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Un-Go Complete Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

12 min read

A very skilled detective with an awful reputation finds himself in some very dangerous situations with a worthy opponent.

What They Say:
Some call him the “Last Great Detective.” Others call him the “Defeated Detective.” What’s certain is that he’s Shinjurou Yuuki, a young man with a passion for mysteries and a talent for solving them that has made him the target of dark forces now stirring within the sinister underworld of a near future Tokyo.

That could prove lethal, given that not even the other “good guys,” including the police, are exactly on Shinjouro’s side. Fortunately Yuuki’s not completely on his own, and with the aid of his uniquely talented associate Inga, he’s ready to cut a swath through the veils of secrecy that have been laid before him.

Contains episodes 1-11 plus the prequel episode 0.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this series is solid and very appealing overall as we get the original Japanese mix and the new English language adaptation in stereo encoded using the lossless DTS-HD MA codec. The series is one that uses the forward soundstage primarily for just dialogue but it works it well here with this mix in terms of placement and some of the quieter spects of it. With the action, when it hits, it comes across well with some solid clarity and impact. Most of what the majority of this mix does though is to create the right kind of atmosphere with some good music and key sounds to make it all stand out when it’s appropriate. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2011, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The show is spread across two discs with eight on the first and three on the second as well as the 50 minute movie. The series has a lot of great looking animation to it and detail to backgrounds and character designs The series isn’t one with a ton of action to it, but it creates a very distinct and real world here that the animation showcases really well and that the transfer captures beautifully. The colors stand out really well, the detail to the designs and the flow of the animation is quite appealing, resulting in a smooth and strong looking release.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release is a standard Blu-ray case that holds both discs against its interior walls. The front cover piece is one that just doesn’t sell it at all as we get the logo a few times over in different levels that’s just not all that appealing. This is made worse by a dark and murky background with no real definition to it that just drags it down. To make matters worse, the character artwork of Yuuki and Inga is rather small overall and because of the lighting for it, it’s not exactly good looking. The back cover is laid out a bit better with a black and white approach at different angles which has a good breakdown of the discs extras and a small spot for the summary. There’s a smattering of decent character artwork and a good selection of shots from the show as well. Add in the production credits that are clean and easy to read and the technical and the back cover works quite good. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
The menu design for the series is one that’s fairly standard but leaves me a bit cooler towards it. The background layout has a dark slate style feel to it where we get the logo twice in its particular style but done at an angle. The right side uses character artwork of the two leads separately for each disc that is a bit more stylized than the show itself. The navigation along the bottom, which doubles as the pop-up menu, does everything in blocks that are at an angle as well with the episode number at the end of it. It makes it easy to see the number to see since the cursor highlights it,but the episode titles are harder to read since they’re smaller and angled. Submenus are quick and easy to navigate and load and the disc defaults to English with sign/song subtitles.

Extras:
This release comes with a pretty solid amount of extras that are definitely welcome. We get some of the basics that you’d expect in that we get the clean opening and ending sequences. We also get some of the Japanese TV spots which are always a lot of fun to watch. There’s quite a few of them here as they run almost fifteen minutes long and cover a variety of different promotions. There’s also a brief alternate opening to the “Chapter of Inga” episode which gives us an interesting take on how it could have opened. The extras also include a good three minute promotional video that’s done up almost like a music video. The Ingi Nikki (aka Diary) piece is cute as it does something very simple and silly with the two lead characters and just goes silly in very short form. The combined pieces run nearly four minutes in length.

For Japanophiles, probably the most interesting extra here is the twenty-two minute piece that has the crew heading to the home of the original author the series was inspired by, Ango Sakaguchi, and showing off the hometown, monuments and so forth as it explores the man behind the original stories and works. It spends most of its time though with a post-first episode showing in Niigate with Shou Aikawa talking about the influences and the works. The biggest extra here time wise is the nearly 30 minute “Up Al lNight” piece in which there’s cast and crew dialogue with fans after the showing that does a lot of the usual fun you get in such instances but also the basic reverence. There’s plenty of material in the set to crawl through and it’s definitely worth the time.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the novel Meiji Kaika Argo Torimono-cho written by Ango Sakaguchi, Un-Go is something of a classic detective and mystery series that deals with some interesting ideas but works in a circumspect manner. The series is one that I had seen during its simulcast run and it left me in a really conflicted state because I loved the visuals for it but the show pivoted in so many different directions from episode to episode that it was difficult to get into. In watching the series in full in marathon form, there’s still a lot of things that left me less than engaged with the show, but the narrative works a lot better. And the episode 0 film at the end brings so many of the mysteries to light and clears things up that I almost wish I had watched it first.

The series takes place in a relative near future where Japan has found itself changed in many ways due to terrorists attacks on its soil that devastated a major part of Tokyo and the fact that it was involved in a war that had the JSDF mobilized and involved. The scars on the country are evident, especially as many people have done things that they weren’t proud of or were necessary in order for the country to survive the various incidences. It’s a complicated piece in a way because of the mix of characters involved, some in real positions of power, as well as politicians and businessmen that are manipulating situations in order to either achieve more power or provide cover for what they’ve done in the past. A lot of it revolves around Rinroku Kaishou, a popular and famous detective who does almost all his work from his home through an elaborate technical setup. He’s a bit more involved in things than may seem evident at first, but he provides a good counterbalance to the lead of the series.

