The Fall 2020 Preview Guide
The Day I Became a God
How would you rate episode 1 of
The Day I Became a God ?
What is this?
Yota Narukami is a student focused only on his college entrance exams. During his last summer break of high school, he is approached by a girl named Hina who says she is the god of omniscience. She tells him that in thirty days, the world will end. At first Yota doesn't believe her, but after she demonstrates supernatural predictive abilities, he becomes convinced her power is genuine. Hina, meanwhile, decides for some reason to stay at his house, and they begin a tumultuous vacation facing the end of the world together.
How was the first episode?
Well, that was… “shrill” is the first word that comes to mind.
The Day I Became a God is the latest work of Jun Maeda, the man best known for writing “crying anime.” I have mixed feelings about his oeuvre, which even at its best teeters on the edge of self-indulgent tragedy porn. I know Air hit me hard back in the day, but I haven't watched it since it first aired too many years ago; Angel Beats! had its ups and downs, but its sincerity and earnestness shone through in the end. But then you also get messes like Charlotte, which was almost ludicrous in how it just kept piling the twists and tragedy on, to very little effect. I don't know whether The Day I Became a God will keep its footing or tumble into the abyss of histrionics, but this first episode sure doesn't look good.
Totally normal teenager Yota Narukami is accosted by what appears to be an elementary school girl in a nun costume, claiming to be the god Odin and predicting that the world will end in 30 days. Yota is, naturally, skeptical, and tries to treat her like a child the age she appears to be, much to her frustration. As she follows him around town, she makes predictions that are far too precise and accurate to just be guesswork or coincidence, convincing him that even if she isn't a god, there's something supernatural about her.
Most of the episode is dialogue between Yota and “Odin”, which is highly unfortunate because Odin is obnoxious. Over half the script goes like this:
Odin: *makes outrageous claim*
Yota: *treats her like normal child*
Odin: *shrieks and throws a tantrum*
Considering how a trademark part of the Jun Maeda formula is having a comedy-heavy first half to make the tragedy of the finale hit even heavier, this doesn't exactly make me feel optimistic. Comedy may be subjective, but I know very few people over the age of twelve or so for whom a pink-haired anime girl screeching over the same run-on gag for twenty minutes is the pinnacle of wit. There's nothing particularly clever about the joke either, nor any real twists on it, so it just kind of repeats itself over and over.
Maybe The Day I Became a God will have the kind of tragic ending that would make me cry, or at least tug at my heartstrings. But if I have to sit through twelve episodes of shrieky anime girl to get to it? No thanks. If I need to cry, I'll just watch Luck of the Fryrish again.
25 years ago, Joan Osborne asked a simple, yet profound question: what if God was one of us? Now, in 2020, Jun Maeda has returned from his anime slumber to ask an equally important one: what if God was a tiny screeching gremlin of an anime girl who drinks all your pepsi and calls you a bitch?
That's more or less the sum of this first episode. Sure, there are portents of a higher concept in the wings, with ominous mention of the world ending by human hands in just 30 days, and some foreshadowing of mysteries surrounding “Odin” and just why she picked this particular weenie of an anime boy to wait out the apocalypse with. But first and foremost the hook (or barrier) for this premiere is seeing a tiny nun voiced by Ayane Sakura smugly declare herself God and get absolutely furious when everyone treats her like an embarrassing toddler. That's the joke, and with a few exceptions where life kicks Narukami in the nads all on its own, the strength of that gag alone will have to decide if you're willing to get onboard Mr. Maeda's Likely Overly Ambitious Wild Ride this time around.
Thankfully for me, that joke mostly worked. It helps that Narukami isn't just the straight man to Odin's antics, but often gives as good as he gets in teasing her. The two can get cantankerous but never feel like they actively dislike each other, and the sheer silliness of the setup carries a lot of the comedic weight. The rest of the burden is handled easily thanks to the expressive, hyperactive animation used to bring the tiny, tiny God to life as she flits from smug confidence to awkward embarrassment and every emotion inbetween. The way she stomps her feet with her whole body when being belittled is my favorite, and it works to sell the character of an overpowered 8-year-old being constantly underestimated by those around her.
