Uchouten Kazoku 2 – 03

The Gist: Benten returns and crushes Tenmaya, who is both obsessed with and terrified of her. Yasaburou and his mother Tousen visit Tousen’s mother, an ancient white fluffy tanuki, and ask for help turning frog-brother back to normal. The grandmother is blind, kind, and cryptic, but offers some medicine.

Later, Yasaburou and his little brother visit Nadaime’s new location, which is a lovely roof top mansion, and share some afternoon tea. Benten shows up and completely fails to dominate Nadaime. Major magical conflict can not be far off now…

As is often the case, Uchouten Kazoku wandered us through several lovely, dialogue-heavy scenes that straddle the line between inconsequential and deeply magical. However, because Uchouten Kazoku treats its magical settings and characters as everyday occurrences, exposition is kept to a minimum.

What is grandmother’s place in tanuki culture? What are the other tanuki doing around grandmother? Is it a ceremony simply because she is old or is she part of the shrine or something else? Leaving us with a heavily detailed but unknowable scene renders it dreamlike. Captivating.

The rise and fall of Benten is more or less the defining arc this week. As with Nadaime, she abruptly falls from the sky full of power and crushes Tenmaya. While we learn no details about their rivalry, and Benten is almost as interested in Yasaburou’s moon (stolen by Tenmaya) as she is in Tenmaya himself.

Here Benten is full of power and flaunts it. Yasaburou has no course but to ask very nicely for his moon back and Tenmaya has no choice but to shed his fake skin and flee. Benten casually rolls the moon around her fingers and, when she tires of it, simply throws it back into the sky before demanding even more courtesy from Yasaburou and wandering off to visit her master.

That domination comes to a quick end when Benten arrives at Nadaime’s new house and arrogantly lays down on the couch Nadaime had planned to use for his afternoon nap. Always polite, Nadaime asks her to leave and when she will not, he spreads a sheet on the floor and dumps her out. Paying her no mind, he thanks everyone for their visit and gets ready to nap.

The contrast between Nadaime and Benten is rather interesting. Both are powerful and throw their weight around but it is hard to figure out which is ‘good’ or not. Despite her malice and abuse, Benten seems to care for Yasaburou. (At least she cares enough to want his attention) Where as Nadaime, despite being generally polite in dialog, is obviously dismissive of Tenuki in general. He’s tolerant of them, but does not especially desire to have them around.

The Verdict: Despite the masterful craft poured into Uchouten Kazoku, it is not always an exciting nor engaging show to watch. Again, as last week, episode three was full of action, characters and conflict, but it lacked a sense of purpose. Nadaime’s shirt ironing, Yasaburou’s grandmother, and Benten playing with the moon were all interesting curiosities but, not counting Nadaime and Benten’s cliffhanger showdown, nothing consequential actually happened.

Uchouten Kazoku 2 – 02

The Gist: Akadama and Nidaime’s top-dog Tengu fight ends before it even begins, with Akadama falling off the building and Nidaime not seeing his father being worth the effort to fight. For whatever reason, Akadama takes this as a victory, which Yasaburou thinks is patently absurd.

Though perhaps that’s Nidaime’s point in not calling himself a Tengu? The very definition of Tengu may project an arrogance that he finds unnecessary and unproductive.

Meanwhile, a noodle shop opens on the roof of the shopping arcade and the owner wont take it down. Apparently, he can extend his chin as a whip, amongst various other illusions and even Yasaburou’s foolishness is not enough to win the day. Actually, Yasaburou ends up a hypnotized bear, and is nearly shot by the police…

This conflict leads to a few passing confrontations between Yasaburou and his formerly betrothed, who’s angsty at him for a variety of things but, most obviously, that they are no longer engaged. Even though Yasaburou is the only one who doesn’t realize there’s no reason for them not to be engaged anymore…

It also leads to the introduction of a painter who doesn’t want to sell his paintings and reveals the name and identity of the noodle shop owner. Tenmaya, who appears magical but is also consistently referred to as just human, apparently climbed out of a painting of hell because the painter illustrated a Buddha holding a spider’s thread out to the damned… it’s unclear who the painting belongs to or what the significance of all of this is. (Tenmaya doesn’t seem to want anything from life except amusement)

