Shelf Life Kado: The Right Answer
by Paul Jensen, James Beckett,
I've officially hit the point in every anime season where I look at my streaming queue and think, "Aw, crap." Apart from the two shows I'm covering for streaming reviews, I'm weeks and weeks behind on everything. I sense a late-night marathon in my immediate future. Welcome to Shelf Life.
Jump to this week's review:
Kado: The Right Answer
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Shelf Life Reviews
I covered Kado: The Right Answer for our streaming reviews when it aired last year, and found it to be a fascinating if uneven series. Now it's out on Blu-Ray and DVD, and James has stepped up to offer his take on this science fiction story.
Kado: The Right Answer is easily one of the most complex and unique series I've covered for Shelf Life, taking a premise that is equal parts Arrival and The Twilight Zone, steeped at once both in heady sci-fi tropes and the messier and more melodramatic components of an entertaining B-movie. It's also a visual showcase, with director Kazuya Murata and the crew at Toei Animation producing the show in dynamic and eye-catching CG (for the most part, at least). I didn't know what to expect when I started digging into Funimation's Blu-Ray/DVD release of this 2017 series, but I was captivated early on, with each episode exploring some fascinating questions about what would happen if mankind was visited by a lifeform so alien as to be almost inscrutable. How would the governments of the world react? What would humanity do with this creature's prospective gifts of unlimited energy and expanded human consciousness? And what kind of person would be capable of negotiating between two worlds that are so fundamentally unlike one another?
For the most part, Kado: The Right Answer does an admirable job of answering those questions. For most of its fourteen-episode run, the series approaches Yaha-kui zaShunina's disruptive arrival on Earth by taking us step by step through humanity's reaction to his reality-altering presence, both on a macro level and a personal one. In true disaster movie style, we get the usual scenes of the government scrambling to figure out how to even talk to the mysterious man that showed up in his magical floating cube. After that, there are even more pressing concerns to deal with; for instance, Yaha-kui offers mankind a device called the Wam, which he claims will solve all of mankind's energy crises forever, no questions asked. While the anisotropic being believes that delivering this gift to the world is simply “the right answer”, there are of course many governments and militaries who would complicate his noble intentions with their own selfish greed. Who decides which countries gain access to this unlimited energy? If Japan is unwilling to hand their gift over to the UN, will military force be justified in obtaining them?
If it seems like this review is filled with a lot of questions, it's because those questions are Kado's greatest strength. Like the best science fiction, it doesn't just posit a fantastical scenario, it also takes the time to realize a plausible, tense, and often thrilling story that shows exactly how that scenario might play out. It also helps that the show's cast is solid, at least in how they help convey these ideas. Kojiro is more rigid with his cool attitude, not to mention that he's so hyper-competent that everyone around him becomes infatuated immediately, but this kind of stoic protagonist works for the sort of story Kado is trying to tell. His more relatable counterpart is Saraka Tsukai, who takes on a similar role to Kojiro but with much more endearing verve and compassion. The rest of the human cast is mostly serviceable, but Kojiro and Saraka's chemistry helps carry the human side of the show's story, even when the two suffer through some of the script's clunkier and less compelling moments.
The other core component of the cast is Yaha-kui, the anisotropic being himself, and I'm a little more split on him. He's an admittedly interesting alien, and the show's CG animation helps convey the impossibly god-like nature of his existence. He also shares a fun dynamic with Kojiro, and their evolving dialogue is one of the series' most dependably engaging elements. My problem with Yaha-kui is how the show handles him later on in its run; without spoiling things too much, his character arc becomes much more conventional than I expected as the series goes on, and I think Kado is weaker for taking Yaha-kui in the direction it eventually does.
On that note, the show's conclusion is generally where things go south, with last minute story threads and leaps in logic hampering the experience enough to make the show less recommendable. It never becomes outright bad, but Kado's clumsy denouement is enough to take a potentially great show and make it “decent”, instead. I also take some issue with the way Kado's mostly impressive CGI is frequently mixed in with random cuts of 2D animation. It isn't outright ugly, but it sure can be distracting. Kado is still one of the best modern CG productions I've seen, alongside Land of the Lustrous; it's a shame the show couldn't fully commit to its aesthetic.
Funimation's release of Kado: The Right Answer is of typically high quality, with the Blu-Ray being an excellent opportunity to show off the show's visual flair. As far as extras go, there are only the usual OP/EDs and a recap episode, which isn't dubbed and doesn't warrant watching unless you're in need of a refresher on Kado's complicated plot. The included English dub thankfully is worth watching, as it does an admirable job of translating the show's incredibly dense script while giving the cast its due as individual characters. Ian Moore acquits himself well as Kojiro, but I'd say the dub's standout is Mikaela Krantz as Saraka, a character with some unexpectedly complex facets that the dub handles expertly.
In the end, Kado is too uneven to warrant a grade above Rental, but it's very close to being a Shelf Worthy title for me personally. I love it when shows succeed in tackling complex sci fi topics without getting lost in the weeds, and Kado manages that for nearly its full runtime. The ending is a letdown, for sure, but it isn't enough to derail the entire story, and the show might even be worth investigating alone for its unique visuals. I enjoyed the time I spent with Kado: The Right Answer, and I think anyone with a desire for original science fiction or well-executed CG anime ought to check it out for themselves.
That wraps things up for this week. Thanks for reading, and remember to send your Shelf Obsessed entries to [email protected]!
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