Friday, August 5, 2016

Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen review

Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen is an anime that caters greatly to both people who actually enjoyed the first season and people who played the visual novel itself. Doing both of the things I've said earlier would be the best way to actually enjoy the anime to its fullest, but for those who haven't, fear not, it is still watchable.

When I came to, I realized I was standing in the middle of a vast, snowy plain I knew nothing of. I didn't know how I got there. And to add to that, I couldn't remember anything, not even my name. I stood there, dumbfounded at my absurd situation. But then, as if to spite me further, a gigantic monster suddenly appeared, an insect-like creature that began to bear down on me. I tried desperately to run, but it cornered me into a hopeless situation. It was then that the girl appeared. Her name was Kuon. It was this beautiful girl, who bore an animal's ears and tail, who saved my life. (Source: ANN)

The anime is best split into two different arcs; the slow, slice of life arc for the first 12 episodes and a more serious, battle arc at the latter 13 episodes. The first arc is something new compared to its older, more serious counterpart, where it is mostly dedicated on thoroughly developing the characters bit by bit, by interactions and light-hearted scene. The slice of life part, where comedies and humour are mixed into the story makes it really entertaining. Each character are revealed one by one, and some of their backgrounds are told slowly. There are even cameos from the first season which is a really nice eyecandy for fans of the series.Problem is that with such large amount of cast, there are bound to be imbalance in telling each of their stories and developing their characters as a whole, and as such the anime compromise by mostly focusing on the main characters, Haku. Not to say it is a bad idea, but the consequences make some of the supporting characters feels insignificant, and mostly there as a plot device. Furthermore, given that the story starts off with relatively peaceful tone, it is quite a shock as the story progress into the darker, more serious second half. The battle arc, as I would like to call it, is where most of the real stuff happens. Haku dealt with a turnaround in his life as he encounters the reality of war and death itself, and struggle to take back his peaceful daily life. The end of each episode makes you want to have more, awaiting for what to happen next compared to the more relaxing first arc. Not to spoil much, but this arc gives me a much bigger impression to the fantasy setting of the anime as a whole. Note that the anime is based on the first of two Itsuwari no Kamen visual novel, so it ends with a cliffhanger, making the entire anime feels like the half-done in term of story.

The characters of this anime as I've said before, is large. As a result, most of them end up as a relief and resemble most anime archetypes in term of personalities. Haku is your lazy ass protagonist, who despite his innate ability, prefer a quiet and peaceful lifestyle. He is fun to watch, as he usually do things in his own way, or at time get pushed by others to do work and stuff. His characetrs may seems really bland at first, with no disntinct past or memories  because of his amnesia, but as the story progress on, the viewers are being told about his origin; a major plot point for the story itself. Kuon is your lovable cat-eared heroine. She is cute, curious, caring, can be a little perverted and have a mother-like tendency; in short she is a great waifu material. Her character remains mostly static, with a little development here and there, but her past are not explored thoroughly and left untold for the most part. She is really entertaining for the most part to say the least. Other important character include Ukon, which to not spoil much is a great guy who acts like a bro to the protagonist and helps to direct the story and moves the plot forward. There are also characters like Atui, Anju, Nosuri, Rurutie and some others in Haku group that helps him in his daily life and adventures.

The art and animation are decent for this kind of anime. There are not much to complain in truth, because it is visually pleasing enough to watch, with little to no quality issues. The usage of bright vibrant colour in the first half and a darker palette later on is a nice touch, giving a sense of a change in mood and tone of the story. The backgrounds are drawn in great details, especially in regard to the medievall japan style archetectures and the beautiful natures. The animation are mostly fluid, with dynamic battle scene at time although the warring scene could use a little more attention in details. As for the sound, both the OP songs is my favourite, with a mix of fast paced and traditional tune in it, while the ED song is a much calmer, accompanied with beautiful nature background. The soundtrack used fits most of the scene, and are really nice to hear overall. Most voice actors where pretty good and the majority of the characters did a good job at impersonating their character. 

Overall, Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen is a decent anime if you are looking for a fantasy midieval-japan style anime with a touch of slice of life and serious political dispute in the other half. It is a really decent anime and could be enjoyed by both fans and people who are new to it. In fact, it might be a kick start for them to actually watch the prequel or play the game itself.

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