It’s rare for an anime that starts off so well to go so far downhill so late into its runtime. Even a show such as Sword Art Online which appears to start off with an engaging first few episodes will, given enough thought and the benefit of hindsight, have enough telltale signs of the direction the series will eventually end up taking. With Kado: The Right Answer, I cannot seem to spot any of the usual early signs that would result in the story turning out the way it did. I should say now that not only will there be spoilers for this post, but that it’s also written for people who have already seen the show from start to finish. While I will be recapping some parts of the plot for the sake of clarity, for the most part, this post exists more as a way to vent about the various frustrations I had with this show, and perhaps serve as some sort of vindication for people who were, like me, burned by what by all accounts seemed to be one of the most promising shows of the year so far.
The first few episodes are genuinely excellent. During episode 0, the premise of the show isn’t immediately apparent, but it tells an engaging if somewhat dry story about a negotiator for the Japanese Government called Shindo Kojiro figuring out how to keep an old steel firm in business. The episode shows no signs or foreshadowing, outside of the opening, of the gigantic, alien cube landing on the airport runway as Shindo and his colleague Hanamori are taking off, and the episode ends with them being swallowed by the cube.
Early on we see that the show makes a large number of bold choices that you just don’t see all that often from modern anime. The first episode is confident enough in its own self-contained plot and its lead character to not immediately try to excite us with the true core premise right off the bat, and for a number of episodes following, it’s willing to keep the viewers guessing what’s going on as the Japanese government try to study Kado and deal with the ramifications of its sudden arrival, leading to a series of suspenseful cliffhangers which use the structure of the shows episodes to keep us guessing as much as possible. Many anime are so afraid of keeping their viewers in the dark, and are so confident in the innate appeal of their world, premise, and aesthetic, that they often front load early episodes with as much exposition as reasonably possible. A first episode might flash forward to an important fight that may take place later in the series, before the viewer has any reason to care about the stakes of that fight.
Another unique choice is the anime’s focus on stable working Adults working normal government jobs. While focusing on Adult characters is pretty common in the west, in a world where it feels like every anime has to relate back to teenagers or some kind of high school it’s refreshing to see a story with a different kind of focus. Teenagers basically have no place in the story for most of the shows run time, and while it eventually becomes evident that the cast is filled with a number of stereotypical tropes, early on it seems like we’re watching something that’s drawing from more than the usual anime templates, with only Hanamori and the young childish scientist Shinawa filling the roles of the laid back best friend and the hyperactive cute genius.
The show’s use of CG is by no means a new choice, as many anime have been using CG animation as a cheap alternative to hand drawn animation. However very few shows these days will aim for a show that uses mostly CG animation for even its quieter scenes, and very rarely will that CG look any good. Kado can be a real visual treat when you’re looking at Kado itself and the various ways it shifts and moves constantly along with the shifting colours. While the CG quite possibly wasn’t necessary for depicting normal modern day Japan or the characters, I can imagine that Kado itself would have been extremely difficult to make using traditional animation, and sweeping shots such as the shot of the camera pulling out across the entirety of Tokyo at the end of episode 0 are also ambitious shots that may not have been feasible if they were hand drawn. I’m no animation expert, so I’m actually curious if anyone would know what could or couldn’t be achievable with CG animation. Overall though, I think rendering most of the show in CG with only a small amount of traditional animation helps give the show a both a uniform and distinctive aesthetic.
