Utawarerumono: The False Faces
by Jacob Chapman,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Utawarerumono: The False Faces ?
Community score: 2.6
This week on U2warerumono, Haku shovels sewage out of the city's gutters until his boots land him in a pile so deep that it swallows his feet and drags him underground. As he plummets down to the filthy water of the sewer, he briefly collides with a pair of boobs belonging to a character he (and the audience) barely knows, but it's not enough to save him from the soggy and smelly fate that awaits him below.
Frankly, it's a perfect metaphor for what this series has rapidly become.
Sure, the show doesn't look or sound like sewage; on the contrary, its art, animation, music, and voice acting continue to be proficient and charming. So none of its problems are cosmetic, and watching episode 10 all by itself wouldn't be a painful experience by any means. It doesn't bark like a bad show or wag its tail like one, but Utawarerumono has still become a real dog, because this isn't episode 4 of the series, it's episode 10, and we've only gone from "very little" happening each week to absolutely nothing of value this week. The entirety of this episode could (and should) have played out in a two-minute flashback during the nonsensical rescue plot that it chose to set up for the next episode. Your mileage may vary, but no amount of pleasing aesthetics, gentle fanservice, and iyashikei appeal can make this level of jingling keys acceptable for me. This episode was a total turd.
But enough of my hyperbole: what actually happened? Well, to make a long story short, this episode juxtaposes two sequences of failed comedy in two different locations to eventually meet in the middle and deliver a less-than-exciting cliffhanger for next week. There's a slumber party starring the female cast, which contains one half a plot point, and there's an infodump adventure with potty-humor hijinks starring Haku and the "Noble Thieves", which contains the other half a plot point. Who are the "Noble Thieves?" Well, we saw them steal Haku's thunder briefly in episode eight and met them way back in episode three. They're the pheasant-siblings Nosuri and Ougi, who fancy themselves Robin Hoods of Yamato (but everyone else just finds them to be a nuisance). While shoveling poo out of the streets with Kiuru, Haku hears a police whistle go up in the distance and soon becomes embroiled in the chase against his will. Basically, he gets covered in feces, gropes Nosuri's boobies, and learns nothing of consequence after washing up with Bath #3,623 (where he runs into Nosuri again, how wacky!)
Back with the girls, Princess Anju is off on a tear about how much she loves General Oshutoru and wants to marry him. So in the tradition of many harems before them, the other girls decide to make a night of it with "femininity practice" of all kinds. After a romantic bedtime story only manages to rile Anju up more than put her to sleep, they dogpile on puppy love exercises ranging from loli fanservice posing competitions (Anju vs. Nekone for best girl, I guess) to love-letter creation that leads to the frantic drafting of yaoi doujinshi (just take a wild guess who prompts this activity). So there's something for everyone, I guess? If cheeky yet chaste anime burlesque isn't really your speed, this is just a baffling slog of lazy humor out of nowhere, culminating in Kuon turning hellcat on Haku for saying she eats too much. Oh good, it's the world's oldest anime joke and it's out-of-character for this otherwise compelling couple. Yawn.
The point of all this finally arrives when the Noble Thieves follow Haku home to the slumber party and overhear Anju wishing that she could be kidnapped and rescued by Oshutoru so he would fall in love with her. Apparently, Nosuri is somehow unaware that she's not granting the wish of a needy peasant but literally the richest bitch in Yamato, so she whisks in to kidnap her and grant that romantic wish, to the horror of everyone but the overjoyed Princess herself. This means that next week, we'll have a totally unnecessary rescue plot resulting in Haku's esteem with the emperor being raised even further. If only this could have been achieved through a less asinine plotline.
This episode is just plain awful. I actually groaned out a "booooo!" at the screen when Princess Anju literally said her royal upbringing made her feel like a caged bird, with tears welling in her eyes. It's the world's oldest princess cliche and it once again sounds totally out of character coming from the precocious devil we met back in episode 7. I thought I was prepared for U2warerumono to get worse before it started getting better, but what the hell?
All the same, I should try to end this on a positive note if I can. I'll give this episode a plus for delivering two genuinely funny jokes despite the dearth of other good material. 1) The city's peasants hate the Noble Thieves because instead of tossing them manageable handfuls of money, they hurl chunks of gold bullion so large that they cause more injury than anything else. That was funny. 2) When Princess Anju's virgin eyes are exposed to Princess Rurutie's lovingly rendered illustrations of gay sex, Nekone assures Anju that these virile young men are wearing "invisible clothes" for artistic license, and she actually believes it. That was also funny.
That's it, though. Dang it, Utawarerumono, you can do so much better than this, but I'm already starting to forget what that better show was like...
Hope has been an anime fan since childhood, and likes to chat about cartoons, pop culture, and visual novel dev on Twitter.
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