36 CommentsAnime Analysis, Twelve Days / By Scamp /

12 Days of Anime #11: Un-Go’s Double Episode

Un-Go’s first two episodes were infuriating. You could see that, behind the mystery of the episodes and the characters, there was a fascinating post-war society evolving where censorship had taken root in some of the strangest fashions. But the scenarios through which this backdrop was set were horribly paced episodic mysteries. A murder takes place before we can get to grips with what the stakes are. Characters spout their reasoning behind events before we know who they are. The mystery is solved by the end of the episode without us even getting to grips with who was even killed in the first place. Un-Go made me feel stupid because I couldn’t follow what was going on. Thankfully some kind of mind-reading device scanned the globe and the creators of Un-Go realised their folly in time for the third and fourth episodes, where they thankfully split the mystery over two episodes. The results were astounding.

Without spoiling too much, the episode revolved around the murder of a famous android creator and his son, who wore a weird mask over his face at all times. The mysteries in Un-Go are never specifically a whodunnit type, but understanding why these things took place and how they fit into this post war conservative society. But not letting us understand what the stakes of the mystery are divorces us from the subsequent reasoning behind the case in the first place. Episode 3 nails the mystery perfectly, allowing us to suspect almost every single one of the limited suspects in turn, before blindsiding with the actual suspect in the final moments. I read a bunch of other people thought the mystery was obvious from the start. Congratulations for you clever clogs out there whose massive brains can’t be challenged by such simple mysteries. Why don’t you go star on Phi Brain if your brain is finding such difficulty being intellectually stimulated.

But the true genius was in episode 4 where they explored the reasoning behind the case. So many different themes were tackled in the space of such a small air time. What is humanity, where and who should you show this compassion to, should society give people the opportunity to carry out their darkest of desires if it harms nobody (a topic particularly relevant to certain sections of anime fandom). It does all this without coming off as pretentious, showing different characters views of the situation and tying it all brilliantly in with the story of the episode and of the series as a whole. It’s also remarkable how an anime with so much dialogue follows the ‘show, don’t tell’ motto with far greater skill than many others. So many times during that episode did little things clunk together in my mind. How did the tiny panda doll learn to be so skilled at sexual acts? Why does the child android look so similar to his daughter?

Un-Go’s double episode sprang me from a depression of what Noitamina was apparently turning into. The maturity of its presentation and of its tackling of sexual subjects was in stark contrast to the juvenile Guilty Crown. By themselves, episodes 3 and 4 could be spliced together to create a single introductory episode for anybody who wants see what this show is like. Episode 4 in particular stands out as one of the best episodes of anime I’d seen all year. Do watch these two episodes, even if you weren’t at all impressed by the first episode. It’s well worth your time.

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  1. Mr. Anon
    Posted December 15, 2011 at 12:29 am | Permalink

    So basically what you’re saying is … “it gets better I swear”? :P

    • Scamp
      Posted December 15, 2011 at 9:35 am | Permalink

      It got better. Then it got worse again. But then it got better again!

  2. Posted December 15, 2011 at 12:36 am | Permalink

    People called who the culprit in episode 3? Bull/shit/.

    • Posted December 15, 2011 at 1:48 am | Permalink

      *who the culprit was

      i r teh best at grammers

    • kero92
      Posted December 15, 2011 at 3:37 am | Permalink


      Come on, that is so not true. The moment Shinjurou said that such robots existed , that is were your line of thought should have gone. No (decent) mistery is solved with unshowed information, so if they give you some kind of info that seems irrelevant, you should inmediately think otherwise, and if it clicks with the story, you should follow that idea.

      • Scamp
        Posted December 15, 2011 at 9:37 am | Permalink

        What irritates me is when people start going “oh the culprit was so obvious. This anime is boooring”. I can see the answer was hinted before the reveal, but was it really so easy that your massive brain is left unfulfilled by such trivial mysteries?

      • kero92
        Posted December 16, 2011 at 12:32 am | Permalink

        I didn’t say it was “so easy that your massive brain is left unful­filled by such trivial mysteries?” I just said is not impossible

  3. Posted December 15, 2011 at 12:37 am | Permalink

    I don’t even know how they would guess in the single episode mysteries either, I don’t remember them well but I do remember there really even wasn’t enough time to guess haha.
    I hated this show at first, but these last few episodes have been awesome.