So the calm tone, the diplomatic themes and the focus on Adult characters, as well as the distinctive aesthetic and premise all seems to suggest that the show wants to be seen as a mature, new series meant for more mature audiences than most typical anime. Early on, that certainly seems to be the case. The show treats the audience as though they can reasonably get invested and interested in a plot that doesn’t immediately front load itself, and that they can be interested in a plot more about philosophical and political ideas rather than a plot about characters fighting or accidentally walking in on each other while they’re naked. Once Za Shunina is firmly established, the plot eventually reveals the central narrative when he gifts humanity with a device known as the Wam, which are essentially small orbs from his universe, called the anisotropic, which provide humanity with a clean energy source that provides infinite power. There’s a lot more complexity to the presentation of this idea than my summation, however. As Shindo and Za Shunina negotiate the with the government, the show takes great care to show that Shindo is simply simplifying concepts that Za Shinina doesn’t fully understand how to express through language. There’s humour in how they negotiate with each other over precise definitions, and we get the sense that while Za Shunina isn’t fully aware of how to interact with humanity, he is willing to compromise and learn. Introducing a powerful energy source isn’t clear cut, either. There’s political ramifications to only Japan being given the wam, and weather humanity can be trusted with such a powerful energy source when they can barely handle nuclear weapons. Za Shunina wants to spread it to all of humanity, but the UN immediately decide that they want to regulate it, threatening war with the country and pressuring the Japanese government into making a decision. In other words, the show isn’t just about watching the spectacle of all this cool technology appearing and making everything utopian. The technology itself is complex, the consequences of its existence are complex. There’s a lot to think about, and there’s lots of conflicting ideologies among the cast members that don’t even necessarily lead to outright conflict. Without even having to pretend, Kado immediately establishes it as a thinking man’s show for clever clogs, a show which asks practically everything relevant to human existence. From politics to energy to personal ideologies and practicality, to negotiation and force. Humanity’s ability to responsibly accept power beyond their comprehension and their very place in a vast and complex universe are all major core themes. It’s truly staggering what Kado is able to make you think about without feeling like a confusing mess of ideas- it all feels natural, and it’s presented in such an engaging and thoughtful way that you’ll almost never be thinking about anything to do with the actual plot. I at least never found myself trying to second guess it, and I was never really confused, I was just eager to learn more and every episode had me applauding every new revelation and idea presented.
One of Za Shunina’s early lines stood out to me at the end of episode 2. “You must continue to think: Am I a foe, a friend? That is right. To constantly think… is the only right answer in the world.” To me, this stood out as the heart of the show. A key idea to be paired with Shindo’s core belief that negotiation is only possible when you compromise to ensure that both parties are satisfied, and that conflict isn’t necessary. The Wam arc shows both of these core beliefs. I’ve already outlined how it gets you thinking, and how the characters themselves are also constantly thinking about the implications of the existence of the anisotropic and the wam. The conflict with the UN is also not solved through war, the Japanese Prime Minister agrees to the UN’s demands while also sharing Shinawa’s method of creating the wam with the world. Za Shunina also convinced the Prime Minister of this method simply by being convincing with his words, rather than forcing or coercing the Prime Minister for the sake of his own gain. While the method they ultimately use to share the wam is somewhat forcing their ideology on the planet, sharing the wam ultimately gives power and choice to the people who are willing and able to make them while still adhering to the demands of the UN. While I’m sure that not everyone would agree that sharing the wam was a good idea, and that’s perfectly fine, I do find myself agreeing with Za Shunina, Shinawa, and the Prime Minister. It’s a method that avoids blood shed and political pressure while compromising with those in the UN who held an opposing opinion.
I’d like to be able to say that, but unfortunately I also can’t help but feel that, while sharing the wam is a decision I ultimately agree with, I can’t help but feel that it wasn’t a fair compromise. Sharing the wam was, obviously, just a loophole, meaning that handing over the wam they did have to the UN was basically meaningless, a fact which is acknowledged in the show. I’m somewhat torn on this decision because while I agree with the notion of these characters sharing the wam with humanity and advancing humanity, it does also go against the show’s core theme of a fair compromise. It’s almost like the UN were portrayed as acting unreasonably enough that properly negotiating with them wasn’t necessary, which doesn’t fully sit well with me. But I think that’s part of the point, in a way. I don’t know if sharing the wam was necessarily the right answer for this situation, and ultimately, the characters end up going with their gut, with their core beliefs. But even though threatening war with Japan might make the UN seem like the villains in the context of the narrative, it also feels like a realistic response. The UN have a valid opinion and they hold legitimate concerns, and even if their opinion wasn’t valid, it would still be something you’d have to negotiate. In other words, there’s no right answer. And since there’s no right answer, it’s something the show can let you think about for yourself. The show presents what the characters end up doing, but while the reveal of Shinawa’s wam creation method is presented as a gotcha against the UN and a surprise twist for the audience, making us excited to see them squirming as the loophole is exploited, I think there’s a enough room left open for us to be able to legitimately agree with the UN or at least understand their perspective, even if they don’t have a named character among their ranks.
