Don’t you just love it when you have completely unreasonable preconceptions about a show that then completely sweeps you off your feet? Utawarerumono (try saying that after 3 large glasses of wine), has the odour of a typical anime series based on an H-game, featuring animal-like females for virgin otaku to drool over; what I got instead was an unexpected bitch-slap from the plotline that completely suprised me a few episodes in. Utawarerumono was ultimately more akin to Berserk than the adorably mindless Magical Meow Meow Taruto.
After a gentle introduction to peasant life in a poor village, the main protagonists are thrown together under unusual circumstances. Continuing in a light-hearted vein, sudden punctuation of violence gives a taste of what is to come. Death is not a taboo subject in what initially feels like a family friendly spectacle, and this is soon cemented by one murder that serves as the catalyst for events throughout the entire twenty-six episodes. Numerous subplots occasionally seem to be forgotten about, but revisiting each fine thread of the story means everything is succinctly explained when the viewer least expects it.
The perfect recommendation for Utawarerumono is Twelve Kingdoms, as both heavily feature politics and the struggle of innocent people. Seeing entire villages razed to the ground and both women and children mercilessly slain by barbaric thugs can make for difficult viewing; but like a car crash, you feel impelled to watch the unfolding action, and take perverse pleasure in seeing the evil adversaries receive their comeuppance. Yes, it does follow the “fight an enemy, fight an even stronger foe” pattern, but deep down it's highly enjoyable and compulsive watching.
Though I was concerned that the writers were going to use the ultimate “Bobby Ewing*” cop-out ending when the penultimate episodes see a complete change of setting, it was to my relief that the storyline bounces back. To explain what I mean would be to spoil the show, so instead I will say that the writers skilfully craft an emotionally moving and fitting climax to an excellent genre spanning show. Although the narrative does meander away from the feel of the rest of the series, I felt it was a satisfying conclusion to a fantastical epic that would have been otherwise difficult to wrap up.
The majority of the show is beautifully drawn. The diverse races of human-hybrids identifiable by their different ears and tails, and their architecturally stunning cities contrasting against lush verdant scenery. Catgirls, canine-men and winged beauties roam the fantastical lands mostly wearing simplistic peasant or military uniforms. As the exception to this rule, the artists take perverse joy in squeezing Karura’s 38GG breasts into a meagre allowance of fabric.
Much of Utawarerumono is pervaded by computer graphics, especially during military intensive battles where one soldier is replicated many times. Unfortunately, these scenes were easy to pick out for their outstanding ugliness. I understand that war and its numerous participants is artistically and technically demanding, but the use of a few more production hours would have upgraded a weak part of the show from mediocre to remarkable. Luckily, the one-on-one hand-drawn fight scenes deserve commendation for their outstanding fluidity.
Much of the soundtrack for Utawarerumono is pleasant but forgettable. The opening and ending tracks betray the violent underbelly of the show; upbeat and jaunty, they give the feel of a fantasy adventure. Luckily, using the background music extremely sparingly, the viewer is instead treated to the melodic clang of clashing of steel or the harmonious serenade of the forests’ feathered inhabitants. Complemented perfectly by an orchestral chant, one breathtaking moment of the show is results in the viewer paying closer attention to the impending action.
Again, I feel the need to draw a parallel with Twelve Kingdoms – an unlikely hero is thrust into the throne to govern people with compassion, much to the discontent of surrounding nations. Placed into a difficult situation, both Hakuoro and Yohko struggle to learn the necessary political intricacies to keep the peace with quarrelsome neighbours. Supported by a strong team, their voyages of discovery attract allies from their magnetic charisma that only grows as the story progresses. Playing both a competent emperor and protective father-figure, Hakuoro is a brave and mysterious character that you can’t help but like.
Surrounded by competent fighters and emotionally supportive figures, both the main female protagonist and secondary cast compliment their masked commander down to a T. From a childishly naive Eruruu who spends most of her screen-time acting like a schoolgirl in love, to the overaggressive womaniser Oboro, each will find a way to woo the viewer. Although the female characters are somewhat stereotypical of an eroge, there is only one member who has a cup-size larger than her personality. And even then, she isn’t the usual vapid bimbo with a pork-sword on her mind. A sharp metal sword, maybe...