What is clear is that Yasaburou probably shouldn’t have tried to scare Tenmaya by turning into a demon, which is where the episode ends. A shotgun pointed right in our poor foolish hero’s face…

The official theme this week is that we are in the age in which Man plays tricks on Tenuki. However, for me, the story was more about the world not being able to move forward. (or not being aware of its lack of forward development)

Akadama is not only stuck in the tradition of Tengu, but also stuck on his conflict with his son. Despite his rejection of Tengu, Nadaime hasn’t moved ahead himself, which is evident from his characterization of Akadama being pathetic because he interacts with Tenuki, and Nadaime’s somewhat vaguely contradictory like/disrespect of Yasaburou throughout their encounters.

Yasaburou is stuck in last season’s position of servitude to the community, pranking around without purpose, and with not advancing his relationships with family and his love interest. He doesn’t exactly have a strong narrative reason to have changed, but he hasn’t changed regardless.

The Verdict: Uchouten Kazoku takes a casual approach to narrative. It just sorta wanders all over the place, touching on many different story threads, but without any sense of specific purpose. This very much fits the nature of Tenuki, and the experience is enjoyable enough due to the odd and specifically weird situations, but it does risk becoming so whimsical as to lose my attention.

It’s already somewhat hard to follow, due to the gigantic cast, many of which can shape-change and many others who simply don’t get enough story time for me to remember who they are or what their objectives may be.

For now, the magic has me under it’s spell. However, like Akadama, I too miss Benten and the sense of specific adversarial focus she brings. Hopefully, we’ll see her sooner than later…

Uchouten Kazoku 2 – 01 (First Impressions)

The Gist: the stage is set some time after the events that closed the first season, with the cast serving mostly familiar roles. The Shimogamo brothers are an eclectic, often disrespected, but equally relied upon members of the Tenuki community.

Yasaburou continues to take care of the elderly Akadama-sensei, who appears a bit depressed now that Benten is on an extended vacation. Yasaburou’s older brother is still vying for the position of leadership amongst the Tanuki, the youngest brother is immersed in books and his own world, and the second brother is still a frog at the bottom of the well. Fools’ blood all around but fools’ blood where we would expect it.

One day, while Yasaburou is searching for a mythical snake, a couch falls from the sky. Eventually, this leads him to meet Akadama-sensei’s son, who’s returned after over a hundred years in exile. While their exchanges are guarded, the two wayward sons seem to bond over clever and polite banter. However, it’s obvious that Akadama’s son will be a source of major conflict.

Sure enough, by the end of the evening, Father and son stand on a roof ready to duel…

At it’s core, this opening episode is a leisurely exploration of nostalgia and the challenges of tradition (or, perhaps, generally grappling with the past).

Yasaburou’s snake-hunt is something his father own father played at long ago. It’s even how his father and mother met, which Yasaburou attributes as the singular reason he and his four brothers exist.

Meanwhile, Yasaburou’s older brother is attempting to revive the town’s shoji tournament, which has not been run since their father was cooked in a hot pot. Not only does this repeat the shadow of the father motif, but it reinforces the older brother’s need to retain the family place as an upstanding leader in the community. It’s strongly implied this will let him tanuki-bang the wide eye’d girl at the clinic too.

Double meanwhile, Akadama and his son have an unavoidable need to battle, due to their traditional pride as tengu. However, neither seems up for that tradition (Akadama physically and his son emotionally). It’s comical to see the modern tengu, a classless lot, dressed like dime store mobsters, egg them on from afar. As Akadama’s son says when he first meets them: if you’re tengu, at least put some pride in it.

You should probably watch Uchouten Kazoku’s second season because the first was a lovely, whimsical tale of weirdness. While the narrative buildup and payoff, and the tension along the way lacked the emotional impact of other weird-genre shows (Tamako Market, Tatami Galaxy, Mr.Despair), Uchouten Kazoku absolutely rules the roost for world-building. Only Durarara!! comes close.

