Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Sunday Without God
Blu-Ray - Complete Collection
Fifteen years ago, God abandoned the world. As a result, people stopped dying and having children, continuing on long after their hearts had stopped. In order to truly be laid to rest, they must be buried by a Gravekeeper, a mysterious being with a special shovel who can truly “kill” the dead. Twelve-year-old Ai is an anomaly in this world – she is half-human, half-gravekeeper, born three years after all other children. With a spirit of innocence and hope, Ai travels the world in an effort to save it by showing people a happiness and peace that they thought lost – either in life or in death.
Based on a series of light novels by the same name, Sunday Without God is a deeply emotional show that will leave you exhausted...but not in a bad way. The story takes place in what appears to be an alternate France (all writing we see is in grammatically correct French), where fifteen years ago, people stopped dying. Their hearts ceased to beat, yes, but their bodies and minds continued on as if nothing had happened. At the same time, children stopped being born. It was largely assumed that God had abandoned the world, but as the story goes on, we start to come to a very different conclusion: that God didn't so much neglect the people as begin to grant all of their wishes. Since most people wished not to die, death ceased to exist. However for those who still craved an end to it all, God sent down a mysterious race of people known as Gravekeepers. The Gravekeepers, born when lightening strikes the Earth in a specific place, have special shovels that can bury the dead and let them rest for good. Their only goal is to do just that, and they are apparently devoid of all other emotion...except for one, a woman named Hana. The story follows Hana's daughter Ai, a twelve-year-old born after all other births had stopped, who combines the genuine wish for peace to all that the Gravekeepers have with a very human curiosity and emotions. She is our guide to the story, and in all honesty, most of her experiences affect the viewers far more than Ai herself, with the exception of the third story arc, where Ai's humanity wins out over her Gravekeeper half.
Essentially Sunday Without God is a philosophically interesting emotional rollercoaster. It is comprised of three multi-episode arcs, a multi-episode OVA, and one stand-alone episode in the middle, and while it may not always begin each arc strongly, it almost always manages to end with the viewer in tears. (Metaphorically in some cases, as I am aware I can be a bit of a watering pot.) The central idea about God having abandoned the world is almost immediately challenged by the story itself, when it says in the opening narration that God grew tired of listening to people's wishes not to die. As the story moves through its first arc, more or less Ai's origin story, we learn that other wishes have been granted, truly significant ones by the show's finale, which would imply quite strongly that God has not left, but instead is responding to each and every prayer and wish. This gives the show a message of “be careful what you wish for” in a very real sense, while also offering a method of resolving everything in the very end, something borne out by the show's final episode. (There are, as usual, fare more novels than TV episodes.) The question of “one per customer” with the wishes is a little sticky, but from the first arc we do know of someone who gets two, so that reinforces the hopeful ending, as well as adding credence to the theory that though the people feel abandoned, they in fact have not been. This also may help to explain Ai's personality, which straddles a fine line between “innocent” and “dangerously simple.” Since the final arc deals with growing up, I ultimately came down on the side of innocent, with her actions all working towards making people happy.
Strong though it is, Sunday Without God is not a perfect show. The stand-alone episode, episode nine, drags and is generally weak, even though it ostensibly provides important information and character development for Scar, and the two episode Goran Academy arc makes some serious missteps in the dub, giving the harsh headmistress a German accent and referring to the school as a “concentration camp,” which it in no way resembles. While it is clear what Sentai Filmworks was trying to show with the overstatement, it is not a comparison that should be made lightly, and felt out of place here. Attempts at fanservice in the OAV felt a bit off, although it was an interesting piece overall – this just didn't feel like a show that needed a hot springs moment, or a girls' bathtub scene either, for that matter.
Caitlynn French's Ai can feel a bit too high-pitched at times, although in all fairness she sounds very much like Aki Toyosaki in the Japanese...who can also sound a bit screechy. Other than that both casts do a very good job conveying the emotions needed, with Mike Yager's final pre-credits line as Alice being particularly well delivered. If the boys all sound a little too much like men in both versions, that could be attributed to the fact that the story is somber in general, with lower voices making for a better fit with the world, if not the characters. It also nicely shows the contrast with Ai, which may be why she is so lightly and highly pitched.
Sunday Without God is not an easy show to watch, but it has its beauty. The philosophic questions it raises are reminiscent of the Russian folktale “The Soldier and Death,” about a man catching Death in a magical bag, which causes everything to stop dying, and the entire show has the feel of a tale by Hans Christian Andersen. The sepia color scheme works very well and makes things like Ai's green eyes or the colorful wisps of spirit that saturate the air even more striking. If you enjoy a story that makes you think or just want something that feels a little different from what you've been watching, this is a show worth checking out. It isn't happy, but it isn't devoid of hope, and that makes it hard to turn off, even when it's tearing at your emotions.
Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : A-
Animation : B+
Art : B+
Music : B
+ Achingly sad and beautiful at once, interesting philosophical questions raised. Division into arcs works well for the story. Good CG blending.
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