Sunday Without God is one of those anime that got my viewership not through reviews or word of mouth but on simple concept alone. Halfway through, I put it on my list of the five anime you should be watching this past season—a spot it still deserves based on its excellent world building and thematic exploration.
Sunday Without God is set in a world where people cannot die—or rather, they can die, but they continue to exist in their deceased, decomposing bodies no matter how broken those bodies may become. Thus, the only salvation for the dead are the gravekeepers—a race of people seemingly sent from God to collect souls and set the dead to rest.
The trick is that this is no fantasy world, but our world’s future. Fifteen years before the start of the series, people stopped dying and new people stopped being born. This led to a world-wide collapse of society. Much of Sunday Without God is spent exploring the implications of this new world—how the living try to survive and how the dead deal with their new existence.
It makes this anime, where the characters are on a journey, endlessly fascinating as each new location they visit adds another dimension to the world. But a world without death is only one topic explored in Sunday Without God. The other is the old adage...
In this world without death, we slowly but surely see that many of this world's problems are caused by wishes. If you wish for something with all your heart and soul in Sunday Without God, it will be granted. But few wishes turn out as intended as there are always negative consequences. Wishing to live forever may seem like a good wish, for example, but it pretty much guarantees you will be the last living person in the post-apocalypse—“outliving” even the best preserved of the dead.
Interestingly, it is children who most often have the will to wish for something. Thus, over the series we explore many different wishes, ranging from the spiteful to the innocent—and all with unforeseen consequences.
Ai, the main character of Sunday Without God, is the last child born in the post-apocalypic world. And because of this, she is perhaps the world's last true innocent.
Seeing how her innocence affects those in this jaded world is another of the series' strong points. Some characters dismiss Ai as a stupid kid. Others are stunned by her boundless optimism and of their lack of anything similar. Moreover, it is heartbreaking to watch as, little by little, Ai starts to question her beliefs and wonder if she is perhaps a naive fool.
Sunday Without God is easily one of the most visually beautiful of this past season's anime. This is largely because of its distinctive art style. While, the character designs are no doubt made to evoke the moé response in viewers, the thing that makes Sunday Without God unique is its color pallet. Much of Sunday Without God takes place at sunset, saturating the world with oranges, reds, and yellows. In addition to this, the souls of the dead appear as colored streams of light—much like the farplane souls in Final Fantasy X. Together, these two artistic choices make for an anime that is just stunning to watch.
In the series' twelve episodes, there are a total of four story arcs—one every three episodes. While I felt it was going along at a good pace, it might have been going a little too fast for the emotional impact it was clearly reaching for. Also, due to the speed of the show, side characters get less time devoted to them than they probably should, with the vast majority of time being spent on Ai (interesting though she may be).
And while the series does end by concluding a story arc, it certainly is not the end of Ai and her companions' adventures—which will no doubt annoy some viewers with its many unanswered mysteries. Moreover, the anime's final scene is both shocking and confusing as it ends suddenly without explaining the nature of what exactly has happened and why.
All in all, Sunday Without God is an anime that succeeds in building a world far different from our own by looking at the myriad of implications of a what would happen if no one could die and wishes literally came true. Moreover, it is a beautiful-looking anime (though the character design may rub some the wrong way). If you like well-executed thought experiments or good post-apocalyptic tales, you should really give Sunday Without God a watch.
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