You may choose to skip Uchouten Kazoku because it’s destined to be a slow build with an all-too-uneventful finish. While the high concepts appeal to me, and pose a creative challenge to tease out and express via review, I must admit that academic focus creates a barrier between the story and emotionally resonant action and conventional drama.

The Verdict: Uchouten Kazoku is solidly enjoyable to look at and confidently cool. Despite being a slow burn, it presents a lot to absorb; at times, too quickly for me to read without pausing.

But that’s hardly a complaint, as re-watching and rewinding lets me revel in its wonderful camera angles, solid color work, imaginative facial expressions, character designs and gestures. The music choices haven’t stuck with me but that also means I have no complaints about them either.

Kamisama no Inai Nichiyoubi – 13

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If one were to name a blemish of Sunday Without God, it’s that the show ended before Ai’s original mission to Save The World That God Abandoned could truly get goingin earnest. Granted, it was a naive, audacious mission devised by a tween, and it is true in this world that the best laid plans of graveskeepers and their retinue often go awry. This special (which came with the final disc volumes of the series) does not aim to mend that blemish, nor should it be expected to. It’s just an extra episode, split into three vignettes showing scenes of the series we weren’t privy to the last time round.

The first is the…least good; it’s just an onsen scene packed with fanservice. If one had to analyze it, you could call it something of an incomplete fable centered around boobs and the women who own them. Scar has the biggest boobs, but has never noticed (and hence enjoyed) them. Dee also has good size boobs, but being a ghost, she’s the only one who can touch them. Ai, who is alive and has physical form, is able to enjoy boobs, but at her age has none to speak of. There’s similar situation with the guys: Yuri is old yet ripped; Alice is young yet…not ripped.

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The second vignette is Alice-centric, as he wanders through a ruined Ostia going over his actions in the looping dreamworld in which he’d been trapped. Dee is notably absent from this, but he eventually runs into Hampnie, and they have a little duel in which shots are fired but we don’t see the outcome. Alice is roused from his reminiscing by Dee, and he continues to contemplate how “foolishness can’t be cured, even by death.”

The third and final vignette shows a wounded Hampnie wandering into some very beautiful church ruins. There he finds his future lover Hana bathing, looking every bit like her daughter Ai as a full-grown woman; somewhat interesting symmetry from the hot spring segment. She asks him to join her, and he accepts. Then he’s woken up by the product of that meeting: Ai herself. While none of the three vignettes are particularly momentous (and the first one is just silly); the special does what a special should do: provide a brief return to a world we fell in love with, adding a smidgen of depth and color to it in the process.


Rating: 6 (Good)

Kamisama no Inai Nichiyoubi – 12 (Fin)

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Sunday Without God comes to a moving close full of twists, tears, and drama. First of all, when Dee sees Alice and Ai playing basketball, she decides to end the status quo right then and there by making Class 3-4 remember the incident that led to their wish, then makes them act out April 28 as she jumps from the window once more, bringing it all to an end. But not only does Alice have no intention of letting Dee disappear, but Dee wasn’t even dead to begin with; he was.

In a twist that we were too preoccupied with Dee to ever see coming, it’s revealed that he was the one that had fallen to his death while trying to save Dee, and then forgot when he got caught up in the loops. The wish he got was Buzzer Beater, while Class 3-4 wished not for him to come back to life, but for eternity, a semantic difference that ends up making a huge difference in everyone’s lives. Alice and Dee aren’t as unaffected from the loops as they had thought, resulting in roughly fourteen years of believing the wrong person died.

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The scene of a leaping Dee being caught at the last second by Alice, who in turn is caught by Ai and the rest of the class, is stirring, poignant moment that also illustrates conceptually what takes place to complete this arc: Dee resigns herself to a false fate but Alice saves her, and in the very end, Ai makes a wish that saves Alice. There’s a great “this is it!” finality to watching the town vanish as its inhabitants clear out, once the truth is known, but it turns out not to be the end for Dee or Alice.

