The right answer? Wait, but I didn’t revise!
What’s the Story?
One day a giant cube drops out of the sky and swallows a plane. Run for your lives it’s the attack of the geometric shapes! No, no, it’s actually humanity’s first ever contact with an alien being (strange, the aliens usually go for the US. Giant Monsters, now they go for Japan). The alien’s name is Yaha-kui zaShunina (yeah, not going to spell that out fully again, let alone try and pronounce it), he comes from a reality beyond our own, bearing gifts of unimaginable power, such as brand new power source that will never run out and a way for humans to never have to truly sleep again. ZaShunina offers to help the world towards what he calls the right answer, but just what is the “right answer”?
Now this series felt like something different from the start. There is a vast wealth of sci-fi anime and to split it down further hard sci-fi, which I think is where I’d plump Kado. Hard sci-fi, for those that don’t know, is the area of science fiction where the story tries to be more scientifically accurate, there’s less of the multi-headed aliens and planets made of cheese, unless there’s a very good reason for it. There can still be crazy stuff, but it has a tendency to be based somewhere in fact or on an as yet unproven scientific theory, it’s where you get into the nitty gritty detail of how your universe works.
Now while I really doubt some of the technobabble in this series is based on anything and some of the theories its story is developed from have no grounding in actual science, yet the series acts like it is. It does take a very scientific approach to its world and mythology though, having explanations for most things and trying to explain it’s various concepts with a good amount of detail (on occasion we go into the technobable, but that’s okay, it’s sci-fi I expect shows to at least meet the minimum quota).
Admittedly I’m not much of a hard sci-fi guy, I tend to like the ideas, but a lot of the detail goes over my head unless I want to spend a month digging through the internet to find out more (And usually I get distracted about five minutes in by an article on Batman or some random anime). With my sci-fi I prefer the fantastical and the crazy, but I think Kado just about walks the line between that and hard sci-fi, enough for me to be both interested and entertained at the same time. The series moves at a very slow pace, letting events pass in their own time, there’s no big action scenes or anything like that (not until we get to the end anyway). The majority of it is just people talking, discussing ideas, explaining concepts and philosophising a little bit and it’s a testament to this series that that never really gets boring, not for me anyway.
There are some interesting questions thrown about too, how much progress is too much? How fast should progress be? What does it mean to be human? Not exactly original questions, but they’ll always be important in my opinion. It helps that while the series clearly has an answer to these questions and on occasion can hammer you a bit with them, for most part it leaves the answer up to you. There are two sides to the arguments and the series gives a hearing to both. All the characters have reasons for what they do and what they believe, even if they’re not all explained to you up front. You’ve got to wait for the answer and do a bit of the working out yourself.
One point that I really appreciate about this series is that it avoids several clichés. Normally when an alien pops down for a visits there always has to be some over-eager military guy with his finger always an inch from the button to blow everything to pieces. You just know that it’ll get to point were the humans and aliens can come to an understanding, then Mr. military hits the button and everything is ruined, I am so bored with seeing that plot. Luckily Kado goes nowhere near it. Sure, there are people concerned about the alien, but nobody does anything stupid. Everyone is very calm and rational and approaches the situation with the caution and seriousness it deserves. It may be a bit naïve of me to think, or maybe I’ve just seen too many alien invasion movies, but I hope that if we ever do meet alien life, we react in a similar way to the people in this series.
Speaking of zaShunina, I do like his design. Yes he’s a humanoid, but that makes sense considering he’s trying to win over the humans, but he still acts like an alien. I love the way his arms just float around completely disconnected from the rest of him. It’s freaky, but a cool idea. I also like how he slowly becomes more human across the series and his clearly unrequited feelings for Shindo were kind of touching in the end. (Spoiler!) I was disappointed by the ending of the series where he basically devolves into clichéd villain of the piece that I was hoping we were going to avoid. At least they gave him a decent explanation for what he’s doing and he never quite reached the mad cackling stage. It’s just less than I wanted. Also the way they finally defeat him comes right the hell out of nowhere, though it is funny to see zaShunina get kicked around so much.
Lastly this series shines in two other areas, the soundtrack is gorgeous, ethereal and beautiful on so many levels, I could listen to it for hours. The visuals are also stunning, there are some jaw-dropping images in this series, from the birth of the universe itself to zaShunina walking among a field of lifeless copies of Shindo. There are so many scenes that are just, wow. Also the 2D and 3D animation blends together really well, neither one is all that jarring, though it is handled a little oddly. I get why the did it. Sometimes they need the 2D so that the characters can emote better, the 3D is actually pretty good at moving and emoting, but the 2D is just a step above. On the other hand the 3D is needed for some of those outrageous scenes that it would either be really difficult or just too time-consuming to draw. What I don’t understand is that sometimes the characters are 2D animation and sometimes they’re 3D animation. Both work and look really great, but why keep switching? Especially when you’re doing it multiple times in an episodes. It’s not too jarring, but I can’t work it out. Unless the show is trying to make some distinction between when humans are being real and when they’re being drawn in by the stuff zaShunina brought, I don’t know, I’d have to watch the series again to figure it out.
Kado: The Right Answer is a slow burn, a really slow burn, more content to sit down and talk about its ideas and philosophise a bit. There’s no big action or idiot character to mess thing up, every character feels realistic (except maybe the child prodigy, she’s definitely an anime character) and has reasons for what they do. If any of that is your kind of thing, then you should enjoy this series, the visual and soundtrack alone are worth the price of admission. The ending is a bit of a let down with the plot leaning a bit too much on standard tropes and a plot twist that comes out of nowhere, but the ride to get there is fun. Kado may not be the right answer, but it’s a fun one.
Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.