That’s the genius of early Kado. It’s complex, but it isn’t presented in an esoteric fashion. You clearly understand what’s happening in each episode even as it obfuscates information for the sake of building up to a twist or a cliffhanger. They present confusing their ideas, because they’re on topics that actual people in the real world still struggle and argue with. The characters come up with their answer, but it’s clear that there’s more than one answer. And once again, I once again emphasise the line which proves the writers must have known what they were doing. That to be constantly thinking is the only right answer.
The cracks start to show after the wam arc. In the next episode, it’s established that out of the billions of people on Earth who now know how to make Wam, apparently only about two people besides Shindo and Shinawa are capable of making wam from scratch, apparently because they need to have a greater sense of the anisotropic. While this makes sense in the context of the narrative, it also feels like a lost opportunity to show what a post wam world might look like. Furthermore, the UN isn’t brought up again for the rest of the series, suggesting that they just accepted Japan abusing the loophole in their demands. One thing that became increasingly apparent as the show progressed was that it started ‘telling’ instead of ‘showing’, when it had displayed such talent for showing the audiences its ideas. While the show doesn’t weigh itself down with exposition in the same way as others do, only a few lines are dedicated to the ramifications of the wam on society, as well of a few shots of people across the world using the wam for fairly mundane purposes. In Japan, we are only ever shown the technology that Japan is already using, mainly their vehicles, and we don’t really see how they adapt wam into everyday life, business use, or governmental and military use. The reasoning for this is that the only show only takes place in a 3 month span total, and the wam only appeared a few days after Kado first arrived. While it makes sense that the world wouldn’t evolve so rapidly in such a short span of time, I can’t help but feel like the show should have taken place over a period of years instead of months, so that we could really see the results of Za Shunina’s influence on the world.
Instead, the show briefly focuses on Kado moving from the airport to a new location, an episode which isn’t bad, but isn’t particularly interesting either. The episode reinforces the government’s competence, Za Shunina’s difficulty with communicating his desires and requirements despite trying his best to compromise, and Shindo’s efficient skills at bridging the inherent gap between Za Shunina and humanity. But it doesn’t really establish anything new, either, and it feels like it takes up too much space when discussing the wam some more would have been more interesting. Once Kado is moved, Za Shunina immediately introduces Shindo to a new device called the Sansa, a device which allows humanity to not have to sleep by giving them a greater sense of the anisotropic and their alternate selves in other dimensions.
The sansa arc isn’t bad in and of itself, but a lot of it feels similar to the wam arc. Za Shunina chooses to use a fictional company called Setten, which seems to be some kind of Google analogue, to spread awareness of the Sansa rather than relying on the government. But as a result it feels like there’s no real conflict. Setten are just as incorruptible as the Japanese Prime Minister was in the wam arc, and while lipservice is paid to the morality of their actions, Setten actually end up being more responsible than even the Prime Minister was in my opinion. The Sansa immediately alters the brain state just by seeing it, even seeing it broadcasted on TV will irreversibly change those who see it. And while there doesn’t seem to be any downside to the Sansa after the initial trip, they acknowledge the fact that they can’t just change people like that permanently. As such, when they broadcast the sansa to spread it, we can see the presenters and the text on screen repeatedly warning people about the possible effects of the Sansa. Once the wam are spread, that knowledge is out of the bag. People can choose to use it as soon as the method is widely known on the internet. With the sansa, people can know it exists, but they themselves were given the choice to not let it change them. Either way, it provides some more food for thought.
The problem with the sansa arc is once again with the aftermath, and this time, it’s even more confusing. During the broadcast it’s established that a lot of people saw the sansa broadcast despite the warning. This means that unlike the wam broadcast, a lot of people immediately changed very quickly. It was an instant, irreversible change. However we see even less of the effects that the sansa had on the world than the wam did, if you can believe that. While Shindo discussed the idea of not having to sleep because of the sansa with his colleagues before the broadcast, no one ever acknowledges it after the fact, no one seems to really care. It also strikes me as extremely unrealistic that there was no backlash against the sansa. While it was established that Shindo and the Setten crew felt no negative side effects, and that people could still sleep if they wanted to for whatever reason, the same would almost certainly not be true new for billions of people. Some people would react negatively, even if that reaction was due to a mere placebo effect. Maybe just knowing about the anisotropic would lead people to suicide due to a lovecraftian sense of cosmic horror. On top of that, it was explained earlier that the reason wam were still rare after its method of creation was shared is because not many people had a sense of the anisotropic. Since the sansa gives them that sense, surely that would lead to a huge increase of people capable of creating wam, leading to an even greater worldwide change. In the end, though, the show doesn’t seem to treat those questions as relevant when it’s more interested in moving on to the next thing.