Was that a cheat? It’s a matter of preference, but we didn’t think so. The ending followed the rules the show had established from the start: in abandoning the world and ending death, God gave people what He thought they wanted. It became a world where wishes could come true, and they did, resulting in all of the colorful characters with strange powers we’ve has come across. Alice had come to mean a great deal to Ai, so it’s no surprise she wished not to forget he ever existed, or for things to go back to happier times and never change. She simply wished for him to remain in her world.

9_superiorRating: 9 (Superior)
Final Cumulative Rating: 7.833
MyAnimeList Score (as of 1/5/14): 7.72

Kamisama no Inai Nichiyoubi – 11

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This week more of the mystery of Class 3-4 is revealed, testing our theories about what’s going on, while Ai is caught between two people with differing goals hoping to enlist her aid, when all she wants is a resolution amicable to all parties involved, which may not be possible. Turns out we were right about Dee falling out that window, but it wasn’t her wish for what ultimately became the timeloop; it was the rest of the class. After that, for fourteen years she stayed by the side of Alice, someone she knew was a nice guy but had barely spoken to before her fall.

So here we have Dee desperate to keep the looping world going, not only because she doesn’t want to disappear, but because she wants to keep living in a world with Alice, even if she doesn’t deserve to have him return her feelings. She’s so desperate, she even killed Alice many loops ago in hopes that his need to break the timeloop would reset when he respawned. Instead, he was granted Buzzer Beater, which made his passion of basketball a meaningless bore, since he could never miss again. And he continued to save the world—the only world where Dee could remain alive—by destroying it.

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We hear much of this from Alice’s own mouth, both in narration and in an initially tense scene in the library with Ai, when we’re not sure just how far she’s willing to go to maintain the status quo. And while Alice considers her “the enemy”, she doesn’t come off as a villain at all; she’s just trying to survive, and doesn’t want Alice, someone whom she’s fallen in love with, put in the position where he’d make any sacrifice to save Class 3-4, since that would make her “useless” to him. In any case, we’re sympathetic to her cause, selfish as it is, and so is Ai.

No, Dee’s no villain; if anything, she’s a victim. For one thing, someone really should have been spotting her on that tall ladder. Secondly, the class made the wish, not her. Thirdly, barring the magical cure-all solution Ai holds out hope for, things don’t look good for Dee or the status quo, as the very presence of Ai in Class 3-4 is gradually destabilizing the false world, drawing it closer to collapse. Alice remarks that granted wishes keep people from moving forward, but it’s small comfort for someone like Dee who literally can’t. We’ll see in the final outing if Alice means with he says, and after fourteen years with Dee, if moving forward is worth her sacrifice.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Kamisama no Inai Nichiyoubi – 10

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Ever since he first met Ai at Goran (and not Ortus, as we had thought; Lion Mask Guy was apparently someone else), Alice Color has remained pretty vague about what he’s trying to do and why; of course, one could accuse Ai of being vague about saving the world to, but in her case, it’s because she doesn’t know quite how to do that yet. Both Alice and the show have dropped hints here and there, but nothing solid until now, when images like the Ferris Wheel, ruined cathedral, and open window finally gain a measure of context.

In the strongest episode of Sunday since the Ortus arc wrapped, we, along with Ai, Yuri, Scar and Celica, finally gain access to the world Alice means to “save through destruction”, a that statement finally makes sense. Unlike Ortus, a city of the dead in the real world, Alice’s world is a city of the living in a false world, one he’s been adding people to in an effort to break the unending one-year timeloop in which he and his Class 3-4 is trapped. The episode begins with a bang—several, actually—as Alice guns down his entire class without any explanation, only to see them reappear outside, unharmed and unaware. Needless to say, the episode had our attention right then and there.

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A further gravity and sense of occasion is lent by the ominously dark entrance to this world, and Alice’s warning that AI & Co. won’t be able to leave until all is resolved. Once we’re there, seeing it from the perspectives of Ai, Yuri, and Scar, it doesn’t seem that bad of a place; peaceful, full of friendly living people; etc. Still, we can’t blame Alice—one of only two people who are aware of the looping—for wanting to bring an end to something that’s not supposed to be; something that was likely the result of someone’s powerful wish. Once in this world, Alice still withholds one nugget from the others, letting them form their own impressions first.

