Memories of a Past Life and Love: Musings on “The Betrayal Knows My Name”


There is much to be said for shadows, heartbreak, and betrayal.


The Betrayal Knows My Name, alternately known as Uragiri wa Boku no Namae wo Shitteiru (or Uraboku for short) centers around an orphaned teenage boy named Yuki who is about to graduate high school and move on to his unsure yet promising future. His chances are far from clear, however, as he struggles with empathetic powers of unknown origin and begins receiving anonymous threatening notes that prey on his deepest insecurities. He approaches even this difficulty with love and kindness, but something deep within him is calling out to be heard. One day, new faces appear in his life. Who are these strangers who know his name? A dark, beautiful man named Zess might just hold the answer that he needs, if he can find the strength to remember a past life and love…


Or, to take it directly from MAL:

“Growing up as an orphan, Yuki Sakurai questions his reason for living and ability to see a person’s painful memory by simply touching them. After receiving anonymous notes telling him to die, Yuki is unable to shake off the nagging feeling forming inside of him. Unbeknownst to him, he is being watched, both by people who want to harm him and those who want to protect him.

One foggy night, Yuki’s life is saved by a beautiful man with silver eyes and jet black hair—a man he has never met before yet seems familiar. With the arrival of this mysterious stranger, Yuki’s forgotten past has been awakened and the purpose of his existence has appeared before him.

Uragiri wa Boku no Namae wo Shitteiru tells the story of a teenage boy as he discovers who he is and where he comes from—all while making friends, experiencing betrayal, and slowly piecing together the puzzle of his past.”


As a First Shounen-ai:

It’s worth noting that this series was my first foray into the boy love genre. For the longest time, I told myself that boy love is gay relationship exploited for straight gratification—this because focuses on the romantic relationships between men as a means of drawing in straight, female viewers. As Mayaya asks in the josei title Princess Jellyfish when a gay couple apply to live in their female-only building, “do they think that we will fall all over ourselves at the feet of their amazing gay love just because we are women?” Well, Mayaya, apparently they do, and it has been working; the audience is there.

This experience, however, has been one unlike I assumed; this title was admittedly sort of… um… fujioshi bait… at times, but the fact of the matter was that you could have replaced the main character, Yuki, with a girl and it still would have felt, at least romantically speaking, exactly the same (though the fact that Yuki is a boy is significant to the title for other reasons.) And I liked that; I liked that it wasn’t all about the fact that they’re gay, which is something that I had assumed about the genre rather than experienced.

I liked that it was about two people and their (admittedly confusing) relationship rather than about two GAY MENS OMGOSH LOOK AT THE GAY LOVE FETISH IT. I’m sure that problematic titles exist, especially in yaoi (as opposed to boy love as a genre because they are DIFFERENT; FIGHT ME), but as far as experiences go, I enjoyed this one, and while I don’t think that I’ll seek out boy love for its selfsame sake, it it refreshing to know that not all boy love is what I assumed it to be (though some question, upon further research, how much of a boy love title UraBoku actually is).

I have new information.

Art & Animation:

The studio behind UraBoku, J. C. Staff, is also responsible for Toradora!, Maid-Sama!, and the oft-praised (though I’ve never seen it) Golden Time. Additional works include those such as Honey and Clover (haven’t seen it) and  Nodame Cantabile (fantastic). I couldn’t help but draw comparison between the art style of UraBoku and Vampire Knight; while it does play a role, not just because of the color pallet and tonal (both thematically and coloration) significance shared between the two. 

Please consider the following four images from Vampire Knight:

Please now consider the following four images from UraBoku:

When you combine these images, their art translates between titles well if not seamlessly:

While some don’t favor this sort of “stylized bishie-ism” employed by certain titles, I am one who does; I find it quite distinct, if unrealistic. I appreciate UraBoku’s contrast between light and darkness, as well as the emphasis placed on sharp lines. I actually think I prefer the style present in UraBoku over Vampire Knight because of the additional sharpness and depth of the characters’ eyes amongst other features.

Shows which differ in tone but share a particularly stylized artistry (though not this same “bishie-ism” that I enjoy) include Paradise Kiss and The Wallflower.

The animation itself and as considered apart from the art style is seamless and fluid. I always appreciate good wind effects. A quality title never skimps on animation in favor of its still art; neither does UraBoku. ❤

I found the elements of setting, mise-en-scene, and color scheme blended well with the art style to create something both dark and hopeful, something entirely beautiful to look at.