Kado is a show with a lot of ideas, and since it only had a single short season to tell its story, I can get that not every single question could be explored or even asked when it also had to actually progress as a plot. I’m happy that the show had enough ideas that I can even ask these questions, even if I’m disappointed that the show didn’t seem to think of them alongside me. But the problem is that some of those questions also break down the plausibility of the narrative. Kado is a show that shows a lot of care into meticulously asking every question about its premise and world to itself and asking itself the most realistic way this hypothetical scenario would play out, and how this scenario would contribute most effectively to its core themes. So it just feels out of place when it feels like these questions aren’t answered. And when the focus is placed more on diversions such as moving Kado and more neat devices, it feels like it loses focus, it feels like it falls apart. That wouldn’t be enough to make Kado terrible, however. The cracks start to stretch out into trenches following the sansa arc.
Let’s talk about Saraka Tsukai. I haven’t mentioned her up until now because Tsukai makes me irrationally angry. Even during the episodes when I firmly believed Kado was shaping up to be something truly excellent, Tsukai stood out like a sore thumb. She’s introduced as a negotiator whose skill is supposed to be on par with Shindo’s. She’s pitted against him when he and Za Shunina negotiate with the Japanese government for the first time, but since the show had a lot of explaining to do, all she’s really able to do is ask questions as Shindo and Za Shunina steal the spotlight and completely dictate the flow and tone of the negotiation, something she later realises and admits in a one off line. The anime never really shows us any of Tsukai’s alleged skills as a negotiator. Interacting with a being like Za Shunina and trying to understand the situation is fine, but during the negotiation, she also giggles at Shindo and Za Shunina’s interactions, something which Shindo later uses to tease her, which is extremely unprofessional for someone chosen to be a part of one of the most important negotiations of mankind’s history. This might be fine, after all, I was giggling at their interactions alongside her. But it sets a precedent- Tsukai is never proffessional, and thus she never feels like Shindo’s equal. Tsukai’s personality can only really be described as a large bundle of typical anime cliches, sort of a mix between a classic tsundere and eventually just plain dere. She blushes she complains, she hates Shindo’s laidback attitude but is also completely jealous of his skill and she clearly loves him for basically being perfect, although it’s just kind of a universal truth in this show that everyone loves Shindo. And, granted, I also love Shindo. He’s the only character who feels consistent and relevant, and he displays a lot of his character traits and his competency early on.
Tsukai’s typical personality is irritating for feeling so out of place in a show like this, even more so than Shinawa, who displays extreme competency at her work despite acting childish. Tsukai only really becomes insufferable when she takes Shindo to her hometown to convince him of her own ideologies. On paper this decision isn’t necessarily bad. The show has given us no reason to distrust Za Shunina, and in a world that is allegedly evolving at a rapid pace, it’s a necessary and a good idea to present a character who is against the idea of Za Shunina’s gifts purely on principle. It’s her belief that human evolution is natural, has always been natural, and that they should continue to evolve without outside influence. Again, this is an interesting question to ask, and it’s one that should be asked. My initial reaction to this scene was poor simply because I disagreed with Tsukai, and I still do. But my real problem with this scene isn’t that a different opinion was raised, but it was the way in which the scene was presented.
