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 – 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 – 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)