It’s admirable when an anime tries to go above and beyond with its setting and storytelling. It’s nice to see creators dare to create something really special, and go into the depths of certain tried and tested themes in order to get something really unique out of them. However, sometimes such ambitions tend to go a little overboard, leaving you with something that doesn’t quite feel defined or complete. There’s many cases of anime trying to overachieve, and perhaps the most beloved example of this is Neon Genesis Evangelion, and as acclaimed as it is, you can’t help accept that the original series blew up in its face. In fact, they had to rewrite the canon several times to repair the damage. Sunday Without God is unique for sure, but almost too unique for its own good. If anything, Sunday Without God tries so hard to set itself apart from everything that it ends up not really figuring out just what it wants to accomplish. A haunting and theologically grandeur world serves as the setting, populated by a mysterious cast of characters, with a compelling protagonist. All these elements are used to deliver meaningful and philosophical musings on life and death, but when it’s all said and done, Sunday Without God doesn’t really commit to any of its ideas or plot devices, keeping things vague and misleading till the very end.
Sunday Without God takes place in a world where God has turned His back on humanity and granted the one thing they always desired: eternal life. However, living forever turns out to be a fate worse than death for the human race, and to make matters worse they lost their ability to procreate. The dead pretty much live in perpetuity, turning the world into a purgatory wasteland of sorts. However, God was kind enough to leave a special race of beings behind: Gravekeepers. These beings are tasked with putting the living dead to rest once and for all, allowing them to enter the afterlife. These Gravekeepers travel the land to give humans the send-off they yearn. One of these Gravekeepers is a young 12 year-old named Ai.
Ai lives in a village surrounded by loving and caring people, her late mother was a Gravekeeper and Ai followed suit. Her life drastically changes when a mysterious stranger arrives at the village. Ai’s characterisation is honestly a little all over the place because, for one thing, she takes life way too seriously for someone who is supposed to be 12. And yet, at times she has a bit of a Cardcaptor Sakura charm about her when she acts her own age. Ai is likeable when she acts like a kid, but given the grave nature of the world she occupies and the ordeals she suffers through, it makes a little sense for her to be serious. Although the amount of philosophical insight she exhibits at the most random occasions is a little jarring for a character that is supposed to be innocent and naive.
The rest of the anime is like Ai too, a little too all over the place. It switches gears far too many times and doesn’t really stay consistent in terms of its underlying themes. Even the various mini-arcs during this short series never really get full closure. It keeps hopping from one plot device to the next, raises far too many questions, and leaves most if not all things unanswered when it is all said and done. The first half of the series is stronger than the latter half, with powerful lessons on the meaning of life and death. It’s a shame that the second half of the show takes place in a school stuck in a time loop of sorts, adding far too many new characters into the mix before unceremoniously writing most of them off. Even the big finale proves to be vague and disappointing. The best part of the series is when Ai comes to grips with her past and her family, and how she makes sense of life and death.
As a production Sunday Without God is a really nice looking anime. The visuals are showered with particle and lighting effects, even when the character designs are a little on the generic side. The music is great, especially how the ending theme kicks in at the most sombre moments to end the episode on a high note. That’s what Sunday Without God does particularly well, it knows how to end each episode in a way that gives you goosebumps, and the ending theme plays a big part in adding that emotional punch. Of course, the start of the following episode almost never follows through. As a package, Sunday Without God comes with the 12 episodes and the complete OVA, making it a pretty good deal even though the OVA doesn’t really add anything noteworthy after the series’ finale.
Sunday Without God has a lot of interesting ideas, but they’re all thrown into this big pot and mixed haphazardly. It doesn’t really follow through on its epic set-up, and just when it comes close to answering some questions, it instead raises more questions. Sunday Without God doesn’t quite commit to its ambitions, instead keeping things painfully vague in hopes that no one would notice the plot-holes.