When he’s ready, he tells them he has an enemy in this looping dreamworld: Dee Ensy Startmitos. What’s more, there’s a strong inkling that Dee fell out the classroom window, and before dying, made the wish that set everything in motion. It explains why she’s a ghost in the real world, but solid in the fake; it explains why she’s the only other person aware of the loops; and it explains why Alice considers her an enemy: she doesn’t want the world to end. Further evidence of this is when says she’s hopeful Ai will want to stay there forever. It’s a very clever, intricate, meaty scenario with no obviously apparent resolution.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Kamisama no Inai Nichiyoubi – 09

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The latest system Ai comes across on her re-started journey is more personal than Goran: the system of how gravekeepers are created. While we witness the process itself, its actual workings remain wholly magical and mysterious, and thankfully the episode doesn’t get bogged down in silly details. Suffice it to say remote wastelands full of fog and crystals like “Story Circle” (awful name) are the prime spot for Gravekeeper-spawning.

We still don’t quite understand the bond between Scar and her adoptive daughter Celica, and her running away happened offscreen. Maybe that’s intentional; as Ai was dealing with Goran, the world kept spinning, and people changed. Scar’s time with Ai, Yuri, and Celica awakened emotions gravekeepers aren’t supposed to have, leading to an existential crisis and her flight to her birthplace. But as its little more than a factory for drones, she finds no comfort or answers there, now that she’s a changed woman.

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Scar chooses to embrace her new world with Yuri and Celica, and a family is born in the birthplace of Gravekeepers. Meanwhile, Yuri, Alice and Ai all experience visions of their past, and Ai in particular is disturbed by the polite but emotionless identical newborn gravekeepers who are more force of nature than people. She also tentatively agrees to help Alice in his fight to save his world, “Class 3-4,” as long as the world is saved.

Ai has become quite skilled at helping people: fulfilling her father’s dream to die happy; Tanya returning to her family, bringing Yuri, Scar and Celica together, and even making sure Alice’s birthday is properly celebrated (camp cake FTW!). She also knows if she wants to achieve her own dream, she can’t turn down help from people with similar-sounding goals like Alice, even if he uses words like “destroy.” It’s a little worrying that things seem to be heading towards another school setting, but we won’t underestimate the show’s ability to surprise.

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

Kamisama no Inai Nichiyoubi – 08

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That last scene in the aqueduct was just a tease; we actually had to wait until the end of this episode for the Posse of Disgruntled Mutants to escape from Goran Academy. The hitch in the plan turns out not to be any kind of security, which the school apparently lacks, but in the resolve of some of the posse’s members, which in turn causes Ai to waver.

She’s only been outside of her village a half-month (which actually sounds about right to us), after all. What does she really know of the world? Sorry, worlds…as her new friend Alice explains, there are two, the objective and subjective. While Ai isn’t sure how she’s going to save the world, he knows how he’s going to save his: by destroying it. How and why, he’s not kind enough to say, but such a position surely portends a rift in relations with Ai; we’re certain she doesn’t want to destroy anything. Maybe Alice is just being overly ominous?

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Anyway, as we said, the very large suspicious-looking gang does eventually escape from Goran, which by default makes this episode better than the last, but that wasn’t all we liked. Most of the gang are still flimsy caricatures, but they were less offensively vapid this time around, and were mostly in the background as our favorite of the bunch, Tanya, was the focus. She has a good, serviceable story: born blind, wished for sight, got the Reirigan instead. Her parents were fine with it, the village wasn’t.

