Anime Reviews: Utawarerumono

20 12 2008

Winter break seems to be the time for me to catch up on series that I put on hold over the past year.  This time, it’s the anime adaptation of Leaf’s visual novel/strategy RPG, Utawareumono. While initially there was nothing outstanding about this anime, certain plot developments towards the end led the show to one of the most memorable finales in anime.

Utawarerumono (eng: The One Being Sung) is a story about a masked man who has no memory of his past.  He is taken in by pheasants of a small village in a seemingly fantasy land.  He is given the name “Hakuoro” by his adoptive family.  Over the course of the show, Hakuoro manages to lead a sucessful rebellion against the oppressive regime of the country and is crowned as the new king.  However, he soon finds himself at the center of numerous conflicts in the world.

Again, the base story doesn’t seem that special… in fact for the majority of its length, the anime is nothing more than your standard Strategy RPG adaptation.  Conflict comes, Hakuoro figures out a plan to defeat the enemy, and the enemy is defeated, sometimes brutally.  A lot of viewers may find this part boring.  In fact, so did I; however, there were a couple of saving graces that helped to keep my interest in the show.

The first saving grace was the characters.  Besides Hakuoro, Utawarerumono is made up of a very well developed and diverse cast.  All the character have got their own unique personality and importance to the story.  Essentially, if Hakuoro brings the leadership and strength to his nation, everyone else is the strength behind him.

The second saving grace was Hakuoro’s back story.  For the majority of the series his past remains unknown, but every now and then, we get little hints and peeks at who he really is.  These peeks work as bait so that the viewer has reason to be interested in Hakuoro.  And sure enough, keeping with the show pays off.

If you manage to get to the final 8 episodes, you’re home free.  The story ends up being a LOT deeper then first envisioned.  I’m not going to spoil what happens but I will say that the scale of the ending rivals Full Metal Alchemist. The final episode was incredibly powerful and moving.  Combined with the stellar soundtrack that had been w/ the anime throughout, Utawarerumono’s ending is wonderful just as it is emotional.

Even discounting the ending, the show is not at all a BAD anime.  The writers knew when to inject humor and light-heartedness so that the show wouldn’t trod around in dark and depressing grounds for too long.  At times, it almost felt… dare I say… slice-of-life.  The artwork is attractive, and (except for the occasional CGI) animation quality never drops.

All in all, I’d recommend this anime to someone who has patience in seeing a story blossom