Plot:

As I watch, I wait for Yuki to take action; that’s not to say that he is completely without initiative, but rather that, in the way of so many reverse harem protagonists, he is left under-powered to enhance the perceived ability of our attractive male leads. Yuki is, after all, at the center of the drama—a princess of sorts to be protected, and I do mean princess, despite the fact that Yuki is a boy.

Because, you see, Yuki was a girl, once upon a time.

I found a great deal of the plot potential and execution fascinating, however, it did have common—as mentioned above—shoujo-related pitfalls similar to those you’d find in any typical reverse harem supernatural series. Also, the show suffered greatly from a “drop them into the plot without preface and let them figure it out as they go” syndrome; for me, this isn’t as big of an issue—because I’m that girl who willingly opens a book to the middle, reads to the end, and then goes back and reads the beginning (apparently this is strange)—but it is objectively a major drawback to the series, especially regarding those plot points and reasonings that were never fully explained. These were frustratingly numerous.

Much like the cinematic Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, if the show was intended for audiences who were already familiar with the source material, then perhaps the information given would be enough. However, it is also the case that much of anime is made to drive its viewership toward the associated manga. This is done by:

  • (A) hooking the audience on the title through a well explained anime with an incomplete/alternate ending OR
  • (B) dangling just enough background information in front of the audience to keep them enraptured abet confused. When conclusion is not reached, they will demand further clarification about a title if it is one they otherwise greatly enjoyed.

If the latter was the anime’s intent, it has done its job. 

Moving away from pitfalls, an idea that really stood out to me was that Yuki’s soul, his/her essence, defied and transcended gender. And it didn’t matter to Luka whether Yuki was a boy or a girl (though he obviously missed the female Yuki from his previous life), because as he says in episode five, their soul is the same. The title makes no secret of Luka’s lingering attachment to Yuki, but whether or not the two end up romantically involved is unclear; the issue of their sexual attraction is left untouched, but I think that as much supports the greater point: sexual attraction doesn’t matter to this complicated (yet incredibly straightforward?) relationship that nearly transcends romance. I personally don’t think that Luka likes men, but Luka deeply loves and is dedicated to Yuki’s soul, and that’s enough.

The religious imagery and context was also well utilized, if not always deeply meaningful.

I’m watching this; why do I want to cry now? </3 (I should feature this on an AMV/CMV Sat.)

The genre of this title is clearly a romantic drama, but true comedy does enter at the advent of the Twilight Manson, so all in all, I find it from this point to be submersive and well balanced.

Characters:

This title didn’t “type” it’s characters into obvious molds, and I appreciate that; I could type them if I so desired, but I do not and so I won’t. I thought the main characters, Luka and Yuki, were well fleshed out, even if the anime only dropped hints as to Luka’s origins; they felt complete in and of themselves, as if they were believable people with unique hopes and desires. On top of this, many among the host of side characters felt complete enough to be considered main characters of a sort, if only considering their own ongoing struggles and developing relationships.

Related image
Siblings Toko and Tsukumo rely on each other as partner Zweilt Guardians.
Image result for hotsuma and shusei
Partners Shusei and Hotsuma are bound my more than their guardianship duties.
Image result for uraboku kuroto senshiro
Partners Kuroto and Senshiro share a common enemy, but Senshiro looks at Kuroto on level deeper than brotherhood as he mourns with him down his path of revenge…

I felt for each character as they struggled though their unique situations, and I felt as though they were comprised of enough depth to be believable even if one didn’t know their specific backgrounds.

The Future:

UraBoku was seemingly intended to continue into a second season, but no second season has been made or announced for this 2010,  twenty-four episode title. The manga is still ongoing, so some slim hope exists, but…

I mean, even Attack on Titan didn’t leave people waiting for eight years.

The manga is, however, available in English, and I plan to head there next. What I also have hope for is that Funimation may yet dub this title that it has rights to. While I don’t think the chance significant by any means, I’m not willing to discount the possibility entirely while Funi still holds distribution rights.


What do you think about UraBoku? Have you seen it? Does this discussion make you plan to? Let me know in the comments below!

~Shoujo ❤

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4 thoughts on “Memories of a Past Life and Love: Musings on “The Betrayal Knows My Name”

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