Rather than cause her parents—her whole world, as Ai remarks—trouble and pain, Tanya chose to separate herself from that world. Ai’s wide-eyed optimism starts to overwhelm Tanya, but Ai’s zeal and persistence eventually wrests her from her self-imposed limbo, despite Ai not having any solid argument beyond “C’mon, it’ll be fine!” By piling into Yuri’s microbus (great timing!), Tanya and the others are choosing to believe they can make it in the world beyond Goran. If all else fails, they have a couple of skilled marksmen on their team.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Kamisama no Inai Nichiyoubi – 07

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The next system Ai must face is school, and not altogether surprisingly. She is a child, after all, and children belong in school, if only to “isolate them from the rest of society so that they don’t impede its functioning”, as Hampnie rather hilariously put it. Not to mention children are a dwindling resource in the world, to the point this particular school, Goran Academy, receives generous government stipends for every child they capture in their murdered-out Dodge Chargers (which Yuri’s rundown microbus thankfully can’t hope to catch up to, in a nice bit of automotive accuracy).

Goran in particular rounds up children who’ve had brushes with death. They made powerful wishes that influenced the lives they managed to cling to. The “School for Gifted Youngsters” is a very well-tread trope both within and without anime, from Harry Potter to Soul Eater (the titular protagonist of which shares his voice with Sunday’s Alis Color), and it makes sense for schools to grow ever more “protective” of children in a world where they’re no longer made. But even if it made sense most of the time, this seventh episode was still a bit of a stinker, especially relative to the first six.

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We were looking forward to Ai’s road trip with Yuri and Scar (and Scar’s baby too!) to proceed apace after leaving Ortus. Nothing like having Ai suddenly spirited away to a prison-school to abruptly arrest the momentum of both her mission to Save The World. We also felt the episode was overstuffed with technicolor characters who weren’t interesting just because they have special powers. In fact, most of them were downright dreadful, save maybe Tanya, who at least had something quintessentially Sunday Without God-ly to say about Ai’s “sound”, which she  compared to a moonbow, of all things.

It’s a credit to the episode that right after things are at their most dire, when Alice breaks into the girl’s bath, the episode starts getting better, as if sensing our displeasure with things so far. The boys aren’t trying to sneak a peek, you see (and the show mercifully refrains from age-inappropriate fanservice): they’re trying to escape from the school. Moreover, Alice’s ghostly familiar Dee tells Ai that the three of them were destined to meet. Perhaps, along with all those other hastily-introduced characters, they’re all meant to aid Ai in her world-saving fight? In any case, this episode had some good parts, but it was still half-bad…and we don’t mean morally-ambiguous!


Rating: 5 (Average)

Kamisama no Inai Nichiyoubi – 06

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There’s a solemn, melancholy beauty in the ceremony performed by Princess Ulla, revealed to be the Idol of Murder who takes life from the living so they can be admitted Ortus. The hundred-plus whose lives she takes do so of their own free will, having come for no other purpose. When they rise to join the death of the city, they’re elated and relieved. Even when we later learn that she was partially aware of what was going on, we can’t really call Ulla evil.

Since he first met her when she was a tiny, adorable little kid, Kiriko has treated Ulla as a precious artifact, isolated from the harshness of the world and even the truth about her power. But we can’t really even be mad at him for doing so. He loves her, and swore she’d never come to harm, and the truth hurts. Instead, he waited for the time when there would be no more living for Ulla to kill; even if that meant she’d grow old and frail in the process. Even if he deceived her and obstructed her free will, we can’t really call Kiriko evil.

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Too many anime deal with immensely-powerful, insidious, oppressive, greed-driven, categorically evil, boring systems with real-world parallels to politics and/or religion, leaving the audience no doubt who to root against. It takes great skill and care to contrive a similarly powerful system with the initial trappings of malignancy that refrains from doling out facile moral conclusions that go down easy. Sunday Without God does this. Neither pure evil nor easy answers exist in this world. For all its imposing battlements and foreboding towers, Ortus is a dazzling, wondrous place, surging with life despite the status of its citizens.

