「意志を継ぐもの」 (Ishi o Tsugu Mono)
“Who Carries On His Will”
Oh boy, did I ever call it. Unfortunately.
Silence, Staring, Fading To Gray
The first half of the episode is an excellent example of how not to do human drama. As it turns out, messy things like talking and emotion, while they do get in the way of the meaningful, overlong stare, are what make human drama work. All the way up until we learn that Haku isn’t actually dead, and that he’s posing as Oshutoru, didn’t connect because it was so divorced from how people actually act in favor of what seems dramatic. Bah! Plus it was long and boring, and it’s not like any of us believed that the main character would die off-screen anyway.
Also, what was with how the screen kept fading to gray, only for it to snap back as soon as the view cut away to something new? If the intent was to show Kuon’s world falling apart now that Haku has died, then it didn’t friggin’ work. If they had built to that moment and slowly showed the world graying out, and then staying there, maybe. As it is, Kuon crying in her uncle’s arms had far more impact than whatever nonsense tricks they were trying early on.
Oshutoru Is Dead, Long Live Oshutoru
So it turns out I was right: Oshutoru is dead. The transformation when he was weak was enough to kill him. And for all the first parts of the episode sucked, Oshutoru’s actual death scene wasn’t bad (though neither way it great), mostly because of Nekone. Once again, human moments—even if everything else is overwrought, Nekone’s very real pain ties us into the scene. You can’t help but feel for her.
As for Haku taking up Oshutoru’s mask, mantle, and name, there’s a good idea in here. The problem, which I’ll discuss in length in the final impressions below, is that it’s coming too late. For now, I’ll mention a series name: Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. If the intent was to take TTGL’s most famous twist and repurpose it, Itsuwari no Kamen should have taken a hint from its forbearer and done it eight episode in, not twenty-five.
Kuon’s Return Home
Kuon’s return home to Tusukuru, along with the shots of what everyone is doing now—including revealing that Munechika is alive, and Yakutowaruto too, though no one seems to care about him, poor guy—underscores that Itsuwari no Kamen is a middle book, and its main purpose is to set up the third game. Which is a massive case of squandered potential. Instead of spending twenty-five episodes building up, they could have just done it all now. But ah well. I guess Tusukuru will have an actual point in the story next time. That will be fun.
Final Impressions below.
tl;dr: @StiltsOutLoud – Oshutoru is dead, long live Oshutoru. A whole lot of buildup for not a lot of resolution #utaware s2e25 END
- Not the time for silly harem antics, guys.
- I disagree, Oshutoru. This is exactly the time for Nekone to cry. No better time. If you didn’t want your little sister to cry, I suggest not dying next time.
- This episode reminds me a little of the last episode of the first cour of Rinne no Lagrange, where they temporally inverted the narrative and robbed themselves of any chance at tension. Granted, that was Lagrange’s only sin in that episode, whereas Itsuwari no Kamen has several.
- Fun fact: When this series started I suspected that Oshutoru and Haku were one and the same (the same character), rather than Ukon and Oshutoru being the same. Turns out I was right, in a way I didn’t suspect. How very droll.
- At least Haku doubted his stupid decision to not tell Kuon the truth. Not telling anyone does make it easier to keep up the lie, but it’s not worth it. If you can’t trust your friends, what’s the damn point? You’re already screwed. But at least he doubted, so Haku isn’t totally lost as a character.
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: Inside Out: What Emotion Drives You?, Superhot: Storytelling through gameplay, Deadpool: Tonal Balance Through Non-Linear Storytelling, and Through their own flaws.
Itsuwari no Kamen is the straw that finally got me to watch the original Utawarerumono, and for that, I’m grateful. Alas, that’s about the only good thing I can say about the series, in large part because it so clearly failed to live up to its predecessor, and to be a strong story on its own merits.
