All of a sudden this anime developed both a personality and a yuri storyline, practically overnight. How interesting is that?
Let me begin from the beginning. In Episode 1 of Uta-Kata, we are introduced to average girl Ichika, who, in the course of cleaning a spooky mirror, sees a reflection that is not her own. In the mirror is magical girl-creature Manatsu who comes into the world to be Ichika’s companion through a little misinformation and alot of personal charm.
I reviewed Uta-Kata back on October 25, when it first came out and I was mightily unimpressed. And with good reason, I might add. I have, until this week, been watching the series raw. Well it turned out that I really was, despite my disclaimer last month, really missing *alot* of what was going on, at least in part because I was only half paying attention. But two things happened this week that makes it worth going back and re-reviewing this series.
First, the good news. In Episode 9, the slow crawl into grim that this series has been undergoing becomes a headlong dive into dark and creepy. Initially, I was annoyed by the lack of anything – character development, plot, action. The entire series seemed determined to bore me with triviality. But, during this week’s episode I realized that I had been watching the wrong things entirely. With that revelation came a realization that this series had actually become quite interesting. Because while I was waiting for the inevitable magical girl power up/action/crises escalation, I completely missed the slow deterioration of Ichika, and the plot, into one seriously bleak – and interesting – little tale.
Secondly, due to my lack of attention, I had only half-noticed Ichika’s friends, most especially, Satsuki, played sharply by Kawakami Tomoko, the voice actress for Utena. It seemed to me that we beat on her friends and acquaintances a bit, but while I was looking for the usual magical-girl stuff and trying to ignore the fanservice, I missed that the emotional beating they were all taking *was* the plot. So, when (to me) all of a sudden, the story took a yuri turn, I decided to rewatch the first epsiodes, this time subbed, and see what I had missed.
The bad news – the first seven episodes of this series are cleverly designed to suck, so only hard-core or pig-headed fans will remain to see the good stuff. In rewatching the first three episodes, I was reminded that the fanservice was yawn-a-riffic and the plot really WAS boring as hell. I wasn’t wrong about that when I wrote the first review.
Seriously, the first episodes are dire. No wonder I couldn’t see what was going on – the plot was completely cloaked by several layers of awfulness. Episode 2 is, especially incomprehensible – even with subtitles. I still have no bloody idea what the writers were getting at.
And I can’t say that it gets better, because it basically gets worse until Episode 8 or so, when they lose the fanservice and add in a plot. Basically, while I was waiting for marketable items to manifest and Ichika to use her powers to save the world (when in fact, she’s been using them to find lost watches and turn the lights off…) Ichika has really been overloading on these useless powers. As a result, they are making her very sick. It’s different, at least, watching a magical girl barf into a toilet. Not cute at *all*, which is kind of cool.
So, there I am, watching Episode 9, in which Satsuki (who has apparently been abused by her father as a small child) is acting the prince to Keiko, who is suffering from a broken heart (that being this episode’s “plot”,) when it dawns on me that Satsuki is also suffering from a broken heart – over Keiko. Apparently it dawns on Keiko at the same moment, and she stands up and kisses Satsuki. We later see them hand in hand on the ride home – and we fervently hope that this is not a fluke. Don’t we?
As a yuri bonus, Manatsu and Ichika are all touchy-feely this episode, too. It’s not lesbian, but I think we can make a clearer case for a fanon relationship there. Expect mediocre yuri fanfic art to flood the ‘net any day now. :-)
Episode 10 looks like a literal nail in the coffin as it appears to be about death. So there you go. NOT cute magical girl at all, but grim and unpleasant magical girl, and I for one am mightily relieved.
If you plan on watching this in subs, be prepared – the first seven episodes just suck. (At the time I am writing this, only the first three episodes have been subbed at all. Don’t be surprised when they are god-awful.) But if you can stand it, it looks like some interesting things are right on the horizon.
We’ll keep watching and keep our fingers crossed. :)
Story – 7
Character – 7
Art – 6
Music – 6
Yuri – 8
Overall – A hopeful 7 (at least for Epsiode 9.)
If it goes the way it looks like it’s going, Uta-Kata might even be worth watching.