A strong start with an even stronger centre, Utawarerumono is a show that, despite its forgivable flaws, will charm a lot of fantasy-action fans. While unsuitable for children, there is gore and violence in abundance for viewers wanting a step away from the usual humdrum anime that takes no risks. The ending is strangely satisfying, especially considering the confusing departure from the expected storyline. Twists and turns aplenty make this an excellent show that, for anime fanatics who have not yet had the pleasure, should definitely add to their want to watch list.
*The good-guy oil tycoon in the uber-soap opera, Dallas, was run over and killed by a car in 1985, and then walked out of the shower and back from the dead a year later. The show's writers papered over the year that had passed by having his wife realise that the entire preceding season and its attendant plot complications had just been a bad dream.
Utawarerumono is not generally the kind of anime that I watch and yet I conceived the plot before it's happening. The characters are clichés, the story is a cliché and there was no aspect of this anime that i've not yet seen before. I knew a few episodes in that nothing in this anime would do would amaze me. However each and every episode was worth watching, it was completely average but apparently that was enough for me. However I cannot give the story more than 5.5, it was like a hidden mirror into a child's imagination, it possessed nothing worth mentioning and the more it progressed the more predictable and foolish it became. I bare warning for you who watch anime in obscurity - to find something great, this is not for you. However if you love anime for anime's sake, this is a product of what you've seen before many times. It is basically Kenshin + Naruto combined, except a lot shorter than both and far less tedious.
I didn't mind it, that being said it lacked creativity and at times was very misleading - when the anime started becoming Mecha I didn't know what to expect. Perhaps if they had chosen something more creative instead of something so overused and completely out of place then I would not have been so confused and embarrassed. The characters were stuffed full of clichés - even those with fantasy elements to them. Girls with cute ears and tails, hardened warriors with a scar down their eye and so on. I would have liked to see some creativity, it could have been used to make the world more believable and also be more interesting and unique had they not rushed to use the established norms.
While OP grew tiresome, ED was very nice and I listened to it after almost every episode - a rare occurrence in my experience with anime. The OST was quite alright, in the latter half of the anime it became quite noticeable and added some much needed tension in circumstances which could have been boring without music's aid. The seiryuu were also cliché, the dialogue never surprised me and the delivery of that dialogue was uninteresting. While it cannot be doubted that as usual, the standard was acceptable there comes a time where acceptable is not something to be proud of; when there are so many animes with amazing performances. Special mention to Dii's voice actor who I thought was very good and actually surprised me.
Cliché after cliché, no character really interested me and while some of them became quite likeable for me, they don't deserve a high rating at all. The relationship between Hakuoro and Eruru was thoroughly predictable from beginning to end, while I was happy it gave closure (i hate it when animes don't) it was still tedious to watch. Every characters feelings were very simplistic and uninteresting, I did not appreciate how much I could predict. This is to say that the characters played just as large a part as the story line in the simplicity of the anime. However like in most animes, the characters were very likeable and they will make you laugh along with them. Feel their joy and their sadness but that wasn't enough for me. My ratings are generous and if I were to correctly compare them to the other anime i've watched, I'd give this section a 2-3.
I don't regret watching this anime despite knowing that it will fade from memory very quickly. I would watch this over most of the trash I see on TV any day but my standard for what I bother to watch is pretty high although i feel like that's starting to drop. As I said before, this anime is not a failure but it doesn't succeed anywhere. It is utterly ordinary and very shounen. If you enjoyed animes such as Bleach, Naruto, Kenshin and etc, you will probably enjoy this. If you are just looking to waste your life but with a smile on your face, perhaps you will enjoy it too. For me, I believe my time could have been better spent on a different anime but I am not conceited enough to say it was not worth my time. It was relaxing and slightly enjoyable - although the mecha and scientists in a world of swords and arrows was slightly unnerving.
Utewarerumono begins with a masked man. Rescued from the forest, where he lay injured, he is tended by the chief of a small village and her two granddaughters, Elulu and Aruru. He has no idea who he is or why he is wearing a mask that won’t come off. It is a simple premise that, over the course of 26 episodes, blossoms out into something truly epic.
