Mar 27, 2016
Second Season > First Season.
No, it's not a joke.
I guess if you're here is because you watched more than first 12 chapters, right? Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen, something that seemed to be a spin-off, was actually a sequel of Utawarerumono, hence why many people expected something very similar to its predecessor and, in that sense, they were disappointed, but... What so special is the first Utawarerumono?
Both series are pretty much the same in the basis: a "medieval fantasy world" where peace is apparent, although there are frictions between various kingdoms, and then, a person appeared, without a name or any idea of who he is, but whose fate will influence in many people, and the fate of one or more nations, while trying to find out who he actually is. The first Utawarerumono serie handled this in a more "serious" approach, war after war, almost without any break or slowdown throughout its 26 chapters. However, we must not forget this is also a "fantasy" serie, and as such, it also has elements of comedy, slice of life and stillness; basically the necessary calm moments of worldbuilding. In that sense, these were the major flaws in the first season: everything was moving in a frenetic speed, while time to introduce all the cast in an acceptable way was not properly given. 26 chapters of pure war and conflicts is not entirely productive, since there was almost no character development, to the point that only a few characters were important and the rest were forgettable. Even worse, after dedicating all its chapters to move the plot forward, this ended up being not well developed at all; it was notorious that a lot of content was left aside, everything was so rushed that certain topics were not properly handled (especially the one about MC's past memories), which resulted in several plot holes, and an ending that leaves more questions than answers (and it's not exactly a cliffhanger), plus the aforementioned lacking of character development. The first season was not bad, in fact its story is interesting and with a good potential, but its development left much to be desired.
Now, talking more about Itsuwari no Kamen, which started in a much slower pace than its predecessor. In this case, they decided to do something more "faithful" to its original concept, and dedicate its first chapters to characters introduction and early worldbuilding, so the viewer would had time to decide if take a like on them or not.
We can agree that expend 12 episodes on it was too much (I'd have given between 6 and 8 episodes), but it was in order to set the new setting, characters and their interactions, while showing us a good dose of comedy and slice of life moments (admittedly a hit & miss) as we get to know more about them. The second cour was where the real story began: The wars are unleashed again, with several clashes among these new kingdoms, but in this case we get to see them from the perspective of people who do not fight directly in them. We see Haku, our protagonist, who is not used to the horror of seeing people die in front of his eyes, and he has to deal with this situation, while trying to help his friends. We must not forget one of the main points that makes this franquice very interesting: the mystery behind our protagonist, which in this case, it's closely related to the origin of this new society, which in this season is admittedly less addressed, but more latent than it was in the first season; this was one of the many plot holes that I previously mentioned, although Itsuwari no Kamen couldn't avoid having its own plot holes especially on the final stretch. Even so, in these 13 chapters, Itsuwari no Kamen built a decent story that moves at a good pace, with serious, intense, intriguing and dramatic moments, the latter especially in the final chapter, with a great atmosphere that makes you reflect about the events that led to that conclusion, supported by a decent direction and an OST carefully adequate for every moment. Too sad the first cour of the serie, while not entirely bad, wasn't as interesting, and it felt very slow in contrast with the second cour. No surprise some people find this as a big issue for the serie.
The characters are not the most interesting ones in the world, but they work just fine. Haku is someone with a very apathetic attitude, constantly complaing about every activity he's gotten into, something that kinda work for both comedy situations, and for those moments where the character is getting into unexpected situations; those are actually the moments where Haku shines, since he has to show a change in his mindset if he wants to achieve his goal. Kuon is a fun character, but she knows how to be serious when the situation requires; she's actually a very solid character, acting as Haku's mentor and voice of reason, while knowing when to be rude and quite cute. Ukon is basically the one who moves the plot forward, knowing the most about Haku's potential while putting a lot of trust (and labors) on him, which motivate Haku to support him, although at his peculiar way. There is not much to say about the rest of the cast, they are all quite different in personality, but they fulfill their roles just fine; watching them interact is kinda fun, but not much else about then is told so they got little to no development, sadly.
At the end of the day, Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen has nothing to envy to its predecessor. With a different way to develop the plot, inconsistent pacing but satisfying in the end, a decent direction and pretty fitting OST, and acceptable and charismatic cast. Although it could improve in some ways, still handled to achieve its goal. The final cliffhanger showed that the series has potential.
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