“Tell me. Why do you search for the truth?”
The above question is asked by the ‘Great Detective’, Kaishou Rinroku. He gets the lively reply from the assistant of the ‘Defeated Detective’, Inga.
That pretty much sums up the plot of Un-Go – an anime based on Sakaguchi Ango’s novel “Meiji Kaika Ango Torimonocho” (which I have not read) made by the studio Bones in 2011.
Before I get to the actual review, I must first talk about how I found Un-Go in the first place. I was searching for a random anime to download from a rather long list. As I quickly scrolled down skimming through the various names, Un-Go caught my eye with it’s bizarre name. Without even taking a look at the synopsis, I downloaded and watched it in one go.
Now when I say that I binged it in a single night, I don’t mean that Un-Go is utterly fantastic or anything like that. It’s an above average show. When I saw the name of the studio (Bones – as stated above), I thought to myself that I was in for a treat. I was supposed to get a creamy chocolate sponge cake but, unfortunately, all I got was the cream instead. So sad.
Synopsis as taken from MyAnimeList: He pursues his job as the “Last Great Detective”. Others call him the “Defeated Detective”. What’s certain is that he’s Shinjurou Yuuki, a young man with a passion for mysteries and a talent for solving them that has made him the target of dark forces now stirring within the sinister underworld of a near future Tokyo. That could prove lethal, given that not even the other “good guys”, including the police, are exactly on Shinjouro’s side. Fortunately Yuuki’s not completely on his own, and with the aid of his uniquely talented associate Inga, he’s ready to cut a swath through the veils of secrecy that have been laid before him. Get ready for mind against matter and a lot of cloak and dagger as the ultimate battle of clue and deduction begins in UN-GO!
I immensely enjoy the mystery genre. I’m not a huge fan or anything of the sort. What I mean is that detective stories always fascinate me. Un-Go’s approach to the genre is somewhat… fresh, I have to say. It’s quite different from most offerings. So, I had fun watching it. But, being different doesn’t necessarily mean that Un-Go is really good. It’s kind of a mess.
Let me explain. The world-building is atrocious. I know. I know! World-building doesn’t really have much significance in the mystery genre as you’re supposed to keep at least some things in the dark at the end of the story. The problem with Un-Go is that a huge war of some kind has occurred and concluded. OK. That means things are bad and we have a lot of people committing crimes. Motivation for criminal activities. Nice. But, Un-Go does not tell you why the war has exactly happened, when has it ended, whose victory was it (Japan’s loss is subtly hinted at), and who was it fought against. No clue whatsoever. For a show in which ALL of the cases have a connection the war, the answers to these questions are very important! People won’t enjoy the story if they’re too busy worrying about the Goddamned war. The way I see it, it’s just lazy writing. And that is very bad.
Anyways, the show is basically about Yuuki in denial as to why he wants to reveal the truth (solve cases) and his goal of revealing the supposed crimes of Kaishou, his rival. All the different cases involve these two guys.
To the cases themselves!
I won’t go into details about the cases because, uh, well that would defeat the purpose of watching the show. What I will say is that the pace at which the cases are solved at are really fast. I don’t have a problem with that. I’m used to quick dialogue and bad directing (1.5x playback speed!) But, others might. People like to take jabs at solving the cases themselves in detective stories. It’s part of the fun. If you have jumping scenes and dialogue with a lot of technical followed the problems brought forward with the non-presentation of information about the war in the show: people can’t do that!
Another problem is that when the cases get solved by Yuuki, the truth is all hushed up by Kaishou. Wow. After the first few cases, you begin wondering why Yuuki even bothers at all. You don’t get an answer. The show has an open ending. Nice~ Things are silenced for the greater good. I get that. Surely, Yuuki does to. But, seeing as Yuuki has seen some shit and has a somewhat cynical outlook he should at least try for no cover-ups. He doesn’t though and that, my friend, is bad characterization.
Speaking of which, most of the recurring characters in Un-Go are pretty one-dimensional. Well, they seem like that to me. Except for Yuuki and Kaishou, everyone else seem like beautifully crafted cardboard cutouts. Won’t talk about Kaishou much because that would spoil the anime. Can’t talk about Yuuki more than what I’ve already said because, even by the end, we still don’t know his past nor how he and Inga, his assistant, gain fame as detectives.
Speaking of Inga, Un-Go has supernatural elements in it. Inga is a… monster(?) of some sort. I say ‘some sort’ it’s never revealed what she actually is. How she meets Yuuki is literally the last few lines of the show. Jesus. Another thing kept in the dark. At one point, I began to think everything and everyone except for Yuuki and Kaishou was a fucking plot advancing tool.
Another thing that irks me that Yuuki isn’t all that great a detective anyway. In fact, the way he solves crimes, it might even be considered entrapment. Inga can make people answer one question. It’s a power of hers. And so, when she asks a question, people confess. Good Lord!
Animation is crisp, clean, and colorful. Just how I like it. The character designs are rather different than what you usually see and that’s a good thing too. Though, sometimes, I think everybody looks a bit too tall???
Nothing to say about the voice acting.
The music is also nothing special. The Opening was headache inducing. The background music wasn’t anything I’d praise. Well, I guess that guitar track was pretty good. The Ending… Wow. The Ending song was marvelous and the visuals were spectacular. Already listening to the full version as I write this.
Overall, I give Un-Go a 7/10. It’s a decent show. It deserves a 5, actually. But, it tried to do something new-ish (at the time) so I’m not going to shame it for that.
Recommended for mystery and detective fans only.