Un-Go 7 ~ there is no mystery, so why must I solve it?
November 25, 2011
Episode 7 of Un-Go continues from the introduction of the “novelist” who writes stories in reality. The great detective, Shinjurou Yuuki, has been selected to play a part in his next story. As the detective, he must reveal the identity of the murderer, no matter how difficult the consequences. In the process, this episode picks up, and studies the major theme of this series from a fresh angle. We look once more at the relationship between Truth and lies, or we might say this episode studies how we humans create “truth” to satisfy our need for meaning.
Without going into excessive detail, Shinjurou is trapped in an alternate reality in which he works as a camera operator on a movie. We know this isn’t the same reality we have seen in previous episodes of Un-Go, because Shinjurou mentions that the last war happened in his grandfather’s time. The thought of Japan at war is unreality to those on the set, and it is precisely that unreality that makes life in Japan during a war a fitting subject for a movie. Up to now “the last war” was a recent event; in fact, just two episodes ago, it was revealed that Shinjurou knew the young men who were the first to die in the war. Ironically the world in which Japan hasn’t been at war for generations is OUR reality. Somehow this episode has transported Shinjurou from the reality of Un-Go to our own incredible unreality.
The three actresses are in a pinch. The movie consists of three women running (in their underwear) through flames and destruction. They don’t know who they are, how they got there, and have just learned they can’t escape. Not only does the movie make no sense, the lives of their characters seem to have no meaning. Without guidance from the director, each has developed a very different interpretation of what everything means. One wishes for the war to be over, so the “reality” of ordinary life can resume. One accepts the war as something they must endure because of the flaws of human nature. One enjoys the war, because it endlessly produces the thrill of just being alive. They can’t all be right, can they? They beseech the director for answers, but like a distant god, he ignores their prayers, and forces them to continue living in a world that makes no sense, formed of his whims.
I guess the thing that fascinates me about Un-Go is that it always seems less of a Mystery genre series than a meta-treatise about the role of the detective in a Mystery story. The detective has a clear role: to uncover the Truth. Typically there is a simple relationship between Truth and Society: the detective must uncover the Truth to restore order to Society — the criminal must be caught and brought to justice. Un-Go starts from the perspective that Truth and Society have a complex relationship. Initially we are presented with the view that Society might fear, and be unable to tolerate the Truth. What society presents as truth is in fact a convenient lie. The two previous episodes complicated the role of the detective, who no longer was sincerely pursuing the Truth, but had in each case his own agenda, and a “truth” he wanted to find. With this episode Un-Go seems to be pushing even further. Truth as such may simply not exist. Our heartfelt beliefs are constructed to give meaning to the world, but no Truth lies waiting to be uncovered.