|A good looking show, a good start and finish to the series, characters with potential||A very dull middle part of the show, uninteresting slice of life portions, poor characterization, limited action|
There are times when a show just wows you and blows you away. And there are times when a show demonstrates such promise, only to completely disappoint the heck out of you. Sadly, Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen or Utawarerumono: The False Mask, is the latter. This show had me hyped from announcement through the first few episodes. I enjoyed the hell out of the first season of Utawarerumono. It was a good show. It had an interesting focus of this character with amnesia going from a small village to taking over a corrupt empire and then having to run and protect that empire. It was really enjoyable.
This show? Not so much. It starts off really well. You meet Haku and Kuon, the two core characters of the show and get to know them. Then you keep adding characters and they make their way to Yamato, the capital of the region. And from there……nothing. Not literally nothing, but the show heavily stagnates and never really recovers. Things pick up in the second half of the show, but too little too late. It just wasn’t an enjoyable show and got more of a chore to watch as time went on. It just never lived up to the promise the show itself made. It had a strong start, it had a very enjoyable and action focused OP and the show wasn’t that. This series was 80% as what Flower put “slice of lifelessness.” It was kind of slice of life, but boring. It wasn’t even good slice of life. Characters instead of growing and being developed, almost regressed. Characters like Rurutie went from a kind person who enjoyed cooking and helping people into a yaoi fangirl. That’s all she was for most of the show.
It’s impossible to not let my disappointment seep into this review, so I’ll just announce that ahead of time. I’ll try to be objective, but I may very well fail at it. I expected an entertaining show that would tell a good story. Instead, it didn’t seem like the series knew what kind of story it wanted to tell. As far as adaptations go, this isn’t a good one.
Adaptations are interesting things. There are loyal adaptations that are good. There are loyal ones that are too loyal and don’t make for good anime. There are adaptations that aren’t loyal, but still enjoyable shows for the anime-only viewer. And there are adaptations that aren’t really loyal and aren’t really entertaining. This for me was the last one. It didn’t appear like the director and people behind this actually wanted to adapt the game this is based on (a visual novel/strategy game setup). They just made changes for the sake of making changes, and didn’t even make a good show in place of adapting it. You don’t have to be 1:1 when adapting source material. Anime is a different medium and requires different approaches. That’s fine. But seemingly not caring to be loyal at all or respect the source material seems a bad choice to me.
So getting to the story….it’s a mixed bag. I don’t think the idea for the story is too bad. Very much a story that is clearly intended to have a sequel (there is a sequel in game form) down the road. Everything is not resolved by the end of the series and the story sits ready for a continuation that may or may not happen in anime. It does end in a solid enough way, but a lot of plot threads are left unresolved. Which is what you’d expect for something that is in a lot of ways setting up for a future story.
I will say the last couple episodes were some of the best for the show. It does end on a pretty strong note. Which doesn’t make up for the middle being so lackluster, but it is better than nothing. But, honestly I was bored to death for the middle part of the show. So often I was left asking “so when does the plot begin” the answer was a lot farther off than I had hoped. They just didn’t make me want to stop and just deal with the introduced characters. It felt either too slow or not enough interesting parts to mix between the introduction of new characters.
It just felt like a slow but steady stream of new characters. But since the show was in slice of life mode, most of them were just introduced in pretty passive episodes. Many of them didn’t make great first impressions. Atui ended up one of my more liked characters in the cast, but her first episode paints her as such a simple and naïve character. She does have some elements of that, but nowhere near the impression the first episode gives. Look at Rurutie…that girl was a victim of writing. Yes, the girl likes boys love (BL), but I think the story goes insane on it. It makes her this lunatic who can’t stop fantasizing about guys being together or can’t live without BL doujin. It’s just a shame because we see bits of her personality later where there is clearly more to her than that.
This show just didn’t have a good story. Things are introduced about Haku’s past…and then dropped. Never to be important or revisited again. Maybe it will be in a sequel, but for this series it was a seemingly important plot point that wasn’t all that important. The show constantly seemed to act like Haku was doing important things or displaying skills and gaining a reputation for that. But in reality…Haku until much farther into the show didn’t do that much. The show never showed his growth in certain ways or in terms of his ability to fight. I still don’t know how good he is in a fight, he barely fought anyone or anything. He’s not a warrior, more a thinker than a fighter….but you can’t act like he’s doing things and then never really show it.
It had a good start (got me thinking it’d be a great show). Then the show had a slow down time when it crawled along introducing characters and only occasionally doing something interesting to develop them or reveal their backstories. Finally picks up in the last few episodes and is over. A journey may be partly about the destination, but the journey itself is pretty key and that journey wasn’t all that appealing.
The main cast was a mixed bag as well. Haku and Kuon were probably the best we got in the show and good thing since they were the main duo. Haku wasn’t someone I liked that much though others did. Someone who breaks convention for a male lead. He’s smart and can think through a crisis, but he honestly doesn’t want to. He doesn’t want to work, he doesn’t want to fight, and he doesn’t want to do more than he absolutely has to. He does grow up by the end of the story and is willing to take on more responsibilities, but it is a slow road and honestly I still don’t think he’d do it if he had better alternatives available.
Kuon is a nice girl. I did like her more in the beginning than by the end. Kuon just has a moment of crisis where honestly I think she makes the wrong choice. Kuon is a nice character though. She’s often confident, good in a fight, a medical practitioner (though that is kind of forgotten later on too), and is firm enough to keep Haku in line. He does need someone like Kuon who has a complicated family history, but will keep him doing what he must.
