UN-GO 02 – The Digital Age’s Illusion

War made Sakaguchi Ango.

It is a terrible thing to contemplate, that the horrendous tragedies of war–each and every misery and individual misfortune piled one on another like so many bones–can bring out the worthy in someone. There is no doubt in my mind but that the war turned Sakaguchi Ango into a great and humane writer. Had it not happened, he would, I believe, have ended up a second-rate bohemian: dissolute, dissipated, ego-driven and wasted.

Wa-bun-ka Vol.3, Roger Pulvers

If there’s any show out there this season other than Mawaru Penguindrum that truly has a vision, I’d say it’s UN-GO. The ideas presented thus far are all intriguing and mesmerizing. As I said in my last post, UN-GO is haunted by it’s past. The scars of the war have yet to be healed and this is the second case where again, the war yet again plays prominent part.

In Roger Pulvers’ article, he speaks of how the war formed Sakaguchi Ango and how it continued to influence his work.

I don’t know a lot about Sakaguchi Ango and it’s quite difficult to find any of his works translated into English so I’m approaching this topic cautiously with only pieces of information regarding the author himself.

If the spirit of Ango’s works speaks of the war’s lasting effects on people then UN-GO is proving itself to be a decent adaptation of his works. When it was announced that the story’s setting would be altered to the distant future, one has to ask what drives the studio to make such a decision? Why should the setting be altered?

In the latest episode of UN-GO it slowly becomes clear that this series now wants to fuse the past and the present, to talk about issues that still exist to this day and the issues that now permeate in modern society.

The Virtual Idol

This episode focused heavily on illusion. In the beginning we see Shinjuro being amazed at the idol app, Dol-Pli. A virtual idol seen through special lenses. You can’t interact with her, you can’t touch her and it appears she is wholly unaware of your presence and yet– this illusion fascinates him and Inga. The Dol-Pri is so popular, several people are willing to wait in line just to upgrade her voice data. One comments that it’s “It’s 100% indistinguishable from a real person!”, just talking about it causes a fervor among the crowd.

You might ask: Why not just watch a real person dance on television? Why not listen to a real person sing on the radio?

What many of these people are after is the illusion of Dol-Pri. Human beings are equipped with free will, this will hinders them to live up to an illusion. This is a case we normally see with Jpop idols and their so-called controversies. Just the thought of their favorite idols dating someone causes fans great distress. With the Dol-Pri, you’ll never get that uncertainty. I don’t want to walk into the territory of ‘What makes Vocaloid mascots so popular?’ as I’ve never really paid much attention to the franchise, however it’s easy to tell that the Dol-Pri is a direct homage to Vocaloids.

This is also the same program that would have helped Osada An’s dream come true. No one might see her, but at least in her own way– her voice will be heard not simply as the voice of the dead Eri. Her mother disapproving of this was the final straw for Osada An and eventually led to the murder.

Aside from her dream, the singer has also lost her right to keep her own voice. It no longer belongs to her, it belongs to Japan. The same Japan that struggled against the terrorists.

The Grandiose Illusion & Kaishou’s Information Control

Kaishou is truly proving himself to be a force of  authority. In this episode, we can clearly see he has a great control over what is shared on the internet and what is leaked to the public.

But here’s the thing about Kaishou: He does this to protect the public. Or at least, I think Kaishou believes he is. He too feeds the illusions and dreams of the public. Notice how he immediately directs the blame on the victim’s lover- a crossdresser.

I personally do not find anything wrong with crossdressing, but unfortunately he fits the role of the murderer all too well in Kaishou’s scenario. He becomes the scapegoat and I wouldn’t be surprised if Kaishou himself ordered the man’s death.

Shinjuro’s Lack of Control

One of the most interesting aspects brought into light about Shinjuro and Inga’s relationship is that he obviously has no control over Inga, most especially the older one. It can be assumed that Shinjuro made a deal with Inga to keep him alive.

‘因果’ translates to cause and effect or karma. If Inga is the personification of karma, why must she seek human truth?

She dominates over Shinjuro and asks him if he feels sorry for the girl while letting him listen to the recording of Osada An’s voice. There’s something here, Shinjuro says he wasn’t in Japan during the war but I don’t doubt the fact that he might be involved in the war in some way. Perhaps he was even a terrorist. But whatever it is, it becomes prominent that Shinjuro has no control over the situation he’s in, however he struggles and continues to search.

We all know that Shinjuro’s relationship with younger Inga differs greatly from the one he shares with the adult one. My question is, would this prove important later in the story?

End Notes

While I do praise UN-GO, this show isn’t perfect.  It tends to suffer from poor pacing and some people would probably find it hard to follow. That said, this is one of the most intriguing shows this fall and one that uses it’s setting wisely. It still has a long way to go but I’m glad that it’s standing on it’s own and walking it’s own path that is very different from many of the anime we’re watching this season.

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6 Comments

  1. Now this is how you do an episodic series with an overarching plot.

    I was already sold on this series from the first episode, but that transformation sequence with Inga made it even more interesting. What is going on with these characters? And who/what is Inga?

    • Now this is how you do an episodic series with an overarching plot.

      Exactly. This show is slowly starting to be one of my favorites this season and it’s because of all these interesting concepts and ideas being thrown around. I’d love to see where this the overarching plot goes. I also appreciate the fact that Inga herself isn’t just a cute sidekick and is an important element to the plot.

      I don’t quite understand the relationship is between all these characters but it’s certainly piqued my curiosity.

  2. Really curious about the following episodes after having watched the second. Might have misjudged the show.

    I really really REALLY hope they don’t save the backstory till the movie :(

    • The next episode looks really trippy. People wearing masks always give me that impression. Well, the movie is a backstory so I won’t be surprised if that’s the plan, but it’s too early to tell…

  3. Well, I think we’re in the clear now, and can say with full certainty that this won’t end up like Kamisama no Memo-chou ^^

    I agree that the pacing could be a little better, but in terms of originality, this show stands out.

    • and can say with full certainty that this won’t end up like Kamisama no Memo-chou ^^
      I didn’t watch Kamisama no Memo-chou but from what I’ve been hearing about it, it’s pretty darn disappointing.

      I agree that the pacing could be a little better, but in terms of originality, this show stands out.
      This show genuinely feels fresh to me and that alone makes it stand out from this fall’s line up.

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