Un-Go (Anime - 2011) Season Overview

Designed by Yun Kouga, Un-Go's main characters: Shinjuurou and Inga

When it was announced last year that Bones would be producing an anime with character designs by Yun Kouga I nearly split a brain node. If you are a fan of anime, you'll know that Bones has brought us such classics as Full Metal Alchemist and Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Ouran High School Host Club, and Soul Eater, to name a few. Last season, they produced No. 6, a thought provoking dystopian series that we covered on this blog.

And for those of you who know me, you might remember that I'm kind of in love with Yun Kouga. She's a great writer and an amazing artist. She's probably best known for the unfinished and thoroughly haunting, Loveless, as well as Earthian and Gestalt. Yun Kouga's characters are long and lean and whispy. They remind me of rebar. They look like they could just break, but by force of will, they can hold skyscrapers in place.

Inga in his child male form

The plot is not based on an existing manga. It comes from Ango Sakaguchi's novel Meiji Kaika Ango Torimono-chō  or is inspired by it. I don't know anything about Ango Sakaguchi except that he was born in the early 20th century and was an intellectual and novelist. I believe his novels center around themes of war.

Inga in her adult female form

The anime, Un-Go, takes place in current day but alternate-Japan. What we  know at the beginning is that there was a big war, something on the scale of a World War, and some Post Patriot Act and SOPA/PIPA-esque legislation has been enacted to protect the country. We know our history is the same at least until 2001, as the anime mentions the terror attacks of September 11. War and terrorism are big themes in this anime (and some of other of Bones' projects) as is information privacy, censorship and the internet in general. As a fan of dystopian themes, this should be right up my alley.

Within this setting, Un-Go is meant to be a detective story, which also very much suits my tastes. Main character, "The Defeated Detective," Shinjuurou Yuuki, and his strange looking assistants, clearly supernatural, Inga and artificially intelligent, Kazamori Sasa, find themselves pitted against the reclusive, beloved and suspiciously always right, JJ Systems Chairman and go-to detective, Rinroku Kaishou.

Rinroku has a daughter, Rie Kaishou, who plays heavily into the storyline. She, like Shinjuurou, cares deeply about the truth, which often causes a deep conflict within her because her father cares less for the truth than shaping a peaceful reality.

A post-war, dystopian mystery with supernatural elements, character designs by Yun Kouga and produced by Bones? Seriously, this should be my dream anime!

Kazamori in her stuffed bear form

Unfortunately, I was underwhelmed. The season was only 11 episodes, not long enough, in my opinion, to present such a complicated plot and connect the audience to the characters. This happened with last season's Bone's project, No. 6; the short season just afforded too little space to convey any real heart.

Kazamori in her android form

While I normally complain about "monster of the week" types of  shows, I think Un-Go would have benefited from a story ark that incorporated  something like this. First establish the bond between Shinjuurou and Inga and the audience, as well as cement their place as crack detectives with a series of "mysteries of the week." Later move into an over-arching plotline. 

I like Shinjuuro's design. He's nondescript especially next to Inga, but he has lovely eyes.

This show made me think about some other series with pairings between humans and supernaturals: Tactics, Death Note and Black Butler. All of these series benefited from allowing the audience to linger with that relationship for a while before introducing a complicated plot. Unfortunately, I didn't feel invested in Shinjuurou or Inga at all. In fact, I didn't really understand Shinjuurou's motivations. I think he was in the war. I think he loves people and "the truth," but I want to know why he and Inga are so bonded? Then I can care about what they are doing.

Beyond that, the mysteries were not that engrossing. The writing could have been greatly improved upon.

Un-Go's "Novelist" bears a striking resemblance to another Yun Kouga character.

Do I think this show is watchable? Sure. I got through all 11 episodes in one sitting. In a vacuum, I really like the characters. I love watching Yun Kouga's designs in movement. I just felt disappointed about the production as a whole. 

Hmm, Loveless' Soubi looks a bit like Un-Go's "Novelist"

One last thing, the music/score for this anime was great. The closing song, Fantasy by LAMA, is very catchy:

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