First of all is that the scene basically presents Tsukai’s beliefs as the right answer. Unlike the wam and sansa scenarios, the framing of the scene and its context within the story basically leaves no room for us to assume that the show is doing anything *but* completely siding with Tsukai in this scene. The music and the visuals swell as the bears her soul to Shindo and the audience, making her beliefs seem clear and obvious and true and right, spreading her arms out to him against a starlit sky. Tsukai is the cute anime girl, and she’s the one in love with Shindo, and while Shindo is the more professional type, you get the sense that he likes her too, and is reconsidering his opinion after having spent the entire series aiding and befriending Za Shunina. This is the moment when Kado changes one of its core beliefs. Kado is no longer about ‘thinking’ it’s about finding a definitive right answer, and that answer is the complete opposite of direction the narrative had taken. Because the truth is, humanity hadn’t been evolving at such a rapid pace purely because of Za Shunina’s influence. They had to decide what to do with Kado, the wam, and the sansa, their scientists researched each device and made their own breakthroughs, they made their own political decisions amongst themselves and did with their gifts what they saw fit, and it turns out that the world didn’t become a warzone and that things only got better. While they were following Za Shunina’s will by spreading these devices, Za Shunina wasn’t enforcing his beliefs. He was simply convincing enough and willing enough to compromise and explain himself that he was able to appeal to the core values of people who already held those values before they even met him. There was a lot of potential factors to consider about Za Shunina’s sudden arrival and his gifts, but people were thinking and advancing, and they were doing it of their own free will, at their own pace, and basically all amongst themselves. Even if you didn’t agree with the decisions these characters were making as a viewer, you could reasonably understand those actions as being theirs, as being valid and thought out, and that they weren’t being tricked or taken advantage of.
But Tsukai is right because… dignity?
And then the trench stretches out into a chasm that the entire show plunges straight into.
Let’s talk about Za Shunina. Early on it’s established that while there’s a clear difference in the power and knowledge of Za Shunina compared to the rest of humanity, Za Shunina is both patient and adaptable. He’s completely willing to explain himself to humanity, and he absolutely sees them as an intelligent form of life whose lives should be valued as much as his own. He calmly explains that swallowing the plane with Kado was a mistake, and that it would take some time to evacuate them from Kado. When he sees that Shindo has a violent headache in reaction to seeing Za Shunina for the first time and presumably gaining a sense of the anisotropic, he realises that he has to be careful with his interactions with humanity in case they also have a similar reaction (a point which never comes up again, not even during the sansa arc). Even though he doesn’t understand that humanity can’t establish contact with him in 3 seconds, he’s willing to listen to Shindo and expand that time to hours instead. Even though Za Shunina can use his powers to scan any item of information and learn and process all of its information within seconds, which we see him do with a smartphone during his first appearance, while he sits in Kado he chooses to learn more about the world by reading books with his own two eyes at the same pace as humans simply to learn about how humans live and process information. Za Shunina isn’t just adaptable to humanity, we see that he’s actively interested and invested in them. He’s willing to go to a culture festival to learn about ‘fun’. He’s able to speak to the Prime Minister’s very soul despite his rudimentary understanding of human emotion. He grows attached to Shindo and the bookmark Shindo gave him as a present, not because Shindo is a useful ally, but because Shindo actually tries to understand him on a personal level and treat him as human despite his inherent inhumanity. Basically, Za Shunina was a great character, and a very subversive one. Most characters in his position, especially in anime, become villains. Because they are fundamentally inhuman, their character usually becomes defined by having no sense of morality, not because they’re evil, but because they are simply so far in advance of humans and know so much about the bigger picture that morality simply doesn’t occur to them. This character is an archetype, one that makes us afraid of the power that governs our universe, and more importantly, how we can distance ourselves from our own humanity as we gain power. This isn’t a bad character type, but Za Shunina shows that there can be more to this type of character, that they can still try to understand morality even if that understanding doesn’t come naturally to them, that power can still allow one to be willing to learn, and that power doesn’t necessarily have to be an inherently corrupting force.
Za Shunina in the last three episodes isn’t the same Za Shunina that we see at the start of the series. He gets replaced by a copy of the character archetype he was subverting.
In a way it’s almost like Za Shunina becomes the version of himself that Tsukai seemed to think he is. In episode 9, he reveals a new device to Shindo called the Nanomis-Hein, which allows any regular human to control gravity. Unlike the previous two devices, however, no time is actually dedicated exploring the implications of such a device outside of Shindo listing a few of its possible applications upon first seeing it. Almost immediately after demonstrating this device, Za Shunina decides to explain why he came to the universe to begin with.
