Un-Go – 11 (Fin)

Everyone is invited back to the damaged TV studio and given weapons. But Shinjurou insists everyone stay calm as he works through the mystery. Kaishou reveals himself after a staged gunfight, but Shinjurou exposes him as a double created by Bettenou. He names Hayami as the culprit, working with Kuramitsu to eliminate the threat of Kaishou, and in Hayami’s case, to be acknowledged by Izumi. Inga chases down and devours Bettenou, who is not a true god. Even with this mystery solved, Shinjurou still has questions for Rinroku. He finally sits down with Rie and tells her about how a woman who became Inga saved his life.

Kudos to Bones for giving this relatively brief 11-episode series a stirring, mind-twisting send-off. We enjoyed every episode thoroughly, and as a result has earned the highest rating of the Fall shows (not including Penguindrum). We’re not sure if this final mystery was our very favorite (the Kazamori arc was awfully good), but it can claim the most twists and turns, and put Bettenou’s reality-warping powers to more clever, subtler use than her introduction. Our experience watching taught us to suspect the characters who either appear the most innocent or the most underused, and the revelation of Hayami and Kuramitsu as the culprits proved us correct.

The overarching theme of this mystery, and perhaps all those before it, is that we are driven by those we perceive to be gods, whether they truly are or not. Hayami’s God was Izumi’s acceptance; Kuramitsu’s was the power of the government; Inga’s was Bettenou; Rinroku’s was the dream of a world without borders. And Shinjurou? The Truth is his god. For him, it isn’t enough for him to better himself. He wants to expose everyone’s souls until that final truth is uncovered. It may only be another impossible goal, but working towards it gives his existence purpose, while repaying the woman who saved his life and became Inga.

Rating: 4

Un-Go – 10

A hearing is held, run by Diet Member Kuramitsu, to investigate the studio bombing. Rinroku and Rie attend via sattelite, and Shinjurou is among those questioning him. He harbors a consistent suspicion that he’s hiding something, and that he’s using Bettenou to bend reality. Bettenou is at work, but her loyalties are ambiguous. She does have contact with Inga, who has grown distant from Shinjurou and extracts vital state secrets from Izumi. Upon being discharged from hospital, Rinroku’s van explodes with him and his bodyguard Mizuno inside, but Shinjurou is convinced he faked his death. The truth continues to elude him.

This was a tough episode to follow, but by gum were we entertained. It frankly blew our minds with possibilities. As Rinroku says, there are as many truths as there are people. Indeed, every day, every moment we cultivate our own truths, which may change from one moment to the next. Those like Shinjurou live to find the truth, something infinitely elusive, and even though they may even know what he seeks is an impossibility, he still tries. No matter how much he uncovers, there’s always more. No single human lifetime is long enough; the search for truth is eternal.

Is truth an enemy? A foe to be defeated? Why is it he knows Bettenou is at work in the proceedings that surround him, but no one else does, save Rinroku? Throughout this episode, we were fed a lot of information, but like the Defeated Detective, we feel like we haven’t crafted a satisfactory explanation for wtf is going on. Things are getting very weird; abstract; conceptual. The episode where the author trapped Shinjurou in a fantasy world was only the warm-up; the real mind gymnastics begin here- and next week, end. This is one 11-episode series we wish wasn’t ending.

Rating: 4

Un-Go – 09

Renroku Kaishou agrees to make a rare public appearence on a panel TV show debating the nationalization of the energy industry. Kaishou ducks out for a commercial break, and the entire studio explodes in an apparent act of terrorism. All the other panelists, many at odds with Renroku’s politics, are killed. His daughter Rie, who was watching him on live TV, is startled to see him at home, unharmed – a practical impossibility. Shinjurou determines that Bettenou’s reality-bending powers are at work, making lies true and vice versa, underlining how dangerous she can be if unfettered.

Good detective stories have enough twists and turns in them as they run their course from a crime being committed to that crime being solved. But introducing supernatural elements like a girl who can make anyone’s senses show them anything she wants add even more depth and complexity. Watching episodes of such complex and dynamic mystery can be unnerving, even exasperating, because you’re simply not sure who’s telling the truth and who’s after what. But it’s also why we’re so hooked on this show: sometimes its nice to not have everything spelled out.

