverted by the plot (original characters), and the whole series has been marked by a lack of urgency. If we were in the capital by episode four (the first three episodes were still largely good), had most of the characters introduced by eight, were kicking the Uzuurussha by ten and were learning about the truth of the world by twelve, we could have been dealing with this stuff two months ago, when we might have still cared.
And honestly? I think the entire diversion into Tusukuru is partially to blame. The Tusukuru characters have been the best part of this series, but while the Karura/Touka and Kamyu/Aruruu are largely defensible because they didn’t detract anything (and they did help flesh out Kuon), what the damn hell was the point of the whole Tusukuru invasion? From where we stand now, it seems like a damn waste of time. Probably it’ll be important later, but I feel like we wasted so much time with Tusukuru things—also, with overly long character introduction episodes which could have been done in half the time—that we never got to really understand these characters or get a plot worth anything.
But that’s not the main problem. The real problem is that they’re only giving us half the story. We got a loooong, extended first act (character introductions, the Uzuurussha, the Tusukuru invasion), and we’re only now getting to the second act (the civil war) … and the series is ending. They’re telling us one game’s worth of story stretched out over two games, and the anime suffers from it as well.
Er. Went off on a diversion there. My point is, the direction they’re going now isn’t bad. A civil war could be interesting. It just needed to happen a long time ago.
tl;dr: @StiltsOutLoud – The execution is still lazily rough, but if this plot had happened two months ago, I woulda probably enjoyed it #utaware s2e22
- Looks like Vurai has Oshutoru’s mask. I bet that will be important in a few episodes.
- If the infiltration was as hard as it should have been, sending Haku ad Nekone for Oshutoru would have been a death wish. Haku is all right in a fight, but Nekone is useless. The twins didn’t come along why, again? Unless that barrier dampened all magic, in which case magic is useless again.
- Don’t just stare at each other this isn’t Star Wars.
- If I were the other eight generals, I would kill Oshutoru early, just to thwart any rescue attempts. Unless their goal was to catch them, but by the shitty defenses, clearly it was not.
- Don’t applaud on a stealth mission, Kuon.
- Loyalty isn’t all it’s cracked up to be if Oshutoru is this damn stupid. Take a lesson from Ansatsu Kyoushitsu—sometimes, the world is worth nothing next to twenty lives. And Vurai is loyal to the emperor, not the people, you idiot.
- That’s a death flag for Yakutowaruto right there. No idea if he’ll die though, since the writers are so scattershot.
- Author’s note: I’ll be out of town next weekend, so Passerby will be blogging episode 23. Thank you, Bystandar-chwan!
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: Deadpool: Tonal Balance Through Non-Linear Storytelling, Through their own flaws, Look to the one before, and The problem with character development episodes.