The little show almost nobody watched certainly went out with a bang, delivering up a classic finale to one of the most satisfying mysteries anime has seen in many a season.
There was certainly a lot to cover in the final episode, as BONES and (to whatever extent all this was original) Ango-sensei had spun a very complex mystery over the past two weeks. Some speculations turned out to be accurate, some not so much – but for me, the most satisfying moments of the episode were those contained in that final confrontation between Shinjuro and Kaishou – a short conversation with encapsulated so much of what UN-GO has been about for the last eleven weeks.
I was certainly not surprised to discover that Kaishou was indeed alive, as I think that was the direction the series had been pulling us towards for most of this mystery. Equally, it was unsurprising to discover that Hayami was intimately involved in the creation of the fake Kaishou, and indeed it turned out to be the most base of all motivations – love and lust –that apparently drove him. For Kuramitsu, there again was not much hidden depth to her motivations – she was simply a naïve idealist and a bit of a fool, chasing conspiracy theories and telling herself she was manipulating the truth for the benefit of the country. For Mizuno, it was simply a matter of being a double-agent – he being a member of Full Circle as well and driven by his urge to expose the truth of Kaishou’s corruption to the world.
I loved the way all these threads were woven together, and the fact that what mattered in the end was that Kaishou and Shinjuro were the two smartest guys in the room. Hayami, Mizuno and Kuramitsu were simply in over their heads, because Kaishou is the master manipulator. As he so often did, he used Shinjuro as his stalking horse – while Kaishou played dead to prevent the imposter he knew was out there from usurping his power, he left clues – the conflicting train/car stories, the song – knowing that Shinjuro would do the leg work and eventually reveal the truth. For Inga, he was simply beaten down by the belief that Bettenou was a God, and not someone he could defeat. It was only when Shinjuro punctured the Kami’s aura of invincibility that Inga realized he could indeed triumph – Bettenou was just another soul to be devoured. That’s fitting, because more than any other show this season UN-GO has been about the power of words, and especially in Bettenou’s case, perception is reality.
It really seemed that all would be peaches and cream between Shinjuro and Kaishou in the end – it was certainly the dream conclusion for Rie – but I never quite believed it. For while Kuramitsu’s wild fantasies might not have been the truth, that doesn’t mean Kaishou’s hands are clean. In fact, it seems impossible not to assume he killed Mizuno to shut him up about several abuses of power that Shinjuro was about to elaborate on before he was interrupted, their exact nature unclear - though we know they involved collaboration during the war in exchange for profit afterwards. Never was the difference between these two powerhouses more clear than here. Kaishou is the ultimate relativist – disabused of any notion of absolute right or wrong, never mind justice, everything in life is viewed in the form of an equation. Shinjuro, by contrast, does believe in justice and absolute right and wrong – though he’s no naïve idealist after having seen what he has. He simply believes that for every evil there is a righteous justice to be found, and that there is an essential beauty to human nature that can be admired and aspired to. It’s for this ideal that he exposes people’s souls, for the truth to Shinjuro is a Platonic ideal of beauty. For Kaishou, the truth is merely a tool – an extremely powerful tool to be manipulated in the service of what he sees as a larger goal.