What’s it about ?
Originally Utawarerumono was a tactical-RPG/visual novel hybrid, which got an anime adaptation a few years later in 2006 to tie-in with its PS2 rerelease.
This series is an adaptation of a sequel/spin-off videogame, which got released a few days ago. Synergy !
It’s not really clear yet whether this is a straight sequel set after the first game, or an alternate universe take ; apparently some of the (surviving) supporting cast are supposed to show up later on. For now, though, it’s all about new characters… who have very close dynamics to the originals.
“Haku”, our new protagonist, is an amnesiac dude who wakes up in cave, with monsters about to eat him. Also, unlike anyone else we see, he’s a straight human wearing a modern hospital gown. Given what I remember of the mythos from the previous series, it’s not a good sign. Anyway, he’s not only an amnesiac, but also completely ignorant of the world and its inhabitants, or even of a honest day’s work. He’s not very athletic and more than a bit lazy, but he does have a knack for engineering.
Kuon, the travelling merchant who saves him, quickly takes him under her wing, declaring herself his guardian and coining his new name. She’s a cat-human hybrid (which shows mostly with the ears and the tail). Anyway, cue cute romantic comedy hijinks in a pleasant medieval-fantasy setting. (That she‘s the one who spies on him in the bath tells you everything about this show’s priorities and sense of humour.)
Quite nice ; there’s a good amount of scenery porn, and the animators are careful to let the body language of both leads carry a lot of the story.
Well, this is certainly a nice and fun early romance between consenting adults. It easily captures what I liked best about Utawarerumono, and even improves upon it by having a more proactive female lead. So far, so good.
On the other hand, there are lots of worrying signs that the original mythos is still valid, and that was quite dark indeed. The original series struggled a lot with the sudden tone shifts between goofy harem comedy and brutal war story (to say nothing of the weird stuff towards the end), and both Haku’s introduction and the fact that the second game is still billed as a tactical-RPG makes me worry we’re going to cover similar territory. Now, it’s very possible this is a “done right” quasi-remake that suppresses the original’s weaknesses ; stranger things have happened. But the trainwreck potential is very present.
Anyway, this is a good enough start, and I’m intrigued enough by the project, to keep watching for at least a while.