Search This Blog

What is your current/max resolution?

Comments not personal enough? E-mail me with requests, suggestions or personal comments. No, it's not fake....

Monday, March 16, 2009

Utawarerumono - Review

Sorry for neglecting you guys. I know I said I'd be more active and yet I was slacking off. As much as I'd like to just relax and do nothing over break, I need to remind myself that there is stuff I have to do (in addition to the blog)

I've started re-watching a lot of anime recently. I'm also trying to find some really nice anime that I may have missed over the years. This is a bit of the former a bit of the latter.

There's no fluid translation for this series (just as there's no fluid translation for Sora o Miageru Shojo no Hitomi ni Utsuru Sekai...that everyone just calls "Munto") with the main issue of translation being that it's very vague. It could be best translated to "That which is sung" (Literally: the thing being sung). I've seen some very liberal translations, some which work (kinda) and some that don't work.

This was based off an adult PC strategy RPG of the same name. It was remade soon after the release of the anime to the PS2 all the adult content was removed and the battle system was remade by Flight Plan (The same team responsible for Summon Night and Eternal Poison).

Unfortunately, this series has bumped up my standards. After finding a copy of it on blu-ray and seeing how crisp and clean the animation is (and seeing the EXACT area that was blurred: superfluous but impressive....) it's hard to go and watch a DVD. It's of really high quality, but to have animation that clean is just unfair...... Anyways, on to the actual review.

Utawarerumono takes place in a land that feels like early feudal Japan and is about a man named Hakuoro who was saved by the village elder and physician after he collapsed near their town. Hakuoro is a very charismatic man with a strategic head. He shows his analytical prowess first by convincing the villagers to kill the forest guardian who have been endangering their lands and later, the tyrant that rules over them. He's backed by many skilled warriors whom he crosses paths with and finds himself needing to command armies. It's hard to say more due to how the story goes (anything else would just be spoiling)

(Ignoring that I watched this on blu-ray) The animation itself is very clean. A lot of shading is well done and lines aren't lazy (for an example, look at bleach. A lot of its shading is just cross hatching or tons of animation....). Clothes are nicely detailed and fit the body really well. They're simple in design but fit very well. Colors are one thing to pay attention to. One thing to particularly notice (and I did on the first watching) is that masses don't look alike. What I mean by that is that each person in a large mass doesn't look exactly like another. Yes, you have copies but they're spread out. It's an unnecessary detail but also an important one. A lot of this show is about wars and skirmishes, so to see individuality among the masses (even just a little) comforts the eyes of the viewer. Backgrounds are very scenic and look as if they were painted in oil, which is a plus and a minus (it's inconstant with the animated characters themselves).

I love the music in this anime. The composer sets the mood quite well. Timing is also well done and it isn't overdone. What I like particularly is that there isn't music for every second. Sometimes just ambient noise is used as background filler and just enough. Silence can be a very powerful thing.

The pacing is very fast but not rushed. It's sometimes hard to believe how much has happened in a single episode. I guess it's to be expected since the animation team wants to cover as much as possible within half a year. The pacing is really dependent on the viewers but I sometimes found it surprising how much is covered in a single episode (i.e.They already attacked in that episode?). The team knows when to slow down for a short reprieve and if that isn't enough, then there are also the DVD specials (rather blu-ray specials now i guess) that are short segments of comic relief.

For the minuses (I got tired of using "Bad parts).
Despite high quality art, the animation team is very lazy with their CG rendering. It's quite obvious in many battle scenes along with other moments (the water kinda looks like some weird flowing jelly). Honestly, I could've ignored how bad the CG was if they didn't make it so blatant and clunky. One particular detail that's an issue is that once they render in the CG, the movements look embarrassingly slow which only ends up emphasizing it's atrocity. It's about as bad as school rumble a few other anime that seem to like CG rendering regarding many details en masse (in particular... people). I guess the main issue would be that modeling is hastily done and there's next to no texturing. On the plus side, the CG rendered dust looks nice... occasionally.

Despite it's fast pacing, the series still ends up rushing near the end in a desperate attempt to wrap everything together. So the result is a fast paced version of already fast pacing. It's like that weird Gundam Seed OVA that was just an hour and a half compilation of all the major events in the fifty one episode series. It's hasty and it shows.

