Seikai Suru Kado or The Box of Plenty

A pic by Haoro, a Kado-loving fujoshi

Out of all Spring 2017 shows, not many were making me look forward to the next episode as much as Seikai Suru Kado. The reason why it first caught my attention in November 2015, when it was first announced, was the name of the person responsible for its screenplay and series composition – Nozaki Mado. He’s a cult writer, completely unknown in the West until recently. If you have heard of him, it’s probably because of his first major work, [Ei] Amurita, a Dengeki Novel Prize winner from 2009, a romance about a boy helping a genius girl produce an independent film. Among others, he’s also written Nozaki Mado Gekijou, a collection of fucked-in-the-head short stories. His latest work, Kado, is a story of humanity’s first encounter with a superior alien civilization…

It happened on July 25th 2017. A month after the anime ended – it qualifies as “near-future sci-fi” then. A giant, mysterious cube lands on the runway of Haneda Airport, absorbing a passenger plane into itself in a creepy way. Trapped inside is talented negotiator Shindou Koujirou, who was about to fly off abroad. In the cube, Shindou finds a white-haired humanoid. At first the alien tries to communicate with humans by singing like a whale, but then he manages to absorb information from the negotiator’s phone and learns Japanese in an instant. Very stiff, alien-like Japanese spoken by a clueless, though likeable, extraterrestrial. But still. Turns out zaShunina isn’t precisely an alien. He’s not from a distant planet, but from beyond the universe, a sort of layer of reality next to ours called the anisotropic – a place humanity didn’t even imagine existed. The cube’s name is Kado (a cute name considering “kado” means “angle”) and it’s a special territory serving as a proxy between the two worlds. The passengers are safe, but the way Kado works lets the “hostages” only leave it gradually, a couple at a time, everyday. Meanwhile, the authorities react to this bizarre disaster immediately: the media, the army, the politicians, and last but not least – the scientists are doing their best to deal with the situation. After a series of experiments done on the cube brings no results to speak off, Shindou emerges from the cube together with the alien, called Yaha-kui zaShunina, to announce something. zaShunina’s goal in arriving on Earth is… advancing humanity. He only wants to give humans a few neat gifts. It’s also not a coincidence his cube landed in Japan – it was the alien’s conscious decision that Japan is the best place to park his angular residence. Shindou being abducted into it seems not to be a coincidence either – he becomes zaShunina’s representative, while his counterpart on the humanity’s side becomes Tsukai Saraka, a longhaired tsundere. As zaShunina says, during his first meeting with the authorities: “You will be asking yourself if I’m a friend or foe”. And sure enough, the anxiety of not being sure if the visitor has good intentions or not will be a source of tension for both the characters and the viewers for the next few episodes.

After the introductory part, the true meat of the story begins: in front of TV cameras from all over the world, zaShunina shows off his gift to humanity number one: Wam, colorful little marbles that supply infinite electricity from the anisotropic. It soon becomes clear that the Japanese government taking all the marbles might have been a bad idea. United States, through the United Nations, declare that no one nation should be keeping such a dangerous item to itself and demand they hand them over. There’s some discussions about the possible results of Wam’s appearance – Tsukai assumes a conservative stance and declares it’s too early for humanity to use Wam. What if the alien gave them the marbles to cause a war? In the end, Japan complies, but only after Shindou comes up with a cunning scheme and has Shinawa Kanata, a genius (?) scientist, discover the way for humanity to produce the marbles by themselves. This story arc is one giant dig against the States, implying Americans would use Wam in secret. And definitely not the only one – Kado is littered with little jabs against America and includes even more subtle moments aggrandizing Japan – its politicians are hypercompetent, everything in the country works exactly as it should and it produces superhumans of intellect like Shindou or Shinawa. For the first time ever I see a work of fiction so flattering towards politicians. Therefore, it’s not hard to call Seikai Suru Kado a Japanese nationalist show. I can’t disagree, and yet, the central idea behind the story of the humanity’s receipt of Wam is “Nationalism is in the way of humanity’s progress”. If Shindou didn’t find a way around it, humans would band together into tribes called nations and kill each other over some silly marbles, just like they have countless times in history.