The journey of the masked man, given the name Hakuoro, begins in the rural village where he is healed and progresses steadily from village man, to leader of rebel villages, to emperor of the land. Somehow it feels natural for him to fall into these roles, despite of or perhaps because of how mysterious he is. But it doesn’t end there. As an emperor of only a small nation Hakuoro faces threats on all sides from invading nations as well as people claiming to know his sordid past. Hakuoro faces all these obstacles with the large and varied cast of supporting characters at his side.
Hakuoro himself is almost like a cipher. He has no past, and he faces most situations with a straightforward stoic nature. Done differently, the character might have fallen flat. But Hakuoro’s personality shines all the brighter when it comes in sudden, quick flashes through his interactions with his new found family, his retainers and allies.
Elulu is always at his side, functioning as a counselor and also a healer. She is obviously in love with him, but it is not clear until the end whether or not he is aware of it. Either way, it’s clear how much he depends on her support. Aruru, a young girl with a love of animals, brings out Hakuoro’s caring, nurturing side more than anyone else.
Oboro is a young fighter who becomes one of Hakuoro’s Samurai Generals. Using a two handed sword style, he is the impetuous and rash opposite to the other Samurai General, the diligent and responsible Benawi. As both rivals and friends, these two manage to balance each other out nicely.
With these fundamental support posts at Emperor Hakuoro’s side in place, he naturally begins drawing a harem around himself. (The source game is adult, but fortunately the many sexual liaisons between Hakuoro and nearly every female character were cut from the anime.) Fortunately, the female characters come with all sorts of interesting character development.
Urutori is a priestess from a winged clan who take it upon themselves to try and mediate conflicts and maintain peace between nations. Poor Urutori won’t ever succeed in this role, but it’s hardly her fault that there are greater forces working against them all.
Karura is an escaped slave to whom Hakuoro grants amnesty. She is fierce and deadly in battle but hides a troubling past that eventually Hakuroro and the whole harem much help her deal with.
Touka is an elite sword woman who initially serves Hakuoro’s enemy but comes to serve Hakuoro when she becomes aware of the injustice she has done to him.
And that’s not even the end of the list of important characters. It’s a large cast, but every character contributes something important to the story. Each character helps the thematic development of the story: exploring ideas of when it is right to be in conflict with other people and when it is wrong. What is worth fighting and sacrificing lives for and what is not? And, of course, who is Hakuoro really?
Hints are given here and there that he is much more than he appears. But it is not until near the climax of the story that we are able to dig into his memories. As much as I loved everything leading up to this point, I found Hakuoro’s history to be the most fascinating part of the whole series. It is hard to talk about without revealing major spoilers, but I will say it was a development that took a firmly epic fantasy story and dipped it into sci fi to create some brilliant speculative fiction. It took the story to a whole new level.
It is mostly because of this speculative side of Utawarerumono that I am so looking forward to seeing what directions the False Faces sequel takes the story in. It was a very pleasant, beautifully visualized fantasy world. But now it has the potential to be even more than that. I’ll definitely be sharing thoughts on that as The False Faces continues.
Utawarerumono was a thoroughly enjoyably 26 episode series. I rate it 9/10 or 4.5/5 stars.
Story- The story is pretty good overall, but it definately has some pacing issues. It definately feels like a VN adaption (Which it is) in that some of side characters aren't given enough screentime to fully develop and the battle/arcs are highly condensed and they clip at a crazy pace smetimes. There are a few arcs were wars went far far to quickly and it never seemed like they were horrible and damaging to the country like the show would have us believe. Also the arc always ended the same way, a small group if the elite fighters avoided the army and took out the main villan for that arc. It felt like the armies were pointless, which they shouldn't since they are fighting a war.
I really liked the beginning since it employs very little of the fantasy bits, but as what happens with alot of anime the end i.e trigun the explanation of the setup hatuko backstory in this case and vash's in trigun set up elements that somewhat clash with the story that was already told. So overall the ending is good, just kind of weird and I found the first half far more compelling.
Animation- Overall it was very well done. There were some bad moments with cgi here and there but they were mostly wide shots of soldiers running for a frame or two. They stick out but don't happen very often and don't impact the overall quality that much.
