I’ve read more than a few people describe this anime as a “dumpster fire”, but I don’t think that’s fair. In my opinion, it’s one of the best anime of 2020, but one thing’s for sure: it’s now definitely the most underrated. I’ve already talked about how it wasn’t made for anime fans by contrasting it directly with anime du jour Re:Zero, but let’s dig into the complaints a bit more. What exactly is it about this series that anime fans hate?
Put simply: to anime fans, characters are like God, and this show commits the sin of treating them like fodder.
It’s a story about Japan literally sinking into the ocean and 100+ million people being thrust into utter disarray. In such a situation, a lot of people will die, and a lot for really stupid reasons. Death is sometimes senseless, and this anime isn’t expecting you to cry for every single one. The death I’m thinking about, firstly, is Ayumu’s Dad. The anime wants you to see it from the family’s perspective: they’ve just lost their guiding light, but there’s no time for them to grieve, they are shell-shocked and their country is falling apart. He made a stupid decision in the heat of the moment. It may seem cheap for named characters to die so abruptly, like Nanami falling so suddenly to poison gas, but again, if it’s abrupt, it’s the anime simply trying to depict how fragile and helpless we are in the face of such a massive disaster. In other words, it’s supposed to be shocking and sensational. Would you be capable of rational thought as the world around you burns? The real moment of desolation was Ayumu’s Mum dying: only anime like Wolf’s Rain and Grave of the Fireflies have left me feeling so… lost and helpless. Her’s wasn’t a senseless death, or “cheap”, it was a hard, gutting moment that I will remember whenever I think about this series. Along with Haruo’s end, and the children being lost at sea, these were vivid, powerful and hard to watch scenes.
Finally, let’s talk about “realism”: I think it’s fair to say that this anime has cartoon logic. As is Yuasa’s want, it prefers to show rather than tell, and can be as silly as it is profound. It relies a lot on coincidence and whimsy: I mean, KITE literally flies down from the sky, as if sent by Yuasa himself, to save Ayumu and Go. Why get so caught up in the details? Not everything needs to be explained, not everything needs to be realistic. This is a weirdly upbeat post-apocalyptic anime. It’s okay to watch it and laugh. That doesn’t make it a bad anime. It’s trying to make you laugh! And it knows how silly it is, so why not go with it?