Utawarerumono: The False Faces: Season 2
Also known as:
Utawarerumono Itsuwari no Kamen: Season 2
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Year:
2016
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Format:
Episodes 13-25
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Review date:
10 April 2017
Utawarerumono Itsuwari Kamen
Episodes 1-12 were okay. I quite enjoyed them. However they'd been treading water with likeable characters not doing much that mattered. I'd said at the time that I'd have to wait for the plot to start before I could say whether this was a good or a bad series. I've now seen that plot, but it's a thumbs-down.
Our heroes' easy lives in the country of Yamato has been brought to an end. Yamato is at war! Those heroes are: Haku (lazy protagonist), Kuon (nice but with an annoying "ka na" verbal tic), Oshutoru (general), a bunch of other girls (good luck trying to tell them apart) and yet more generals (good luck trying to care). Some of the latter are memorable, admittedly. Dekoponpo-sama has an amusing name, although he's also a fat pompous idiot whose story role is to be wrong about everything. Vurai also stands out, albeit mostly by being an unpleasant macho meathead. Theoretically this show has a big cast, but in practice most of them are sufficiently generic and ill-served this year that they melt into a blob of animeness.
The storyline didn't strike me as having much point, despite lots of war and fighting. It's the geopolitical equivalent of watching ants in a bucket. Country A invades Country B, which will later invade Country C. We're not being encouraged to side with anyone. The good guy generals include a Nietzschean testosterone pillar who thinks strength equals moral rightness and will exterminate entire towns because they're weaker than him. Or something. That's Vurai and he's a tedious cretin, although in real life he'd be terrifying. Then, later, the story will prise you away from the notion that Yatamo are the good guys and the story degenerates into a mush of warlords you don't care about. We still have the more ordinary people trapped in the middle of all this (Haku, Kuon, Anonymous Mass Of People I Can't Remember), but that doesn't change the fact that all the high-level stuff (countries invading each other, etc.) is basically boring. The best you can hope for is for some more interesting characters to get caught up in some incident or other.
In fairness, I got on okay with most of this. I watched it all. I was only losing patience with it towards the end. Haku's quite a refreshing hero, since he lacks so many of the traditional hero qualities. He'll get forced into a heroic role anyway, but it's not his preference at all. He and the girls are quite nice and work well together, even though there's not much characterisation to share around between them. The show's unengaged, unenthusiastic view of war is quite welcome too.
There's also a shocking origin story for Utawarerumono's world in ep.17. They answer questions I'd never thought to ask and create a fictional universe I'd like to see explored in more detail. Unfortunately this particular show isn't doing so in a manner that's to my taste, but that still impressed me.
This show is based on a visual novel, incidentally, and I've seen criticism of the anime from the game's fans. Characterisation got simplified and exaggerated, while clues, foreshadowing and an emotional epilogue got removed. I can't comment directly, but I can easily imagine a less uninvolving version of this story.
I just don't see that much here for me. The plot's too big for the characters. Its significant events aren't dramatically interesting, while the few people who are interesting don't get to be significant. The finale proves me wrong, to some extent, but it's also a fairly drab and downbeat ending that manages to be tragic in a vaguely unsatisfying way. The show's okay, mind you. It might seem to contain all the ingredients for a strong, compelling story. It just never engaged me.
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