I ended up enjoying this episode a lot, but I can easily imagine a slightly different universe where it's a miserable, tedious slog through comedy that just doesn't work for me, and I'd put money on this being a pretty polarizing series this season. Not only is the humor repetitious and loud, but Maeda's own mix of whole-hearted sentimentalism and rambunctious cartoon hijinks can be pretty volatile and go some very strange emotional places. For now though, I'm ready to show up to church next Saturday and watch The Lord get dunked on.
Yeesh. I had to take a break roughly halfway through the premiere of The Day I Became a God, because it was all just a little too much for me. The little girl dressed as some kind of fantasy nun, calling herself Odin and predicting the imminent apocalypse. The terminally bland protagonist, Yota, who is weirdly fine with suddenly spending a whole day hanging out with this potentially homeless and delusional child that meddles with his embarrassing love and ends up moving in with him that very night, because that's totally how things work. All of the “jokes” that were really just a bunch of scenes of Odin screaming about being a god, or Yota screaming about this little girl who is screaming about being a god. It's all just a lot.
When given the choice to finish the episode in a single sitting, or to distract myself by finishing chores around the house, the chores won. It's never a good sign when the chores win. Admittedly, this very much boils down to personal taste. There was a time, many years ago, when the broad coming-of-age romantic-comedy shtick of The Day I Became a God would have sounded very appealing to me, and I can see how fans of series like this would be won over. It's a well-produced show, I'll give it that much; P.A. Works isn't giving us an ugly anime by any means. These days, though, I just have extraordinarily little patience for a story that is trying so gosh darned hard to be goofy, and quirky, and funny, when it isn't terribly good at doing any of those things.
Then there's the fact that the story comes to us from Jun Maeda, the anime and visual novel veteran who brought us Clannad, among other things. I recall seeing an interview from a while back where he claimed that this show would be “the saddest of all time”, or some such. Even if I'm misremembering that, I still found myself very distracted during TDIBaG's premiere, because there's obviously some kind of imminent, tragic catch to the whole setup. This Odin girl has some kind of tragic backstory, and her Manic Pixy Dream Toddler shenanigans are bound to totally change the lives of everybody in the show, until she…I don't know. Dies of cancer? Gets hit by a truck? Spontaneously combusts? It doesn't really matter. With foreshadowing that hits with all the nuance of a brick to the face, it's impossible to miss that something bad is bound to happen when those thirty days are up.
Point being, not only is TDIBaG trying way too hard to get its audience to like it, I have absolutely no doubts that it will end up trying way too hard to get its audience to cry, by the end of things. I love plenty of heartbreaking stories, too, so it isn't like I'm being a Sad Cartoon Grinch, over here. Clannad was pretty good, especially with After Story; and two of my favorite anime ever are Made in Abyss and Evangelion, and neither of those series are at all subtle about their soul-crushing intentions. I just have an inherent distrust of the kinds of predictably treacly weepies that will sacrifice the integrity of its story and the believability of its characters at the bloody altar of Big Feels. Call it “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas Syndrome.” Either way, The Day I Became a God does not seem to be the kind of experience I look for in anime these days — comedic, dramatic, or otherwise. I'll just be on the lookout for reaction threads on Twitter or something, if only because I'm morbidly curious about how this tiny fake nun will eventually kick the bucket.