There are several critical flaws that contribute to the disappointment of Itsuwari no Kamen, but the two greatest are intertwined. The first is middle book syndrome. This is when the middle book (or movie) of a trilogy faffs about a bunch while it sets things up for the big climactic finish in the third book. Itsuwari no Kamen is a textbook example of middle book syndrome, because much of what happens is faffing about (slice-of-life first cour) or setup (Uzuurussha invasion, Tusukuru invasion). It’s clear now that everything that’s been done has set the stage for a third game/anime that can build off the turmoil in Yamato, tie in Tusukuru, and be bigger, badder, and cooler than ever (hopefully). That doesn’t make Itsuwari no Kamen any better of a ride, though, even if we may end up thinking more fondly of it if the third game/anime is super amazing.
The other critical flaw is that Itsuwari no Kamen tried to do too little. I invoked Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann before, and avert thine eyes if you haven’t seen it, because I’m about to spoil the crap out of it. Skip the next paragraph if that’s you. Have those who need to looked away? Unmarked spoilers ahead. Last chance.
Right. So if Oshutoru is the Kamina to Haku’s Simon, Itsuwari no Kamen should have taken another page from TTGL and killed off Oshutoru eight episodes in, instead of waiting until the end of the series. There’s a good idea in Haku becoming Oshutoru, and the Yamato civil war sure could be fun, but the real story is only just getting started and he season just ended. Once again, TTGL is a good example of how it ought to have been done: instead of stretching the Gunmen arc over two cours, Gainax had the cajones to go fast, kill a major character fast, put a huge timeskip in, and basically take two series worth of content and combine it into one, which resulted in one amazing series instead of two good-to-lackluster ones.
It’s a problem of cowardice, I feel. That’s not often a charge leveled at storytellers, but it fits. The original writers of Itsuwari no Kamen, or perhaps the corporate overlords who were bankrolling them, didn’t have the balls to use all of their good ideas immediately. Instead they held back, saving some of their ideas so they could make the next game/anime even better…and in the process, they made this one shit. That’s not how good storytelling works! You use up all of your best ideas now, because creativity is not a stagnant pond, it’s a flowing river, and you’ll get new ideas, better ideas, if you have the courage to do your absolute best work now and force yourself to rise to the occasion later.
And calm down, people who have played the source—I’m sure the game was better. This anime is plainly rife with adaptation problems. But the fact remains that the plot of Itsuwari no Kamen builds up to a lot and resolves nothing. If we charted it on the three-act structure of Setup, Confrontation, and Resolution, the first twenty episodes are all setup. The Uzuurussha, Tusukuru—these are all setup, and don’t directly relate to the budding Yamato civil war/Oshutoru vs Vurai plot that formed the central conflict of this season. That means they only had five episodes to rush through the confrontation and resolution, which clearly didn’t work out well since nothing has been resolved.
There are other flaws. A big one is that for many episodes, it didn’t feel like an Utawarerumono series. The trademark mix of strategic low-magic medieval warfare coupled with slice-of-life breather episodes and harem overtones is a strong elixir, and even if the formula is altered (the harem overtones aren’t necessary), the first half of the series lacked all the strategy Utawarerumono fans love, while the slice-of-life episodes felt unearned. For those who didn’t watch the original, or who were able to enjoy Itsuwari no Kamen as a slice-of-life comedy, at least the first half was good enough. But it wasn’t an Utawarerumono series.
There’s more, but after writing about this series for twenty plus episodes, my opinions are well documented. Itsuwari no Kamen hasn’t killed the Utawarerumono brand, but it’s done its best to wound it, and the third game/anime is going to be born into a world with much less goodwill than Itsuwari no Kamen started with. I’m truly grateful that it spurred me on to finally watch the original Utawarerumono, which, remember, I only finished two months ago—when I say it’s a better story, there’s no nostalgia factor. But as for the forthcoming third game/anime(?), it will meet me with my foot a-tappin’. “Your older brother wasted a lot of my time,” I’ll say. “This had better be good.”