Based on the works of Ango Sakaguchi, the story follows Shinjūrō Yūki, a detective who solves mysteries with his strange partner, Inga in a future post-war Japan where the threat of terrorism has led to a country where information is restricted and a detective's job is getting increasingly harder.
O BONES! How ye torment me! Once again, the studio that brought us great shows like RahXephon, Fullmetal Alchemist and Ouran High School Host Club have given us a show with great visuals, a great plot, and great music and yet somehow manage to give us a show that isn't good. A round of applause for BONES; I honestly think it would have been easier to make Un-Go a good show but yet here we are, watching a show that a personified average would feel reticent to include under his banner. To the makers of Un-Go, shame on you - you failed Ango Sakaguchi, you failed the great efforts of your animators and you failed the fascinating concept at the core of your series.
My rebuking aside, it is really hard to imagine how they could have gone wrong with such great material. The work of Ango Sakaguchi is, in a word, good - anyone who has seen episodes five and six of Aoi Bungaku knows that there is a real intelligence to his writing that is possible to translate to the animé medium - and I'm sure that his detective stories would have made an equally great adaptation. The problem is that they arrive without any sort of conviction; good detective stories require a certain amount of length, building up clues and a compelling cast that I can only assume the original stories had but everything just feels rushed in runtime of a single episode, feeling more like an animated wiki synopsis of the stories than an adaptation. The very thing that the show has gone out to adapt feels tacked on and inconsequential. That is terrible but, surely, the over-arching plot with all its topical cleverness saves it from complete ignominy, right... Wrong. The show spends too much time little more than referencing apparently classic detective stories and it leaves the themes of political misinformation, which are potentially quite fascinating, as developed as a treatise composed on a post-it note. It gives us the worst of both worlds with little more than a yawn. It honestly feels like the writers couldn't be bothered.
To be honest, the show is only moderately entertaining when it lets its stories cross over multiple episodes. The two-part episodes in the middle and the ending are the only times the show gives you something close to worthwhile, the time constraint not strangling all the life out of the material for once. Even then, it could be better. Despite being fairly easily understood, Shinjūrō, the lead, is not particularly interesting, well developed or that relatable (unless you have seriously unresolved anger issues). He is also not a particularly good detective either, often letting his hatred of authority blind him to the truth though this could have been very interesting and a very compelling character flaw if it had been used for some other purpose than stalling the progress of a story which they didn't have time for in the first place. The other characters are mostly ciphers and bear up worse to scrutiny than the cast of K-On with the only other characters with potential value (Kaishou and Kazemori, particularly) left to be woefully unexplored.
As I said, though, there are good things about the show too. Despite my complaints with execution, the material is good and some of the ideas behind it are worth considering. The first part of the novelist's mystery was an excellent change of pace and explored its themes of war really well in its three female leads. The show looks great if you can get over the strange character designs and the future world feels and acts in a way that I could seriously imagine. The opening and closing songs are great and I listened to them both every episode, which is not something I commonly do.
Sadly, there is something fundamentally wrong with Un-Go. The makers took what could have been a great little series and treated it very shabbily indeed. Big changes aren't necessary, if it had just taken its time, had fewer mysteries over a longer period of time with some time taken to get under the skin of the stories and its characters then I could possibly have been looking to give this show four stars or possibly more. Eleven episodes weren't long enough to realise the ambition of the material but the makers' decision to cram it all in regardless has given us something of very little worth at all levels.
Despite my tone and my disappointment, this is not a one star show. It's aesthetically lovely and has a few good moments and ideas that make sure it is not a complete waste but little more than that. You could possibly add one star if you can ignore the fact that this show could have so easily been so much better but that's at a push. — Aiden Foote
Recommended Audience: A bloody death here, a serious issue there - ultimately the show should be fine for teenagers and older.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital source.
Review Status: Full (11/11)
Un-Go © 2011 UN-GO Committee
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