Kado: The Right Answer was probably the most underwatched show of the season. And that might be a good thing.
Don’t get me wrong. I was rooting for Kado: The Right Answer since Episode 0. I called it my AOTS. The hidden gem of the season. I just couldn’t wait to write a review praising the series when it was over. Unfortunately, I cannot do that.
Spoilers For The Final Episodes
There were many reasons to be hopeful for a good conclusion to Kado. Not only did it have a very solid beginning, but the creator is also a book author. We also knew that Kado had been in the making for a while (it was intended to be a movie), and that the ending was the first thing that was written. So whatever happened at the end, at least we can discard the “they run out of ideas” card.
What made Kado: The Right Answer so good at first?
Kado tells the story of Koujirou Shindou, one of Japan’s best negotiators. Episode 0 focuses on this particular aspect, as we see Shindou and his co-worker, Hanamori, working to save a factory. We see that Shindou is very passionate about communication and negotiation, and that he believes the key is finding something that benefits both parties. That’s why introducing an alien storyline is so interesting in this case. The alien, zaShunina, is not menacing. There’s no battles, nor big fight scenes. Instead, the series gives off an Arrival vibe for choosing to focus on linguistics, establishing communications, and understanding what the foreigner wants.
The first few episodes have the right pacing and tone. Everything is set up properly and with a lot of attention to detail. The beauty of the CGI (especially with the giant Kado), the haunting music, and the otherworldly feeling that zaShunina gives off are enough to make the episodes incredibly mesmerizing. On top of that, the dialogue is superb, and sometimes it’s even necessary to pause the episode to comprehend what’s actually being said. And that’s because the show actually raises some very challenging and interesting questions: Would endless energy benefit humanity? How would the UN react to such a scenario? Is it true that Japan is the most generous “area” in the world? What are “countries”, really?
Seeing a higher dimensional being reacting to our thought process is quite amusing. zaShunina offers an outsider point of view, which the show uses as a critique of humans worrying too much about things like regulations and bureaucracy. It emphasizes how humans are prone to mistrusting others instead of simply welcoming gifts with open arms. All of this comes accompanied with a set of adult characters that includes negotiators, politicians, journalists, and scientists. Yet the most likable character is the alien. He has that “Castiel effect”, as I like to call it. Seeing zaShunina grow and more human over the episodes is one of the most fascinating aspects of the series.
Forget your prejudices about CGI in anime: TOEI is very good at CGI, and Kado is yet another proof of it. Sure, some of the characters’ movements can look robotic in some places, but the visuals inside Kado are stunning. The anime also has a great Opening and Ending that capture the essence and the feeling of wonder of the series perfectly. The OST is perhaps the best of the season, and it’s even reminiscent of Interstellar’s soundtrack.
So when does it all go wrong?
Episode 9 was a hard pill to swallow. zaShunina’s gifts were becoming more and more extreme, and Tsukai was starting to doubt whether the anisotropic would benefit humanity. The plot twist from the final minutes of the episode was a red flag for many. Viewers feared that their comfy, dialogue-based sci-fi show would become yet another battle shonen/magical girl anime. Others still had faith: Kado had given them more than enough reason to believe in its writing. Unfortunately, things only went downhill from there.
Some will talk about the queerbaiting that is seen from both Shindo/Hanamori and Shindo/zaShunina. After baiting so hard, it’s understandable that some fans would be angry at the sudden and forced romance between Shindou and Tsukai. However, the reality is that was the least of the series’ problems. The biggest problem is that the show became something else as it started to abandon all the things that made it unique. Tsukai being an anisotropic administrator of the cocoon that is Earth make sense (there was some foreshadowing after all), but adding those random anisotropic powers without explanation does not. Especially since the series had put so much effort in emphasizing the difficulty of some of the anisotropic concepts that were being presented. As a result, it seemed like everything was being rushed and that they didn’t have enough time to explain things anymore.
Director Kazuya Murata stated that the goal was for it to be unclear whether zaShunina was good or evil. But by the end of it, it was pretty clear he was being portrayed as evil. If anything, he was portrayed as evil while making us feel bad for him and the way he was being treated. After having fallen for zaShunina’s adorable antics, seeing him cry and suffer in such a way is just heartbreaking. In fact, the end of the series is terribly sad. Both for the events taking place, and the letdown of the series.
Where did the “negotiation solves everything” idea go when the final conflict is fought with random time-bending and overpowered school girls from the future? What happened to the conversations about ethics, transhumanism, and global economics? It’s things like these that have got me wondering whether the author was forced to change his work to make it more marketable. The two halves of Kado are so different that it’s hard to give accurate overall thoughts and a clear opinion on this series. The best way to put it is that that was amazing, until it was horrible. Still, the first few episodes are enough to make the series somewhat redeemable for sci-fi fans.
zaShunina turned out be evil. Or not. We will never really know. Do moral concepts like “good” and “bad” even apply to anisotropic beings? Is it fair to call someone “evil” if they’re well-intentioned and unaware of the consequences of their actions? The final message of Kado seems to come from reporter Gonnou’s line in the finale. Just like there’s no good or evil, there’s also no right or wrong answer in any situation. At the end of the day, there’s just facts.