Publisher: Siren Visual
Release Date: January 24, 2012
Price: $49.95 – Available Here
The truth can mean many things to different people. Depending upon who you ask the truth could be an enemy, a friend, a secret, a revelation or even salvation. What truth is though, is an ideal. One’s truth can be another’s lie, it all comes down to what one chooses to believe. The truth is what you believe it to be, even if in another’s eyes your truth is a lie. Un-Go thoroughly embodies this ideal.
Un-Go is an inspired anime series propelled by purpose. Deconstructing a variety of facets of the mystery genre it breathes fresh air into stagnation with intelligent and refined narrative finesse. Based upon the work of Ango Sakaguchi, Un-Go becomes something truly special. If you’ve been looking for a thoughtful anime filled to the brim with creativity, stop searching, this is the one.
Like a song sung without any words, Un-Go is a series that keeps its message underneath the surface only becoming clear once you take the time to really listen to what it is trying to say. With a masterfully composed tale told beneath an array of equally brilliant tales, Un-Go is a storytelling delight worth savouring.
Employing a decisively distinctive cast of characters and stories to tell, Un-Go spins its web of mysteries elegantly over the course of 11 well-crafted episodes, each serving a purpose of defining the greater mystery of this series – our truth.
Shinjurou Yuki is the Defeated Detective, a man shamed by his nemesis the adored genius Kaishou Rinroku. Shinjurou is somewhat of a spiritual successor of Sherlock Holmes, with an insatiable knack for solving mysteries with his incredible skills of deduction and bad habit of finding himself at the forefront of many cases. While both men have their similarities what separates Shinjurou from Rinroku however is there purpose. Shinjurou is a man compelled by the truth, whereas Rinroku is a man who only cares to see a case resolved regardless of the truth. This undoubtedly places both men constantly at odds with one another. A reminder that the truth is what we believe it to be.
Un-Go implements a series of short mystery arcs, ranging between 1-3 episodes in length for each. What makes Un-Go so captivating however is that much like its protagonist it doesn’t dwell on the resolution of a case more so that it focuses on the truth and circumstances of it. This is where Un-Go shines, it treats each of its mysteries with a level of delicacy that you just don’t find in series of this genre. Instead of being concerned with the outcome, Un-Go explores the heart of the issues it presents, never truly casting a judging eye upon any of its characters. Again, the truth is what we believe it to be.
Over the course of its run, the series introduces us to a plethora of memorable characters each chiseled at bit by bit gaining greater definition with each passing episode. Inga is an enigma, a truth better left untold. Her relationship with Shinjurou is largely left for speculation, with Un-Go deciding that some mysteries are best left just that. It tells enough without telling too much, a balance that few pull off effectively.
Kazamori and Rie round off the main cast, both being characters stuck between two worlds. Kazamori is a being given life by artificial intelligence. His cutting views on humanity coupled with an innate curiosity of it prove to be a highlight of the series. One can’t help but feel that despite his perspective he longs to be part of what he sees. Rie is likewise torn, between loyalty for her father Kaishou Rinroku and her nagging feeling that Shinjurou’s truth is more in line with her own. These two characters are of course just scratching the surface of what is indeed a very well-written cast of characters.
On top of its well-rounded cast, Un-Go features a fully realised world that is rich with personality and a deep history. Through its immense world Un-Go explores social and political issues with a deft intelligence and wit providing a commentary on the way society and politicians in particular value and consider the notion of truth.
For all of its brilliance, Un-Go does have one fallacy – it ends too soon. Even though it develops its setting, cast, story and overall message gracefully, there is still so much left unanswered. In spite of that you leave Un-Go satisfied, there are still mysteries left to be solved and truths left to be told.
“I’m still searching…” the Defeated Detective decides in a moment that serves as a manifesto for Un-Go. Searching for the truth is ultimately a fruitless endeavour. No matter how powerful Inga may be, there is no one great truth. The search for truth is the search for meaning. That is the search that truly matters, after all that same Detective still searching once said, “We’re all just in the process of falling.”
Visuals and Audio:
BONES has never been known for anything less than brilliant in terms of production. Un-Go is no different. It is another in a long line of gorgeously depicted BONES anime series, one with its own pronounced artistic vision and voice. It is refined and lavishly detailed, featuring some unforgettable character designs and a resonant setting that feels both strange yet familiar.
Proving they are no slouch when it comes to animation, BONES’ Un-Go also can lay claim to conveying some of the most captivating feats of animation in recent memory. Whether it is the subtle movements of characters such an Inga to the more pronounced sequences such as those seen in the final episode, Un-Go is beautifully animated throughout.
Arguably the true star of Un-Go is its astonishing musical composition crafted by the enigmatic Narasaki. What Narasaki accomplishes is difficult to put into words. Un-Go’s score quietly weaves a tale of its own, providing atmosphere and emotion that few soundtracks do. What Narasaki has composed is a genuine musical masterpiece, this accomplishment deserves all the appreciation it garners.
Complimenting Narasaki’s wondrous performance is the opening and ending themes, ‘How to Go’ by School Food Punishment and ‘Fantasy’ by LAMA respectively. Both tracks provide an excellent bookend for each episode of Un-Go, fitting seamlessly into the soundtrack Narasaki has composed.
This particular release of Un-Go features both English and Japanese audio and I am pleased to say that both versions feature phenomenal voice work. As a matter of fact I believe the English dub to be Sentai Filmworks best to date.
Siren Visual’s release of the complete series of Un-Go features a plethora of bonus content, making this undoubtedly the definitive release of the series. This DVD collection alongside compiling the entire 11 episode run of the series also features the prequel OVA film Inga-Ron (dubbed into English at that), a special Ango Sakaguchi event, an interview with the director and writer of the series, a 10 episode mini series spin-off titled Inga Nikki and the usual textless opening and endings themes. All of this makes for one of the best anime releases I have ever had the pleasure to watch, providing hours of extra content, something that isn’t commonplace with anime.
The search for meaning is one we all take in life and its the quest that Un-Go is defined by. We spend our lives searching for meaning. We may all just be in the process of falling, but even falling has a purpose. That is what Un-Go is about; the truth we find in ourselves.
Whether you’re searching, falling, or perhaps something in between, Un-Go is a landmark anime series that evokes thought, emotion and that romantic curiosity for meaning that resides within us all. It is a modern day classic that is honestly far ahead of its time. The world may not be ready for Un-Go, but its the truth the world needs.
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