Un-Go

TV (11 eps)
2011
Fall 2011
3.701 out of 5 from 5,969 votes
Rank #2,721

In post-war Japan, the nation remains unsettled and crime is as big a problem as ever. Despite his sharp mind and keen deductions, "Defeated Detective" Shinjurou Yuuki frequently loses out to his rival, Rinroku Kaishou, whose information network has previously aided many police investigations. However, in spite of his poor reputation, Shinjurou continues to work on every case he's recruited to with his mysterious assistant Inga. With Inga's power to transform into a being capable of forcing any person to truthfully answer one question put to them, the pair uses everything at their disposal to get to the bottom of each crime and reveal the true culprit – even if the reality of who solved the case never reaches the public...

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Reviews

Hesse
6.8

Story When it comes to the detective genre, we've seen it all—from locked room mysteries to train-stopping murders to classic Holmesian whodunits. In a genre that's become repetitively stale, Un-Go blends both old and new sensibilities into its narrative, shape-shifting into something unique. Although loosely based on the post-war Tales of Crime in the Meiji Era by Ango Sakaguchi, Un-Go sets itself in motion along a near future timeline. With one foot planted firmly in the tradition of Japanese detective fiction, and the other in the realm of a real, technological future, Un-Go creates an intriguing universe that is as familiar as it is relevant. The anime attempts to realize a post-modern, wired-up world where corruption and terrorism are the tokens of the times. In this media-saturated society, information is like precious cargo, that is, if it isn't already censored by the government. Un-Go is no Brave New World, but it clearly has something to say about the 21st century.   Detective Yuki Shinjuro has an easy, yet unrewarding job. With each new case, Shinjuro effortlessly corners his suspect with some verbal jousting and then calls upon his sexually dimorphic assistant, Inga, to pluck the truth from their sorry, overripe souls. This routine loses its charm around the seventh go, and Shinjuro's use of Inga as his supernatural ace card only sucks all the fun out of the juicy details of interrogations. After minutes and minutes of tenuous build-up, it seems a little unfair (and unsatisfying) that Shinjuro and Inga are privy to every creature secret with a simple wave of the hand. The actual mysteries themselves lack the fundamental element we expect from detective stories: suspense. Systematically, almost clinically, Shinjuro sleuths towards the truth with nary a shade of doubt. Besides the occasional red herring, Un-Go's first few cases feel formulaic and dispassionate. The obvious suspects crack too fast; on the other hand, their motivations are at the heart of the intrigue.  An invisible thread connecting the victims from various cases keeps the narrative tight as a whole and ensures thematic consistency. While its mysteries may be transparent, Un-Go cleverly uses its cases as vehicles for social commentary and examination of the human condition. We can also savor the deductive rivalry between Shinjuro and the nation's top information analyst, Kaisho Rinroku. Don't get me wrong, their "battles" are no L and Light cat-and-mouse games; instead, they feel more like duels between a mouse and a lion. No matter how ugly and selfish and bitter Shinjuro reveals the truth to be, the magnanimous, omniscient Kaisho covers it up with a beautiful lie. Shinjuro, in his Sisyphean task of revealing the truth, is constantly masked by government smoke and mirrors.  By tapping into the facades and forces we can't control, Un-Go makes itself remarkably relevant in regards to censorship, war, and political power. The show even takes a stab at the artificial intelligence debate. Un-Go has oodles of thought-provoking themes, it's just a shame the mysteries are executed clumsily.  AnimationStudio Bones upholds its track record for polished animation, yet character designs are less than inspired. The lanky, pencil-legged figures look like paper cut-outs from a CLAMP sketchbook. Eyes and faces are distinctively almond-like, drawn with harsh outlines that result in some flat character expressions. The bleak designs match the cynical mood, but Un-Go's dystopian universe deserves an injection of imagination and creativity. As it is, the show looks languid and lacks the eye-catching dynamism expected of a noitaminA anime. Sound School Food Punishment's "How to Go", like "Futuristic Imagination", is a pleasant yet catchy J-rock opener that I never skipped. More enticing though is the bookend to every case, LAMA's "Fantasy", in which a haunting piano phrase slithers around while blasé vocals sing over a hypnotic beat. The song seamlessly unhinged my locked attention once a case finally reached its denouement. Voice actors Ryo Katsuji (Shinjuro) and Aki Toyosaki (Inga) brilliantly bring their characters to life. Notably, Toyosaki's wide vocal range allows her to shift between a mischievous little boy and a devilish femme fatale. Characters Shinjuro and Inga's Faustian partnership won't win a Detective Duo of the Year Award—simply because we don't care about them enough. Indeed, we don't fully understand the root of their relationship or why they choose to work together until the final episode credits. Shinjuro's keen deductive abilities make him a capable detective, if not borderline cheesy from his philosophical sermonizing. He has his moments of weakness, but any attempts at character development are cut short. Inga, the impish little rogue, provides some much needed comic relief.  Since the mysteries are the prime focus of the show, backdrop characters like prosecutor Koyama and policeman Hayami become talking heads, filling in the gaps of the plot. Kaisho Rinroku, the smiling Big Brother himself, proves to be a dangerous yet charismatic antagonist—a wolf in sheep's clothing. Kaisho's power derives from his ability to fabricate a wealth of information, but his actions are never painted black or white; who's to say hiding hazardous truths from society isn't the moral high ground? In a culture smeared with corruption and political foul play, it is interesting to find this seemingly honest man at the center of it all. One case involving Kaisho cleverly turns itself on its head, forcing us to challenge two sides of the man's ego. The philosophical hide-and-seek between Kaisho and Shinjuro make the mysteries worth following.  OverallUn-Go is a mature addition to the detective genre—but not in the sense that it's a hyper-violent, sexy mystery thriller. Rather, Un-Go's focus on its complex thematic material regarding the nature of truth, politics, and human technology so rightly captures the post-9/11 Zeitgeist, it's almost scary. Although fumbling occasionally on execution and relying too heavily on deus ex machina, this curiously short series is sure to please fans of brainy, hard-boiled detective fiction.

