Utawarerumono: The False Faces Episodes 8-9
by Jacob Chapman,
How would you rate episode 8 of
Utawarerumono: The False Faces ?
How would you rate episode 9 of
Utawarerumono: The False Faces ?
At long last, U2warerumono (as I am now calling it, so I don't have to type "The False Faces" for a whole 'nother cour and change) has turned to adventures with more tangible stakes. It would be nice if these escapades sucked less, but you know, baby steps! We still haven't arrived at a larger plot of any kind, but stuff happened in these past two episodes, even if most of it wasn't very good.
Ukon assigns two missions to our hero Haku in these two episodes. First up, they'll be going incognito to expose the corrupt dealings of Pillar General Dekoponpo, a portly hedonist who ends all his sentences with "-nyamo." Ukon suspects that he's been running an illegal centipede-fighting racket on his giant party-boat and pocketing an undue portion of the profits to boot. For those familiar with the first series, Dekoponpo is a spitting image of the former ruler of Tusukuru and his many greedy, thick-lipped relatives. So even though the mission itself is farcical (what significant impact does centipede gambling or confronting the practice have on Yamato honestly?), the point is more that Haku is finally beginning to follow in Hakuoro's footsteps, taking on the same kinds of foul gluttonous buffoons that he fought around this point in the—okay, that he had already completely defeated by this point in the first series.
Comparisons aside, playing Dekoponpo's breed of evil for laughs does work a lot better than playing it for an actual threat like they did in the first series. Hakuoro's battles against these corpulent cads were only dramatically effective because he was fighting to avenge the death of the woman who took him in, Tusukuru. (And now you know where Kuon's home country got its name!) Since Haku has no dramatic impetus burning under his ass just yet, it makes sense for his first opponent to be the simplest chipmunk-cheeked species of mook in the Utawarerumono world. On top of that, Haku and friends aren't half as righteous as their forebears. Atui (pictured above coated in centipede guts why what did you think it was?) spends the episode raking in winnings from the very gambling ring they're trying to bust, while Haku desperately tries to smuggle some of Dekoponpo's plundered gold home for himself. The documents containing concrete evidence of Dekoponpo's corruption actually get lifted by renegade siblings Nosuri and Ougi, who we haven't really seen since episode 3. Good for them! At least they can probably get a cash reward for the info, while Ukon/Oshutoru was just doing it for honor and all that boring stuff.
The episode concludes, just like so many before it, with faint overtures of seriousness. Ukon finally confesses to Haku that he recruited him for these jobs mostly out of a selfish desire to live a second life. Since he was born into a noble family on a path to serve the emperor, he's always known that there were directions in life he wouldn't be able to take, many of them involving helping the populace directly. Haku says he's okay with being the general's tool since he doesn't have anything better to do, and they make a shirtless pact to keep on keeping on. This doesn't get us any closer to answering the mystery of why Haku and Ukon have the same face, and I'm still suspicious of Ukon's true intentions. He's probably not evil, but he has more in mind for Haku than odd jobs around town.
That night, Haku is woken from his sleep by a pair of mysterious servants, who draw him into an alternate dimension with—gasp!—other humans! Haku seems a lot less surprised by this than I was, but that could be due to whatever drugs he took to give him through this sunlit garden vision in the first place. The main human in this fantasy terrace is an old man named Mito, who wants to know about everything that's happened to Haku since he woke up with amnesia. They're also interrupted briefly by another human, a servant woman with a familiar face (to Haku, not the audience) named Honoka. This is the closest we've gotten to a dark truth lurking under the peaceful capitol of Yamato. So do we follow up on this mysterious waking dream in the next episode? Nope!
Instead, it's time for more first-series-fanservice, as Ukon assigns Haku to investigate a pair of ambassadors arriving from Tusukuru. "Hey, isn't that where Kuon is from?" Why yes it is, and just as we met two of her "mothers" in episode six, we're going to meet two of her "sisters" in episode eight. The dog-girl Aruruu (who rides in on a giant white tiger named Mukkuru) and the black-winged bird Kamyu are Kuon's two most "overprotective" guardians, in her own words, which is pretty funny considering the role they played in the original show. (Side note: they were the tank-on-tigerback and dark mage of the game in terms of RPG classes, but also more important as narrative lynchpins than warriors compared to some of the army's more powerful members like the previously encountered Karura or Touka.) As young girls, Aruruu and Kamyu became best friends and got into untold amounts of trouble, stressing the grown warriors of Hakuoro's band into oblivion. So I guess they would know how much danger a wee cub can get into without proper supervision. Still, their helicopter parenting of "Kuu-chan" is more than a little extreme.
The second they arrive in town, they're harassing poor Kuon from the threshold to the dinner table to the bathroom to make sure she's living well, eating well, and peeing well. (Of course there's a bath scene. Of course they poke and prod her mercilessly in it.) Haku doesn't have long to be amused by this before he realizes that Aruruu and Kamyu never grew out of their own troublemaking phase, despite being young adults in charge of looking after a little sister. They run him ragged all over the capitol, squeezing his wallet dry for yummy souvenirs and making an incorrigible nuisance of themselves to everyone. Finally, Kuon puts her foot down and tells her sisters that she won't be coming back to Tusukuru for a little while yet, and they have to stop babying her. So after some tender parting words, Aruruu and Kamyu travel on to the palace to meet with Yamato's princess. (They might not know it yet, but these three have so many obnoxious things in common!)
Yeah, episode eight is nowhere near as successful as episode six in the balance between nostalgia and familial fuzzies, because Aruruu and Kamyu just aren't nearly as interesting as Karura and Touka. Their relationship with Kuon is juvenile, and it's hard to stretch that into twenty minutes before the obvious ploys at otaku pandering start to turn my stomach. That's fine fodder for a dakimakura cover, but after seeing a full episode of Kuon being accepted as an adult by her mothers, watching her get paraded through one tiresome moe hijink after another by her sisters rings pretty sour.
The episode concludes with the Princess, fresh off her meeting with Tusukuru's ambassadors, bursting into Haku's quarters in search of General Oshutoru. You see, she's decided that the two of them are going to be in love! Geez, Aruruu and Kamyu really are a terrible influence. Side note: Mukkuru the giant tiger and Kokopo the giant quail have their own standoff in this episode. It's not about which war-beast is the toughest, mind you, but which fearsome mount is the most generous. They spend all day passing a bucket of food back and forth between each other, insisting that the other animal eat first, and they part ways with tears in their adorable eyes. I would definitely rather have watched two full episodes of Mukkuru and Kokopo's adventures than the dorky lame escapades we actually got, but I guess next week will be all about harem girls in love, so U2warerumono might have to get worse before it gets better.
Utawarerumono: The False Faces is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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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