Kazé UK / Manga Entertainment
13 Jun 2013
The ambience is perfect. The players are gathered and the time is right for you to stand and cry out “it was Colonel Mustard in the dining room with the wrench!” That’s right, it’s time for a good old detective show, albeit this time with a supernatural twist courtesy of UN-GO from Studio Bones. But will UN-GO best your toughest case yet, or will you rip apart its flimsy alibi in mere moments?
Shinjuurou Yuki is a detective in that classic Sherlock Holmes/Jonathan Creek vein. He can glance at the most minimal scraps of evidence and come up with the solution for any mystery he faces. Sadly, he tends to run around looking into politically sensitive cases and his solutions aren’t always in the best interests of the government, so he’s gained the nickname of "the defeated detective", as the truths he reveal are rarely shown. Working with him are an AI called Kazamori, who tends to wear the body of a stuffed panda and Inga, a mysterious young boy with the ability to transform into a voluptuous woman with the ability to make you answer one question absolutely truthfully. Along with a group of recurring supporting players, Yuki and the gang set out to solve a series of crimes (generally with a grisly murder lurking around the corner) in typical detective genre tradition.
In order to be a good crime show you need to have at least one of two things: a set of ingenious, well thought-out plots that will have your audience second guessing themselves at every turn trying to work out the clues while remaining logical enough so that when the dominoes fall everything makes sense. Alternatively, you need a strong set of characters with great chemistry who will provide great entertainment throughout. Unfortunately, UN-GO has neither of these things.
Plot-wise, the stories are paper thin and you’ll generally know exactly who the killer is, how they did it and why within minutes of being told what the case is. The few that you can’t predict tend to fall back on some form of Macguffin that hasn’t been properly explained yet (if at all) and prove equally unsatisfying to watch. Worse, Inga’s abilities essentially mean that there is never any feeling that they might not solve the case or accuse the wrong person, as she can just keep asking people involved until someone admits to the crime. Her abilities are grossly out of place here, and attempts to limit her and explain who she is in the last couple of episodes really don’t make up for this in any way, coming off as a clumsy attempt to rectify the issue. In fact, if we’re honest the whole supernatural aspect of the series just doesn’t gel well here and the series would have done a lot better to jettison what’s realistically a very small part of the series (only about three episodes really focus on it in any detail) and spend more time on character work or on the massively under-used subplot about the government censorship of crimes, which feels like it was glued on as an afterthought.
The characters are really little more than dull cut-out stereotypes here. You’ve seen all of them done much much better in a variety of other series. There’s just no chemistry at all between them which, combined with a general lack of humour throughout the series, makes for some very tedious episodes. What little attempts at fleshing out characters there are exist as exposition-dump conversations and the prequel OVA that’s included on the disc.
Still, at least on a technical level the show is great. Studio Bones can normally be relied upon to make things very good to look at and UN-GO is no exception. Character designs are not exactly original but the animation of them is brilliant, and even the DVD review copy we used here looks great and you truly can’t fault the show for its visuals. Alongside this, the ending and opening themes by LAMA and the gloriously named School Food Punishment respectively are brilliant, and really good fun to listen to alongside some very nicely done accompanying animation.
The dub does let things down again however - whilst most of the cast do a reasonable job, the actors in minor roles are re-used extensively as different characters without much in the way of trying to change their voices, which means that things quickly get confusing.
I love a good detective show but I can’t in good conscience recommend UN-GO. Whilst things do start to pick up a bit towards the end of the series, it doesn’t really make up for the huge, glaring issues it has and for all its pretty design and animation the series is a real dud through and through.