Sound- Again not much to say here. The music did a pretty good job of setting the mood and it fits the show. It is pretty good it just wasn't particularly memorable
Characters- The protaganist, the develop is nowhere near even with hakuoro and erurru being the only two that get really good development and characterization over the course of the series. Every other "main" side charcter kind of ranges from decent to almost none. Though they are likable enough and hakuoro is enjoyable to watch as he is a pretty good lead. 7.5/10 for the protags
The antagonist, ugh ithere is one decent one, one good one, and a bunch of crappy caricatures. There are alot antagonists in this show that fit the two tropes for villans I desipe. 1. ugly people are villans, doesn't mean every villan is ugly jsut that only villans are ugly 2. cackling villans were half the f-ing line are them cackling madly I find this incredibly annoying, to the point were I would skip those scences. Basically i find it extremely lazy writing, and none of the villan besides the good one are either well-developed or interesing at all. The villans really do drag this category and the show in general down IMO they just never last long enough to get proper development so they had to lean on tropes I hate. 4/10 for the villans
Overall- While i did enjoy it I can't give it any higher than 6.5, the antagonists, lack of better development for alot of side characters, and a somewhat rushed plot hurt the show to much. It's a decent watch and I'd give it a go id your looking for a solid-fantasy story and can look past the abysmal villans
This is one of my favorite anime shows I have to say. The thing is, it will touch you in ways your emotions have never been touched before, or ways that will surprise you. Some of you might have heard of this show from the game of the same name released in 2002. The game is listed as an ‘adult tactical role-playing visual novel’ (that’s a mouthful of itself) by a company called Leaf. For those not into gaming lingo, a tactical role-playing game is a type of video game where you have role-playing and strategy into one game. I believe ‘Final Fantasy Tactics’ falls down that same sort of line if I was to use a more well known title. Visual Novels on the other hand have a game play that is more based on amazing graphics and almost a ‘choose your own adventure’ aspect. And if we are going to break apart the genre even more, Adult really means that there are some rather ‘erotic’ points or that it is full of violence. The reason why I am breaking this down for you is because Utawarerumono was based off this really interesting genre and though I have not played the game, I feel that from what little I have seen, it sticks rather close to the idea of it.
The whole story is based around a man named Hakuoro, or at least that’s the name they call him. He is a man who lost his memory and can’t even remember who he is or why he has a mask on his face that will not come off. I know what you’re thinking, ‘She calls everything a stereotype so she probably will call this a stereotype as well’. The truth is your right. I will call this a stereotype but in this case, I think it actually works rather well to a point. There are major spoilers that will help answer why he lost them and it’s not just a bump on the head, but for the reasons they do give us it just does work for this type of story line. Since it’s based off of a game series, the main character is normally the one we play as. For this, it seems logical to have that character not know anything about his past in order to explain why he would select an answer to a question in the way he does. It also helps you learn more of his past through his eyes. I do understand why people use it, but it is over used.
Going back to Hakuoro, his personality is sort of bland. Sure he acts like a true leader, someone clothed in mystery and experience beyond his years, but sadly that seems to be the only thing that he has. That is sort of the ‘point’ where the stereotype point doesn’t seem to want to work. You can give a person amnesia and have him still have a personality, but here he just seems like a cardboard cut out with how serious he takes things all the time… until a point. You see, this show has a strange way of making everything that happens as a spoiler so it’s hard to talk about. I can say though that at that point you really do see the layers of Hakuoro that are really in depth. Where up until that point, he seems as though he is the perfect person in the world and then it makes you think he might not be that perfect after all.
The next characters are the two sisters that act as his adopted family. It doesn’t seem right introducing them separate as they are so close. We will start with the youngest first I think. Aruru is a rather fun loving girl although we start out with her being rather timid. She has a really shy personality that makes me smile whenever I see her acting so curious. There really isn’t much else about her except that she acts her age. She is a really believable little girl who I think might be around 6 or 7 years old. Eruru on the other hand is a very motherly figure. She cares not only for Aruru but for everyone around her. She is so many things that its surprising such a young girl can do all the things she does. She’s not only a big sister to Aruru but she consoles Haruoro whenever he is torn between his discussions, calms those that need to be calmed, heals those who are sick both inside her group of friends and outside in the town, and somehow is still able to manage herself. I am surprised she doesn’t break, making what she proclaims in the first episode ‘country girls are strong’ make a lot of sense.
