「オルタスIII」 (Orutasu III)
As of today, I feel that a re-evaluation of Kaminai is in order. The first few episodes had led me to believe that this would be a show that drives its plot around “solving” problems that arise throughout the world with Ai as the leading inspiration, but this arc has proven the show is less plot-driven than that. Instead, perhaps Kaminai is a story about painting the picture of the new world without God, and how various groups around the world have adjusted their values and their way of life. While Ai still is seeking answers to help those around her, this story will first challenge her worldviews and expose her to the full picture before any sort of “plot” will progress.
This show’s strong point does not lie in its ability to form a cohesive plot. The “dark secret” of Ortus wasn’t as surprising as it made itself out to be and mother of mercy, that baby literally came out of nowhere. There is much to the narration that leaves much to be desired in terms of cohesiveness, but again, that is something we must first admit about this show. Looking past that, the show has done an excellent job in painting the world that this story occurs in, both in developing the setting and in portraying that setting visually.
The fantasy elements portrayed in Kaminai have not been explained properly, but their effect on bringing out interesting human interactions is commendable. Ortus is a prime example of the uncertain morality that pervades this world—there still exists no agreement on what is morally right when it comes to life and death, where even Ai herself admits she has no answers to those dilemmas. Ortus’ dark secret is nothing of the sort vile or malicious—the city genuinely seeks to create a willing society of the dead that supports one another in this uncertain time, and never forces the conditions of entering the city on anyone. I was mightily and pleasantly surprised when children were allowed to defer their decision to die or leave till the age of 15—it is still quite a young age to make such a monumental decision, but it is a compromise that reflects thoughtfulness and respect on the part of Ortus’ governance. Though Ortus may not be perfect in requiring this irreversible oath on immigrants, it finds a balance between the pride of the dead and sensitivity to the living—it is a city that really is doing nothing wrong. As such, there is no antagonist in this story for us to focus Ai’s efforts on fixing, creating a setting where no one is necessarily right or wrong. Ulla cannot be labeled as in the wrong as much as Ai cannot be labeled as being in the right, though both suffer because of such uncertainty (however, this doesn’t prevent them from expressing their friendship beautifully). This is Kaminai’s strength—creating a world where the labels of good and evil, living or dead, cannot be placed easily.
On top of solidifying the direction of this show, today’s episode did a wonderful job in painting even grander and beautiful background and scenery shots, a constant throughout this entire series. The character drawings are of decent quality, but it is the backgrounds and additional post-processing that makes the visuals for this show. The color palette has this gentle touch about it, using a wide range of colors to illustrate this bright and hopeful days, the deceptive nights, and the sunrises that are symbolic of change and hope. In addition, the small visual details that are put in are a nice touch too, especially those that confirm the European setting—the use of French text, the architectural styles, the choice of cars, all of it ties in not only as a good visual, but also to help strengthen the great setting that Kaminai has constructed.
Now that we are leaving Ortus without harm to what seems to be an academy, we can now go forward knowing where the show’s direction lies. In a sense, it’s a very similar setup to how Kino no Tabi constructed itself—a young able child and their companions go forth around the world to discover new things, seeing just how each part of the world lives. As a consequence, both Ai and Kino shape their views on life with every place they visit, though without a clear end in sight.