Airing at the tail-end of last year, UN-GO was one of those series that left almost everybody with the same feeling of “well that was good, I guess”. It was always a thematically strong, atmospheric series, but there was the niggling feeling that the more esoteric, supernatural elements were meant to be explained in ways that ambiguous hallucinogenic destruction just can’t seem to. Similarly, the characters went about their business without much explanation, all similarly hard to gauge due to maintaining the same level of non-interest. It wasn’t a deal-breaker because the people involved in the various plots don’t have as much importance as the mysteries themselves, but there were still missing pieces that needed to be replaced.
While the Episode 0 OVA technically aired in 2011 alongside the main series, it was only subbed and watchable after the New Year, so I’m still going to count it as a 2012 entry. Not only were loose ends tied up ceremoniously, but they did so in ways that made this possibly the first time that I’ve ever retroactively thought a series to be better without actually rewatching it. I’m convinced that had this aired before the series proper, the general opinion of the show would be far more positive. What’s more, the OVA tied all the splintered themes and messages into one cohesive message that’s shared by pretty much every Tool album: Look past the superficial and see the world for what it is. The fact that it’s assisted by a great soundtrack and some neat psychedelic imagery certainly don’t dissuade comparisons.
In the end, what separates Episode 0 from nearly every other OVA of the year is just how well it’s directed on its own. The main series was always visually distinctive, but the OVA really kicked things up a notch, all the while explaining away the many non-altruistic reasons that the upper-class have for helping the less fortunate. My inner-cynic was absolutely thrilled to see these unbearably nice people systematically torn apart by their own desires, their true selves consuming the façade that they seemed so keen on presenting to the world. Hell, it blew away everything that came after, and that’s no small feat.
UN-GO was a special series to begin with, and this improved it in every conceivable way. I mean not even End of Evangelion could fix the mess of that show’s ending without bumming people the fuck out. UN-GO essentially did the same thing, but without aliens, soul-crushing depression, or drowning the world in Tang. And that’s arguably a better result than I could’ve hoped for.