Now there are so many characters in this show that it is really hard to talk about every single one of them. Most of them are even spoilers for parts of the show which makes this review a living nightmare to try to do without spoiling anything. So instead of talking about the rest of the characters, I guess I will use this area to talk about the setting of the show. The show is based loosely around an indigenous people from Japan known as the Ainu (Aynu). Think of them as the Native American’s of Japan (in a very very loose based way). They hunted and gathered their food, lived in small communities, and had a culture that was very based on the land. If you look at Haruoro’s name, it actually is an Ainu word that I believe loosely means “White Emperor” (I am not an Ainu nor do I know how to speak Ainu, it’s something I found online). They mixed the Ainu culture with a Feudal Japan culture in order to make a rather interesting war torn country, much like in historic times. The only difference is that in the show, everyone (except for Haruoro it seems) is an anthropomorphic creature. They have the bodies of humans with ears and tails (or wings) of an animal. Many of the strange things seem to point to it being an alternate timeline to our own but every once in a while, they sneak in a bit of technology that doesn’t seem to make any sense. It just adds to the mystery.
This show has a strange way of jumping up and down a lot. As was stated many times before now, this is a show based on the rise and fall of nations doing battle. As such, there are many different battles that are fought through the course of the series. Between each battle however, we are given a couple small breaks between the actions. These can be as boring as political debates on the next course of action to a slice of life following the lovable antics of Aruru and her friends. I think part of this is to show exactly how war is carried out, but also I just think it’s partly for our psychological relief. This show is 26 episodes long; if we had a battle that lasted that whole time, we would be up in arms the whole time wanting our side to win. We wouldn’t have time to get into the characters heads, no time for us to become emotionally connected to them, to hear the story of their past, to understand why they are fighting. These breaks do give us that time to get to know them, and sometimes to introduce new characters.
The animation is so beautiful at times, and then we will get points that just seem rather standard. Backgrounds are always so detailed and colored so amazing that it’s hard to notice the little things that don’t look quite right though. There are small times that the show used CG to show off some of the action scenes but I don’t blame them. The fact that this is a battle heavy anime means that there are a ton of extras that would have to be drawn over and over again. CG helps cut the corners of this and if done right, it looks really good. I could barely see the differences for the most part between the CG and the animation so I think that is a win on their side. The times they didn’t use the CG stuff was actually rather good as well, with characters movements being rather fluid and not many hiccups in design. I love how for most of the comedy, they kept to the same style as the rest of the show instead of trying to go chibi all the time. One of the main things I found so attractive of this show is the colors they work with. The colors are so vibrant and beautiful but they change the brightness to fit the mood. It can be so bright with fun colors and then suddenly have rather dark deep colors to show a very serious mood.
The music has this sort of haunting tone to it that seems to be sad but also a little mysterious. I am not sure if they were trying to match the concept of Hakuoro or just a sort of haunting nature of the people but it worked rather well. Pretty much all of the music besides the opening and the ending song were only instrumental, and captured the mood nicely. I do not know how close it is to Ainu music but it felt like it could be part of it. The English Voice acting I think was right on the mark with a lot of the characters. I sort of fell for Hakuoro’s rather soft and yet forceful voice for some reason. Jogn Gremillian did such a beautiful job making Hakuoro sound like a caring man but also a man who can take charge when it was needed. For what little lines Aruru had, Sasha Paysinger did a very good job with the rather cute voice that actually didn’t get on my nerves at all. For real, it wasn’t a high pitched moe character that normal people do, but a more sweet style that I love. Kira Vincent-Davis did the voice for Eruru, and though it was rather good, I somehow feel a little disappointed in that the character sounds close to others she has done. Also, big props on Vic Mignogna who actually for once in his life played a character that was most of the time serious and didn’t freak out all the time! (Ok, so that might not be exactly true on this being the only character he played like that, but most of his characters do tend to freak out.)
This show had very few flaws to it in my opinion, and had to be one of my favorite shows to jump into. You could feel the great chemistry between the characters, the amazing look of the battles, and the rather calming moments of the breaks.