As I watched this episode, I kept turning the volume down lower and lower. Why? Because the heroine, Odin Sato, is so unbelievably loud that even when I could barely hear protagonist Yota Narukami speak, she came through perfectly clearly. Granted, I am more sound-sensitive than a lot of people, but I haven't been so tempted to hit mute since Black Clover was in the preview guide. Regretfully, Odin's unbearable loudness is not the only issue with this episode, although to be fair Odin herself is most of it, voice notwithstanding. The pint-sized cosplay nun (as Yota describes her outfit; he's got that right) claims to be the Norse god Odin, and she has descended to Earth for…reasons…thirty days before the world is slated to end. While at first this sounds highly suspicious to Yota, Odin quickly proves that she at least has some major precognitive abilities, predicting a rainstorm out of a cloudless sky, a traffic jam, and a horse race in relatively quick succession. Why she's decided to stick with Yota, whose very name offends her with its characters for “god” and “sun,” may come down to simple curiosity, which is a trait that many gods do have. (Not necessarily Odin, but whatever.) Unfortunately, Odin's raison d'être in this episode specifically – because it may change later – is to be as loud as possible while also being annoyed for what feels like 90% of the time because Yota doesn't just immediately believe her claims. That dynamic gets old very fast.
It's a shame that this isn't more engaging, because it's got some interesting elements to it. Even without the spelling of Yota's full name there are plenty of fun little references to mythologies from the Asian continent: Yota's childhood friend is named Izanami, the name of the goddess of the Shinto underworld, and the horses in the race Odin sees on TV also all have divine names, Astarte (ancient middle eastern fertility/sexuality/war goddess; another name for Ishtar), Zoroaster (ancient Iranian prophet and religious founder), and Omoikane, a Shinto god of wisdom. It makes me wonder if Izanami has a (twin) brother named Izanagi with whom she's in love and if that's not why she turned Yota down flat. Then there's the idea of the world coming to an end in thirty days – different religions all have various ideas of what that means, so is Odin talking about a full-scale Ragnarok, or is it something more like a great flood, where the world just starts fresh? The episode also looks pretty, with a very nice use of light overall and nice animation. Neither Odin nor Izanami are sexualized, either; we do open with a shot of Odin's butt in a chair, but that's really as far as things go.
So there are things to recommend the episode. But the constant bickering of the leads and the consistent loudness make this hit “annoying” much more than “interesting,” at least for me. If you also prefer that your pretty animated pictures don't come at a yell, this one may be better off missed.
I did not look up the staff on this one at all before watching it, but no more than two minutes into the episode I found myself thinking, “wow, this feels exactly like one of those Visual Art's adaptations.” That impression wound up pervading the whole episode. Sure enough, Jun Maeda is listed for script, music, and original creator, Visual Art's is part of the production team, and director Yoshiyuki Asai also directed 2015's Charlotte. The feel of the first episode – the way it handles serious and humorous moments alike and integrates in weirdness involving a cute girl – is so typical of past Key/Visual Art's related projects that it seems specifically designed for established fans.
Unfortunately, this may be the weakest first episode for any of their projects, primarily because how annoying “Odin” is almost buries the other potential appeals of the episode. She reminds me a lot of Index from the A Certain Magical Index franchise (so much so that I have to think she was at least in part modeled after Index), only with her cheekiness ramped up a couple of extra notches. Her smarmy nature left me feeling sympathetic for Yu by the end of the episode, as he is saddled with a real problem child here.
I was going to say “head case” in that previous sentence, but “Odin” is much too suspiciously accurate with her prescience to deny that she could, in fact, be an omniscient god. And that's the key word here; she is omniscient, but not omnipotent. In fact, she does not seem to have any real power beyond knowing things. Still, that make her comments about the world ending in 30 days all the more ominous. That, of course, leaves the big mystery of the show to be how the world is going to end as a result of human action when there are no global catastrophe-level circumstances currently apparent, while Big Mystery #2 is how Yu's mother seems to know about her. I suspect that we will also find that Odin is actually a normal girl who just came into her powers, as the title suggests.
But is the appeal of those mysteries enough to warrant putting up with Odin's personality? The technical merits, courtesy of the normally-reliable P.A. Works, are nothing exceptional, so the series does not have a back-up plan. Given the people behind it, some kind of emotional angle will doubtlessly come into play eventually, but it had best be sooner rather than later if this title wants to keep its audience.
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