And nothing is this week. Renroku Kaishou is an exceedingly enigmatic man; he’s pretty damn good at what he does, but it’s inferred or implied that he may have a dark side to him. He keeps his cards close, never revealing to anyone what he’s really about, even his daughter. Similarly, while we pretty much knew the ‘novelist’ wanted – to make awesome reality novels – we’re way more in the dark about what Bettenou wants. Does she just want chaos? Conflict? A resumption of the war that proceeded this series? We just don’t know. With two episodes remaining, we may well never know. But with Un-Go, not all questions need firm answers. Just enjoy the ride.

Rating: 3.5

Un-Go – 08

When Shinjurou doesn’t show up for a while, Inga and Rie have Kazamori go into cyberspace to attempt to locate him in the prison. Izumi and Rie go in armed with handcuffs designed by Kazamori to shock him back into reality. He has been the victim of an elaborate illusiory world created by the power of a kami called Bettenou, who is an associate of the novelist. The three women actresses are actually convicts, and he determines through deduction in both the real and fake worlds that one of them, Izawa Sayo, a terrorist, murdered the director with a security barrier.

First of all, Kazamori flying around in the Matrix? Righteously awesome. If it weren’t for a little help from his friends, especially her, Shinjurou would have been forever trapped in the novelist’s fantasy world, filming a film he knows not what. He did get assistance though, and the handcuffs were a nice touch to bring him back, as was the scene when Izumi and Rie forget why they were there and start acting in the roles the novelist wrote for them, until he shocks them back too.

This mystery wasn’t as crazily meta as we had proposed last week, but it was still very very good, throwing all kinds of levels of reality at us, and making us and the detectives try to sort it all out. It even overlapped with the couple instances last week where Shinjurou interacted with Kazamori, Izumi and Rie. We thought they were just more projections in his dream, but they were the real deal. And at episode’s end, when Inga finally gets ahold of this punk novelist, he tells her what we know already. and now we know what that shrine maiden-looking girl’s all about, and that she’s very dangerous in the wrong hands.

Rating: 4

Un-Go – 07

While meeting with the “novelist”, Shinjurou somehow passes into an alternate world where there’s been no war, but he’s a cameraman on the set of a war movie. He acts naturally in this sudden new role, but has a persistent urge that there’s a mystery there to be solved. Indeed, when the hostile film director is found murdered, he determines himself the prime suspect. But there’s a strong possibility he’s being toyed with, as Inga and Kazamori aren’t able to get to him back at the prison.

This Un-Go is a mystery within a mystery, as Shinjurou attempts to solve a mystery on a movie set while an overarching mystery festers throughout: where is he, and what the heck is going on? A lot of the details and dialogue suggest a dream sequence. The novelist and his funkily-dressed girl companion behind him to whom we haven’t been introduced yet; they’re definitely behind this, but how far does it go?

If this novelist can do what he claims he can do, probably quite far. Shinjurou, Rie, Kazamori, and the others merely literary concoctions of this dude made flesh; puppets with which he weaves mysteries for them to solve? Has he authored all the mysteries we’ve seen so far? Have we been inside his little world all along? Is his presence in the prison cell simply another artifice, and the prisoner merely his avatar in that plane of reality?  We’ve gotten a fair share of hints, but that doesn’t mean we’ve figured out exactly what’s going on.

Rating: 4

Un-Go – 06

A professor recently released from prison tasks Shinjurou with solving the mystery of a note written on his personal manuscipt paper hidden in a book belonging to Rinroku Kaishou. While it initially looks like the professor’s blind wife was having an affair with Rinroku, the notes were actually communiques from her “missing” children, who were actually victims of abuse by their mother, and subsequently put into a protective home by the police. They’re still alive. Shinjurou meets the prisonmate who gave the professor the book, hoping it would lead to him murdering his wife. Indeed, this “reality novelist” may be responsible for setting up many murder mysteries Shinjurou has solved.

Un-Go shakes a few things up this week. Firstly, Rinroku is portrayed not merely as another investigator, but someone potentially involved in the crime. Secondly, Inga doesn’t transform or ask anyone a question; Shinjurou unravels much of the mystery with his own gifts of deduction – though kudos to Kazamori for the tech support; she’s proving quite the valuable colleague. If we may be so bold, we find her the most interesting character so far in a show that’s propelled mostly by the story, not its players. That’s not meant as a slight in the least; after all, one of the best characters in the Star Trek universe is Data, a yellow-eyed android just like Sasa…though he couldn’t transfer his being into a little plush doll.