ThatAnimeSnob
3.5

By the Gods, when will they learn?UN-GO is yet another detective show which THANK GOODNESS doesn’t have lolis. Do you know there have been 5 loli detective shows in less than a year? (Milky Holmes, Gosick, Dantalian, Kamisama Memo-chou, and Hidan no Aria). And they were all equally fan catering crap too. Though despite the lack of lolis in UN-GO, it ain’t any better when it comes to detective work. Why? Because we NEVER SEE THE LINE OF THOUGHT!A good detective story needs its time, its hints, its analysis of clues, and above all it needs to retain a big portion of realism. Well this anime, just like all detective anime before it, does very little in all these departments.- The cases last only one episode. Barely enough time to think of anything before the whole thing ends right away. Where is the excitement in that?- The hints were there but when the characters reached to the verdict, it’s as if they all had an epiphany and the answers came to them at that very moment.- Realism flew out the window by having the hero detective to need the services of a little boy dressed as a clown. It magically transforms into an adult woman clown, which has a magical brainwashing power and forces the suspects into revealing the truth without being able to lie or not reply. Great deduction job you guys; just inject truth serum in the whole cast for all we care.This is not a detective show. IT IS BULLSHIT! There isn’t a shred of realism or plausibility in it so how can you possibly enjoy it? For the transvestite boy-turned-Lady Gaga fetish? Or maybe for the seemingly serious war setting which is raped by the said magical transvestite? The whole setting is gone to waste by inserting all this magic nonsense.The same applies to the cast. The suspects are constantly changing and the main ones don’t evolve much so there is no real focus given to any of them. BAH! If you want good detective shows, anime shows are not the proper place to look for them. They always throw in magic and brainwashing that destroys all the proper mood. Just as the name implied, don’t GO for it. p.s.: The production values are good; a thing which went totally unnoticed because of the crap I witnessed.

Gzerble
4.5

UN-GO is an overrated and ultimately a complete waste of time. It's a detective show, but utterly fails at using even the basic mystery strengths to make it better. It's a supernatural show, but that's more a fig-leaf to explain why it works than something actually meaningful. It's has social commentary, but that is kept at a grade school level and fails to go deep. In short, the series fails in achieving any of its (not particularly ambitious) goals. It will fool you into thinking it might be interesting during the first episode, but then UN-GO starts repeating itself, and then finally going for the cheap supernatural cop-out at the end. While this structure is usually "big ending, giff money plox" in the way it works, this case falls flat. A classic anime structure doesn't work with mystery; there is the classic mystery structures for that. This makes everything feel cheap, which is a shame. Really though, there are some redeeming features. The artwork is very nice overall, and the characters aren't a complete waste of brainpower. I wish that there were more, but alas, this is not the case. In the end, what little exists in the show is not enough to make things worthwhole. Perhaps this is too blunt. It isn't as if UN-GO is particularly bad. There are far worse shows out there. But the lackluster writing and cheap take on mystery in general are things that I find unforgivable unless the show drips with style. It doesn't. Writing (Story and Characters): There are things that a detective mystery does well. You get to follow the train of thought of the detective, uncovering truth little by little and getting insight into the rational mind. UN-GO forgoes this in order to have a cool demon thing supernaturally finish things for us. That would be forgivable if the themes explored weren't such cliches. The episodic structure makes things feel repetitive even with the short duration of the series. UN-GO takes a page out of Hell Girl's playbook, only without the visceral bite of the drama and conclusion. Most people, myself included, cannot help but love a good mystery, but here it is more "things happen, then in the last minute of plot, everything is suddenly resolved". There is one exception to this, because I am unwilling to call the last episodes anything other than a cheap cop-out that fails to be dramatic. So, do the characters make up for this? Well, no. This is a plot-driven show, and as such we don't get much time for things like character development (hint: none), backstories (hint: very little), or depth (hint: none). It isn't that some characters lack style, just that they lack any substance. That's a damn shame. When the characters move around the story, we don't really feel for them. In short, the writing ends up being not particularly synergistic, and puts too much weight on the minor characters. The huge technical issues with the writing don't allow UN-GO to be anything memorable, which is a shame. Artwork (Animation and Sound): UN-GO has good art. At times, even great art. There is a vision behind everything. There are precious few technical issues, and those are minor. In short, had the writing been good, this would have been excellent. Instead, it feels like such a waste. Visually, there is a lot going for the show. Movement is usually fluid and natural. The facial expressions aren't monotone, and nearly never over the top. Some of the backgrounds are great, but at others a bit forgetable. The character designs are rather generic, which is the biggest weakness of UN-GO on this particular aspect. Welp, the soundtrack is definitely my taste. The opening theme of UN-GO perhaps errs on being too mainstream, but everything else has just enough style to really give atmosphere and flavor to everything when it doesn't deserve it. The effect work is solid, and at times even great. The voice acting is rather good as well. It may not be in the absolute top tier, but the audio is well done. The video and audio aspects of UN-GO work well together, and give the series a life it doesn't deserve. Really, it is solid work all around, and some of the visual themes and part of the soundtrack are memorable. The strong art makes this show have a good form. Overall: I said the artwork gives UN-GO form, but for function you need writing, and here it is lacking. This series is yet another detective mystery, and unfortunately one of the worse ones. Don't bother.

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