KADO: The Right Answer began as one of the most intriguing shows that came out of Spring 2017 by raising interesting questions about societal advancement, geopolitics, and human nature. But, in its efforts to captivate its audience early on, did it misrepresent itself?
I started writing this post a couple weeks back when I began to doubt that the series would deliver on what I thought were its finer points, but waited until the finale to decide if this was the case. Judging from the post’s title, you might guess where I stood in the end.
This isn’t a purely critical post, though. There were a lot of good things about the series that may be beneficial to cover first, if only to provide context for where I think the it lacked focus. I mentioned that KADO was a very intriguing series, and a lot of that had to do with how it approached its subject matter. Its downfall was in its inability to follow through with most of it.
Why it Looked Good
The following points detail where I thought KADO was at its strongest and distinguished itself as an early standout this season.
Yaha-kui zaShunina made a huge impact
Not only did zaShunina make a splash, but the series presented his arrival differently than your run of the mill alien story. His gifts, in the form of Wam and Sansa, disrupted the way that economies, social systems, and people themselves fundamentally work. Instead of forcing his will on humans or attacking them to achieve his own ends, his goal was to lead them toward what he cryptically referred to as “the right answer.”
Japan’s response was rooted in mutual benefit
The narrative might have turned out far different had the JSDF been able to break Kado’s fregonics barrier, but the fact remains that Japan was willing to listen to zaShunina when it became clear he wanted to talk. This may be a political statement about the character of the Japanese government and zaShunina’s choice to land Kado among them – which is interesting to think about itself, but the key point is that the relationship between zaShunina and humans worked off the early theme of negotiation.
Different people responded differently
This was key in making the characters feel dynamic in personality and action. Whether it was Shinawa’s obsessive curiosity, Tsuraka’s mistrust, or
It tackled philosophical questions
With zaShunina’s intentions kept in the backdrop, KADO explored seemingly deeper concepts. What would people do without want of energy? What could they achieve without need for rest? What was humanity’s potential, unhindered by the social constructs of class, nationalism and power struggle? It was as if the writer had sat down to ponder “the right answer” and created an anime about it. It’s the sort of anime that can be remembered for its brilliance, if done properly.
Where it Slipped
Some of this wasn’t apparent when viewing in real time, but a retrospective look at the events of the series reveal several unnecessary plot points and over-complications meant to manufacture a tense tone.
The plane and its passengers were inconsequential
I understood that the entire ‘hostage’ situation was meant as a way to give legitimacy to Shindo’s role at zaShunina’s side. The problem is that a number of complexities were introduced in these first few episodes that didn’t have any bearing after the passengers were released. The limits of Kado’s processing power and the challenges of conveying anisotropic concepts to humanity were made to sound important, but ultimately weren’t.
The outcome of these first three episodes was in developing a level of trust between Shindo and zaShunina, but the plot point which kept the characters and viewers engaged (the plane) becomes functionally irrelevant once Wam is introduced.
Moving Kado achieved nothing
Taking place at the series midpoint, “Tetrok” kept its big reveal for the very final moments of the episode. Coming off what was framed as a major turning point in providing a way for anyone to create Wam, the episode drops all the tension it had built for two episodes as the governments of the world debated control over the devices.
What was supposed to lead to widespread chaos or at least a revolution in the way everything in the world operates was ignored so the show could give us Shindo’s ‘brilliant’ idea to pivot Kado on its corner. On top of this, more ambiguous complexities like the need for the cube to remain in contact with the ground were introduced, as if solely for the purpose of making the cube’s movement a big deal.
The operation took up an entire episode. The physical requirements of Kado were never again directly touched upon. In all honesty, how much would the series have changed if the cube had manifested on top of Shindo and Hanamori during some negotiation by the lake?
Cliché festival episode was cliché
The very next episode, if you don’t count the recap, was where the series really began to show weakness. Depicting zaShunina’s exposure to human objects and practices began subtly with the books and Shindo’s bookmark gift. Having him experience the festival aimed for the same thing, but in a more trite, and still inconsequential way. A bit of a fun distraction, but absolutely nothing more than a distraction regardless.
This was doubly disappointing because the episode, entitled “Sansa” should have been much more focused on the second anisotropic gift. Like Wam, it had far reaching implications for the human experience, but it received even less attention than its predecessor. Setten broadcast it to the world. Some saw it, some didn’t. Nothing really changed for humans, but the “anisotropic sense” would be used loosely near the end to enable zaShunina’s final plans.
