In a world abandoned by God, how do people survive when there’s no more death? Or birth?
What They Say:
Fifteen years ago on a Sunday, God abandoned the world and closed the gate to Heaven, leaving the souls of humankind trapped in limbo. With the dead unable to rest and the living unable to have children, the world is slowly coming to a halt. The only key to mankind’s salvation rests with the Gravekeepers, mysterious beings charged with the task of sending the deceased to their final resting place.
Twelve-year-old Ai, one of the last children in the world, soon finds herself shouldered with the burden of becoming her village’s newest Gravekeeper. But beneath the village’s unassuming exterior lies a dark secret that is revealed with the arrival of a gun-wielding stranger in black. With her position as a Gravekeeper now uncertain, Ai has no choice but to set out to put the living dead to rest. But in a world where no one can die, is death truly the ultimate blessing?
Contains episodes 1-13.
The audio presentation for this release is pretty straightforward as we get the original Japanese language track in stereo as well as the new English language mix, both of which are encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The series is not one that has a lot of action to it, though it does have its small and controlled bursts, so the majority of it is rather dialogue driven. Or instrumental music driven as there are some nice pauses to reflect on landscapes and other visuals. The bulk of the show has a fairly expected full sound with some center channel placement at times as well as a few nods here and there beyond that. It’s not a mix that stands out or does anything surprising, but it handles and serves the material well and competently in order to engage the viewer in the series. It’s a solid track with no problems that comes across clean and clear through regular playback.
Originally airing in 2013, the transfer for this TV series and OVA is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The show is spread across two discs with eight on the first and four episodes and the OVA on the second. Animated by Madhouse, the series has a great visual design to it with a lot of otherworldly moments and fantastic color design to give it a rich and warm life. So many scenes draw you in simply because of the landscape shots, but it’s also because of the richness of the colors that makes it so much more engaging. There’s a good amount of detail to these shots, and to the characters themselves, that the whole thing holds together really well and makes for a great viewing session on a big screen because it has such open vistas in a lot of scenes. Colors are rich, solid and full of pop, there’s no line noise issues to be had and the details hold together very well.
The packaging for this release is done up in a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds both discs against the interior walls. The front cover goes for the warm sunset colors that wowed us early on in the series as we get Ai and Hambart standing back to back with each other while Yuri and Scar are off to the side. Adding in the simple wooden crosses works nicely to add that little extra touch, but mostly it’s the character designs and the color scheme that really draws the attention here to make it look so good. The back cover is a bit of a darker affair with what it does as we get a subdued background that lets the shots from the show stand out across the middle as it uses some very vibrant pieces to work with. The premise is kept below it as it details the basics while we also get the extras, which is a bit harder to read with the color combinations picked out there. The rest is given over to the usual round of production credits and technical information that’s covered cleanly and accurately. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release goes with a touch of class and elegance about it that plays to the religious side in a nice way with all of its detail and layout. The left side has the navigation strip that works as the pop-up menu as well, and it uses some good marble green and purple colors while having a lot of inlaid pieces to it that gives it a feeling of something sculpted that looks really well. The bulk of the screen is given over to the static imagery though, with the first disc showing off the main cast together in a brighter than expected piece with a lot of purple hues to it with a bright white light showing on them. It’s not a gloomy image, but you can sense some of that within it. Submenus load quickly and easily and the breakdown works nicely for getting around without any issues.
The only extras on this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Known as Kami-sama no Inai Nichiyōbi, or Kaminai, Sunday Without God is a twelve episode series based on the light novel and manga by Kimihito Irie and is animated by Madhouse. The show got a quick pick up from Sentai Filmworks when it first simulcast and certainly presents an interesting idea that’s tied with very atmospheric and moody animation. All of that definitely makes an impact and is certainly appropriate for the content. With the light novels having run since 2010 and concluding this year with nine total, there was more than enough material to work with here, since light novels typically aren’t written in the same way as manga, though there are certainly some similarities.
The show revolves around Ai, a twelve year old girl who five years earlier took on the role of gravekeeper in her village after her mother died. While that was a difficult moment itself, the situation has certainly changed in interesting ways since that event changed her life. While she took on the role, nobody has died since then in the village. Ai continues on with what she’s supposed to do, digging graves of course, but they haven’t been filled in years. For her, she’s been alone all this time and doing dark work, but she’s also managed to keep a surprisingly positive attitude about her and has managed to keep moving forward in her own light, friendly and amusing way as she spends her days doing god’s work. It’s very easy to believe in god in this world as they did go through an event fifteen years prior where god spoke through to the world, saying that the other side is all full up and that he’s failed, that the human world will come to a standstill soon.
