Utawarerumono: The False Faces Episode 18
by Jacob Chapman,
How would you rate episode 18 of
Utawarerumono: The False Faces ?
Okay! So I guess we're invading Tusukuru now! That was fast. After General Woshisu (you know, the one who draws yaoi doujinshi) received a curt dismissal from Tusukuru's imperial court for prodding a little too deeply into the whereabouts of The Iceman's remains, the emperor of Yamato decided to declare all-out war on the little nation, sending most of his pillar generals in to bust it wide open. Geez, if Haku was conflicted about his brother's leadership skills before, he must be in complete turmoil over this needless assault!
At least, you'd think that. But like all the episodes before it, this installment of U2warerumono does a pretty poor job of detailing how Haku feels about much of anything! Our hero and his harem worry over how shocked Kuon must be at Yamato's hasty decision to wage war with her homeland, but they can't get her to come out of her room, so all they can do is make sour faces at one another instead. Their pity party is interrupted by a summons from General Oshutoru, who tells Haku that he's too busy maintaining the capitol's defense to help out the Pillar Generals tearing it up in Tusukuru. It seems their opponents are so experienced in the art of war that they've managed to isolate and starve out Munechika's army to the point of near-defeat. (Yeah, Tusukuru won several seemingly impossible wars in a row just a couple decades ago at most, geniuses. Maybe don't go picking fights with a country founded by a literal god without thinking about it first.) Long story short, Oshutoru wants Haku to lead the supply ship of reinforcements to Munechika's army before permanent damage can be done. He even uses Kiuru's presence in Munechika's endangered squadron as a bargaining chip to make Haku feel more obligated to take the mission.
All of this makes it sound like Oshutoru is shifting from a position as Haku's friend to his enemy, and Haku has every right to be deeply upset about this whole situation. But that's not the case at all, which feels as weird and wrong as it sounds. Oshutoru continues to be portrayed as noble and world-weary, even when assigning this completely insensitive quest in a completely insensitive way. When Haku responds to his marching orders by bringing up Kuon's feelings, Oshutoru responds with a casual sigh like "Yeah I guess it sucks, but this is the right thing to do! Too bad about your girlfriend's fee-fees!"
Except it isn't the right thing to do. Even if Oshutoru doesn't have the context to understand that this invasion of Tusukuru is wrong, Haku absolutely does. But for some reason (lazy writing), he continues to act like his broheim Ukon is just looking out for him, and fate itself has put him in this catch-22 instead. The story's refusal to give Haku any reasonable emotional response to Oshutoru (or even his own brother!) is one of its biggest failings. It's not just because it doesn't make much sense, but also because it makes these characters way less interesting! They had a fascinating potential conflict sitting right there and they decided not to take it, making Haku as passive a cipher as ever and refusing to address even the mild tragedies of war that the premise just dropped right into their laps!
Anyway, Haku agrees to take the mission because Big Bro said so, which means the supply ship to Shahhoro (Princess Atui's homeland) leaves in the morning. He has less than 24 hours to gather up his harem and sail to Munechika's aid, but Kuon is nowhere to be found. Haku at least has the decency to accept that she probably wouldn't want to come with him, but he wants to apologize and say goodbye first if nothing else. Comedy ensues as he searches all over town for--wait, why is comedy ensuing? This is not the time for comedy, U2warerumono, Kuon's boyfriend just agreed to aid in the destruction of her homeland! Anyway, Haku's search eventually leads him to crash at Karura's bathhouse, where he gets blackout drunk and wails long into the night about Oshutoru "making him do work" and Kiuru disappearing right when he'd found someone to take on his jobs for him.
The next morning, Haku awakens to find Kuon gearing up to join his expedition with a smile. It turns out she was hiding out at Karura's bathhouse too and overheard all of Haku's woes the previous night. I guess she's going to join him on this expedition, even if it involves the violent conquering of her people!
Okay, I absolutely believe that Haku would vent his frustrations by putting them into the worst words possible. Instead of being honest about how he feels betrayed by Oshutoru for making him complicit in the attack on Kuon's homeland, he gripes about Oshutoru "making him do work." Instead of being honest about how worried he is about poor little Kiuru getting killed in a battle he wasn't prepared for, he whines about losing a stooge to dump his duties onto. It makes sense for him to obfuscate his feelings, and it makes sense that Kuon would understand the real moral conflict behind his bitching. (I have to believe he's being dishonest and his drunken rant wasn't indicative of his true feelings, because otherwise he's a terrible person.) What I don't get is why this convinces Kuon to join in an act of betrayal against her own family. Mind you, Haku gave a slightly better speech to Kuon's (empty) room the previous day that was more honest and apologetic, but it still wasn't good enough to justify her just shrugging and agreeing to walk into a warzone against her own kind, especially because Kuon never heard that first speech.
U2warerumono's cast was never particularly complex (and neither was the first series' cast), but I do expect more emotional honesty than this. I have to be able to see these RTS avatars as people in some small way, and with each robotic response these characters have to the show's newest "big" turning point, the less invested I become in whether they live or die, much less how they feel about anything. As if that wasn't enough, the show's production values took a dip this week, diminishing one of the few genuine pleasures the show could still offer me. Let's just get to Tusukuru so I can see more of the original Utawarerumono characters I fell in love with, unless U2warerumono decides to start ruining them too. You better leave Eluluu alone, you hacks!
Utawarerumono: The False Faces is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Jake 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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