And I'm back! Survived my con, bought some manga I'll be reviewing soon (got 11 volumes of various stuff for $40, yessssss), had time to finish up a book, introduced one friend to Tiger and Bunny and convinced two friends to try out the Soul Eater manga, might have even convinced them to give Steins;Gate a try as well, good weekend for dragging friends over to the dark side. Quick note before the review however, changing up my schedule again because it looks like Tuesday and Thursday will be my worst days this semester and I have to go to bed early on Wednesday so I can wake up too early on Thursday. So here is what my blogging schedule is going to look like until at least mid-May, possibly until mid-August.
SUNDAY: Movies/tv shows/OVAs/ONAs sometimes
MONDAY: Anime/cartoons in general (full series)
FRIDAY: Comics/manga/graphic novels
SATURDAY: Books (mostly YA fiction but some nonfiction works it's way in, includes officially translated light novels).
Onto the review!
When the noitaminA line-up for the fall was announced I wasn't terribly excited by it. Plenty of people had high hopes for Guilty Crown but I had a sneaking suspicion that the show just wouldn't work for me and would probably crash and burn to be honest (I just kept quiet about my fears since I knew that no one really wanted to hear that). Un-Go however interested me a bit, it was also an original work which might help with noitaminA's pacing problems and I like mysteries. True there were an unusually large number of detective shows last year but this one had a bit of a different set-up and was legally streaming on Crunchyroll (it's now streaming on The Anime Network, the US licensor, and hulu as well) so why not give it a shot?
Summary: Yuuki Shinjuro is called "the Defeated Detective" by many, not because his deductions are wrong as most people assume but rather because the cases he investigates are always covered up. Set in the near future after Japan has suffered from a large war and many terrorist attacks, the government continues to manipulate and control the flow of information and many of the truths that Shinjuro uncovers are then manipulated by Rinroku Kaishou, a private consultant to the Japanese government. Based off of the Aoi Bungaku Series by Ango Sakaguchi set after WWII but I don't know how heavily (going by Inga's rants in the episode previews however, probably very loosely).
The Good: Un-Go does a number of things differently than the other detective shows this year did, the biggest one is the set-up between Shinjuro and his "assistant" Inga. In many stories it is the detective's sidekick who is the more normal of the two and the dumb audience surrogate, here it's Kaishou's daughter Rei who is more of an audience surrogate (if anyone, the show never seems to assume that it's audience is dumb) and Shinjuro is far more normal than Inga. The story also successfully uses the "first half unconnected stories, second half connected episodes" set-up, which is amazing since this is only 11 episodes long, and never wastes a minute with it's time constraints. There is a prologue "episode 0" movie released in movie theaters in Japan, which I have read extensive spoilers for, but even all the information in there that is necessary to the case on hand is revealed. The setting is very well done, the writers clearly understood how a post-war, heavy handed government setting would affect the characters and how it would affect all of them differently (from Shinjuro's "defeats" to Rei's creative ways for getting around a few laws). Finally, I was impressed how the series was able to fully explore both Shinjuro and Kaishou's reasons for doing what they do and yet didn't present either them as fully right or wrong. They both came off as well-intentioned people with flaws which is hard to pull off.
The Bad: If you haven't either seen episode 0 or read at least basic spoilers for it then you might be disappointed/confused that Inga is never completely explained in the story which will bother some people more than others. I would have actually liked the earlier cases in the series to be a little more connected to the final case but they were connected enough that this didn't bother me. A number of people have complained that the cases were too simple which I don't exactly think was the case, this story was always more about the reason why than what actually happened, and I also think that it is much harder to tell a good mystery in a visual format than a text only one and it's hard to blame a story for the short-comings of it's medium. Finally, I agree with many other people out there that this should have been the two cour noitaminA show since it could have gone on much longer (I think the story is nice and completed now but I really feel like the writers could have created some more interesting stories if there had been the time for it).
The Audio: Inga's VA, someone who is known for doing all female roles before this, does a good job with Inga's strangeness. Following in one of noitaminA's unofficial traditions of using new VAs in main roles, Shinjuro's VA has done barely any other work in anime but I liked his often deadpan and calm take on the world around him. Funny enough one of the minor villains was voiced by Yuuki Kaji whom I had started to pigeonhole because of his role in No.6 last season and Guilty Crown this season (both leads and both noitaminA shows as well ironically) but surprised me by having more of a range than I thought. As for music in the show, I found the opening sequence very catchy and the ending sequence was interesting as well (normally I don't pay attention to bands but the opening was done by School Food Punishment who also did the ending songs for the other noitaminA shows [C]-Control and Eden of the East and Lama, who has very distinctive voice, also sang the ED for No. 6).
The Visuals: This is a Studio Bones show so it looked good throughout it's run and they even managed to work in one of their signature fight scenes without it feeling out of place. There isn't actually a lot to comment on since the show looked so smooth that nothing jarred me out of my viewings or particularly caught my eye, which is to say that that the art and animation worked the way they were supposed to.
Sentai has already licensed this for a US release which I'll be sure to get, especially since they have announced they will also have Episode 0 on the discs, I wonder if they might also get the Inga Nikki shorts as well since those are on the Japanese release of episode 0. You can watch them (unsubbed) on the official website and they're pretty short, funny little animations which are mostly talking between Shinjuro and Inga. I'd love to see them translated just so I can see what they're talking about, I got the joke for one or two but they're just talking too fast for my crappy Japanese.