All that helps are the gravekeepers who seemingly do have the ability to help people move on to the other side through their interactions, hence Ai taking it very seriously and trying to do her best. That all starts to change though when a man named Hampnie Hambart arrives and runs into her, threatening her with his gun at first, but then just questioning her about who she is before moving on. Amusingly, he makes up his name but it turns out the name he uses is her father’s name, which of course is just a super coincidence. His arrival seemingly coincides with a tragic event in the village itself as everyone has seemingly died, except for one guy who tries to kill Ai, only to be taken down himself by Hambert. It sets an interesting stage as we see Ai having to deal with the situation, which recalls her own past with all of those that she lived with, and sets it against a beautiful if tragic atmosphere.
The nature of this series is one that’s definitely interesting as it progresses from this as we largely get four different main arcs going on as short story pieces. Ai getting involved with Hambart is important because he’s the one that helps to draw her out of her village and into the world, which connects her with a couple of other curious people. That has her meeting Scar, another rather introverted gravekeeper, and Yuri, a man who lost his family to being deceased, which ended up killing him inside in a way. There’s an interesting neo-family that gets built because of Hambart’s arrival, but I also love that the show/book took the chance it did by killing him by the third episode. With him being cursed to be immortal in this world, looking for a way to die takes on a whole lot more meaning since there will come a time when there are no more people anymore. Tying that into meeting a daughter he never knew he had, which in turn reveals that Ai is half human and half gravekeeper, just makes her a lot more variable in what she can be.
Where it goes from there is where it’s a mixed bag as we get a couple of different stories that run about three episodes or so on average. The first arc is one that really goes into some of the meaning about the way the world works as we get to visit the major city of Ortus, which is a city exclusively for the Deceased, those that have died but cannot pass on because of what God did. Ortus is almost like a festival city in some ways, but it has its mysteries with the way people keep things close to themselves and hide their faces. Ai ends up really curious about the place and spends time with its ruler, a really mysterious young girl close to her age that’s bandaged up and wears heavy darkened glasses in order to deal with her issues. It’s a curious arc overall as it delves into some of the feelings of those who willingly become deceased, but it also makes it clear that as interesting and intriguing as the ideas of the world really are, it’s not able to really get down and dirty into it, which keeps it from truly resonating in a meaningful way.
The show works through a couple of arcs from there, but I’ll admit they kind of frustrated me on a level when I watched the simulcast because it felt like it was hewing too much towards school mysteries. With the way the world has changed, schools have been closing down left and right because as each grade graduates, there’s nobody to fill the ranks after awhile. Elementary schools are gone and middle schools are dwindling and then there will be none. So having a school that kidnaps kids and forces them through the system has its moments, but it turns into an escape story with some of them and Ai gets caught up in it after getting kidnapped herself. It’s a really bland arc in itself, but it introduces us to Alice, a young man who is trying to orchestrate the escape, and a ghost girl named Dee that has real feelings for him.
Those two become the focus of the final arc that involves what happened to them in their own school in an event some years in the past, which in itself is a pretty decent mystery story, but again it feels like in a world with so much potential and possibility, we shouldn’t be reading high school stories. Ai becomes less the main character as the show goes on, which is doubly unfortunate since she is a gravekeeper and there’s so much to explore there. We get a taste of it when we see some other gravekeepers, and learn that some are made up of seemingly huge clans of identical people while others are individuals, but that kind of meaty story isn’t delved into and explored. The same can be said when it comes to the supporting cast. Yuri has some great but small moments about his family and how they became Deceased, and Scar seems like she’s tacked on more than anything else, a support system needed for when the group acquires a baby named Celica that has no real use during the episodes. It may work for the book in the larger stories there, but here it’s just seemingly pointless.
Sunday Without God is filled with immense potential but ends up coming across as a series that just wants to tap and touch the surface without scratching it. We get a look at it and an idea of what it is it can explore, but it doesn’t delve into the matters. Ai is a difficult character to work with as a young girl being thrust into this world with the position of power she has as a gravekeeper, but it’s not something that ever feels real because she’s kept so protected and at arms length from most real threats. There’s a fascinating amount of ideas that can be explored here, but there’s no real will to explore it. But even with these problems, I have to give props to it as that rare series that really touches on the concept of religion, afterlife and an almighty because few shows really do that outside of some of the usual bland daily life aspects or just another series taking place in a girls religious school. This one wants to ask the hard questions and poses them in awkward ways, but it doesn’t want to sift for the answers. Instead, it’ll give us some beautiful visuals, some very cinematic moments, and some decent character material, but you want to shake it the other half of the time and demand that it start reaching its potential. Sometimes that frustration can make for a fantastic experience. Other times it can make you too frustrated to deal with it. Between the simulcasts and this marathon session, I’m somewhere in the middle on it because I’ve accepted what it is, but still wish it was more.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: October 21st, 2014
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.