Un-Go 1 ~ The Last Great Detective
October 14, 2011
The Noitamina shows have finally premiered, and thus I present Un-Go episode 1. Un-Go is a (Sci-Fi) mystery series produced by Bones, who have a mixed reputation amongst anime fans. Several series that I like a lot (notably RahXephon) were produced by Bones, so, for me, their participation in this project was a selling point. Obviously one episode isn’t enough to make definitive decisions, but I enjoyed the first episode, and am intrigued by the mysterious world in which these crimes take place. The art and music was good. The mystery was also competently handled.
We are introduced to the “Defeated Detective” in a rather odd way. He seems to have died at some time in the past. As we learn in the course of this episode, Un-Go takes place in a future in which Japan has suffered another war. The political and social order have been reorganized. Now detective Yuuki continues to solve crimes that are covered up by officials who have the public respect that he is denied. Since the crimes are covered up, his successes are also covered up, and he is publicly known as a failure, a sacrifice to protect the beautiful lies that maintain social order.
You will probably read different opinions about the character designs: they are long and thin, and have pointy chins. A couple of the characters (well at least one) have even more radical character designs that can come across as jarring, but I actually thought the designs were quite pleasing, especially because anime of recent years has over-emphasized youthful characters. It is really nice to see a party held at a politicians house that isn’t full of junior high or grade school students who are scientists and giant robot pilots.
Similar to many detective shows, our hero is opposed by people who hold official positions of authority. Prosecutor Koyama retains the Japan Justice Network System Holdings group chairman, Rinroku Kaishou, as an advisor to the Public Prosecutor’s Office. The entanglement of private corporations with government agencies is a theme picked up a couple of times in the episode.
I mentioned that this was a kind of Sci-Fi, and I also mentioned that the main character might have already died. There were a lot of little (and some not so little) things that don’t make a lot of sense when one attempts to take them at face value. I don’t mean in terms of the mystery, I mean in terms of the setting, or the way the world works. At this point I can’t tell if there is a supernatural element, or if this was a Science Fiction element, or what it might have been. I’ll have to reserve judgement. I will say that the main character’s side kick, as weird as he may seem at first, is a lot stranger than that.
A lot of the online commentary I have seen (though not all) has criticized Un-Go. There are complaints about the character designs, and complaints about having moved the setting from the Meiji period to a near-future setting. There are also some complaints about the mystery itself. I personally feel that people have a tendency to over-criticize mysteries. If the mystery can be solved, it was too easy; if the reviewer didn’t figure it out, it was too hard (or “unfair”). In my opinion, the mystery in this episode was pretty decent, given that it was wrapped up within a single episode, along with at least half a dozen character introductions. The first episode of an episodic mystery has to perform double-duty: it needs to introduce, develop, and wrap up a mystery tale, as any other episode will have to do, and it needs to introduce the main cast, the detective, his assistant, and his foils. On top of this, Un-Go had the additional responsibility to introduce us to it’s Sci-Fi (Supernatural?) setting. Despite that, the mystery was intelligible and non-trivial.
There is no question in my mind that this first episode was worth watching. If you haven’t seen it yet, by all means check it out. As I implied above, the mystery is resolved in a single episode, so it isn’t much of a time commitment to get a taste. For myself, I will continue to watch this series. I am very interested in finding out what is going on with the world mechanics, and I anticipate enjoying the individual mysteries.