KADO - The Right Answer
Episodes 0-3

by Paul Jensen,

How would you rate episode 1 of
KADO - The Right Answer ?

How would you rate episode 2 of
KADO - The Right Answer ?

How would you rate episode 3 of
KADO - The Right Answer ?

Editor's Note: Because they were released and rated at the same time in the preview guide, episode 0 and episode 1 will both be counted under episode 1's rating widget.

KADO - The Right Answer is an oddity compared to most of what's airing this season. It's an original production instead of an adaptation, which immediately puts it into a select minority next to all the anime based off manga or light novel series. Perhaps more importantly, its tone and approach to storytelling are unusual for anime in general. It's a science fiction story with a focus on negotiation instead of conflict, and the main characters are adults with serious established careers. It feels more like a prestige project than an entertainment product; the kind of thing that's made to pick up awards and accolades instead of chasing the largest possible audience. If that's what this series is going for, then it's off to a good start.

The story begins with an enormous cube appearing on the runway of a Japanese airport, engulfing a passenger plane in the process. One of the people aboard the plane is Kojiro Shindo, a negotiator for the government's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Shindo ends up being the first person to meet Yaha-kui zaShunina, an otherworldly being who controls the mysterious cube. zaShunina agrees to help the plane and passengers leave the cube safely, but he asks Shindo to help him negotiate with the Japanese government in return. It turns out that zaShunina isn't here on a whim; he's come to help humanity advance by providing a source of unlimited energy.

This is the kind of high-concept story that you're more likely to find in a big heavy novel; it might have some emotional high points here and there, but its main concern is tackling big questions about humanity's first contact with an otherworldly visitor. In that context, KADO is doing a solid, if somewhat slow job in these early episodes. The script takes its time showing us how the government reacts to the cube's appearance, before letting us inside to see Shindo's initial contact with zaShunina. Negotiations don't begin in earnest until episode 3, and even then the first priority is making sure both sides are on the same page. Concessions to narrative convenience are relatively minor, so this feels like a plausible sequence of events thus far. Both zaShunina and the humans recognize that something important is happening, and everyone is being careful not to screw anything up.

That brings us to one of the more interesting points about this series; there's no obvious division between heroes and villains at this point. There's no scheming corporate antagonist or secret society of evil old dudes, nor is there a fresh-faced adventurer determined to save the world. Shindo acts as a calm and competent protagonist, but even he is relatively pragmatic in his actions. He's working with zaShunina because it's the best option he has at the moment. I like this approach of having characters act reasonably to advance their own interests, since it leaves a lot of room for nuance and moral ambiguity. The only problem with having such a rational collection of adults is that the cast of nearly twenty named characters is a little stiff in the emotional department. We don't get much of a chance to grow attached to anyone in the early going, although Shindo and zaShunina are starting to develop some interesting chemistry with one another.

In case it isn't already obvious, KADO doesn't look to be everyone's cup of tea. The methodical pacing, complicated themes, and constant barrage of information (I've already taken more notes on these episodes than I normally do over the course of an entire series) are clearly aimed at an older audience. This is the kind of anime that your film professor might let you write a report on, but it's not necessarily the kind of anime you'd turn to for thrilling entertainment. That said, these episodes have put the series in a good position to ask all kinds of intriguing questions about human nature. Is it possible to trust a being from another world who shows up bearing a no-strings-attached gift? Would we be able to accept zaShunina's offer of unlimited energy without starting a war over which nations get to control it? These are the kinds of thoughts that I hope KADO will be able to dig into later on.

It's also worth noting that KADO boasts one of the smoothest implementations of CG character models I've seen in an anime series. It makes for an abrupt visual shift after the use of more traditional animation in episode 0, but it's reasonably effective once it settles into the new look. It helps that the characters spend a lot of time sitting still with calm expressions on their faces, but their movements still seem smoother than previous high-profile CG titles. If you've been turned off by CG anime in the past, this might be enough of a step forward to be worth another shot. If nothing else, the big rainbow cube is pretty neat-looking.

Taken as a whole, this is a very promising start to a series that looks like a significant departure from most of this season's offerings. Despite its methodical pacing and lack of a big emotional hook, KADO has me very excited to see where its story goes. It's thoughtfully written and carefully presented, with the potential to explore some really big ideas. If those possibilities catch your interest, give it a shot. Just be ready to take some notes along the way.

Rating: A-

KADO - The Right Answer is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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