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)

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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)