Review: Uraboku

uraboku
It says boys love on the tin, but that’s a lie. Which is a shame, because given how insipid most of the content is, I can only imagine that Uragiri wa Boku no Namae wo Shitteiru (geez, what a mouthful) would be a better show if it had any real yaoi material rather than just teasing at it.

What almost makes things worse is that the overall story has plenty of potential. Yuki, an orphan with empathetic and healing abilities, finds himself caught up in the struggle between the Giou Clan, whose members all have supernatural powers, and Duras, demons who feed on the darkness within human hearts. It might sound similar enough to several other anime out there, but the twist is in its themes of reincarnation. Yuki, always born female in his past lives, was previously very much in love with Luka, himself a powerful Duras who is now allied with the Giou Clan. As you might imagine, this makes for a pretty interesting relationship – both characters are essentially still bound by love and by oath, yet Yuki is now a high school boy and has no recollection of his past life.

This specific plot point should probably have been the focus of the entire show. Just think – a fantasy title that deals primarily with the romantic relationship between two men, both of whom sincerely care for each other, yet one of whom has to face up to the complications of gender and soul transmigration. It needn’t involve any more sexual content than the series already features (which is to say, pretty much none), and could become a downright progressive piece of work for not just the boys love genre but for romance anime as a whole. Sadly, Uraboku never really goes there. The romance between Yuki and Luka is certainly hinted at and occasionally even explicitly mentioned, but the main focus is nearly always on the far weaker action/adventure aspects of the show – which sound cool at first but are usually executed so poorly as to feel downright anticlimactic. The action sequences are often overly drawn-out and melodramatic, the fantastical battles sometimes surprisingly lackluster, and not even the large and varied cast with enough emotional issues to write their own fanfiction can save Uraboku from being not only a little tedious but also unconvincing.

uraboku luka yuki
I give particular reference to the cast because if it wasn’t for the uneven pacing that Uraboku also suffers from, a few of the characters might have been enough to elevate the show from ‘embarrassingly bad’ to at least ‘meh, I guess it’s okay.’ Sure, Tsukumo and his older sister Toko could probably have been erased from the story completely without much affecting the chain of events, Tachibana’s hat is more interesting than the man himself, and I seriously question the sanity of naming Luka’s familiar Sodom. I also have to mention Yuki here again, if only because he sounds like he has severe nasal problems at all times. However, childhood friends Hotsuma and Shuusei are both genuinely compelling characters in their own right, to say nothing of their mutual bond resulting from past dealings with their magical abilities. Kuroto and Senshirou, while both introduced too late in the game to have as big an impact, make for intriguing additions to the team as well, and as head of the Giou Clan, Takashiro has one of the more engaging storylines of the piece.

In contrast, the majority of the villains simply don’t live up to expectation, and rather than add any meaningful conflict or suspense to the story, they bring the tone of the whole thing down. These are supposed to be hugely powerful and beguiling demons who can take on human form in order to tempt and deceive their enemies, but they’re ultimately even more contrived than their ‘goth’ outfits and do nothing in themselves to help offset their cliché dialogue. Our main villain has a getup that makes him look a cross between a visual kei band member and a Nazi officer, but even so might have been taken more seriously than the other baddies were it not for the fact that X/1999 already pulled the same Best Friend/Destined Enemy™ plot point a decade earlier, and did so a thousand times better. It’s not that I disapprove of the angst-fest, but at this point, the scenario has just become too overused to carry much emotional clout.

uraboku kanata
The thing is, all these problems could be overlooked if Uraboku didn’t seem so determined to play everything straight. I’d enjoy a title like this one far more if it stopped taking itself so seriously and went absolutely all out with its campiness. God knows it already has the trappings ready to go: blood-red roses, both black and white feathers flying everywhere, mangled wooden crosses sticking out of the earth… and that’s just in the OP. However, it’s not enough to push things into parody territory, just like sleeveless leather trenchcoats, ostentatious goth jewelry, and moody rock music isn’t enough to carry a series on its own. Uraboku’s look and general style may well appeal to some viewers (especially angsty teenage girls – not that there’s anything inherently wrong with that mind you), but this is just window-dressing for a show that otherwise fails to make any kind of major impression.