Speaking of lazy, one particular detail that bothered me was how some battles had their own filler. What I mean by that is in an attempt to fill up time and show action, the main characters only have 3 or 4 different ways that they kill (some even being part of the same scene) and to show a lapse of time in battle these scenes are repeated throughout the anime. It isn't noticeable at first (obviously) since there are still main characters that need to be introduced but you can easily see it mid-way when they're repeating the same scene on a different background. It's lazy. There's no way to argue out of it. Even if someone was trained in a specific style there are an array of attacks from different angles and different feet movements. Never do I see someone getting smacked on the side of the head by Hakuoro. It's always hit, scene cut to fan jabbing someone's throat, dodge, off screen hit, spin, over head strike. As if soldiers would all move the same exact way every time and the entire world was trained the same exact way. Perhaps that's why they're so useless on the battlefield.....Cause they're lemmings.

Despite it's shortcomings, it's worth at least one watch. It's an anime that I believe does full scale wars well. A lot of the characters are nicely developed, and while there are parts (ranging from medium to large) that I wish were fleshed out it's pretty good as is. It does get occasionally graphic in terms of violence, which is something the squeamish should be wary of. Honestly, I kind of wish that this was a 40-50 episoder but oh well.

Not an actual letter
P.S. "Dear Zerreth, are you ever going to go over Persona 4 or Ar Tonelico II? Because I don't want to read the reviews on gamespot."



Ymarsakar said...

The PC game by the same name is much better in the story telling department. Even with the hentai.

Ymarsakar said...

The game is set up between 3 phases: plot development, light humor and character development, and battle scenes.

There's specific named battles, which the anime mixed up, and there is plot develop right after a battle has ended, with a requisite boss fight.

The anime actually put in more romance, with Eruruw, at the end, corrupting what was an epic ending. All the plot development, including memory recall, was switched around for some odd reason. This meant you were getting spoilers ahead of time, with no suspense or mystery. In the game, people were really tight lipped about what was the secret, so you had to find it out piece by piece, and it was only at the end that things were revealed.

As a concrete example, Touka had almost half her personality cut away in the anime. She was supposed to be a sword user of the Samurai X style. A fast draw of the blade, then sheathing the sword as the target falls. I never got tired of hearing that click sound of drawing and sheathing in the game. She was the most powerful character in terms of attack and defense, although Karura had an easier time with strength. What they cut out was that Touka is a clutz or clumsy. The reason why the bridge fell wasn't because of Karura, but because Touka, while fighting off about 7 of Hakurou's lieutenants, accidentally sliced a cord of the rope. Then everybody ran for the side they came from, except Touka, yelling out that they were cowards for running. Up until the bridge fell, of course.

The whole doll story arc was there to further develop her character and backstory, combining her personality with fearsome combat prowess on top of a sort of clumsy social person.

In terms of combat, the game had more realistic standards, because one hero could only take up to 2 or 4 normal class enemies before needing healing/backup. The bosses would require an entire team of Hakhenches to take down. A big part of character develop was getting them new abilities, so the Divine techniques utilizing a character's most powerful and flashy attack didn't show up until much later in the game.

The anime started some of them off as if they were demi-gods. Killing 4 people without sustaining a wound, while removing the best technique CGs. Doriy has an attack like Legolas's multiple speed arrow shot against one target, while Guraa has a rain of arrows ability. They could only use it once, and then had to wait, but it caused a lot of damage.

The anime could have simulated the battle scenes, but they removed the entire battle dyanmic and replaced it with the more realistic army vs army model, including re-ordering the plot scenes during battle, and also re-ordering the plot order of the rest of the story. Since this story is about Hakuro's command presence and his loyal followers, all the detailed battle scenes seen in the anime does little to nothing to develop the bond between Hakuro as a military commander and the loyalty given to him by his subordinates. They had to manufacture artificially created incidents to show that loyalty, which contaminated the main story line.

It's a very different story all in all. At the end of PC Uta, it's got an emotional conclusion on par with Planescape Torment.