UN-GO is a difficult story to absolutely love or hate. It’s a bit of an enigma, so much that even the name confuses. UN-GO basically breaks down to “not leaving” or “Don’t move.” Does it want to you watch so badly that it’s telling you not to move? Then you realize that the series is within the detective genre and you may get the inkling to want to run. But do not worry, it’s not so bad. Detective anime/manga don’t always have the best track record when it comes to success; there’s a lot of hit or misses. Let’s face it, they can’t all be Detective Konan. But don’t count UN-GO out just yet. In fact, UN-go anywhere yet. Apologies for the terrible pun, but we are just getting started.
The first scene you get from the series is pretty standard as far as the serious anime types go. Guy lying on the ground, just returns to consciousness and is lying in the middle of some kind of ruin. The first thing he gets to see is a woman sitting on the ground not far from him and then he’s distraught. The next scene is expected to be a flashback or explanation of how he got in that situation in the first place. It’s a pretty impactful scene despite being somewhat plain; it started out the series. However, you receive neither the explanation nor the flashback, and somehow the denial of both actually makes you yearn for it more. The story officially begins at a crime scene of a murder. There’s the usually introduction of the characters, but the crime scene returns you to our main character, Shinjurou and his partner/boss, Inga. As the audience, you immediately are given this not so far into the future version of society. The character, Rinraku Kaishou, serves as a buffer for the audience and for the story world society. The first five episodes show you four different murder cases. And while three of the four cases are wrapped up in twenty-five minute episodes, they all have this underlying purpose of showing truth versus ‘allowed’ truth. Rinroku, who shall hence forth be known as the man who solves everything by computer screen, is the ‘allowed’ truth or the media truth. In this post-war version of a Japanese city, he allows a version of the truth to come out, despite it not always being true. People in the lime light must always be scene a certain way. Our main character, Shinjurou seems to stand for actual truth. He’s coined the “Defeated Detective” because he’s supposedly always wrong, but as Rie, Rinraku’s daughter, comes to learn, that’s not that case. Rie feels like she represents that one plucky reporter, always out for the truth but never sure how to get it out. She declares to her father, after witnessing what he really does, that she will show them (the masses to be assumed) the truth, and thus starts seeking out Shinjurou’s help. Inga, the fun loving, shapeshifting woman (at least sometimes) seems to be the one question that always shakes a person’s guilty heart. She’s not a conscious, she simply seems to represent that one question that no one wants to face but has no choice to when asked.
UN-GO is a weird mix of fantasy, sci-fi, and detective narrative. The fantasy aspect is kept to a minimum, at least as the series starts, as Inga is the only appearance of the fantasy element. She does have a major role to play, but to what end that role is will hopefully come later. The sci-fi aspect is also not farfetched. It has the feel that this could be a future twenty or forty years down the road. They’ve created AIs and android and then promptly outlawed them. Then you realize that the irony that there’s an android walking around in broad daylight and no one ever catches her. The detective narrative is the main hook though. Though most of the cases are wrapped up rather quickly, it has elements of shows like Sherlock or, while awkwardly true, Grimm, where each case leads up to something bigger. Each case is related to the war that just passed and gives you a better look at the recovery, or lack thereof, of society. The multiple episode arcs show the most and are more entertaining. These episodes dig a little deeper than the quick case of single episodes. There’s a seduction mixed into the plot that keeps you watching. It makes you want to know more but not in general. You want to know how an ex-soldier turned detective got mixed into all of this. You want to know what the soul eating demon is doing with Shinjurou. She makes the comment that he told her that he’d show her what being human meant. What was the deal with between Inga and Shinjurou and what did it have to do with the introduction scene of the series?
As interesting as UN-GO is, it’s not without its flaws. Shinjurou for one can’t seem to make any facial expressions whatsoever. It’s a bit hard to sympathize or empathize with him because at times he seems so distant. Actually, most of the characters, save for Inga, seem to share that trait. Everyone’s wearing a mask, which both works for the series yet doesn’t. In terms of Shinjurou though, we get hints about him which is kind of annoying. Five episodes in, we know more about Inga, Rie, and even Rinraku than we do about Shinjurou. There’s this feeling of a cover up, but after a while, it’s hard to care about it. Other than that, there’s not much wrong with the series outside of the doldrums sometimes. There are periods where you can feel like you can come back to it and it will still make sense despite missing a big part of it.
All in all, UN-GO is a decent series. It’s not one to write home about as of yet (though don’t focus on the irony of writing a review about it), but it’s good. With all the news going on in the world, it’s rather fascinating to have a kind of anime interpretation of truth versus media truth.