It’s a far cry from the worst anime I’ve ever seen, but in short, Uraboku is nowhere near as dark or as badass as it thinks it is. Although a handful of decent characters and a couple of good ideas stop it from being downright terrible, this still isn’t a series I can in good conscience recommend to anyone. If you’re looking for something with a similar kind of atmosphere then try Kuroshitsuji: Book of Circus instead.

Question of the post: Have you seen Uraboku, and if so, what are your thoughts?

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14 thoughts on “Review: Uraboku

  1. I haven’t seen Uraboku yet. But I’m going to give it a try although I’ve read many negative opinions. As for reincarnation theme I really liked Mirage of Blaze and Angel Sanctuary.

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    • I wanted to like Angel Sanctuary, but I just don’t think the anime is very good. Really nice artwork, but way too much content crammed into way too short a time, despite the fact that it was telling only a smidgen of the full story. I don’t read manga as such, but I have no doubt that it far outstrips the OVA. I feel pretty similarly about Mirage of Blaze, though once again, I haven’t read the source material.

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      • Yeah, that’s right, Angel Sanctuary should have more episodes. The manga is much better and more complex. The good thing about OVA is music. Mirage of Blaze isn’t that bad, manga has some boring moments, so I think I prefer anime. Or some doujinshi. ^^

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  2. I researched Uraboku a bit; the source mangaka’s works pre-Uraboku are all categorised as boy’s love (and 1 yaoi), but Uraboku itself is not.
    It’s likely she was drawing on her BL writing experience when writing out the Uraboku characters, but didn’t want to do an explicit BL series again after doing so many. That’s probably why the emphasis wasn’t on the BL.
    I don’t think there’s a conclusive ending to the series; the manga’s been on hiatus since 2012.

    PS. Most times mangaka who use the Nazi visual kei look will claim they used it because “it looks cool” or “because that’s what the fans want”.

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    • I don’t care really care either way about the BL content specifically – I care that this was a pretty bad series (at least as far as the anime is concerned). BL probably would have given it more of a focus, which I think would have made for a better overall series in this case, but mostly it’s just a case of bad pacing and poor writing.

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      • Perhaps something got lost in adaptation, in trying to both conform to both an anime format and be faithful to the source material. Or the source was just bad.

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    • It should have been an interesting concept, and I’m sure it would have been… if that had been the main focus of the show rather than angsty and poorly-written, poorly-paced drama.

      Unfortunately, I don’t think I can recommend you any better anime titles that deal with reincarnation as a core concept. I can certainly think of a few (Angel Sanctuary, Mirage of Blaze, Fushigi Yuugi, Kannazuki no Miko), but I honestly found all these average at very best. You could always try out Kyoukai no Rinne and see what you think of that? It supposedly also has strong themes of reincarnation, although I haven’t seen any of it and have no idea if it’s any good.

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  3. I read the Uraboku manga when it started serializing, but eventually bailed since it took aaaaages for anything to ever happen, and I was irritated by the teasing homoeroticism that never fully committed. I did like some of the characters (Hotsuma and Shuusei; Toko and Tsukumo, whose relationship in the manga is a bit weirder and more intense), but the thing as a whole was so bland that I ceased to care.

    Have you ever seen Blue Seed? Because Uraboku feels like a watered down version of that, although Blue Seed lacks homoeroticism (and does feel a bit dated at this point, although its a decent show).

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    • It sounds like you should probably skip the anime too then, in all honesty. I haven’t read the manga but from what you’ve described, it has similar problems – chief among them glacial pacing and a failure to really commit to some of the characters and their relationships.

      I haven’t seen Blue Seed actually, although I know the title and have seen a few images lying around. Maybe I’ll give it a go at some point, thanks! 🙂

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      • Oh, I actually did see the Uraboku anime when it aired… it’ll probably sound unbelievable, but they did compress the timeframe a decent bit in the conversion! I liked the ED for the anime (it felt sort of throw back-ish to me), and I liked the way they rendered some of the eyes in a glow-y way, but that was about it. Looking back, I don’t know why I finished it, to be honest.

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