Utawarerumono The False Faces – Review
Utawarerumono The False Faces:
Original Air Dates: Oct 4th, 2015 – March 26th, 2016
Synopsis: A young man, suffering from amnesia, awakens in a vast and snowy plain. Suddenly he’s attacked by two horrible creatures and saved by a girl with animal ears and a tail. She identifies herself as Kuon, and upon learning the young man has no recollection of who he is, names him Haku. Joining together Kuon introduces Haku to the world and he gradually finds himself embroiled in the events of the local kingdom in his efforts to simply get by in life.
Review (Warning: Some Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: Utawarerumono starts off shaky with its usage of CGI to depict its blob monsters. These creatures look extremely out of place compared to the rest of the show and may throw you off. However, these creatures are out of the scenario in a couple of episodes, and from then on, the viewer is treated to a more traditional and rustic look. The society and culture of the show is set to mimic a medieval Asian aesthetic with their take on traditional clothing and tools. The fantasy element is further reinforced by some of the characters possessing animal ears and tails, and of course, plenty of good old fashioned battles and fight sequences employing swords, bows and arrows, magic and mythical shape shifting powers.
Tom: The animation quality is usually quite good, rarely eye popping and stunning, but never awful or an eye sore. Some late series fights are particularly well animated, with blasts of color, excellent use of shading, and high quality animation that breaths life into the exchange of blows and energy blasts. Uta also boasts a massive cast of characters, each with their own unique quirks that make them easily memorable. Because everyone feels unique and memorable it keeps the show feeling fun, perhaps a bit longer than it ought to considering Uta’s other problems.
Linny: While a lot of the cast members have interesting or differentiating personalities and quirks, the show soon starts to have trouble juggling them as their numbers keep growing. While it isn’t a huge hurdle, the sheer size of the cast may make some viewers to disengage or stop keeping track and caring about all their story lines. Even Haku himself feels a little bland, though some might find his bumbling but goodhearted intentions endearing. The main issue with the cast is that the show doesn’t succeed in giving them much of a background due to their large numbers, relying on their personalities to be their main winning feature. And even moving forward, the show often and quickly dismisses any major personal drama between the characters, making said drama feel pointless and unmemorable.
Tom: There is some decent character development from time to time, but otherwise most of the joy comes from just watching Haku and his gang be their weirdselves, from the character obsessed with BL to the seasick thief. The lack of proper ongoing development most likely stems from Uta’s video game origins, as Uta feels like a series struggling to adapt something far larger than itself. The only one who experiences consistent ongoing development is Haku himself. The show hinges on the character drama and interactions between Haku and the rest in a series of one off adventures that make up the vast bulk of Utawarerumono’s episode number. It’s mostly an ensemble show focused on telling brief one off tales with less of an overarching plot than one might expect for a fantasy set anime.
Linny: Though based on a dating sim/strategy RPG game, the show cuts out almost all hints of romance, instead choosing to go the route of a political drama once it starts to have an overarching plot line. This is a drastic change from the start of the show where the introduction of the blob monster gave off the vibe of a supernatural/fantasy horror mystery. Even the huge mystery of Haku’s identity and origins is randomly solved in a single episode and then promptly ignored.
Tom: Haku’s origins are finally addressed about 2/3rds of the way through the season with the most minimal of build up to the reveal. It’s a real out of left field twist for anyone who hasn’t seen the first series, but ultimately had me saying ‘what’s the point?’ after the series ultimately did nothing with this wealth of information. Sure, if you’re viewing this as a sequel you’ve been waiting for this reveal, but for newcomers the story never again addresses this twist, never once making use of it once we know the startling truth about Haku and this world. The fact of the matter is, for a twist and series opener like Uta has, there’s just not enough plot going forward. The vast majority of Uta’s content is one off character stories. For people looking for just a bit of fun, Uta has you more than covered, but if you want some actual progression of the plot, answers to the questions posed from the very start, Uta is lacking until the very, very back end of the series and by then, it’s too little too late. If anything, Uta feels like side story content, supplementary material to the game it’s based on, a game we don’t even have available in the west.
Linny: Revealing and then abandoning a big twist completely is definitely not the way to go and a vast majority of the show seems too vague with its main direction of the plot either repeatedly changing or the show seeming to lack a central point completely. Even up to its penultimate episode, Haku comes off as someone who just happened to stumble into the situation, rather than actively contributing to the cause or having a real reason to get involved.
Tom: Uta develops a pretty involved plot 2/3rds of the way through, just after the major revelations that have no barring going forward. But it rarely takes itself seriously and generally feels like an afterthought for its inclusion. By the time it does take itself seriously, and things get grim for our heroes, it’s a bit too late for any of it to pull at my heartstrings.
Linny: Utawarerumono is a period political drama in the loosest of terms and overall struggles to really stick to a particular plot line or theme. While the political power struggle becomes the main focus in the latter part of the show, there’s a lot of rambling and wandering to sort through first.
Tom: Utawarerumono is impressive in its first few episodes, able to suck in anyone appreciative of this unique fantasy world its depicting, even if they’ve never heard of the first series. The loose connected to a previous Utawarerumono title is not immediately obvious, nor required in order to understand this series, save for a few callbacks that you won’t even bat an eye at. Perhaps some deeper appreciation can come about from viewing the first Utawarerumono, but that doesn’t forgive any of its flaws.