Saraka was an alien the whole time
This by itself isn’t bad, really. There are plenty of stories about alien falling in love with Earth and protecting it against their own kind. Superman did it, and for an anime example Dragonball Z’s earliest stories were exactly about that. The problem is that doing this changes her from one of the organic characters that made the series so interesting into a plot device.
A flimsy plot device at that, because the series couldn’t commit to one identity. Her constant blushing clashed too much against Shindo’s lack of personality and chemistry with her. Her ridiculous situation after his rescue killed any sense that she was a powerful being from beyond humanity’s understanding. Her desperation to force her way inside Kado was completely undermined when she was shown to be able to pop right in at the most dramatic moment.
Where it ended up
KADO did move in a clear direction after some point, despite its slips. What it was able to still deliver from then on, however, was severely hampered by where the story was taken.
zaShunina learned about humans
Judging from the last couple of episodes, this was probably one of the primary goals of KADO. zaShunina realized that that human beings were more than just an anisotropic singularity and a renewable source of information. Humanity was special in its ability to produce infinitely different results from the same input.
It was a good turn to see that ‘simple’ humans could still teach a more advanced being something. Saraka had discovered this in her many millennia among life on Earth, and it was something that zaShunina finally understood thanks to Shindo’s help. It didn’t stop him from killing Shindo or really change his character, but that’s another issue.
Humans and anisotropic beings can make babies
The strangest turn in the series was one of the only avenues toward a resolution the series had, given its direction. Shindo’s plan to give zaShunina more information than he’s ever seen had to be a human/anisotropic hybrid. Still, her extremely late addition made Yukika nothing more than a final twist and a convenient way to tie up loose ends.
Nanomis-hein makes everything irrelevant
It’s a literal deus ex machina waiting to happen. Saraka proved as much in being able to modify time so that Yukika matured to the point where she could stop zaShunina on her own. Like Yukika herself, it’s a method to unnaturally move the story in whatever way the writer sees fit.
A tool that can modify the constants of the universe is capable of anything, including nullifying the need for Yukika in the first place. Really, there was no way out of this. A device of infinite power breaks any story.
So what did we get out of KADO and why did it bother me so much? It all goes back to the series misrepresenting itself. I can forgive a lot of the problems the series had. I’ve enjoyed plenty of anime that did a worse job at keeping on task and maintaining narrative cohesion. What irked me so much was that KADO could have been exactly what I thought it would be, but just chose not to.
It was still just an evil alien story
Ten of the twelve episodes were spent trying to get humanity to choose “the right answer,” followed by zaShunina just shrugging and deciding he’ll take everyone by force. This can be seen as a change in his character, perhaps brought on by his exposure to humans and all their flaws, but it was never depicted that way. He presumably wanted to do this all along and only held off because it would be easier if people chose it.
Thus we lose any unique strategy this anime had for the character that drove most of its narrative. He refuses to take Shindo against his will to avoid destroying his humanity, then decides the only option is to end his life. He learns that a biologically identical shell of Shindo has no value, then clings to his dead body like a grieving widow. He laments the thought of losing Shindo’s humanity and kills him within the same minute. His once intriguing character is reduced to villainous lunacy in the span of a half episode.
Everything was up to Shindo
Forget all those other characters with different motivations that drew my initial interest. Forget the Japanese government that did its best to balance the happiness of its people against concerns of forever changing who they are. Forget Dr. Shinawa and her curiosity about what more the anisotropic could teach her. Everything was ultimately up to Shindo as a representative for humanity’s collective will (most of whom have no idea what went on in that cube).
To make matters worse, he didn’t use the one thing his character was known for. Their exchange, while moving zaShunina to an emotional epiphany, wasn’t a negotiation. Shindo wasn’t able to make him understand humanity’s position and zaShunina wasn’t able to make Shindo accept his. Their whole battle and Shindo’s preparation for it was merely a sleight of hand trick on more than one level.
Philosophy is for chumps
Perhaps the most insulting aspect of this series is that it abandoned all critical thought by episode six. What could have been a unique look at humanity’s ever increasing desire for advancement was cluttered with clichéd character interactions, an ill fitting love story, and a plot about stopping the bad guy that’s been done countless times before.
The final episode robbed the story of all the groundwork that came before by removing the need for thought. The perspective zaShunina brought as a universal outsider was meaningless because we didn’t see any of it play out. Nothing that was supposed to intrinsically change the human condition remained behind. No one had to learn from their mistakes because Yukika took care of everything. In the end, KADO decided for you what “the right answer” was.
KADO was a miss for me, but how did your negotiations turn out? Did the story give you what you wanted, in a fair exchange for what you gave in return? Let me know in the comments.
Also, feel free to rate and let me know what you thought of this post.