Apparently anisotropic beings such as Za Shunina are obsessed with information. When the universe was created by an anisotropic administrator, they watched the universe as it grew and eventually came to the conclusion that humans were pretty rad because, despite the supposed limitations of the amount of information the universe could contain compared to the anisotropic dimension, humans were capable of developing vast amounts of unpredictable information. Therefore, beings such as Za Shunina started to grow an almost obsessive fascination with them. The way it’s presented is somewhat convoluted, and it is a little strange that apparently humans, of all the countless lifeforms that likely exist in the universe, were seemingly dubbed as the most interesting by the anisotropic, but whatever. It’s a decent motivation for Za Shunina that fits in with the inquisitive nature he has shown the audience throughout the series, that he wants to learn more about humans. This is an easy way to explain why he wishes to advance humanity further. It could have been explained that he felt that humanity had already reached a point where they were advancing so rapidly compared to their ancestors that he felt they were ready to engage with the anisotropic. He could have felt that, despite humanity’s intelligence, that they would eventually hit a brick wall in their development without the anisotropic. What to us may have felt like a few thousand years or whatever until we hit that wall may have felt like time was running short for Za Shunina, so he chose this time and place to manifest in the universe and share his gifts, and thus allow humanity to advance further and produce more unpredictable information. This is not the explanation the show gives, however.
Instead, Za Shunina is obsessed enough with humans that he instead wants to bring them to the anisotropic. Now, I’m not saying that my suggestions were necessarily the only correct way to explain his motivations in a way that would satisfy me, but there’s a number of reasons why the ultimate end goal the show states were a bad idea. For one, bringing humans to the anisotropic basically renders everything Za Shunina and the anime as a whole had been doing pointless. If he was going to bring them to the anisotropic anyway, then why should he bother introducing gifts to them? If he never intended humans to stay in the universe, why would he give them technology that was intended to be used within the universe? If he could have Kado do this at any time, why did he wait three months to do so? He doesn’t try to reason with humanity on this point. He tries to reason with Shindo, and when that fails, he just decides to activate Kado and absorb humanity anyway. We see that he introduces a vast amount of information to Shindo all at once, completely alienating him, and laments that he may have introduced too much information to him too quickly, and decides to start over with a clone. If Za Shunina was aware of this problem, why did he decide to overload and clone Shindo now? Za Shunina up to this point had been established as patient and willing to compromise, and we see nothing that would explain this sudden switch to him becoming irrational and impatient. There’s some lip service paid to the idea that Za Shunina’s spent a long enough time in human form that he is becoming more human and experiencing more of their emotions, but the audience is shown no key event that would cause such a radical shift to a completely opposite set of emotions. As we see later, it’s not even like Za Shunina was lying or manipulating anyone. We know that he truly, genuinely loves Shindo, and that he immediately realises that cloning Shindo was a mistake, as he realises that the clone doesn’t exhibit qualities representing the real Shindo’s ‘Soul’. It’s clear that Za Shunina was clearly experiencing positive emotions at the start of the series and that he was invested in his relationship with Shindo, so he couldn’t have been lying. Za Shunina describes the universe as ‘cramped’ in episode 10, contradicting his established character even further. Za Shunina chose to appear in human form, he chose to negotiate with humanity peacefully and value their thoughts and autonomy, and he chose to read books with his eyes instead of scanning them directly with Kado, purposefully using the less efficient means of absorbing information.
I simply cannot fathom why this happened. It’s almost like an actual writer wrote the first part of the series while a literal real-world Tsukai took over the writing duties for the final act. The only reason Za Shunina acts this way is because the writers or the same parasitic brain-slug that infests all writers who decide to write bad fiction suddenly took over and decided that Za Shunina should become the villain because he’s the most powerful entity in the story, despite the fact that Za Shunina was previously just as much a protagonist as Shindo was up until this point. The series never really needed an antagonist other than the natural conflicts that would arise in humans themselves due to Za Shunina’s intervention. Kado could have easily been an engaging and positive tale about the power of human ingenuity, careful thought, compromise, and progress. Developing the personal relationships of Shindo, Hanamori, Tsukai, and Za Shunina could have easily been used to give the story more of a personal hook instead of forcing an arc that brings the story to an abrupt and stupid conclusion. It didn’t need a traditional narrative story structure, as the excellent early episodes proved, and it it absolutely needed an antagonist, the UN were right there. All they’d have to do is create a named character within the UN itself to oppose them to emphasise their importance and power.
I can only conclude that the final act of Kado is about how humanity is fine as we are. That we can solve all of our problems using all the traditional ideas we currently have. Reality would beg to differ, the world is still deeply flawed, and humanity is in constant need of new ideas to ensure our continued survival and happiness. So on an ideological level, I despise the final act of Kado. But I think the greatest sin the ending provides is that it’s just uninteresting and confusing and bad. It could have no ideology of any kind and still be poor fiction.
