Dec 18, 2014

Anime Review: Kami-sama no Inai Nichiyōbi

Kami-sama no Inai Nichiyōbi title/logoToying around with Christian imagery and ideas is not a foreign concept to anime (with Evangelion being the most extreme example) but it is often a gimmick or confusing at best. I attribute this mostly to the awkward handling of Western religions in general for Japan, but whatever the cause it is usually either a bit cringey or silly (or both). Fortunately, that isn’t the case here but that may be because other than some lip service there isn’t really anything terribly religious going on. Instead, we get an often clever, challenging, and curious take on death and ethics and so on, mired at times by a confusing delivery that’s trying too hard and a short length that leaves things a bit curtailed though not wholly unfinished.

Ai looks up from her work digging a grave as she wipes her head

Kami-sama no Inai Nichiyōbi (Sunday Without God) begins with a lot of exposition mixed with a clumsy attempt at starting at the end (of the episode) before backing up to show the events leading up. Our little hero Ai Austin returns to find the forty some-odd folks in her little backwater village shot dead in the courtyard and a lone white-haired young man with a still-smoking gun. What follows is a lot of viewer catch-up on who Ai is, why she was in the graveyard carrying an ornamental-looking shovel, and why this dude just straight-up murdered everyone… or did he? He claims to have only immobilized them…

The big problem isn’t the content but the execution, at least initially. This is definitely a series where “give it a shot” matters because it is rather clumsy going in but it does manage to reorient itself later and find a good stride. And again, the content itself is surprisingly interesting and it continues on to find ways to explore philosophical problems without oversimplifying things as black and white.

Scar stands in the foreground as Julie looks on over his shoulder a few paces behind on the path

The basic gist is that roughly fourteen years ago God created a miracle and stopped death. Most of the talk of miracles and superpowers in the show usually end up being a cautionary tale sort of affair. This original one in particular had two downsides: no more children were born, meaning the population has been slowly dying out, and those that do die (or should have) continue as undead without knowing it. Initially, though, they’re still normal and themselves but over time they begin to succumb to instinct more and more, losing their humanity, and eventually becoming your classic wandering half-decomposed moaning zombie. This has also caused many areas of the world to become zombie infested and thus uninhabitable. Only those deemed “grave keepers”, who all seem to function like soulless automata from heaven more so than normal people, have the ability to both detect the dead and put them to rest for good.

If that sounds a little confusing, it kinda is. It’s hard to describe the setting and plot with this one but fortunately that’s part of the appeal as you’re watching. A lot of the show is learning the peculiar elements, although it is a bit short on substantial explanations. Still, it uses the premise to explore some neat ideas, such as the value of immortality, whether the dead can resist the descent into zombification and form cities and culture for themselves, or how to reconcile those with powers and those without.

Ulla, a mysterious princess, and Kiriko, her official medium, stand before a vast and impressive city

If the series has its problems they are most definitely with the initial execution as already explained but also the episodic-ish delivery. It’s very apparent even from the episode naming that groups of about three episodes form a cohesive arc, likely an entire light novel from the adapted source material. They manage to resolve well and to even flow together okay but they do make for a bit of a rushed delivery and one that is punctuated with clear stops. This is both good and bad I suppose. It forces the show to keep moving and not drag its heels but it also leaves little room for mellowing and such on the better ideas it chooses to explore. Still, it manages to work well enough and while it does sort of just end it’s the kind of series that could (and likely does) continue on for quite a while.

All of what I’ve said concerns the plot heavily, as that is the main attraction here, but I should mention that the animation and direction itself is actually quite good. It tends to overuse the Instagram-like effect and the teal-and-orange thing plus lots and lots of bloom but overall it is richly colored, detailed, full of contrast, and has some nice effects and scene directing. The music, sound, and voices are also all just dandy and it’s a fantastic presentation overall, especially for a TV series. Certainly no complaints here.

Dee sits on a chair in front of an open window showing a cloudy sky and Ferris Wheel in the distance

But with all of the good, and I do find this to be a pretty damn good little series, I still… I dunno. It never really grabbed me so I’m left kinda mild about it. That’s probably just me, though. Great visuals mixed with a neat story and idea mixed with occasionally clumsy delivery and some other weak areas. Ai, unfortunately, is a rather lame lead, your typical child-girl type who spends most of her time switching between naïve plucky optimism and timid doormat. It’s never particularly egregious though so I was able to overlook that and still enjoy the whole thing. I’d certainly watch any sequel seasons should they ever get produced. If you like eye candy, a bit of intelligence, and a cohesive fantasy-ish story that isn’t just another swords ‘n sorcery fantasy then definitely give it a shot.

A lone cross sits before a headstone contra jour to the brilliant setting sun, casting a long cross shadow over a grassy knoll filled with other graves

As of this writing, you can watch Kami-sama no Inai Nichiyōbi for free on Crunchyroll.

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