In the last episode we opined: “Why should Ortus change if their system is working out brilliantly for them?” In this episode, we get the answer: they shouldn’t. Death isn’t some curse or dark affliction: death comes to all. No one, not even Hampnie, can escape it, or ever will. But Ortus is proof that burial need not immediately follow death, at least for all. On a planet abandoned by God, a measure of mankind dwells in a heaven of their own making—imperfect, but serene.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

 

Kamisama no Inai Nichiyoubi – 05

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Ai moved up fast this week, having met the retainer of the Princess of Ortus in the back of the van, then Pox, Rex, and the royal doctor Diva, and finally Princess Ulla Eulesse Heckmatika herself (that’s a mouthful, but she’s royalty, so we’ll allow it.) She finds all of them to be friendly, kind, and hospitable. So she wonders: why can’t the living, dead, and gravediggers live in harmony in Ortus? Why is death only way to become a citizen?

There’s no straight answer, but history, trust, and fear clearly all play a role. The dead had been oppressed and forced to wander the earth because the living feared they’d turn into monsters. That oppression rendered most of the dead unable to trust anyone who wasn’t. Finally, it’s precisely because Ortus is so large and grand and happy a place that the dead who live there fear losing everything they’ve built if they’re not constantly vigilant.

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As a practical issue, that fear seems misplaced: they’ve been able to handily deal with any gravediggers who came by, while gravediggers are too rare to muster a force large enough to overpower the city. Yet the fear remains. Moreover, the living who wish to remain so either stay away or limit their contact to trade, while the living who wish to be citizens of Ortus must give up their lives. In short, Ortus’ system is working out just fine…for them. Why should they change it?

This episode wasn’t quite as strong as the last five, juggling lots of plot less elegantly as previous outings (plus Dr. Diva was kind of annoying). Still, there was lots to like: the lion-mask guy’s warning preceding a large group of cloaked people approaching Ortus, only to learn they were peaceful migrants, not raiders? Nice misdirection. Also, the show’s unrelenting truth onslaught on Ai continues, showing her new friend Princess Ulla participating in the “acceptance” (read: killing) ceremony.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Kamisama no Inai Nichiyoubi – 04

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Sunday Without God continues to impress with its flair for quickly and efficiently building its world and mythos without losing the sense of awe and grandeur. With one last glance at the valley that was her entire world, she, Yuri and Scar set off in rundown old Volkswagen Kombi, and the scale of the world expands exponentially, along with the possibilities.

Kiriko, the young mugging victim they find in the back seat, serves as their key to the first landmark on their journey, and awe-wise, it’s quite a doozy. Ortus, population 1 million-plus, is one of those vast, gorgeous old city-states we love to see in fantasy works. The episode perfectly captures the wonder and excitement in the lush way the city is lit the first time Ai sees it. Ai is a particularly easy heroine to like and connect with, since like us she’s seeing everything for the first time, and soaking it up like a sponge.

Regarding her youthful enthusiasm about her mission to Save The World That God Abandoned as recited to Kiriko, we appreciate nods to the fact Ai is still twelve after all (her ‘out of the mouth of babes’ moment to Pox/Rex was also adorably (adorbs?) meta).

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But Ortus doesn’t just represent a new paradigm for what constitutes the world, but also fundamentally calls into question Ai’s defining ideals, when it’s explained to her Ortus is a city-state of, by, and for the dead, and the dead alone.

Commenter Cytrus told us Ai wasn’t in store for more Foes-of-the-Week like he gang that killed her father, but rather “systems, truths and ideals,” something we’re decidedly jazzed about; that’s far more interesting than glorified zombie-hunting. Ortus is one of those systems; an ordinary city full of ordinary people living ordinary lives, only they’re all technically dead; a place where the very idea of a gravedigger is anathema; and yet a place that Ai cannot deny has just as much as right to exist as she does.

What’s sad for Ai is that the living and dead aren’t co-existing; the living who trade with Ortus are segregated. Without the aid of the Kindly Kiriko and Pox/Rex, Ai wouldn’t have even been able to enter the city. When she sneaks out she has to wear a mask, and even then, a random passerby grabs her playbill and curtly tells her to leave. Thus “Saving the World” may not mean giving all of the dead a burial, but finding a way to bring people together.

9_superior
Rating: 9 (Superior)