Everything breaks down when you think about Tsukai for more than five seconds. She’s revealed to be another anisotropic being alongside Za Shunina, only she believes in the dignity of humanity, and on top of that, she is apparently the universes ‘administrator’ suggesting that she created it and set its parameters, such as the laws of physics and such. Wait a moment. Wasn’t Tsukai’s entire philosophy based around the idea that the universe was natural, that evolution happened naturally, and that it wasn’t influenced by outside force? If Tsukai is what can only be described as God, then surely she set all of life and evolution into motion, meaning that evolution was influenced by an outside force, and that that outside force was… herself? That strikes me as extremely hypocritical. It almost makes Tsukai seem like a child who hates big mean Za Shunina for trying to play with her toys. The idea that she’s actually God is never really discussed among the cast, and Shindo doesn’t really seem to care. Tsukai doesn’t care either, she still acts like her usual self as if being anisotropic wasn’t a big deal at all. Unlike Za Shunina, she was apparently born into the universe as Tsukai, meaning that she was always human. So was she around since the beginning of the universe? Was she just watching humanity, or has she taken on human form before? Has she been reincarnating in different bodies since the start of human existence? Does she care about any other species in the infinite universe besides humanity? Have other anisotropic beings besides herself and Za Shunina entered the universe? Why are none of these questions ever asked or addressed?
It feels like the only reason Tsukai was made anisotropic was so that she could save Shindo from being killed by Za Shunina. That way he can prepare for the final confrontation while the clone steals his identity. She can also serve as exposition, and being a powerful anisotropic also lends some legitimacy to her beliefs. After all it’s difficult to argue with tsundere God. Lastly, she needs to be anisotropic for the last big twist.
Episode 11 establishes the idea that Shindo wants to negotiate with Za Shunina by giving him the one thing he truly wants, which is a surprise. Nevermind the fact that they plan to stop Za Shunina by force anyway, therefore dropping all pretense of compromise and negotiation and thereby breaking a core theme of the story. While surprising information is stated to be what the anisotropic beings like about humanity, I can’t help but feel that this idea of ‘surprise’ was meant to be directed by the audience. The anime assumes that what we want is an unpredictable surprise, since after all, anime is entertainment. The story structure has been built around making sure almost every episode ends with a surprise, even while the story is still good. But I think there’s a core flaw in that philosophy. Surprises are nice, but it’s also nice to know what’s going on, and there’s more to entertainment than the raw element of surprise. Kado had also established itself as a thinking man’s story, meaning that just by asking questions, it was possible to have something to think about and enjoy while the next surprise was prepared. Each surprise brought with it a number of new questions which were, thankfully, immediately answered by the narrative in a satisfying fashion. As such each surprise served to expand the story, broaden our knowledge, and make the show better with each new revelation. The surprises in the final act only serve to diminish the quality of the story as each new surprise raises more questions that aren’t relevant to the core themes of the story, and that only seem to be there for their own sake.
The anime explains to the audience that Shindo’s plan will be to use a fregonics suit powered by wam to negate Za Shunina’s powers and trap him inside a closed dimensional space. There’s a scene where we see Shindo asking a favour of Hanamori, which causes Hanamori to cry for some reason, but we have no idea why. Hanamori’s tears seem to serve as the only clue that there’s more to Shindo’s plan than we first realise. On top of that, Shindo and Tsukai enjoy a passionate make-out session, destroying the hopes and dreams of Shindo and Za Shunina Yaoi fans everywhere, which is more of an important clue than it initially appears to be.
In the final confrontation as Za Shunina absorbs humanity into Kado, the fregonics suit fails due to a weakness that the audience couldn’t possibly have known was there and Shindo is killed. Za Shunina flips back and forth constantly during this confrontation too. Shindo employs basic logic to convince Za Shunina that taking humanity to the anisotropic would be a terrible idea, which causes Za Shunina to break down and realise that he can’t force humanity to go there. Then, instead of stopping his plans and repenting, he decides to kill Shindo in this universe… for seemingly no reason, it’s not like they couldn’t have remained friends. Killing Shindo would only make some degree of sense if Shindo had proclaimed that he no longer cared about Za Shunina, only the two clearly do value each other highly. Once Shindo is killed, Za Shunina is sad about Shindo’s death for some reason, and then attempts to continue his plan to take humanity to the anisotropic even though he had just admitted that it would be a terrible idea a few moments ago, and he tries to bring Shindo’s corpse into the anisotropic first. You’ll have to forgive me if I missed some important reason for Za Shunina’s constantly changing motivations, since it still doesn’t make sense to me no matter which way I think about it.
