Utawarerumono -the False Faces-
Awakening in the mountains with no memory to speak of, a man is nearly devoured by a giant centipede... that again gets devoured by a giant blob creature. The man is eventually rescued by a girl named Kuon and taken to the mountain village where she lives. She gives him the name Haku, and though he comes across as lazy and unmotivated at first, he shows himself to have a high level of intelligence, and, as such, Kuon brings him to the capital of Yamato, where he later gets embroiled in a war between Yamato and the surrounding nations.
The original Utawarerumono series was something of a pleasant surprise that I encountered many years ago. It was a show that actually dared introducing us to a main character that was a fully functioning adult. Despite relying on good ol' "give the main character amnesia" to move plot and plot revelations along, Hakuoro wasn't just someone who thought problems could be dealt with by outsmirking it or headbutting it until it went away. He dealt with adult problems in an adult fashion, and as an adult myself, I appreciated that. As such, I was a bit disappointed when The False Faces portrayed Haku as a bit of a lazybum. He's also not as physically strong as the others, including the women, but that made a bit more sense since it only shows he's not used to physical labor (which would later be expounded upon once we learn about Haku's past.) Some of that disappointment went away when I learned that, despite this laziness, he generally tended to complete the tasks he were assigned as long as it was within his power to do so, though certainly without his fair share of complaints.
I liked Kuon at first, and that never really changed throughout the show, but her initial lesson made her out to be a bit of a hypocrite as it went along. She was the prime purveyor of the "you gotta work to live" sentiment, which I don't really disagree with, but once she and Haku goes to Yamato, she kind of falls into this habit of handing out work to Haku to the point where he basically rarely does anything BUT work -- she's delegating, I guess -- while she herself seems to spend more time in the bath or with the other girls (who also does little to nothing of actual value) and managing the money they earn. The plot eventually starts moving a little bit later, which evens everything out a bit as both of them get something more important to do, even if the motherlode still falls on Haku, since he's the CHOSEN ONE and all, though that is at least not Kuon's machinations. Despite their differences, Haku and Kuon is clearly meant to be the new Hakuoro and Eruru, but, due to the show being what it is, it portrays Haku as wanting little to do with girls, and having most of them being portrayed as dumbasses isn't going to let the audience endear themselves to many of them. Granted, it makes sense that the Princess of Yamato wouldn't know how to socialize with people, sheltered as her life is, but that doesn't mean it gets any easier to see the show waste a full episode to her many, increasingly idiotic whims.
Basically, The False Faces started out in a rather exciting fashion too; with Haku immediately being embroiled in Kuon's hometown and its problems, and then later Yamato's.... sort of. Oh, the initial three episodes were very exciting, so while I wasn't entirely happy about Haku at first, he'd later grow on me a bit more, but the episodes were fun and action-packed, and showcased some of the mature intelligence of the original show, despite the relative immaturity of its cast. However, the show wasted little time moving Haku and Kuon to Yamato, where it spent nine episodes farting about doing nothing!
If I haven't made it clear enough already, I am severely disappointed with this show. So much that it might've been better if it didn't start out so well, because that way, I wouldn't have felt so let down. One of the biggest problem of the show is its pacing, true, but it's not the only problem. In fairness, it's not that the show tries to waste your time on purpose, but said nine episodes are mainly used to introduce us to the other main players in this story, which leads us to the second biggest flaw this show has: most of the main characters are idiots, or if not completely idiotic, has little to no social skills. The aggravating part is that the show is clearly playing this up as comedy, partially rooted in the show's "yaoi fangirls are funny" angle. The irritating part is that I did find the fangirl angle funny at first, but it becomes the show's go-to source for comedy alongside "the girls are giving Haku a hard time", and as such, gets beaten into the ground faster than you can say "mercy". The girls are still capable, mind you, if nothing else than at fighting, but this almost constant displays of idiocy wears at you while you wonder when they're going to continue with the main story.
That would be the second half, if you were feeling generous enough to call that part a story. The main plot that is Yamato's dealing with the rest of this world, mainly through the actions of the eight pillar generals, of which Oshutoru is a part. Some of them, including Oshutoru, wears masks not completely unlike Hakuoro's from the original, all of which are explained by both said original and this show, coming full circle, one might say. The eight generals are a diverse bunch. Some of them seems fairly honorable, like Oshutoru and his buddy Ukon, as well as lady general Munechika. Others limit themselves to their own brand of being honorable and sporting, like insane madman Vurai, who happily slaughters civilians when he's leading armies or using his mask to unleash his SUPER DUPER POKEMON FORM! (Thanks for the mental train of thought, Jacob Hope Chapman; I will never get it out of my head.) Raikou and Woshisu eventually reveals themselves to be two bit of scemers, and not the good kind.
