What’s it about? With his father dead in an archaeological accident, Takuya Arima has found himself suddenly orphaned… at least, that’s what he thought. One day, with his stepmother busy with her own research work, he receives a mysterious package addressed from his father. The package contains a strange artifact and a letter telling him his father isn’t really dead and instructions on how to meet him again.
Here is what I knew about YU-NO going in:
- It’s based on a 1996 Sega Saturn porn visual novel.
- It was groundbreaking for its time and pioneered game mechanics, including the branching timeline chart used in the Zero Escape games.
- Many Japanese fans consider it to be one of the best visual novels of all time.
- The only previous adaptation was a four-episode hentai OVA made in 1998.
These factors could make for an interesting TV adaptation, minus the graphic sex. After all, I like at least some Fate works. If it has an interesting premise and good writing, there’s no reason why it couldn’t be a well-told story where its characters also have sex sometimes. Porn isn’t always bad.
And thus, I went into YU-NO cautiously optimistic. My heart was open, ready for a new and exciting story to experience. Twenty years later, I could be part of the new generation of YU-NO fans.
And then it was like YU-NO went out of its way to alienate me.
Things looked bad from the first scene. Takuya gets an eyeful of the school nurse’s underwear, followed by some highly inappropriate banter with her referring to his erection. She was also wearing an outfit more appropriate for clubbing, which… hey, if that’s what you like to wear and do, that’s fine, no judgment. But maybe not for your job as a nurse. At a high school.
That’s not exactly surprising. This is based on porn and sometimes it can be hard to shed all the signifiers after a genre shift. But there’s no getting around all the indicators that Takuya fucking sucks. He’s the kind of guy that’ll lie on the ground, looking up someone’s skirt, making rude comments the entire time. He’s a jackass right off the bat, and I wouldn’t want to spend another second following him or anyone like him around.
Most of the rest of the episode proceeds like an extremely rote visual novel adaptation. Takuya has an expository conversation with his best friend while walking down a seemingly endless hallway.
A parade of girls, one after another, appear to have brief conversations with Takuya to establish their relationship with him and disappear into the ether. I don’t remember any of them, except that one is tsundere (“I don’t know why she doesn’t like you,” his friend says, and I shout back at the TV, “Really? It’s pretty obvious to everyone else!”) and one is his young, hot stepmom who he will undoubtedly have sex with.
So by the time the real meat of the story comes in to play, I was totally checked out. If I weren’t getting paid to write this review, I would have turned the episode off long before its end.
It’s too bad, too, because when the story does kick in, it has potential to be interesting. Who doesn’t love an evil corporation forcing through unpopular construction projects, mystical artifacts that arrive under strange circumstances, and mysterious elf-eared girls who inexplicably materialize? (Although the elf-eared girl is extremely naked, because of course she is.)
Despite having never played the game, the setting and music had a soothingly nostalgic quality as well. It might have been worth another episode to see where it was going, at least.
But Takuya is still The Worst, so it’s all for naught.
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