The final ‘surprise’ would probably be the worst moment of the series under most contexts, but I had already been so thoroughly disappointed by this point that it wasn’t really a huge deal to me- I had already accepted the level of poor writing the show had displayed in the final act by this point. The day is saved by a cute Japanese highschool girl with super powers, the complete antithesis of the entire aesthetic that Kado had attempted to establish for itself. The child of Shindo and Saraka is the complete embodiment of the modern anime scene, or really just anime in general. And of course I like most anime and its aesthetic. But that aesthetic isn’t Kado, and yet, for the sake of a final gotcha, the show creates this entirely new character who represents the most generically ‘anime’ tropes. Their daughter is more of a Rei type and doesn’t really take after her mother, but we’re not really given much time to establish her personality considering how little screen time she gets. However the idea is that she grew up in a closed time bubble, raised by Hanamori, and that as a being born from the unity of a human and an anisotropic, she is one of the most powerful beings in existence. Or at least, she’s stronger than Za Shunina, and she’s able to kill him and send him back to the anisotropic. She claims that the secret to her power is that she is constantly ‘going somewhere’ a vauge statement which I can only assume is somewhat similar to the idea of ‘constantly thinking’ as stated by Za Shunina earlier in the series. This is presented as the titular ‘right answer’ but of course by defeating Za Shunina through force, there’s no real reason to think when the show definitively marks him out as a bad guy who needs to be stopped. It also makes no sense that she would be a definitively superior being to humans and anisotropic beings simply by being born of a union between the two beings. She was raised in a close space and was exposed to only one individual, so it’s never explained how she has a superior awareness of the totality of existence to everything else when she led the most sheltered existence possible. Just being aware of something doesn’t mean you know everything about it.
The twist also further reinforces my suspicions that the surprise was meant more for the audience’s ‘benefit’ than Za Shunina’s. It’s explained that Shindo planned on dying so that Za Shunina would think Shindo’s plans had failed. However I can imagine that the sudden appearance of his daughter would be just as surprising to Za Shunina weather he lived or died. It’s only really more theoretically surprising to the audience. Shindo dying might briefly trick the audience into thinking that Za Shunina would win or that Tsukai would have to finish the job, making their daughter’s appearance more surprising after we had forgotten about the scene with Hanamori from the previous episode. The daughter shows a recording on her phone of Shindo and Tsukai holding their newly born child, and Shindo addresses Za Shunina directly, however the anime’s camera has him looking directly at the audience as he boldly asks “Well, was that surprising enough for you?” All this to me suggests that the story’s conclusion was meant to shock, confuse, and surprise the audience rather than get them thinking. How could it be about making them think, when the story falls apart the moment you try to think about it?
The status quo is reset, and it’s never explained how or why humans would lose a sense of the anisotropic simply because Za Shunina isn’t around anymore. I can imagine that would be a difficult thing to reverse. Furthermore, no one seems to care that they have to sleep again, or that they lost all this cool technology. It just seems to be kind of accepted as a happy ending, even though it rendered basically all the progress the story had made worthless, it all gets completely undone. There’s some suggestion that maybe Shinawa would look into the anisotropic, or that now humanity would be thinking differently because they know how much it is possible for them to advance, but the ending still feels incredibly hollow as a result.
Despite my scathing criticisms, however, I would have to argue that Kado is still a cut above a number of the anime that aired alongside it during the season in which it aired. While it ultimately doesn’t live up to its promise, its early episodes are still quality episodes of entertainment in their own right. It still raises a lot of interesting questions, and even the more formulaic ending still feels more unique than most cookie cutter anime that come out in this day and age. In the end, just because I was heavily let down by Kado in the end, that doesn’t mean you will be. It might leave a completely different impression on you, you might have a different opinion, and the same is true for almost everything. It’s worthwhile to Compare and contrast those opinions, criticise them fairly and constantly discuss them, and ultimately, never settle on one definitive right answer.