The main character of the show is Yuuki Shinjurou, a man known as the Defeated Detective, though it’s never made clear why he’s labeled thus. The idea seems obvious in that he’s not exactly a good detective, but the truth is that he’s quite good in making the leaps of logic needed to tie things together and see the real truths. What helps him achieve these goals is his assistant, a young boy that has a quirky nature to him called Inga. Inga has the ability to transform into a mature woman, a rather attractive one, that’s able to force someone to answer one question completely truthfully against their will. It’s something little used since once that question is asked, and Inga is sated, the person can’t be held to the same question again.

The world Yuuki lives in as the Defeated Detective is one that has a lot of nuance and cleverness involved. The series focuses on a variety of murders and mysteries that pit him against the intelligence and connections that Kaishou has. The opening episode deals with a powerful businessman that gets killed and it’s a semi-locked room kind of story where there’s any number of people that could have caused it. It’s a little Detective Conan in a way, but it works effectively enough. Another episode deals with a lot of gold gone missing from the war that’s ended up in a creative place, but Yuuki has to figure out how the whole thing was twisted and put together.

One of the stories that hits early on makes an important path direction for the series as he’s called in to investigate a death in a family with a lot of issues to it. The head of the family died seven years ago after his creation of a particular type of artificial intelligence, RAI, which ended up causing a severe amount of backlash as it got out into the world and was abused. The RAI’s were deemed illegal and all his research destroyed, which in turn destroyed him. The surviving family members have dealt with it as they could but eventually the youngest son, adopted no less, that was set to be the family head ended up getting killed. It gets twisted in how the family really works and the way said son was kept secure, but we get a good deal about the RAI themselves and it brings in an artificial intelligence character that spends a lot of its time in a cute plush animal with a vast amount of intelligence behind it.

The story arc I hated during the original broadcast is one that I found to be the best here as we get a multi-part storyline in which Yuuki gets “adjusted” in the head by a case he starts to investigate in a prison. The prisoner claims he has the ability to make his prose reality and he works it in a way that has Yuuki forgetting his entire life and believing that he’s working on a movie set. And everyone around him is either an actor or the crew for the movie. There’s flashes of understanding at times, but seeing him trying to grapple with it while giving us a different view of how the war went, the terrorism and so forth brings about some good background information. It gives us another look at how Yuuki could exist as well. But the important part is that it brings in the power behind the prose in the form of Bettenou, a character similar to Inga in how she operates. That becomes a bigger part of the show as it works towards its finale as Yuuki tries to figure out how to stop Bettenou from falling into the wrong hands. It’s an interesting mix of mystery and mild action.

The story of Bettenou in the main series is one that just never felt like it came together well for me and in a lot of ways came across as forced. While Inga and her supernatural side was there from the start, Bettenou just came across as a disconnected element that I could never feel was proper within the show. What changed that, and only in retrospect unfortunately, is the Episode 0 piece, which was shown in a few theaters when it first came out. Here, we get to see Yuuki when he was a child, the loss he had and the way he was trying live his life by doing good by other people. With so many people raising him, it makes sense that he has a sense of commitment to trying and give back to the world. It takes him to some strange places, but it’s when he’s in a war torn country and ends up with a traveling group of singers that tries to bring something to the kids that are coping with it. There’s some interesting nuance to it, but it’s when they end up in an accident that the truth of Bettenou comes out.

Getting a handle on her origin, and that of Inga and why there’s such a difficult relationship between them in the present, goes a long way towards explaining a whole lot of the quirkiness of the first several episodes of the series. Yuuki’s life makes a lot more sense and some of the irregularities are explained away. There’s a lot of death and darkness to this and it’s something that, in the end, does change the perception of the main series itself. The relationship between Inga and Yuuki in particular takes on a new dimension that has you rewriting a lot of it, but it goes further into showing the first main job they took on together which expands a lot into just how far Bettenou’s power can reach. I’m still not sure whether this would be best to watch first or not, but I’d say if you saw the simulcast but not episode 0, watch it first and then watch the series in this new light.

In Summary:
Un-Go was a series that I was highly anticipating when it first hit the small screen for broadcast, it left me feeling like it was hugely uneven and without enough of a foundation to build on properly. The series has a lot going for it in terms of style and execution with the character designs and world setting. But the mysteries felt too complicated in a way to enjoy because there was always this edge of something missing in the narrative to make it understandable. It’s like the creators were just so pleased with what they were doing that they forgot to make it just a bit more accessible. This is made worse by the way that the characters aren’t quite so well defined and the final episode 0 reveals that the people we were watching are very different from what we were able to figure out. That said, there’s a lot of engaging things in here and trying to figure it out can be a hell of a lot of fun. I like the overall idea and concept of the series but felt that the execution was definitely weak with its structure.

Features:
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Inga Nikki Shorts, Chapter of the Inga Alternate Opening, Un-Go “All Night” Events, Japanese Promotion Video “Retake,” A Coversation with Ango Akaguchi, Japanese Spots, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation

Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B-
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade:

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: October 30th, 2012
MSRP: $69.98
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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