Utsuro no Hako to Zero no Maria review

Apr 15, 2021
tl;dr: A story with a lot of well thought out and interesting concepts but generally weak implementations of them.

This series I felt was a mixed bag in that it had some good concepts and some decent highs, but it also had some awful lows.  

The first two arcs, which span a volume each, were a solid introduction to a lot of the characters involved. The tone had some dark aspects but it didn’t feel like it was trying to be that heavy and it had some decent comedy. In terms of characters, relationships, etc. it was pretty solid, wherein the relationship between Kazuki and Maria was only beginning to bloom, but had a really solid start. These arcs also had good concepts in terms of mechanics that were implemented in an interesting and intelligent manner with the goal in both instances was to break the mechanics and escape from them essentially. However, how that was carried out was handled in a pretty weak manner that left me far from impressed, so the psychological aspect didn’t feel as strong as it could have been.

The third arc spans the third to fourth volume. The tone gets a decent amount darker and heavier, but it still feels like it’s well written and there’s still some comedy. Kazuki goes through a large amount of growth in such a way that the relationship arc between him and Maria starts getting interesting. Most of the stories of the new characters introduced feel solid as well. This arc still has the same issue as the previous arcs, in that it has interesting mechanics to the plot line, and unlike the previous arcs it actually spends a good amount of time just using those mechanics in various ways in an interesting fashion. However, like with previous arcs, the ultimate goal is to break the mechanics and escape from them, and just as before how that was handled felt kind of weak.

The fourth arc spans the next two volumes and to put it bluntly I felt it was trash. The tone gets even darker and heavier, but to the point that it starts feeling ridiculous and no longer has any impact. One of the main reasons for that is that the story is equally told from Daiya’s view point in addition to Hoshino’s, and Daiya is a pain to read the thoughts of. I thought he was a pretty interesting and likable character in the first three arcs but that completely fizzled away in this one. He has the cringeworthy type of edginess that just sounds like overtly melodramatic whining to me that really got annoying incredibly quickly. His character arc is in getting over that, but the way it was handled with what was focused on did not work out at all. On top of that he just simply pretty dumb. A core part of this arc is relationship drama involving him and Kokone, and I understand and empathize with Kokone, but Daiya’s actions just make him look awful. In addition, there’s also relationship drama involving Kazuki and Maria, which feels painful and completely pointless, which makes the entire arc even more annoying to read. On top of that, this arc was a battle of wits, but it really wasn’t that great of one with everything involved being incredibly simplistic. Regardless, for some reason this arc involves Hishino and Daiya especially overexplaining everything they do to the point it really feels like things are dragging on. Hence, there wasn’t anything of value to be found in this arc at all but rather it was actually kind of a pain to read. 

The final arc I felt was a decent amount different from the other volumes, in that other than the epilogue it was solely focused on Kazuki and Maria’s relationship. This involves some background for Maria, but it ultimately all leads to what’s important. There is still a plot line with mechanics that have to be overcome, but the way it was presented felt very different, wherein in other arcs it felt like it was trying to be something cleverly put together, here it felt like it was just various things put together in order to push the story where it needed to go, and honestly I felt that worked a lot better as the author wasn’t really able to pull off the more intricate aspects very well in previous arcs. There were some parts that felt like they were dragging on, but largely I felt that this was well told and wrapped things up really well. To do so it minimized a lot of what happened in the fourth arc, which may have been a bit forced but was definitely for the best. The epilogue was also really intensive and I think very well put together with a really optimistic tone, and in the end, I would have to say despite the series having an incredibly awful arc, the ending left me satisfied with the series overall. 

As a random note, the illustrations are bizarre. The first volume has a different illustrator from the rest so I understand the illustrations on those being different from the rest, but the rest have a good amount of variance too. The second volume looks pretty different from the third and fourth. And the fourth look dramatically different from all of those, with the characters suddenly looking like they’re adults in their twenties. The last volume brings back the art style form the third and fourth volumes. 


Utsuro no Hako to Zero no Maria
Utsuro no Hako to Zero no Maria
Autor Mikage, Eiji