An amnesiac trapped behind a mysterious mask is found and bought to a humble village, where the it’s kind people struggle to make ends meet under a greedy and corrupt regime. It isn't long before the powerful stranger makes enemies while defending the people who have shown him kindness, and with the aid of the townspeople, a local clan of warriors and a lot of bravery, it's not long before war threatens to destroy the country.
Utawarerumono is part feudal epic, part mythical fantasy.
It’s hard not to fall in love with the style of this show, as the designs are just fantastic. You only need to look at the DVD inlay to see that someone fell in love with both the setting and the idea of girls with dog-ears and tails, which make for a bizarre and yet somehow endearing aesthetic.
The animation is extremely functional, and sadly the series isn’t as well animated as it deserves to be. Plenty of static shots and pans litter the series, but attention to detail has been paid and the backgrounds generally look fantastic, making it an acceptable sacrifice. The series also uses plenty of CGI lighting to make the image on screen appear in the best possible light (pun intended...)
Similarly, the intro music seems sharply at odds with the fantasy tone employed by the rest of the series, and yet, in this first volume, you may well find yourself hooked.
The story is a slow burner. Yes, there’s action, but Utawarerumono relies on political and social nuances to drive the story forward, and in this repect it’s much like MVM’s Samurai 7. A traditional tone is enhanced by the use of social groupings of villages, clans and samurai warriors, all vying for a place in the country's structure.
This is going to be too slow for some, and it joins an already crowded market of historical/fantasy titles, but it’s interesting and pretty enough to hold its own, and I honestly hope that future plot developments will really make the series shine.