Un-go is a paradox trapped in a Rubik cube that’s spinning around in an antechamber. This may sound confusing and slightly terrifying at first, but what I’m trying to say is; this show likes to mess with your head.
Un-go’s story is an odd one. The show was created out of order on purpose to create an air of confusion and create a mass amount of questions to bubble inside of the viewer for the remainder of the show. The show opens with our main character Shinjuurou lying in a pit with a wooden spike through his neck, dead bodies are scattered around him. This is followed by a loud “Inga!” as the show cuts to the opening. Once the opening’s done, it just kicks off in Japan with Shinjuurou looking completely different, wandering around like everything is fine.
This is the kind of mind trickery that Un-go plays on constantly, always teasing the audience with gory or disturbing moments, only to snatch them away from the viewer in exchange for something juxtaposing the previous scene. It’s a very unique type of storytelling that many people will find really difficult to understand and get behind, but I urge them to press on, as getting to the end of this show reveals a truly masterful anime.
Shinjuurou is a likable main protagonist…sometimes… at other times his characteristics do a complete flip and he changes his approach on a situation. Some people may argue this happens due to something in the story (Something I wish not to spoil), but it makes his character hard to trust and really relate too. He has this constant air of “I know what’s going on but I’m not going to tell you” that can make you really like him, or think he’s a stuck up arrogant twit.
The character that most people will want to focus on is Inga; the half boy, half girl, half demon, half god, half butterfly? It’s only hinted as to what or who Inga is in the show, never fully stating if it’s a he or she. Well, in its normal form. When Inga is tempted by mystery, it become a beautiful lady with seduction skills that would win over any man. In this form she has the ability to as one person any question, and they must answer honestly. This sounds like it would be a cheap way to solve the mystery, but it’s not, as there is more to this Inga than first seen. Shinjuurou never wants to look her in the eye, and the kind personality he has for small Inga completely vanishes when confronted with the seductive woman. Their characterization and relationship is key to what makes this anime to enjoyable, and the show does it with such subtlety that viewers not paying attention will miss it.
The art in the show is highly detailed and animated when it wants to be. The show follows the same ideals as the Monogatari series, meaning characters will stand around for a long time simply spouting vague exposition to each other. The lack of any movement in these scenes allows the show to add a layer of detailed depth to the background to the scenes, making the architecture of a technologically advanced post war Japan look gorgeous.
The dub for the show is good, it has strong lead characters that do an excellent job and highlighting the characters strange traits (extra credit goes to Emily Neves for a fantastic portrayal of Inga). But a great deal of the side characters and one episode appearances feel rushed and lifeless, as if they were given a handwritten script, a cup of coffee, and a match box and were told to read the lines however they like. The opening is also fantastic, having a beautiful song performed by School Food Punishment which is the backdrop to wonderfully strange images that don’t make sense, not until finishing the show and it’s OVA. Speaking of the OVA…
The OVA is by far the best thing about Un-go, largely because the 45 minute epic is only focused on telling Shinjuurou’s back story and how he wound up serving under Inga. The whole thing is there to answer the questions conjured by the show, it’s just 45 minutes of answers that wrap up the majority of the shows questions into a neat little bow.
I love Un-go. It’s a nice story about the scary world of constantly advancing technology and the question of spiritual beings lurking in our world. While I wish the show was just a little bit longer, I’m very happy with the time I got to spend with the show. While the strange story isn’t for everyone, any people who like Sherlock Holmes or supernatural murder mysteries will find this show a fantastic watch.
Other anime recommendations:
Weird story that just gets weirder: Steins; Gate
Supernatural characters in a weird world: Baccano
Un-go is available now on Blu-ray and DVD from Manga UK and KAZE