Un-Go First Impressions

Based on a series of original detective stories named Meiji Kaika Ango Torimonochou by Ango Sakaguchi,  the story takes place in the near future and focuses on a detective named Shinjūrō Yūki his assistant named Inga as the two work together solving mysteries. It was produced by the animation studio Bones and the production team of Un-Go consists of Fullmetal Alchemist staff veterans. So what is it like?

Un-Go TitleA car is on fire. It seems to have fallen into a ravine. A man lies on the ground. “Am I gonna die?” he gasps. Out of the corner of his gaze a woman replies, “You did die.” He is Yuuki Shinjirou, the last great detective or, as the media dub him, the defeated detective and the woman is Inga.

Un-Go Inga the FirstAnd so begins an anime that mixes near-future hi-tech adventures, crime, gender-bending, shady politics and censorship in a nicely animated slice of speculative fiction.

I jumped the gun with the reference to the whole “defeated detective” thing because we don’t find that out until half-way through the first episode but it is integral to a story that creates a world where Japan has recovered from a terrorist incident/war that appears to have been very messy and powerful government forces, mostly under the leadership of a mysterious government advisor/analyst named Kaishou, manipulate the truth.

Un-Go Kaishou - Yuuki's NemesisThe anime slowly builds this complex world in chunks and it is usually connected to the victims of each episode’s crime. So far each victim is linked to a different aspect of this war – a prominent public figure who helped guide the country through crisis finds himself dogged by allegations of corruption, the manager of an idol group that was a massive propaganda tool is the victim of a murder. Through the victim’s we discover more of what happened during the war and a darker side is revealed.

Yuuki is usually the guy doing the revealing and the truth is worse than the official story. The government believe it must be censored at all costs so the media don’t know how bad things were. Even if Yuuki does reveal the truth there seems to be multiple layers of government ready and waiting to shut it down whether by closing websites or perverting the course of justice and letting culprits go free.

Un-Go Government CensorsOn screen text frequently pops up informing the audience of names, social position and their relation to the victim. Perhaps this is a reflection of its literary origin but it also gives an impression of the complexity of the world involved.Who do we root for?

Un-Go Our DetectivesWe have Yuuki and Inga and ranged against them are the authorities but there are different elements such as the prosecutor’s office, metro police, politicians and they seem to have internecine conflicts.

Un-Go Izumi, Prosecutor!It all sounds fascinating but the weakest link is the murder in each episode or, to be more specific, the motives for the murder. So far this has been a detective show determined to have a twist in the form of the perpetrator but their reasons are too tame to justify the killing and the stories are too slight. I suspect this is just to ground the anime and familiarise characters and the world because the third episode is a two-parter allowing individual mysteries to build. Where the show excels is the overall mystery of just what happened during the war. The second mystery for me is just what on earth is up with Inga?

The concept of a character with a Jekyll and Hyde gender-bending personality is hardly original. When we first meet Inga it is as a grown woman but later she becomes a he.

Different character? In any case the new guy was irritating. I felt that he was drifting off the coast of cliché in the bay of annoying with his zany, impulsive, childish behaviour but his presence becomes increasingly unsettling. Physically he is strange with skin a shade of zombie-grey, purple hair and eyes – totally alien compared to those around him.

Un-Go Character ComparisonWe also get the impression of him being mentally damaged, an impression that grows when  we see him possessed by weird supernatural powers. This is the show’s ace in the hole because when these powers manifest themselves he changes into a woman and the dull investigation takes an interesting turn.

Un-Go Inga Makes an AppearanceLooks like a lady, right? And not a sexy one. Despite the big breasts, short-skirts, crotch-shots and sensual voice you are always aware of the fact that a few seconds ago s/he was a weird boy and the mentality has transitioned from very young to very old and disturbed.

Un-Go Inga Exercises Her Charms

She is still the impulsive character but even more theatrical and morbid and still that unhealthy shade of grey. You cannot tell what she is thinking and her actions flit between capricious, driven and vicious. This is the one fantasy element of the show and it is gripping because it is crazy. Creepy even.

Un-Go Inga is a GhostieThis is massively strange but certain characters, notably his boss Yuuki and the prosecutor Izumi seem familiar with her presence whereas others freak out. The transformation is disturbing and I have yet to mention her invasive interrogation procedure.

Un-Go Interrogatation StartsUn-Go Inga's Hypnosis SkullMAN! Say hello to my new nightmare. If I saw this I would be out like a light. It’s nap-time baby. Bye.

I haven’t even mentioned things like the animation or character design: So many (perhaps too many?) beautiful and angular characters that look so individual and exist in a highly detailed and beautiful near future world. I also love the opening and end themes by School Food Punishment and Lama respectively. The best I’ve seen this year.

Anyway I feel this is a show that promises a lot with the mystery of Inga and just what happened in the war and I will keep watching.

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