And then there's Dekoponpo, the corrupt delusional idiot who inherited his position from his father, apparently. He spends every single moment in the show being unrepentantly evil in the same way as Cartman from Southpark. He cheats, steals and acts like a complete megalomaniac despite being utterly, completely inept in everything he ever does, and the others somehow just tolerate his presence. He even has an aide whose sole role seems to be to continuously prop up his ego by kissing his ass, and it would've been kind of neat if he actually was a villain whose role would've been to thoroughly corrupt one of the pillar generals... except they're already all over the place.
In fact, it's hard to know how to feel about this show. In the grand sceme of good guys and bad guys, it's nice when we get some shades of grey to go with it to keep things more interesting, but this show doesn't really have any of that. Furthermore, Yamato's actions doesn't exactly strike me as honorable, even when it comes from the emperor, who is supposed to be one of the good guys according to the show. Really, the only reason why I haven't outright rejected his actions is the almost cartoonishly behavior of some of the villains/opposing generals. In all fairness, the original Utawarerumono also suffered from this, at least at the beginning. And on that note...
One of the other thing I wondered about when starting this was: where do the original TV series fit into all of this? Well, worry not, because you will actually get to see a lot of the characters from the original, and, by that extent, get an idea when the show is taking place. The first to show up are Karura and Touka, which makes it a bit hard to judge, since they were basically adult women in the original too, and if anime in general is known for one thing, then that would be that anime women age really gracefully until they suddenly become elders and seemingly shrivel up overnight. (Or something.) They are eventually followed by Kamyu and Aruru in a later episode, and while Kamyu looks pretty much the same, Aruru is now a young adult woman herself, and is said to have played a significant role in raising Kuon (who herself looks like she's at the end of her teenage years at the very youngest), though the show does hint that Aruru is more like a big sister than a mother, so she probably isn't more than a few years older than Kuon. Like another show that aggravated me by having its carryover cast turned into idiots, The False Faces turned them into ridiculous worrywarts and busybodies, seemingly made so that Haku wouldn't be the single source for being annoyed by the supporting cast. I may have laughed once or more times over the "look at the fangirls" jokes, but the "Aruru is treating Kuon like a baby" jokes didn't eclicit even a single laugh out of me. Egregriously, since the show also have a hilariously oversized pidgeon who fights just as well as any other character in this show, and creates good rapport with Aruru's tiger companion Mukkuru. It's funny and endearing, and severely underutilized in this show.
A little sidetracking there, but yes, the show does acknowledge the original Utawarerumono as being a part of the continuum, and if I may be grateful to Utawarerumono -the False Faces- for one thing, then that would be that it does eventually go a little bit more indepth with the events that led up to the establishment of this world of wondrous fantasy people. That is, if you can survive the "plot twists" and the depressingly pedantic moral lesson you get with it. They're moments that stand out in an otherwise jawdroppingly stupid show, so all I can do is wonder what we might've had if The False Faces had been left in the hands of someone who knew what they were doing, especially in light that reactions from the people who has played the game have been... diverse, but a common complaint is, unsurprisingly, that a lot of stuff has been left out. Good thing that they allocated nine full episodes for introducing idiots pestering Haku when they aren't to be found in the bath houses, then. I mean... what did we expect? That the show would live up to its prequel ALL the time? Or even most of it? Greedy, aren't we?
And even then, after all this, we learn that the show has barely gotten started. It had 25 episodes to go on, yet it all was a setup to a grander sceme of things; you know, the sort of thing the original settled in five episodes without feeling rushed or simple. Especially problematic, considering the idiotic decisions even the main characters make at the end of all this, nor that the show expects us -- or even its more intelligent characters -- to not be able to see through all of this. It pains me to watch this show, to see all this potential lost from the game I haven't even played, squandered like tears in the rain.
I'm giving the second star for the exciting beginning and for the things it explained, that also put some characters and events into perspective. Everything else is just nonsense and shadows of the past, idiotified for cheap laughs. — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: The show gets pretty violent, partially by monster caterpillar death in the beginning and partially once the war starts, and people die in battle. It's not excessive per se, but it's serious enough to grant a PG-13 rating at least.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital stream on Crunchyroll, Japanese with English subs.
Review Status: Full (25/25)
Utawarerumono -the False Faces- © 2015 White Fox.
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