Wam was only the beginning, though. The gift to humanity number two is Sansa, which gives humans “a feel for the anisotropic”, changing the workings of their minds and enabling them to completely do away with sleep, too. With the help of not-Google, zaShunina spreads to the entire world a video that makes you acquire the “extra sense” just by watching it. The alien’s shenanigans seem increasingly weird and potentially dangerous.

And then episode nine happens. The episode when Seikai Suru Kado officially stops being good and goes into tailspin as a story. zaShunina drags Shindou into a place between worlds and shows him his last gift, Nanomis-hein, which controls matter freely with next to no energy input. Shindou expresses his doubts and then zaShunina’s friendly facade drops for good. Turns out that the anisotropic beings like him are the creators of universes – which are cocoons left there to slowly evolve. Our universe is now ripe enough and zaShunina came to process it a bit by advancing it civilizationally and then pick that fruit – take the universe into his world. People who’d been saying Kado looks like a cult-produced anime had a point. Sadly, the “picking” doesn’t have to succeed and if it doesn’t, it means the destruction of the universe. Shindou defies the alien and is almost killed, but Tsukai manages to break in just in time to save him, with some help from Shinawa Kanata. Turns out that Tsukai is also an anisotropic being. zaShunina makes a clone of Shindou to complete his work anyway. Then it seems like Shindou is killed, but actually there was a 16-year time leap and the daughter of Shindou and Tsukai, who’s an anisotropic being herself, kills off zaShunina. All his gifts disappear from the world and everyone lives happily ever after. The end.

Seikai Suru Kado is a suspenseful, edge-of-your-seat ride. The main reason why it’s so thrilling is the structure behind it, telling that it’s a work of an experienced storyteller. Most episodes are accompanied by one big reveal, pushing the plot forward and causing the viewer’s jaw to drop, usually at the end of the episode. The first episode ends with zaShunina appearing for the first time. The third – the revelation of Wam. The fifth – Shinawa Kanata’s presentation of making a Wam. Also, Kado uses an smart storytelling gimmick, which it alludes to in the title. You know how the word “seikai” (or “the right answer”) is everywhere in this show? The story arcs are neat little wholes – each starts by
presenting a question, making you curious about the answer, and then revealing the surprising optimal solution at the end. The question usually being “How will Shindou figure THIS mess out?” Which shouldn’t be surprising – the protag is a specialist in working out compromises after all. Episode six, the one about moving Kado to a different location, is completely inconsequential to the larger plot and can be ignored althogether, but is a nice demonstration of this principle. It’s a damn shame that, although the shows suggests that there’s a deeper meaning to the titular “right answer”, the story derails and in the end, it looks like it didn’t mean much after all.

Not in every anime can you see physicists, CEOs of net corporations and look-alikes of real politicians. Kado’s being different from other anime doesn’t limit itself to topics and themes it touches upon. It’s mostly a 3DCG anime – the most frequently appearing characters are 3D models, while the mob is all 2D sprites. The Rakuen Tsuihou approach. After all the terribly looking 3DCG anime produced in the last few years, knowing that might make you hesitate to watch Kado, but the show looks decent. The models look aesthetically close to 2D characters and the way they move doesn’t seem weird. The music is fine too – Iwashiro Tarou gave the show an epic soundtrack, and the two vocal songs also create an impression that this is a serious anime for a serious audience.

Kado had me hooked for most of its runtime, but sadly wasn’t good enough to maintain that quality to the very end. Oh well. Still, it’s worth checking out. It definitely will remain in my memory as one of the better shows of 2017.

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2 Responses to Seikai Suru Kado or The Box of Plenty

  1. Pingback: On Nozaki Mado Gekijou | Bednorz: The Weeablog

  2. Pingback: Return to Babylon | Bednorz: The Weeablogue

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