  4. Fundefined
    Posted December 15, 2011 at 12:49 am | Permalink

    Meh, maybe I’ve read too many mystery novels but UN-GO is thoroughly mediocre to me. Even the double episode you say to so amazing just comes off as run of the mill.

    Besides I don’t think the “fas­cin­at­ing post-war soci­ety” is going anywhere. Remember No. 6? UN-GO supposed world depth is like No. 6’s distopia: lots of posturing that will fail to reach anything satisfying. It probably won’t be as stupid as magic new-age psychic bees but still shallow.

    • Scamp
      Posted December 15, 2011 at 9:39 am | Permalink

      Maybe it’s because you’ve read too many mystery novels that you’re looking at Un-Go the wrong way? It’s not about the mysteries, it is about the setting. The mysteries are just framing devices.

      As for the setting itself, you’re judging it on what it could become, not what it has shown so far

      • Posted December 15, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

        I agree. Un-Go isn’t really a mystery series. It is using the mysteries to structure a story about something else. A good chunk of that is the society and the way information control is used.

        I have to say Un-Go is a bit uneven; it isn’t always a very interesting show. Sometimes it can be great, though. The recent two-parter about the “movie” was awesome.

  5. Posted December 15, 2011 at 2:01 am | Permalink

    I dropped Guilty Crown and stick with Un-Go for the reasons you have mentioned. At least my faith for noitaminA series hasn’t been totally diminished

  6. RandomLurker
    Posted December 15, 2011 at 2:11 am | Permalink

    I’m totally with you on this, Scamp. I found it really hard to get into the first 2 episodes, but I endured, since it was Noitamina and whatnot. Episode 4, on the other hand, was really cool. I loved the subtelty of how they presented the topics: without diverging too much from the mistery, they portrayed the Un-Go society and gave us interesting stuff to blog about.

    By the way, have you watched Eve no Jikan? It was a series of ONAs about that precise topic. It depicts a modern society, were androids are commonplace, and deals with their interactions with humans, their feelings (or lack of)… If you haven’t, you might want to check it out.

    • Scamp
      Posted December 15, 2011 at 9:40 am | Permalink

      Yeah I’ve seen Time of Eve. Heck, I saw it when only one episode was out, I was that ahead of the crowd :D Also Pale Cocoon is better mwahaha go my biased views go

  7. Posted December 15, 2011 at 2:42 am | Permalink

    First two episode left me like huh? So what happened? Someone died? And then three and four were great, but I did get tired of kid changes form uses powers YAY! Mystery solved…Still I find Un Go to be interesting.

    • Scamp
      Posted December 15, 2011 at 9:43 am | Permalink

      I don’t get this response either. People saying the mysteries are solved via the single use of a power. He has limited control over it at best and has to find the right question to ask too. It would be like calling Lelouch an idiot because he has the Geass

      • Someone Else
        Posted December 15, 2011 at 10:49 am | Permalink

        I can put a long ass comment here but no. Too tiring, it’s your blog anyway, not mine. Inga power is just plain stupid, that is all. Geass is awesome for so many reasons and is completely different. Please don’t compare the two

      • Strabo
        Posted December 15, 2011 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

        Well, I’m convinced by your arguments.

      • Fundefined
        Posted December 15, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

        I think half of why people complain about Inga’s power’s is the length of the presentation. The anime takes always takes a good 30 seconds to go “Blagh, I have magical soul sucking powers, you can’t hide anything from me! Here look at this stupid “The Scream” ripoff and purple butterflies.” This happens almost every episode and it gets irritating. And honestly is it even necessary? I think the show would function fine if not better if Inga didn’t exist at all.

      • Scamp
        Posted December 15, 2011 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

        It’s meant to highlight how creepy she is. The more we learn about her, the more creepy that sequence appears, because we see it in a new light everytime. Repetition has a purpose

  8. Someone Else
    Posted December 15, 2011 at 2:49 am | Permalink

    Umm ok, since I put hate posts whenever you mention Un-go, I guess I’ll try to pick it up again and see what happens. I just watched gosick for the cute stereotype Victorica and Psychic detective Yakumo because I love ghosts. Now I’ll see if Un-go truly satisfy me with its mystery solving genre which the two I’ve mentioned failed to deliver

  9. Guest
    Posted December 15, 2011 at 3:42 am | Permalink

    It’s a good show but a bad detective show.

    Episodes six, seven, and eight are solid too.