And finally, rather than solving a case of Murder Moste Foul, Shinjurou arrives earlier in the mystery, before it has escalated. Indeed, the revelations he uncovers almost lead to the professor killing his wife, but that doesn’t happen this week. What is very interesting indeed is that blue-haired “novelist” inmate who seems to be crafting real murder mysteries for the sole purpose of being solved by Sinjurou and Inga. Is this meant to be the meta manifestation of Ango, the author? And who’s the redeyed beauty beside him? They would seem to know more about the Defeated Detective than the rest of the cast. With each week and mystery, another piece of the underarching mystery – that of Shinjurou himself – falls into place.

Rating: 4

Un-Go – 05

Hakuru Shimada, a powerful politician, is dedicating a new memorial hall with a statue honoring three soldiers who sacrificed their lives to save others, including himself. When the bodies of two members of a rival party are found in the base of the statue, Shinjurou suspects Hakuru is the culprit. But after Inga asks Shimada’s son, he’s proven wrong, shaking his confidence. He eventually works out that Youko, the artist who built the statue, is the murderer, by looking past the illusion she created to throw him off.

For anyone thinking Shinjurou has it too easy with Inga by his side, here was a mystery that initially stumped him, even with Inga’s help. For the record, we also learn a little more about Inga – that he has a deal with her in which he supplies her with truthy souls to eat, and she doesn’t murder anyone. For all of Shinjurou’s hobbesian philosophizing, he is, as Kazamori postulates, sacrificing his life for others. We like how in her first episode as one of the gang, the AI doll makes herself useful by laying things out from a different perspective.

Perhaps her mere presence as the artificial illusion of a human, got him to thinking that maybe his preconceptions of the case were illusory – and indeed they were. There is certainly truth in Hobbes’ notion that humans are by nature brutal and short. The ultimate culprit is beautiful and talented, but she wants that gold, too. He plan for getting it was simple in its aims – distract everyone and get Hakuru to point out the gold’s location – while the execution, involving a trojan horse and lots of deception, was anything but. The story moved fast and confidently, and it was challenging to keep up, but also extremely rewarding.

Rating: 4

Un-Go – 04

Kazamori is revealed as an AI, and Shinjurou and Inga sneak him out of the Sasa house to get more answers. Inga’s power won’t work on a program, so they have to earn its trust. He eventually leads him to his creator, Komamori, who has beeen alive all along. He faked his death in order to escape the oppression of the government, which had publically deemed GAI robots immoral and illegal for their use as fighters and sex slaves, but secretly wanted a monopoly on them for military use. They finally got a spy into the Sasa household, and he was burned by Kazamori. After Komamori surrenders, he destroys the doll Kazamori was in, but not before his program was transferred to a new female robot body.

We’re really glad this story lasted two episodes; even though the first part felt like a complete mystery, the second part dove even further into it, revealing even more twists and turns and surprising tidbits. Never mind also presenting with possibly the first case ever of a fridge being cuffed and taken in for questioning, which was gut-busting. Also, because the suspect in question wasn’t human, Inga can’t work her magic. But due to the GAI’s personality, the answers come anyway, and they come fast and furious. And so now we know who the yellow-eyed girl in the opening and ending is – Kazamori. We suspect she’ll show up again, much like Rinroku, Rie, Koyama and the like.

In addition to totally solving the case, this episode also opened up an entirely new can-o-worms in this postwar world: the now-outlawed GAI industry. Komamori felt it was better for society to take out its baser urges for sex and violence with GAIs, rather than war, which is why he disappeared himself. The fact that such a groundbreaking industry not only took place, it was all shut down before the events of Un-Go even started, really adds depth and richness to this world where everyone is “just living and falling”…and bureaucratic turf wars still run rampant.

Rating: 4

Un-Go – 03

Kaishou Rie summons Shinjurou and Inga to the Sasa household, where its heir Kazamori met a most unusual demise on the seventh anniversary of the death of his adoptive father, Komamori, previously the foremost authority on AI before his research was shut down by the government. When Kaishou determines it was murder and not suicide, the other members of Sasa become suspects. Inga asks the widow who Kazamori is, she tells her there was never a human Kazamori, but an android; a creation of her late husband. Kazamori’s program is still integrated into the house.

