UN-GO and the nature of truth

Episode 6:
From Sakaguchi Ango’s “UN-GO”
A Code Too Simple

What is ‘Truth’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Truth)? Is it necessarily something that is in “agreement with fact and reality”? That is the same no matter how one looks at it? No matter who looks at it?

Or is ‘Truth’ something that is subjective? Something that tends to be interpreted in different ways depending on what one knows about the situation or item in question?

This debate is something that I’ve been turning over in my head for at least the past year and a half, especially after an incident in real life showed me just how easy it is for people to misconstrue something when they are not aware of all relevant information about it. Thus, when I first saw the sixth episode of UN-GO, where the apparent answer changes as each new clue is revealed. Most significantly, bereft of the certain key pieces of information, Yuuki Shinjurou automatically assumes the worst of Kaishou and just about accuses him of letting some children die…

By not doing anything, you effectively let them die.

Warning: major spoilers for UN-GO 6.

To be frank, the different ‘truths’ that each stroke of the brush painted were indeed quite believable. Several episodes later, I remember encountering someone who still believed that Kaishou had indeed committed adultery with his friend’s wife, as this sixth episode had implied early in its storytelling (the reality is that he hadn’t, at least, there is no case for this based on what we were shown). The first few strokes of the brush would easily lead a suspicious person to that conclusion, and the next few to the conclusion that Kaishou had indeed let the children die. However, the entrance of the children onto the scene brought out the final pieces of the puzzle, which was that Kaishou had arranged to have the children saved and taken care of, whilst he did what he could for his friend’s wife.

But the truth is…

The lesson that I found in this episode is simple: reality is seldom as clear-cut as we would like it to be, whether because we want life to be simple and easy, or because we want to believe the worst (I’ve never encountered anyone who ever wanted to assume the best). Sadly, our inclination to believe the worst can cause the situation to spiral into something even more unthinkable. Not in a case like the one covered in UN-GO’s sixth episode, where the reality is straightforward and easily proven, but rather in cases where assumptions are made about intentions rather than actions. The end-result is rather like a self-fulling prophecy: reality is what one makes of it, so-to-speak.

Did I now?

Given the title of this post, you’d be forgiven if you expected me to be discussing Bettennou, a character within this series that has the ability to make what other people say appear to be real. However, UN-GO pointed out something that I’d been forced, by circumstances that I really wish could have been avoided, to learn at the time it was screening: that ‘truth’ is often subjective rather than objective, because people will interpret what they see or hear the way they want. How should one deal with this kind of world?

I’d like to present two suggestions here. A manga I’m reading now touches upon the above question too, in the form of rumours that people spread about others, whether with malicious intent or not. And the response of the main characters has been to make their own judgements, based on what they actually see or hear with their own eyes. This is where Bettennou is so dangerous, because it was quite difficult to escape the illusions she created, and I would say that it’s unfortunate if her ability distracts viewers from the message that I have pointed out. I do hope that more people did – or will one day – think about UN-GO’s underlying commentary about the nature of truth.

To finish off, however, my own suggestion is this: assume positive intent. That is, assume that nothing was ill-intentioned, that no one is or was really trying to deceive you. Although cynics may roll their eyes, I will always maintain that, for the average person, this is the best way to get the most positive outcome – out of what is possible – in the vast majority of situations. And for the minority of cases where one doesn’t think the outcome is all that positive, well, acting based on the worst-case scenario has really damaged someone I know. I say that maintaining one’s mental health is far more important.

p.s. Kazamori is just too cute!

About karice
MAG fan, translator, and localization project manager. I also love musicals, travel and figure skating!

4 Responses to UN-GO and the nature of truth

  1. stefankeys1997 says:

    Reblogged this on The Stefan Keys Blog.


  2. Steve Morris says:

    Yes, although in each case there was an underlying truth that was hidden because of insufficient data. Discovering the truth about complex situations is harder than many people assume.


    • karice says:

      True, and probably unsurprising, because UN-GO is actually based on a set of detective stories by Sakaguchi Ango, so they were always going to be about Shinjurou trying to uncover the truth.

      However, I felt that this episode (no. 6) was the first one that really delved into how different interpretations might be made of the same evidence, depending on what the interpreter believed of the character of the people involved.

      p.s. Thanks for dropping by and commenting!


  3. Pingback: Yuuki Shinjuurou: Character Analysis | The Stefan Keys Blog

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