    • Scamp
      Posted December 15, 2011 at 9:44 am | Permalink

      Actually I thought this episode had both, but by and large yes. It’s crap detective anime, but great otherwise

      • Guest
        Posted December 15, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

        Oh, I think it’s a great show, and unless the ending is just horrible it’s easily my anime of the year. It’s just that despite following a detective and his cases the show doesn’t really conform to “detective show” genre conventions.

        I’d add that if you have time to watch each episode twice it’s even better, because the episodes have more crammed into them than you can really catch on a single watch.

    • Someone Else
      Posted December 15, 2011 at 10:51 am | Permalink

      Then I guess I’ll just watch this with Gosick in mind: Looking for cute characters in the episodes while ignoring the mystery part. Thanks for the suggestion, I might watch this series again at later part

    • Posted December 15, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

      I think there is a difference between being a “bad detective show” and not really being a detective show. Un-Go really isn’t a detective show. Un-Go really isn’t about solving mysteries. One of the characters is trapped in the mind-set of thinking that way (at least through the first two-thirds of the show), but even during this time the show makes it clear that it isn’t about solving mysteries, and that the attempt to solve mysteries is itself a way of misperceiving the world. This starts coming up with the episode about the book and the missing children.

      As to Inga’s power, it isn’t used to solve the mystery. It probably appeared that way in the first episode because the writers were psyching you out. As Scamp mentions in a comment elsewhere on this page, Inga’s power is useless unless used properly, and it isn’t used properly in several episodes (in part this is because Inga is too voracious to care about using it properly).

  10. Moomba
    Posted December 15, 2011 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    I’ve been pleasantly surprised by UN-GO so far for the most part – I didn’t really expect much when I started watching at the beginning of the season, but it’s been surprisingly deep at times.

    Recently I’ve been failing to get into detective anime, having watched too many of them in quick succession and their posessing so many shared aspects (Gosick, Dantalian, I’m sure there are more that I’ve seen recently but I seem to have forgotten them). Yet somehow, UN-Go managed to grip me, mostly with its setting, but also with its clever mysteries and characters.

  11. Goresome
    Posted December 15, 2011 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    You took it too seriously. Or it tries to look very seriously. However I can’t take it like that no matter what. No tension, no drama, Inga asked – suspect spilled everything out. New tools in his arsenal definetly dilute that nonsense, also Inga’s power not all that almighty at all.

    But, what me (and possibly you) watching this crap (SD gawd my eyes!) is mistery background of a protag (what was he called?) and Inga. inb4 it’ll turn out as some nonsense.

  12. Posted December 15, 2011 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

    I’m very glad I picked this back up. I’m enjoying the mysteries more, although they’re still not too interesting, but I really like how the characters and world is being fleshed out.

  13. stupid commenter
    Posted December 15, 2011 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    I need to ask: will you do “the 12 worst moments in anime 2011” like last year?

    • Scamp
      Posted December 15, 2011 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

      Not sure. I watched lots of terribad anime this year and they kinda swamp the list when I’d end up writing about them in my terribad video reviews. There’s certainly stuff I could write about, like the ending of Ano Hana or episode 10 of Fractale, but not sure if I could fill 12 spots without delving into terribad

  14. Sarif Fice
    Posted December 15, 2011 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

    the mysteries are so painfully bad I can’t enjoy the unique world they are set in.

    • Scamp
      Posted December 15, 2011 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

      But this mystery was good! That’s my point with this post

  15. dyxlisa
    Posted December 15, 2011 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

    I usually dislike mystery/detective shows altogether, largely I think because of the lack of emotional impact and background each mystery usually has. They mystery itself usually has little allure to me; what about the people involved? Why would they do this, how were they affected? That’s what I want to know, not how so-and-so got into a locked room. So the fact that Un-Go isn’t much of a mystery show and is more an exploration of motivations and the setting is probably part of what attracts me to it.

    Episodes 3 and 4 were brilliant for pretty much exactly the reasons you described; they were certainly what sold me and my sister on Un-Go.

  16. Posted December 15, 2011 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

    I don’t get people saying that the mysteries are bad and that Inga is a cheat. I don’t see why.

  17. Posted December 24, 2011 at 2:19 am | Permalink

    I don’t know if you’ve read 2DT’s post or not… I think everybody who’s watching UN-GO is somewhat affected by his post. Imagine the reactions if everybody treat UN-GO as an actual mystery show! It’d suck!

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