Kado: The Right Answer
Kojiro Shindo, a negotiator for the Japanese government, is on a plane in the process of taking off when a two-kilometer-high cubic "spaceship" drops onto and "absorbs" the plane. Shindo meets the ship's master, who calls himself Yaha-kui zaShunina, and who says he has "gifts" for the human race. But can he be trusted?
"Getting what's in your interest is the goal of negotiations, but defeating your opponent and temporarily getting what you want will always come back to bite you in the long term" - Shindo
WARNING: This series has some major "surprises". I'm going to try to talk about the surprises without revealing exactly what they are, but I can't guarantee this will work, so POTENTIAL SPOILERS!
The first thing I'd observe, which is about "First Contact" stories, is that a lot of them had their genesis during the Cold War, and either embraced the paranoia of the time (i.e., the aliens want to kill/enslave us), or critiqued that paranoia, portraying benevolent aliens victimized by fearful humans (e.g., It Came From Outer Space, and that famous Twilight Zone episode where the humans destroy an alien bringing a cure for cancer.) Given the current resurgence of tribalism and xenophobia in the world, I'd fear that benevolent aliens might once more get a cold shoulder from the humans. But what if aliens landed in Japan? And what if they were neither pure devil or pure angel, but suffered from obsessions and "blind spots" in their thinking, just like humans?
Thing #2 that I'm noting is that the computerized character animation here has a stiff, jerky quality that is just distracting, and when the characters' motion looks THIS unnatural it hurts the storytelling. (On the other hand, the 3DCG of the ever-changing surface of Kado, that cubic spaceship, is quite well done.)
Thing #3 is that the show's pacing is a bit sluggish at times, especially during the first meetings between zaShunina and humans.
Thing #4: the show wants to be an epic, and largely succeeds at this, and the opening theme music matches this ambition quite well, being both majestic and memorable.
Thing #5 that calls attention to itself is what the show calls Episode Zero, which is a little prelude that's supposed to show us what a hotshot negotiator Shindo is. He's been sent to buy the building of a failing factory for government offices, but instead he helps that factory to recover, involving its staff in a research effort to produce a product the government wants, and it's a happy ending for everybody- except for whoever originally thought he should buy the property, I suppose. To use a fairytale analogy, the magic beans ultimately proved (after SOME difficulty) a sound investment, but as I recall Jack's mom STILL boxed his ears for bringing those home, instead of cash, for the cow. It's during this segment of Kado that Shindo utters the quote that opens this review. Isn't it a great quote? I even hope it's true, and that those politicians who seem to dispute it eventually realize this, though I'm still pondering its relevance to the denouement of this show.
Maybe I should get back to the story at hand: zaShunina says he's got gifts for the human race, and to keep our attention he also says that he's only able to release the plane's passengers and crew a few at a time. Someone DOES comment that he's effectively holding hostages, but if there is hostility toward zaShunina from the general public, we're not shown much of it- we're not shown much of the public reaction to him at all really, even when the disruptive decision (to put it mildly) is made to physically move Kado, which must be done on land. (zaShunina says he's from "The Ansiotropic", which here refers to a place with higher dimensions than our universe; the term is from physics, and actually means "not the same in different directions", as opposed to isotropic things, which ARE the same in all directions- so the Sun is an isotropic energy emitter because it emits (roughly) the same amount of energy in all directions, while neutron stars are ansiotropic sources, since they radiate most of their energy at their magnetic poles.)
The first of zaShunina's "gifts" he calls the "Wam", and consists of two floating spheres. Connect them through a circuit, and they'll automatically produce power, at whatever level the circuit's designed for- in other words, a source of limitless power drawn from The Anisotropic. He wants to share them with the world, but the UN (and particularly the U.S.), in an inversion of the way Americans think of themselves, want custody of the Wam NOT to allow everyone to have it, but to KEEP everyone from having it. So Shindo recruits Kanata Shinawa, a young researcher, to spread the technology. (Here's Surprise #1: who knew that an aspect of traditional Japanese culture was the key to unlimited power?) Ms. Shinawa, by the way, has been placed on my list of Favorite Anime Females- she's the sort who normally wears slippers because she's completely forgotten to put on her shoes, the type whose preoccupations are not those of commonplace existence. She's the spirit of childlike wonder coupled with a deep knowledge of theoretical physics, in short pretty much a nerd's Dream Girl.
Once again, you won't see a whole lot of the general public's thought on these developments. Within Shindo's small group of negotiators there's a tendency to take zaShunina - and his gifts- at face value. The one notable exception is Saraka Tsukai, who thinks zaShunina should be sent packing. When Shindo spends some "alone time" with her, she finally articulates a reason for objecting, which seems to boil down to a feeling that humans should earn their advances by their own efforts rather than have them handed to them- but it's not just the Protestant Work Ethic here, there's a bit more behind her thinking that she's NOT telling.
To tell the truth, I myself might have had some misgivings about zaShunina's next gift, which literally messes with your head. And he has one more, that's introduced about the time of Surprise #2; and about THAT, I thought: "Hey, wait a minute, how can this be? We met Dad!", but the show, to its credit, actually does explain this pretty neatly.
Perhaps the only one of the shows "surprises" that didn't completely work for me was what happens to Shindo- I kinda saw us being set up for that- but the ultimate resolution of things was about as surprising for me as it was for zaShunina: a strangely literal take on the term Deus ex Machina, when you think about it. It's not a perfect ending, but as Shindo might put it, the "best answer" sometimes requires compromises.
It's not a five-star show, even if the animation had been more fluid, but it's certainly one of the most imaginative and ambitious attempts I've ever seen to do something like this. It's a bit pretentious at times but hey, we're talking the future of humanity here, so that can be excused. I have a soft spot for Sci-Fi anyway, and the show features some pretty startling revelations- as a real encounter with an alien surely would. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: There's some literal heart-ripping (in silhouette), but otherwise comic book violence, and not really much of that. No fanservice per se. There's an adult situation or two.
Version(s) Viewed: Streaming on crunchyroll
Review Status: Full (14/14)
Kado: The Right Answer © 2017 Toei Animation/Kinoshita Group/Toei
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