This was a very strange moment for Kamisama no Inai Nichiyoubi. The show made quite a strong favorable impression on me in the first three episodes, but ended them by shockingly killing off the character who was my biggest reason for being interested. I wondered, quite frankly, if Kaminai in the aftermath was going to be like swimming in a pool with no water in it. You can go through the motions but it’s not really swimming, so what’s the point?
Well, happily, it’s nowhere near that bad. Kaminai has more going for it than Hampnie Hambert and Namikawa Daisuke’s bravura performance, though the absence of both is grievously felt. The series also had a keen ability to create atmosphere and a knack for juxtaposing the beautiful and the terrible, and both those are still in place. There’s a bit too much CGI in this episode for my tastes, worrying considering we’re only on the fourth week – as is the fact that the episode’s production was obviously outsourced.
There’s an undeniable disconnect in the post-Hampnie world, a kind of surreal feeling that extends beyond the fantasy backdrop. It feels weird to be proceeding in his absence, but as things stand the episode basically starts out as a road picture with Ai, Yuri and Scar in an old VW bus – Ai with dreams of saving the world, and Yuri and Scar seemingly humoring her because they have nowhere else to go. There’s an extra passenger though – a blue-haired boy named Kiriko (Kakihara Tetsuya, winning as usual). The interesting thing is that Scar seems to have picked him up without the knowledge of her companions, though just when I don’t know – she merely announces his presence as he’s sleeping it off in the back seat, according to Yuri having been drugged by a gang of thieves.
By far the most interesting thing in the episode is Ortus, the magnificently atmospheric “City of the Dead” that’s actually a country of more than a million undead souls. In addition to it’s striking physicality – something like a half-ruined Italian hill town with a population full of the dead in Venetian carnival masks – it’s fascinating in concept. These are the people that Scar was sent to give their rest and that Hampnie took it upon himself top help her do so, living seemingly happy “lives” in a place to call their own. The outside of the city is littered with the graves of gravekeepers (ironic, that) drawn there by the lure of the unquiet dead, but killed themselves by those who didn’t wish to rest just yet. This is a zombie story of a different color altogether, one whose shadings are hard to fully discern in the dim twilight of a dying world.
There’s a lot of interesting stuff going on here. Kiriko is a government apprentice in Ortus and Yuri agrees to return him there. But Yuri is understandably nervous about bringing Scar and Ai to such a place, and the original plan is to leave them in the ghetto that’s been set aside for the living while getting the microbus fixed. That doesn’t sit well with Ai, and she talks Kiriko’s sempai Fox – and Rex – into letting them inside the city proper. I have no idea just what the heck they are except very weird (“Even the dead find us creepy”) – seemingly two people sharing a body split right now the middle, another of God’s little tricks perhaps. There’s also a princess named Urla who seems to have designs on saving the world herself, a Goddess who’s a kind of patron saint of the dead, and a strange voice which Scar hears in her head – even as she shows signs of illness for likely the first time in her life.
It seems odd to say so about a series that’s already 4 episodes into a one-cour run, but I need a little more time before I decide whether I’m going to finish blogging Kaminai. If last week felt like a finale, this episode feels like a premiere – it’s really as if a new series has begun in many ways. I’m still quite intrigued by the premise and love the atmosphere; on the other hand I haven’t found another character that I really like, and I’m a bit edgy about the slide in production values. Hampnie’s absence – and Namikawa-san’s – definitely leaves a hole. Without the character there’s a certain edge that’s missing, and the show simply doesn’t have as much weight without Namikawa’s presence. I can say this with certainty, though – I hope the series is able to pull off this massive mid-course shift, because I think there’s a lot of imagination behind its creation and a lot of talent involved in the production, and it would be nice to be able to stay with it for the full season.