Having been found by Tuskuru, the village's doctor, and her two granddaughters and nursed back to health from a coma, Hakuoro (the name given to him by them, a name that earlier belonged to the girls' father) tries to piece together the pieces from his lost memory and solving the mystery of a mask that won't come off.
While he sets about on that task, he's also put in a position where he must help the village and the land from ancient forest gods, greedy lord and later, full scale wars. And there is still the secret Hakuoro carries, which may prove too much for the world to bear.
During the last year, there has been an increase in the combination of game-based anime and not sucking, and Utawarerumono definitely represents one of these instances. In short, Utawarerumono plays out like a typical fantasy anime lifted straight from a game, but there were a lot of things about the show that I liked.
The anime is definitely RPGish in build, though I can't really say whether the games follows a dating/romancing angle where you get to choose one (or more) of the various girls in the storyline. Given that the PC version is an erotic game, it's not completely unlikely. The anime, however, sticks to a clearly laid out plot that has little time for romance inbetween the various chapters. I'm not saying there is none, but if you're looking for some kind of harem shenanigans in this show, you will probably walk away disappointed.
Part of this might be for the very reason that our main lead, Hakuoro, is an adult. Not a kid or even a teenager, but a fully grown adult that doesn't rush headlong into the story without looking where he's headed, but actually takes his time and weighs his options when heavy desicions are to be made, even going so far as to evaluating the outcome, wondering whether things could have been handled better. Considering the fact that this anime is heavy on warfare and battles, it comes off as all the better for it, and makes him far more believable and symphatetic as a main lead, not to mention a refreshing change.
The thing that strikes me immediately about this show is its production values. For a TV series, it's got some pretty good animation going for it, and the character designs, while not elaborate, are clear and well defined. Being a fantasy show, the settings are well realized and very, very scenic. Accompanied by this is a rather nice orchestral score.
Curiously enough, Hakuoro seems to be the only human being among the entire cast of Utawarerumono. While almost the entire cast is definitely humanoid, the variety of furry ears on most of the others and the wings on the rest serves as a reminder why this can be considered fantasy. The furry-eared females in the show even seem to have tails, in which a rather amusing scene in the first episode sees fit to remind us, are very much real... and sensitive to the touch too.
If I may level a tiny complaint to the show, then that would be the rather... obvious character trait portrayals in just about everyone you meet in the show. Viewers aren't going to have a hard time guessing who will be joining Hakuoro from the get-go, or even figure out who will eventually be switching sides at some point in the future. Roles are very clear cut -- maybe TOO clear cut -- so the show itself won't be unloading any huge surprises on the audience. Also worth a mention is the rather sequential build of the show itself once it gets past the introductory stages. The main theme of the show is generally (no pun intended) warfare, and with a wide range of regions on every new border, this will keep the story flowing fairly smoothly, as well as giving the show an excuse to introduce the other main characters as it progresses.
I'm actually curious whether the CG utilized for the battle scenes in this show is something that was specifically developed for.... well, this show. In the first of the major battles, the viewers will bear witness to a lot of hilariously badly rendered characters running around on the battleground. Said characters looks more like lego characters stuck in a perpetual state of running animation, where they get rotated depending on the direction they're running in. While I wouldn't call it bad, it did nevertheless dissolve some of the seriousness of the story itself. Later on, however, they seemed to have gotten the hang of it, and even larger battles would look utterly chaotic and just plain great to behold.
Never mind that the smaller encounters are helped greatly by the high quality of the animation. Duels and fights between smaller groups are a sight to behold, especially between the main characters. (Hakuoro's weapon of choice is, interestingly enough, a metal fan of sorts. And just WAIT until you get to see what they've got for our berserker maiden Karura.)
Near the end of the show, I had a bit of a problem with my computer, so it took a while until I could watch the remainding 6-8 episodes. I had also heard some rather... interesting information about it as well, while I picked up the last couple of episodes, and it had me concerned whether the show would jump the shark for the sake of being original or even shocking. To my relief, the first part of that fear was laid to rest when I actually got around to it. (Pardon my vague manner of speech. I'm trying not to spoil anything here.) I'll say this, though; the show does have a rather unexpected revelation thrown in at the end, and while I didn't have any problems with it, I can see how a lot of people might not agree with me.
Basically, even despite the show's rather parted-by-chapters kind of a build, the last "chapter" of the show divulges a little more than most, and puts an angle on the show that might be unappreciated by a few. Given the different tastes of people, I can't make any guarantees whether you'd like it or not. But if you're willing to take a chance, then I will say that Utawarerumono has been a surprisingly pleasant show that exceeded my expectations by quite a bit. And I didn't even expect it to be bad in the first place.
A rather great fantasy piece. I can't really see it disappointing anyone. — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: I'm rather surprised that the show has been rated 13+. While the show has very little in the way of fanservice, the majority still consists of battles and fights, some of them rather brutal. (Though not particularly gory, so I guess that's part of the reason it rated that light.) Still, Utawarerumono can be decidedly cruel at times.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD, bilingual
Review Status: Full (26/26)
Utawarerumono © 2006 Aquaplus, Utawarerumono production team.
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