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)

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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.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

 

Kamisama no Inai Nichiyoubi – 03

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Stars above, that was one hell of an opening arc. We sorely regret not picking up this series last Summer, as we ended up watching several inferior shows. An inferior show, by the way, might’ve had the entire twelve episodes be about Ai solving the mystery of the village. Sunday Without God gets the job done in just over an hour’s worth of episodes, but what a just over an hour!

In this third episode, we learn what drives Hampnie (the search for his lover Hana), that he’s a little ridiculous in his fighting style (using grenades in suicide attacks), has “fans” among the more colorful half-dead underbelly (all of whom wouldn’t look out of place in Alice in Wonderland). We also learn he wants to die, but later find out not just to die, but to die happy, with many mourners and few regrets. When the whimsical baddies kidnap and torture him, Ai receives the aid of Yuri and Scar, who seem to have been helpfully shadowing her and Hampnie all along.

It’s around now when all of the pieces fall into place for Ai: both that the “heaven” her mother created was a peaceful haven of walking dead who stayed alive for her sake, and that Hampnie really is her real father, and someone she must save, not only from the baddies, but from his own self-loathing caricature of himself as an “immortal monster.”

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She just happens to resolve to do this whilst clutching her wet-from-the-river underwear, another unexpected but wry infusion of comedy to cut through the drama without lessening it, something this show has a penchant for.

Hampnie’s rescue is fantastic, with Ai, Yuri and Scar crashing the baddies’ party, unironically filling the dark barn with a wash of pure light. Now that Ai’s seen the light and knows the truth, she tells it to Hampnie, who can’t help but believe her after dismissing her as an airheaded goof earlier. We get some nifty visual poetry as the rescuers battle the baddies, and then something happens: just when he learns he has a daughter and doesn’t want to die anymore…he does.

Ai Astin then has one bittersweet, love-filled day—just one—with her postmortem father (whose real name is Kizuna Astin), before reluctantly letting him go via burial. Man, this kid grows up fast. Her parents and the villagers may be gone, but she’s far from alone: she has whole world to save, and new friends to help her save it, from foes we presume will be tougher than this week’s pushover gang.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Kamisama no Inai Nichiyoubi – 02

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Pardon our use of such a tired term, but there was so much win in this episode. It put poor Ai through more hell as we learn along with her the harsh truths of the world from the immortal but not infallible Hampnie. Hampnie is initially so cold and cruel to her not because he bears her personal malice (as the hunter Yuri bears him), but because he doesn’t think she can cut it in the real world, which is always malicious and preys on the ignorance.

We could do with less of Hampnie slugging Ai in the face, but we can’t deny he knows more about what’s out there than Ai, and he may well be right in a lot of what he says to dissuade Ai from pursuing a life of gravedigging, even if he was wrong about her not being one; that was a great moment when Scar tells him Ai did a bang-up job. And for all of the dark philosophizing, there’s still a lighter element of comedy weaved into the pair’s interactions.

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There’s a great chemistry between the two “messed-up” beings: the gravedigger with emotions born three years after it supposedly wasn’t possible, naive but learning fast; and an immortal albino who has been hardened by his life. Ai wants to help the living wherever they may be; Hampnie tells her it won’t be that simple. People like Yuri cling to their dead loved ones, who eventually become twisted into zombies. Not everything is black and white, but some black does exist.

That brings us to the 47 villagers. He said what was going on there is a mystery Ai herself must solve, but it seems logical to us that the village was already dead when he got there. He destroyed their bodies to prevent them from becoming zombies. Ai didn’t know they were dead, but clung to them all the same; had Hampnie not showed up they might’ve eventually turned on her. In any case, past gun-pointing aside, we’re excited by the prospects for Ai leaving the cocoon and finding her place in the world. She has a lot to learn from Hampnie and others, but we reckon they have a lot to learn from her too.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Kamisama no Inai Nichiyoubi – 01

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This past summer was one of our busiest seasons, with fourteen shows to keep track of. We decided not to watch a few series that we probably would have enjoyed, including Sunday Without God. A friend suggested we take a look, so we’re taking advantage of the gap between Fall and Winter to do so. After just the first episode, we’re not sorry we did. Sunday Without God has a lot going for it.

Ai (Toyosaki Aki…Hi Uiharu/Fam!) is a 12-year-old serving as the village “gravekeeper” in a world where no one can die or reproduce due to God forsaking the world on Sunday. Like Yuna in FFX, she “sends” the dead to a peaceful rest, something she’s been doing since she was seven, when her mother died. While she’s not alone (a couple adopted her and the town heaps affection and sweets upon her), we know immediately that she carries a tremendous burden for someone so young. She’s tough; moreover, she’s highly confident and proud of the work she does.

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Madhouse is an aptly-named studio simply because, a lot of the series they’ve put out are…a bit mad. Here, it’s an Alice in Wonderland mad: whimsically disorienting with an ever-present tinge of malice. “Hampnie Hambart” drops by Ai’s idyllic village and slaughters everyone there save Ai. He then shatters her facade of certainty and efficacy, causing her to question everything she’s ever known or been told by the village, like whether she’s a gravekeeper at all, and whether the villagers were ever alive to begin with.

The episode deftly juggled the harsh imagery of village massacre and an undead townsperson missing part of his head (then having it blown the rest of the way off before Ai’s eyes) with lighter moments like Hampnie and Ai’s first meeting, where she contends he’s her father. Whether he is or isn’t, whether Ai’s true gravekeeper, and exactly what the heck’s going on in general; these are some of the many mysteries we look forward to exploring moving forward.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)