Series Review

Kyle Jones Month Part IV

Ok, so this time around we are looking at another series that Jones did the dub for, later in 2014. One such dub that I found out about secondhand, and only saw it well after the fact. But once I did, I found it to be quite good. To me, this is a surprise for me and well, here it is……

Sunday without God (2013 TV Series)

Studio: Madhouse

Director: Yuji Kumazawa

Script: Tomoko Konparu

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Sunday without God is based on a light novel series by Kimihito Irie. Publishing of the light novel began back in January 2010 and ran on for 9 volumes until May 2014. In Summer 2013, Madhouse aired an anime adaptation for 12 episodes with an OVA that came out in February 2014. I like to think this is the near polar opposite of Kino’s Journey, wherein that show it is a celebration of life, Sunday without God is a meditation on one’s mortality.

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Sunday without God concerns a young girl, Ai Astin, who has grown up in a world where death is absent. Now this will need some explanation for those who haven’t seen the anime or read the light novels. In the story’s world, 15 years prior to the story’s events, God went ‘Oh feck it’ and closed off Heaven, for some omnipotent reason not clearly explained in the story. This of course led to the dead still roaming the earthly realm, very much being the logical conclusion to the Deist worldview; that is, ‘What if God made the world then closed off Heaven, leaving us to our own devices?’ The only way, or people, to permanently put the dead to rest are the ‘Gravekeepers’, special beings with the power to bury the dead so they stay as such. Ai Astin is one of them, her deceased mother being a Gravekeeper before her, who in fact takes over her mother’s job in the village after her death. One day she runs into Hampnie Hambert, a mysterious fellow with a gun, who is on a search for a Gravekeeper named Anna. She ends up joining Hampnie on a journey along with Scar, who is an actual Gravekeeper. Along the way, they meet others in this strange land and reflect on the human condition along the way, especially in regards to death and the afterlife.

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The nice thing I like about Sunday without God is the structure. The anime comes in small story arcs of sorts, each slightly different than the last. And each story arc takes Ai to different places and explores the world in about as full a picture as the show can take. Granted, Episode 1 does have a slight tone issue, but it smooths itself out after that point thankfully. Luckily the episodes are named in parts, so you get titles like ‘Valley of Death’, ‘Ortus’, ‘Goran Academy’ and ‘Class 3-4’. What is nice to note is the nice interconnection between the story arcs, even if you watch the sections separately. What I mean is, despite the individuality that can be seen with each story arc, they’re all connected in some way.

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The main theme for the work is redemption; for in a world without death, redemption becomes more difficult to acquire. The Valley of Death arc, for instance, concerns Hampnie and his quest to find Anna so he can finally die. In the course of his brief sojourn, he finds reunion rather unconventionally and in the end, with a smile on his face, finds redemption. The intriguing Ortus arc is about Ai and her companions’ venture out to Ortus, a City for the Dead. While there, the group ends up uncovering a mystery surrounding the ruler of Ortus, a princess known only as the Idol of Murder. The point there is that despite all our efforts, death is such a magnificent and terrifying thing. Yet it is inevitable (along with taxes), but through experiencing death we can truly obtain redemption.

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The second half of the series, though it contains two separate story arcs, they are actually more linked than upon initial thought. Though for a flimsy justification for this, in the Goran Academy arc, Ai ends up enrolled in a special school where she meets Alice Color, a mysterious young man who has a ghostly companion named Dee. I won’t spoil here, but suffice to say it is the more interesting part of the show. I think that’s down to the masterful twist and the buildup of misdirection that ends up being a very touching conclusion for this story arc.

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Though it isn’t without flaw, which for this series is episode 9 “Where the Gravekeepers Are Born”, a.k.a. the lone one-shot episode. It is quite possibly the most problematic/weak episode in the series. Granted, I get what they are doing here; to provide focus on Scar as she deals with her issues from the Ortus arc and provide some background for the Gravekeepers. But it also feels, in my opinion, the most condensed and feels a bit off from the rest of the whole series. In that, it doesn’t really develop into anything with the rest of the show. There is also the ‘Memories’ OVA which feels like a reel of deleted scenes from the show proper. It is essentially a series of vignettes: Ai and friends visits a hot spring which leads to fanservice for both men and the ladies, a meditation piece for Alice Color which functions as a lead in for episode 10 and a backstory piece for Hampnie Hambert. Nice and all, but a bit unneeded.

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That said, the production is very A-grade. Then again, the production being a Madhouse effort it looks very great, almost by default. It looks very well polished, though everything seems set at or around sunset. This provides not only a very interesting color palette to the show, but it also fits in with the show’s content. The ambient music through the use of soft pianos and winds/strings is also a nice touch to the viewing experience. The opening and ending songs are also quite subdued and a nice listen.

Sunday without God OP

Sunday without God ED

Now for the English dub, which is decent. What is nice about bringing in Kyle Jones is that the basic level of consistent quality for Sentai Filmworks dubs has been more or less restored. Caitlynn French as Ai does a great job, and it is nice to hear her in a lead role again, as she has been one of the rising stars in Houston dubs. Others in the cast like Andrew Love, David Matranga and Genevieve Simmons do a fine job here. Newcomers Tyler Galindo and Mike Yager also acquit themselves in this. Emily Neves and Luci Christian are neat additions in their respective arcs, very good to hear them here. Interestingly, Jad Saxton, who is a Funimation regular, ironically has a small role in this continuing the trend of Dallas talent showing up in the Sentai Filmworks dubs. Jones really understands the very somber and serious tone that the show has and this flows down to just about every performance. Of course, there is some repetitive dialogue and improper word choice instances in the dub script. But this can be considered a minor issue and likely chalked up to the original japanese/translation.

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Overall, Sunday without God is a nice meditative piece on death and its effect on our humanity. It has an interesting story structure, both arc-based yet interconnected. It does have a few flaws, but it is well-produced enough to compensate for that. That and the dub is a commendable effort by Jones and the Sentai Filmworks cast. good job on this one.

Next week, Kyle Jones Month concludes with a look at a more current dub by Sentai Filmworks

Hint 1-It’s on TV, and Hint 2-Hope you are ready for a good bloody time

Til next time, dear readers.

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