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Sunday Without God – Review

by Miguel Douglas

@isugoi

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Based on the light novel series from Japanese author Kimihito Irie, Sunday Without God is yet another addition to the wide spectrum of anime series stemming from popular light novels, an approach that is often times met with very mixed results. This is mainly due to the simple fact that a series of light novels is more difficult to adapt into an animation series, especially if the series of light novels is still ongoing. Of course, this can also be said about ongoing manga series being adapted as well, but the main issue with ongoing light novel series is that they bear the specifically arduous task of selectively highlighting what narrative arcs are important enough to be explored within the anime adaptation. This decision can ultimately be beneficial given the expansive universe explored with the respective light novel(s), but it can also easily lead to the anime adaptation being contrived in terms of its narrative, essentially restraining much of the strength of the source material.

Fortunately for Sunday Without God, its splendid atmosphere and imaginative premise is what deems it as an acceptable – but far from great – adaptation regardless of some of its contrivances surrounding its narrative. Taking place 15 years after God has abandoned the world and left it in despair, humans can no longer die and new humans can no longer be born. The series follows a 12-year-old girl by the name of Ai, an individual whose task is that of being a “Gravekeeper”, a mysterious class of people who are the only ones who can truly bury the dead and bring peace to their lives. She soon meets Hampnie Hambart, a puzzling figure who destroys the population of her entire village and who she also eventually begins to travel alongside with. It is a extremely interesting premise to say the least, exploring the concepts of death and a forsaken environment with a sense of sincerity unlike many other series out there.

We slowly learn of the bitterness of the world through the eyes of Ai, viewing the harsh existence of her life and the ones around here with a sense of longing to see her world improve. We also see her responsibility as a Gravekeeper and the emotional toll it takes, with her attempting to understand her function within a rather chaotic environment and find some significant meaning to it all. Her naivety of the world around her is elicited throughout the series, but it is also a characteristic of her personality that lends us to attempt to comprehend the perplexing background of the narrative as a whole. While the series focuses extensively on Ai and her development as a character growing up in a distressing setting, the series also explores a variety of other characters as well, each with their own respective viewpoints on a world essentially abandoned by God. Whether this is seen in Alis, who like Ai wants to save the world but just through a drastically different fashion, to Hampnie, who believes that killing people is better than having them live in a world without God, it was captivating to view a diverse range of interpretations and opinions on the world in which these characters find themselves in.

With the series being only 12 episodes though, Sunday Without God does well enough to elaborate on Ai’s – and to a certain extent, Hampnie’s – plight as individuals striving to find a purpose in life, but it also never really explores much of the elements only hinted at throughout its course as a series. Concepts such as time manipulation, massive cities of the undead, and eternal beings are all approached with a vagueness that places the narrative as one entirely too restrained when compared to the likes of the light novel series. There are numerous concepts aside from the ones mentioned above that also do not nearly get enough explanation – or even begin to attempt to do so – so that us as the audience can contemplate their effects on the characters and their surroundings. The ambivalent nature of these concepts can be interpreted as a favorable trait of the series – leading to great speculative analyses on part of the viewers – but it also lends evidence to the more pragmatic viewpoint that the light novels in which the series stems from does a much, much better job in introducing and subsequently exploring such concepts. Within the context of the anime series, they seem bizarrely inserted only for the fact as to a) make the series appears more mysterious than it really is, or b) to elaborate upon them in further installments. Either way, it presents the series as a singular experience that can only be truly comprehended through being familiar with the light novels in some fashion, which is rather unfortunate.

It can safely be said that Sunday Without God is a series that has some pretty intricate ideas residing behind its rather lackadaisical execution. Unlike some of other the series stemming from light novels that utterly collapse under their own material, here we see an appreciation for its unique premise and several – not all – of the characters that is encompass it. There is a great sense felt throughout the series that there is much more here than what is being told, with the anime adaptation glossing through multiple story arcs told in the light novel series in order to tell its own cohesive tale. The main issue with this is that remnants of those arcs still remain scattered throughout the series, in turn simply becoming intriguing elements that do not necessarily support the series’ narrative. Sunday Without God is still a series that retains a very fascinating premise and atmosphere, although one would expect that the light novels will be the preferable outlet in which to experience them.

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Author: Miguel Douglas

As an avid viewer of both Japanese animation and cinema for more than a decade now, Miguel is primarily concerned with establishing a critical look into both mediums as legitimate forms of artistic, cultural, and societal understanding. Never one to simply look at a film or series based solely on superficiality, Miguel has dedicated himself towards bringing awareness to Asian entertainment and its various facets.

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