In a rural village in a world set in some approximation of medieval Japan, the apprentice healer finds a man horribly wounded, unconscious in the woods. No one knows him, and what’s more, when he wakes up, he has no knowledge of himself. Strangest of all, he is found wearing a mask that cannot be removed, and that he can explain no better than his past. He soon adopts the healer’s family as his own, and is adopted in turn, becoming an accepted man of the village. Proving to be a man of strong character, charisma, and intelligence, he soon finds himself the leader of his village, then an army, then a country, always preferring peace, but never able to refuse responsibility for the lives of those who trust him. A leader of the truest sort, he is someone who attracts the best and the brightest to his banner, easily winning the trust and loyalty of even the most independent, while never himself knowing why. With a gift for military strategy, strong supporters and an acute sense of justice, it seems as though he might well change the world, despite himself. But in the end, the thing that may make or break him is the truth of his mask, whose purpose he can’t remember, and which cannot be removed.
Oriental Light and Magic
Rikiya Koyama as Hakuro
Ryoko Yuzuki as Eruuru
Daisuke Kirii as Oboro
Mai Nakahara as Yuzuha
Miyaki Suwashiro as Aruuru
Daisuke Namikawa as Benawi
Medieval Japan, Fantasy, Action
Utawarerumono aired from April 4, 2006 till September 25, 2006
ADV films has released it in full.
Utawarumono is a twenty-six episode series. A sequel, while a pleasant thought, is unlikely.
Some stories are driven by plot. Some by a few strong central characters. Some by raw action. Utawarerumono (deep breaths, don’t panic) is, not so much driven, as powered by, wonderful character evocation. Never have all the stereotyped roles of anime seemed so natural, so perfect. From the gentle and supportive love interest to the the brash up and coming champion, all fail to grind on the nerves whatsoever. Given three episodes, the characters will win you over and make any plot work, and for this-along with doing most other things pretty well, of course-Utwarerumono rates a four.
As I said, the series goes ahead and uses the types we know, but redeems them wonderfully. Eruuru, the love interest, has a knack for saying exactly the right thing at the right time, not just for her Hakuro, but for others too, and it’s a pleasure to see. Her support is no contrived thing either-Hakuro truly needs her. Not even knowing who or what he is, the one reason he can stay sane is, without a doubt, Eruuru. And oh yes, the crowning touch: unlike her infamous counterparts, she is never a hobble. No being a hostage, no distracting him at a crucial moment in battle-I think we’ve all seen too much of that, deshou(right)? Yuzuha, the invalid, has a sweet demeanor that tugs your sympathy, and an impressive sensitivity to those around her. Oboro will demean himself for her (his sister) as for no one else, and his loyalty is unshakable, to the extent that no matter how badly he wants to do something hotheaded, he will stop for Hakuro. Thank goodness. As for Hakuro-sama himself…after three episodes, if someone asked you if he should be king of the world, you’d say ‘sure, good idea.’ He makes the typical twist of becoming ruler strong, because he is so clearly suited for it. Benawi, the samurai leader, is quite an interesting fellow; even stronger of mind than of body, he gauges his opponents with deliberate accuracy, and infuriates the hell out of Oboro with his assessments. Describing the other ‘good guy’ characters could be considered a spoiler, since they appear past episode six, or even ten. The villains are just as well done as the protagonists. Due to the nature of the plot (I’ll get to that), there are several who have the limelight at one point or another, all demanding individual and convincing personalities, and they all have them. They range from revolting, juvenile, self-centered indulgence, to monstrous cruelty, to just plain disturbing, but what they never do is make you roll your eyes. Like all the others characters in this series, they make their part of the story alive and immediate by being, perfectly, the people they are meant to be
As I’ve said, the characters carry what would normally be the conceptual strength of the series. All that’s left is for the plot not to insult your intelligence, which by and large it does admirably. There are one or two places where it doesn’t explain nearly as much as it should, though. When that happens, there’s nothing to do but grit your teeth and forget it, but it’s no biggie. And at the end, the explanations of the world get a little kooky. I advise just ignoring all the sci-fi references, it spoils things, not to mention being less than airtight. All you really need to get from them is the basic explanation of events, cause and effect, and the emotional implications. I didn’t consider this a big downer, since it was aside from what really drove the series. It actually consists more of five or six episode arcs, usually with one peaceful episode as a bridge, also usually used to introduce a new person, lay some ground, and then end with a hint of the next obstacle to come. Nearly every arc ends with a new ally, but Hakuro’s character negates the cliché of it. While seemingly disconnected, they are never random, the way monster of the week formulas can be, and often turn out more relevant than you thought. And of course there is the constantly escalating mystery of Hakuro’s mask, which is well paced, and conjures exactly the feelings it should, beginning to end. The end is a bit sad, by the way. It’s not an ‘everybody is all right and in their ideal position’ type. There have been some losses, but I assure you that I hate tragic endings, and tragic this is not. The phrase ‘I’m sure we’ll meet again, one day’ has never rung so true. It really could be.
Oh yes, one other thing. You don’t have to be entirely character focused to enjoy the series. The anime actually has quite a bit of very good action, so if you can’t get by on character alone, this is still worth a try. My brother is more interested in action, and he liked it. There’s even a touch of superhuman, since some races have abnormal abilities (my g-d, is Karura carrying a sword or an edged support beam? Its hurts, that’s for sure)
So, all things considered, Utawarerumono tell a nice story about people that you want everything to work out for. The experience rates four, for being an excellent, enjoyable watch with a touching, poignant end.
Final Rating: 4/5
This review was brought to you by Z.N. Singer
All info such as cast and airtime are taken from ANN. All else is and always will be the origination of the author.
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