Seikaisuru Kado: The Sci-Fi You Should Be Watching


There was no way I could have predicted at the start of the season that Seikaisuru Kado would be impressing me the way it has in story, execution, and, yes, even visuals. The anime-original has inspired a manga adaptation, as well as a spin-off manga. If you enjoy science fiction with alien encounters, national and international politics, and theories of world peace, then Kado: The Right Answer may be just the show for you. You don’t even have to be a science fiction fan or anime fan to appreciate the series–the ideas and emotions presented are, quite literally, universal.

Synopsis

You’ll also notice a change between 0 and 1 from hand drawn to CGI. The designs are the same, and help bridge the two styles of art and animation.

If you entered in this story with the special that aired before the start of the main series, you may be confused by the difference between the two styles. The prequel episode 0, “Ninovo,” takes place before Kado’s arrival, and serves primarily to introduce us to Shindo Kojiro, a negotiator for the Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and get a feel for his capabilities. We see him approach a flailing metal plating factory with instructions to arrange for the land’s purchase. Instead of bullying his way into buying the property, subsequently depriving the employees of their jobs and leveling the buildings for redevelopment, he instead does exactly what his title as a negotiator describes. He works out a situation mutually beneficial to both parties involved. His coworker, Hanamori, acts alongside as a comical comparison to Shindo’s talent and dedication. The final moments of the episode run directly into the start of the main series.

With the bulk of the prequel episode taking on an all-too realistic story of government land acquisition, the turn to science fiction may strike viewers from a blind spot. I was definitely one of the few intrigued by the daily negotiations of Shindo Kojiro, and would have been more than pleased with an entire season dedicated to episodes like the prequel. Kado’s arrival may have thrown a kink into that prospect, but I welcome the new direction all the same.

In my start-of-the-season set menu, I compared Kado to the 1951 film, The Day the Earth Stood Still, and I still stand by that example. The cube arrives on Earth much like the spaceship, and, in the manner of Klaatu, is represented by a humanoid called Yaha-kui zaShunina with a message. Instead of a mother and her son, we have Shindo interact with the alien and act as an interpreter and representative for humanity. Politics on national and international scales take direct spotlight in a way rarely shown in anime. We see the Japanese Prime Minister act with intelligence, and the UN Security Council go on the offense. A priceless opportunity presents itself to humans, with Japan at the helm of possible doom or unprecedented success.

A Science Fiction for the Masses

Seikaisuru: Kado is a story any fan of science fiction can enjoy, whether or not he or she likes anime. The plot and writing transcend stereotypes with universal themes–questions on humanity, technology, renewable energy, and intelligent life beyond Earth. As similar as the aforementioned film and this anime series are, the main divergence is the purpose for the alien encounter. zaShunina’s goal is for humanity to advance, starting with our main energy source. The next step focuses on our need for sleep. Infinite energy and no need to sleep sound like miracles for innovation and growth, but I can’t help but wonder about the consequences of receiving these “gifts.”

Thomas Edison denounced sleep, pinning it as unproductive, there are countless studies even today citing the benefits of a good night’s rest. Perhaps our bodies may transform, but what about our minds? I don’t know about you, but I enjoy sleep! Then there’s the idea of Wam, the creation of which defies reality, but still fascinates me. Unlimited energy would no doubt bring a lot of good to people who need it. I can also see it used for ill by those lacking in what zaShunina translates as “heart.” Wam creates zero waste and can be used anywhere. It can be made with any material as long as the parameters for its form are set correctly.

Instead of rejoicing in the gift of energy, some people immediately see the negatives. If anyone can use Wam, what’s to stop others from weaponizing it? Will countries wage endless war on each other with energy and sleep out of the equation? I understand the fear building up in characters like Tsukai and various UN members.

In addition to the greater plot points of the story, I am impressed with the execution of events typically obscured from viewers, such as national security, international relations, and Kado’s movement from one place to another. An entire episode is dedicated to figuring out how to move the cube to a more appropriate place than Haneda Airport. Several meetings and press conferences are held in our presence. We get to experience the shock of learning about Kado and Wam along with the characters. All of these details bring the story to life and make the situations more intimate to us and our own reality.

Now about the CGI

It’s difficult to talk about Kado without acknowledging the CGI that encompasses the entirety of the visuals. The art style can be hard to accept, and I’m sure there are countless people who dropped the show after only a few minutes into the first episode. As much as I usually prefer hand drawn art and animation, I’ve been persuaded by Kado’s CGI, which better suits the storytelling and is an improvement on similar projects of the past. If you remember Sidonia no Kishi, an anime that also incorporated CGI, you’ll probably also recall the stiff character designs, particularly the hair and facial expressions. Bubuki Buranki is another great example of this. Kado’s characters, in contrast, look pretty good. I wouldn’t consider them my new preference, but the range of emotions has greatly improved and I hardly notice the textures of the characters’ hair styles. While previous attempts at character design in Sidonia and Bubuki distracted me from the story, that is not the case in Kado.

I would go so far as to say that the use of CGI aids the science fiction aspects of the show in a way I’m not sure hand drawn art can. There’s still a sense of futuristic strangeness with CGI that I think perfectly suits the otherworldiness of Kado and zaShunina. The cube’s odd shininess and smooth movement looks and feels unnatural to my eyes, and I get a hint of how the people in the anime’s world might feel.

Present Relevance

Seikaisuru: Kado could not have been created at a more appropriate time than now, when it seems like everyday I read headlines covering climate change, the energy crisis, terrorism, and war. These global issues are here to stay. What would it take, then, for humankind to set aside our differences and work together? Is there one answer to all of our questions that will unite us in a mutually beneficial goal? Kado takes a stab at answering these questions from one unique perspective, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of this season has in store for us.

If you are interested and would like to give the series a try, you can watch the show in the U.S. on Crunchyroll.


Extra Reading

  • “Why You Should Watch KADO: The Right Answer (Seikaisuru Kado)”
  • Notes on the series author: The similarities between Kado and The Day the Earth Stood Still should come as no surprise once you look into the background of Kado’s writer, Mado Nozaki. His science fiction works include this screenplay, short stories, light novels, and several novels. In a 2009 interview by Denki Online, taken after Nozaki won the Media Works Bunko Prize for his novel, [Movie] Amrita, the novelist cited The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as a recent read and inspiration for science fiction. He also listed Gon, the Little Fox, a Japanese children’s story with a sad ending. The fairy tale was made into an animated film in 1985.
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