Monday, January 13, 2014

Anime Review: Sunday Without God

This past year (so, 2013) I made a real effort to listen to the anime-bloggersphere and see what series that I didn't try in a given season (usually because I was too busy or just too cynical to give another show a shot) were worth picking up later and I did a pretty good job at getting them them sooner rather than later. There are still a few shows I didn't get to, I'm waiting until all of the OVAs for Yozakura Quartet are out before I tackle that, might get around to trying stuff like Majestic Prince and Attack on Titan if they ever announce second seasons, twitter is convincing me to try out a few things like Meganebu but that's mostly it, it just wasn't that big a year for me. And it's funny, I finished the summer out with just four shows and given that I could have easily made room for this one but when I tried out the manga adaptation (the series was originally a light novel I later learned) I was turned off by it. The pacing felt a bit weird and the character designs didn't quite work for me either. Funny enough I could say the same thing about this anime version but in a different sort of way. 

Sunday Without God (Kamisama no Inai Nichiyobi)

When God created the world he did so over the course of several days and on the last day he abandoned the world. That's what some people say, others say that he closed the gates to Heaven since it had become too full and others say that people wished for the world to become like this. Whatever the case, over the past 15 years no one has been born and no one dies, only being buried by a gravekeeper will give someone permanent rest and that's 12 year old Ai's job for her village. But as she soon comes to discover the world is even more complicated than she thinks and perhaps she should go traveling to see it all.

As I've said elsewhere, fairy tales have a style to them that's rather tricky to replicate for one reason or another and this is one of the few stories I've seen of late that seems to capture it, although I have no idea if that was the intention or not. It doesn't fit quite neatly into the fantasy category or even the magical realism, aside from what are arguably zombies (and it certainly doesn't feel like any other kind of zombie story) and the inherent powers of the gravekeepers it doesn't seem that fantastical at all. However, there are a few details that make it feel like a fairy tale nevertheless, the fact that in each arc the characters' happiness seems to come with a steep price (and a hard choice) and that the story subtly tells us the answer to what happened 15 years ago, suddenly the world started granting people's wishes (at a price of course, often a very intangible one). 

The story has more than a few problems, one is it's crazy pacing where we blew through 4 or 5 stories in just 12 episodes so there's a bit of mood-whiplash. We introduce a new story, which means new characters and a new setting, see the conflict and then bam get to what's usually a pretty emotional wrap-up about every three episodes and with such quick storytelling I feel like a lot of the emotional punch was lost. While I doubt that I would enjoy the original light novels (having read a number of them I can safely say that I just don't like the style of the prose that often, although there are certainly exceptions) I do feel like this faster pacing worked to the stories benefit and as a result I really did end up liking the show. I will note that even though I have no idea if the series ends where the light novels do, it did say Fin at the end, it was a pretty satisfying place to end, all of the characters have changed some and the world is better explained, although I would have liked to have seen a bit more of Ai's adventures and seen if she really did find a way to "save" the world, especially considering how she's still in the process of figuring out what exactly needs to happen to save it. And I also just plain liked the story this series was telling, the individual stories were just so different from what you usually see, there was a darkly whimsical air to each of them, and each stories's ending, while not always precisely happy, was satisfying and I felt like the stories themselves were the world-building that the series needed to keep itself grounded. 

As for the looks and sound of the story, eh, a lot of the character designs came off as "trying too hard" to me and I'm not sure if the series ever played it's full ED sequence since it kept cutting into the end of the actual episode. I did find the OP a bit interesting however, on just one episode the opening words to the song are translated, I guess someone messed up a little along the way, and it turns out that the singer is going "Tell me god, what should we do?" which I felt was the perfect song for this series, in a world abandoned by god and ruled by human wishes it's easy to get lost and I wonder what the rest of the song was about then.

This one gets a 3 out of 5 for me I think there's a good chance I'll buy it someday, it's just not at the top of my list. Also, perhaps I'm crazy but the mood also reminded me of Red Data Girl at times so if anyone here has watched and enjoyed one of these shows I recommend you give the other a shot and see if you like that one too!

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