Third in this little regular post – you can jump back to September where the first post can be found, but this time around it’s a couple of older songs that I’ll quickly share:
“Shell” by Bana (Witch Hunter Robin, 2002)
Suits the tone of the series really well – and it’s got an interesting mix of early 2000s hard rock and power-ballad going on too.
“See you Space Cowboy” by Yoko Kanno/Seatbelts feating Mai Yamane(Cwoboy Bebop, 1998)
This is a perhaps an even more sombre version of the regular ending theme, and maybe hits harder due to where it appears in the series.
But I love this alternate version from the tweak on mood to the vibraphone and the way it still packs a bit of a punch even as it’s more restrained. If you like city-pop you might also recognise Mai Yamane’s distinctive voice from her solo career too.
Okay, next time in December… going for metal perhaps, we’ll see what I can come up with!
Number two! The first post for my OP-ED monthly thing can be found here, but I want to jump right into things tonight with these two, both a little newer than last time around:
‘Kaen’ by Queen Bee (Dororo, 2019)
I really enjoyed the range in Kaen. And the singer’s falsetto surprised me (in a good way), as I wasn’t expecting it at first. The pensive beginning has a great shift to an almost EDM feel, but almost before you know it but there’s another shift AND third one, as the song moves smoothly through the genres and moods.
“Fantasy” by LAMA(Un-Go, 2011)
This one struck me first because piano takes the lead, but the song isn’t a ballad nor a jazz piece. It’s also got an ethereal yet snappy feel at the same time. Finally, I really enjoyed the way the song built a little with the alternating vocals that eventually come together for the ending (fits the tone of the anime perfectly too).
Okay! The second Anime OP-ED post is complete – next time I want to go ‘back in time’ a little with the songs, but I’ll save that until November.
It’s hard for me to accurately describe why I found it so – probably because of the contradictions within.
On one hand Un-Go feels like an uneven detective series and on the other it feels like an uneven philosophical text… and on the other hand it’s aesthetically pleasing, even stylish at times. On the fourth hand that I apparently have, it’s one of those shows that appears not quite able to add up to more than the sum of its influences, yet manages to become compelling.
Now, maybe I’m in a bit of a minority here with Un-Go but by the end I was ready for more cases and more of the interplay between detective Shinjuurou and his ‘boss’ Inga. The series is short (eleven episodes), with one double-episode length OVA as a prequel. I’d like to come back to that OVA actually, but for now I’ll mention that there is an overarching story that I preferred to some of the episodic parts.
While some cases felt rushed into single episodes, once Un-Go passed beyond that establishing phase the multi-part mysteries let the storytelling breathe a little, especially the final half dozen. In addition to what I consider an uneven start I feel like the pacing encourages the viewer to gloss over some plot holes or uneven character beats but the mysteries of the setting, the cases themselves and most of all, the exact nature of the contract between Shinjuuro and Inga were the main draws for me.
Un-Go is pretty good at drip-feeding it’s secrets too, and that’s another aspect that kept me watching – as did the oddness of Inga, who is basically a mix between Ed from Cowboy Bebop and Harley Quinn but it kinda worked. The anime takes on some big topics (albeit too briefly) around autonomy, privacy, war and finding purpose, and is far more adult in nature than say, Full Metal Alchemist. How’s that for a segue? I mention FMA because Un-Go is helmed by Seiji Mizushima and features Shō Aikawa in the writing chair.
However, I hope I haven’t misled anyone into thinking I believe FMA shies away from difficult themes, but its tone is a fairly different to Un-Go. And related to the question of tone – if you’ve seen this series and notice a reasonably pessimistic streak running throughout, then it might come from what is (to some extent) the source material.
Ango Sakaguchi was a post-war writer who seems to have been understandably struck by strong disillusionment, and one of his works Meiji Kaika Ango Torimono-chō, is the base for Un-Go’s lead, Shinjuuro who can appear to have lost hope at times. (But I think that’s about all that’s used from the source, since among other differences, the novel is set in the Meiji era and the anime is futuristic/alternate Japan.)
Finally now, I’m returning to the prequel I mentioned earlier.
The prequel is the most compelling of all the episodes in the series and perhaps even has slightly higher production values too, if that sorta thing matters to you. It also adds a bit of clarity to some of the Buddhist hints throughout.
But more important for me, was that Inga Chapter offered a lot of answers. Earlier I mentioned how I thought the show did a great job of maintaining my curiosity and it was pretty high by the time I saw the prequel. However, there’s a bit of debate out there as to when you should watch it – either before you begin the series or after episode eleven. On my DVD the OVA is on the final disc and so that’s how I saw it, and I liked that approach because it was enjoyable to finally get some back story for the lead characters and solve a few mysteries that had been hinted at since that tiny glimpse at the beginning of episode one.
(As a quick aside, the air date of the prequel was actually during the series itself, which is interesting.)
It’s clearly too late for me to watch Un-Go any other way ‘for the first time’ now, but if you’ve decided to hunt this show down then I guess consider what kind of viewer you reckon you are.
If you don’t mind having secrets held back for a long time, so as to build anticipation, then watch the prequel last.
If you suspect you might be a bit annoyed by a series that takes its time to return to the main concern, or if you like being one step ahead of the main characters and catching all the little hints they sometimes miss, then maybe watch the prequel first.
Okay, another ridiculously long review! Next time, I’ll aim for a shorter write up 😀