The other major character in this is Oshutoru. One of the most important people in Yamato, the general of the right. This guy is a badass in a fight, he can just handle himself perfectly fine. But he also is extremely loyal to the Emperor of Yamato and also cares more about the people than his own life. That can make him extremely popular and a kind person, but can also make him easier to manipulate by those who know him.
The other main party members are at various levels of interest. Atui is my favorite of that second group. She’s darn powerful and able to take care of herself, can be very focused on love, but in general she doesn’t go too far. Often she’s more of a straight man when paired up to the nearly bonkers Rurutie. Atui just tries to handle the situations she finds herself in and will fight when needed. She’s very decisive when she makes her mind up about something. A very lucky character as well, as well as the daughter of one of the leaders of Yamato’s provinces and one of their pillars (major generals of the country).
Rurutie is Atui’s friend and often with her in the show. Rurutie….I have no idea how to describe her. She starts out this cute girl who despite being a princess like Atui, likes to cook and care for people. She’s a very generous person. But the show practically tosses that out the window because it’d be so much funnier to just make this yaoi obsessed girl. I don’t have a problem with yaoi, though it doesn’t appeal to me personally. But Rurutie’s whole character is ruled by this, often she is nothing more than a pun machine left to imagine the male cast getting together…She does step up near the end, but she spends so much time as this annoying character I just couldn’t care about her.
Nekone is the little sister of Oshutoru. She’s a very level-headed girl. One of those types that is wiser than her age would make you believe. Nekone is well educated, she tries to be mature, but she is also a bit isolated. Honestly I did like her character overall. She can be harsh with Haku, but that’s just because she doesn’t get why people are so interested in this guy. And well I can’t blame anyone who has that kind of question at times XD.
There are a lot of side characters, but the last one I really want to comment on is Anju. She is the daughter of the Emperor and thus the heir to his throne. But for a lot of the show she is rather frustrating. Her first appearance just showed a spoiled child who was used to getting whatever she wanted. Unable to comprehend paying money for goods. But her second appearance was actually worse. While she does grow up a bit, the girl just annoyed me for her obsessions and foolishness. If she was going to take over a country I lived in….I’d get rid of the previous form of government.
We have the other generals, some getting more attention than others in this anime. Different enemies the characters or those related to them fought. There is a lot to take in, but in the end the side characters didn’t pull me in that much. Despite all the slice of life…I didn’t care about many characters. This show like the original series did have a pair of twins, but here they barely have personalities and basically are just the same person. They don’t really get a chance to grow and are basically forgotten. Only remembered when a character wants to be concerned about them seducing Haku and basically for us being fanservice bait.
If nothing else…the audio side of this show was pretty good. I thought the OP/ED for both seasons were good. The second OP and ED especially was nice. ED2 having this very nice focus on Kuon as she matured from this small child to an adult and was quite beautiful, the lyrics working nicely too. The audio and tracks did strengthen the show, though the scenes didn’t have much impact because of the writing anyways.
Visually I think the show had great art, but perhaps not the best animation. The world looked really good, especially in the first few episodes. The characters looked nice and the world did. But maybe the show had so little action because they didn’t feel confident in drawing action. Besides the last 2-3 episodes the action scenes were just not great. Often the show would forget that armies were supposed to be in that area and just drew them out or were told not to have them there.
The characters looked good. Kuon was an adorable lead. Maybe for that reason the show had an almost crazed obsession with bath scenes. The first half of the show had so many bath scenes for both males and females that I wondered what on Earth was up. If nothing else the show approved of fanservice for both genders. Regardless the animation in action scenes was ok at times, but it wasn’t the best action I’ve seen all year.
In the end this show just disappointed me. Maybe I had unreasonable expectations after seeing the original Utawarerumono. But I do think the show gave me an impression on how the show could unfold. I thought we’d get a good mix of world building, character development and action. In the end they spent a lot of time building up the world and little of the rest. I got a better understanding of the Yamato doujin industry than I did some of the characters.
There just wasn’t enough great or good scenes for me to say this was a good show. It had the potential to be really good. The parts are there. Haku and Kuon are good leads, there are plot points that do work if they just were the focus rather than throw-ins. If the show sprinkled in more action and allowed Haku to fight I’d have approved. Show why he gets all this respect. Cut out so much of the slice of lifeless aspects. Have the characters be challenged more and not just focusing on relatively unfunny comedy. They had the potential to make me like the whole cast, but were too focused on strange character troupes.
I don’t hate Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen, I just feel a lot of regret and disappointment. This had the parts to be a better show. But instead what we got was a mostly boring series that focuses a lot on setting up the sequel. If the show focused on itself and not setting things up then this could have been better. Adapt the story better, give the cast more serious moments and let us get to know them. I can’t honestly recommend this show as a sequel to Utawarerumono (though there are cameo characters) nor just as a show itself. It’s a shame, but sometimes a show just doesn’t live up to hopes and disappoints despite having the potential to be a good show.
Tags: utawarerumono, Utawarerumono S2, Utawarerumono The False Mask, Utawarerumono The False Mask Review, Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen, Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen Anime, Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen Anime Blog, Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen Blog, Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen Final Thoughts, Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen Review, Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen Screenshots
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