On the last entry of nationalistaminA, I went on to say that Guilty Crown is one of the least original, yet entirely entrancing entries of the year. On the other end of the spectrum, we have something with an iota more of originality, UN-GO, this season’s obligatory detective show. Except instead of having our main character be a milquetoast teenage boy who gets wrapped up in the schemes of a mentally acute underage girl with the emotional maturity of an eight year old, we have a detective in his 20s accompanied by an odd little boy with transformative properties. And overall, the format is a bit underwhelming.
UN-GO, adapted from a series of stories and transplanted into the near future, takes place in a Tokyo recently recovered from an onslaught of terrorist attacks. Despite being on the mend, the situation is still precarious for the city, and apparently this leads to several crimes of political and social intrigue the likes of which we’ve only seen in at least every single mystery anime ever. Make no mistake, I tried to like UN-GO from the get-GO. Hell, it was even on my Tentatively Looking Forward To list among the likes of Tamayura. But it just didn’t have enough going for it to really make me invested in the crime solving. And not even an out of context sexual screenshot has changed my mind.
In theory, it should have been good, and the setup was pretty impressive. A known philanthropist wrongly accused of… well, I honestly forget if it was embezzlement or gaining his given away goods through dubious means, and this is a move that almost ruins his entire career. In order to clear this up, he requests the presence of several affluent members of the city for a costume ball, including our detective/sidekick duo. Naturally, things go tits up when he gets stabbed in the back before going onstage, and a classic Whodunnit scenario kicks into effect.
The problem is that Shinjuurou only does about three minutes of actual detective work, with the rest of the time dedicated to the hostess of the event violently accusing two men in Napoleon outfits of masterminding the crime. It becomes less of a mystery solving tale, and more of a “Point and yell at strangers furiously for ten minutes” tale, only made somewhat more bizarre by the little boy accompanying Shinjuurou transforming into a buxom woman and hypnotizing the victim’s significant other with butterflies.
This doesn’t lead her to confess to the murder, just to tell the two that she thought her beloved was a hero, which is apparently telling enough to nab her for the crime. Of course she confesses to killing him in order to preserve his reputation after Shinjuurou and eager-to-get-a-temporary-gender-swap boy accuse her of masterminding it, citing several ambiguous hints as definitive clues pointing to her guilt.
We don’t see the mystery being solved, we’re just told that they solved it using a few vague clues, and that in no way is a competent deduction. Of course this is only the first episode, but it didn’t paint a very pretty picture for the rest of the series. If a great series were the Mona Lisa, this would be like the Mona Lisa if drawn by me, which is equivalent to it being drawn by a lamprey with no motor capabilities.
While the premise is certainly promising, and more than a cursory glance lends to an interesting series of stand-alone episodes with a common undercurrent of corruption, the character designs leave something to be desired, and the implementation has been decidedly mediocre. So, to wrap things up, Guilty Crown has the stronger start of our nationalistaminA duo, watch that instead if you have to choose one.