Wow, what amazing twists befall this show! Unveiled at just the right moment after careful and intricate build-up, we had our suspicions that the masked Kazamori could be anyone or anything and that the manner in which he burned up suggested something not human. And yet, for seven years after a wing of Komamori’s house blew up – with him in it – his “adopted son” essentially ran the family business, without ever revealing his face. The widow found out quite by accident, but even as she was suspected in his murder, she stayed tight-lipped about it – until Inga, of course.

Once we dive into the engrossing Sasa story, it’s east to forget the first act, in which Shinjurou is helping an…ahem…companion, restore her iPhone contact list, in the ruins of Shinjuku. Terrorists bombings claim the NTT Docomo Building and Takashimaya Times Square, and the station is a mess. It’s great how this series continues to build the very strange, possibly insane world in which Shinjurou, Inga, and the other detectives operate. They represent the enduring human spirit in their own way. The series also continues to maintain fantastic production values, and the ending sequence is the best of the season.

Rating: 4

Un-Go – 02

Yokohama power player Hisako Osada’s corpse is found in a suitcase in front of her own mansion, and prosecutor Koyama enlists the aid of Kaishou. The intricate case is studded with false culprits apparently placed to confuddle the investigator, but Shinjurou and Inga eventually discover that Hisako’s daughter An is the murderer. Hisako forbade An to pursue her dream of singing, even after she contributed her voice to a popular idol group set up by Hisako to heighten morale during the war. An was the voice of Eri Anzai, the fourth member of the group believed to have been killed in a terrorist attack before their debut. Sinjurou has a computer-savvy acquaintence release the prohibited music out onto the web.

Whereas a series like Night Raid took place in an alternate version of the thirties when Japan occupied China, Un-Go takes literature from the period (by Sakaguchi Ango, hence the title Un-go) and sets it in the near future instead, after a similar war broke out. I like that choice, because history repeats itself, even when it comes to the type of wars countries tend to fight. There’s also an intense sense of decadence and uneasiness to this postwar Japan; it comes close to being dystopic, but very subtly so, since it sticks so close to reality. Unlike so many anime that are hastily produced from manga that aren’t even complete, there’s a sense of authenticity and richness to the cases, in addition to being well thought-out. It’s a flavor that comes from time-honored, finely-honed source material.

Whether Inga is an invention of the show’s producers, or an invention of Ango, we don’t know, but she’s definitely an interesting wild card. When her grown-up version is released, it’s just a matter of asking the right person the right question, and the case breaks open. But finding that person and having that question are the challenges Shinjurou faces. The series’ music is beyond reproach, particularly that of the idol group, which sounded almost throwback in its consturction yet more honest and robust because of that. The idea of the government using talented singers and then discarding them when their usefullness is at an end isn’t all that farfetched, either.

Rating: 4

Un-Go – 01

At a formal soiree intended to gain support for his case, embattled tycoon Kanou is suddenly murdered. A gaggle of detectives are on hand to begin investigating immediately, among them the “defeated detective”, Shinjurou Yuuki, and his companion/boss Inga. With his deductive skills and her power to make someone answer a single question, they solve the case, revealing Kanou’s wife as the murderer.

A cool, confident start to what looks to be one of the cooler, more confident series this fall. This is a noitaminA piece, which means only eleven episodes; and we’re hoping it turns out better than the last one, No. 6, which just flat out ran out of time. If it can stick to a case-a-week format, it should be able to tell a lot within its alotted time. This episode didn’t waste any time at all, throwing us right into the mix, introducing a huge case of characters, and wrapping up the case with a neat little bow.

Animation is above-average, the OP and ED are both phenomenal, and while we kinda just did the detective and funky muse thing, we’re looking forward to some clever mysteries, and also to learning a little more about this funky Inga character. Like Dantalian, there’s a supernatural element to this show, and it also takes place in a postwar world, albeit in the future. The director’s also done good work (Gundam 00, Fullmetal Alchemist, Eureka seveN, Eva), so I’m expecting more of same. The game’s afoot!

Rating: 3.5

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