「私たちの大事な世界の全てだった」 (Watashitachi no daijina sekai no subetedatta)
“It was the Entirety of Our Precious World”
Kujira no Kora wa Sajou ni Utau looks like a culmination of many things I would wish for in an anime. Judging by the PVs, there’s a cast mainly comprised of children, who possess superpowers, and are slowly coming of age. Most importantly, it displays a unique and gorgeous art style that is so refreshing to look at. Don’t those oceans of sand look sexy? Disclaimer, I don’t swing that way. But seriously, I wonder if JC Staff were trying to take lessons from PA Works, because they probably ended up creating their most beautiful show to date. I’m still somewhat concerned at their recent inconsistency when it comes to adaptations, so I’m preparing myself for potential drops in quality. However, some optimism is warranted where the director Ishiguro Kyouhei can bring over his experience from adapting Shigatsu, where he delicately handled the source material with precision and sensitivity. Kujira no Kora wa Sajou ni Utau could even be anime of the season if they keep things up! Let’s dive head first into the sand, and see how they manage.
Not all people are born equal, and this can be said for people who live on a gigantic boat traversing the seas of sand, colloquially referred to as the Mud Whale. There are the unmarked, a minority of ordinary people who lack special powers, but live to a ripe old age just like most of us would. Then there are 90% who possess the mark, being blessed with the telekinetic powers of Thymia, at the cost of living severely shortened lives. The series starts on a somber tone of Benihi’s funeral, a marked woman who died at the young age of 27. As the person who taught Chakuro and Sami to use their Thymia, her death obviously has a deep effect upon them. Such an occurrence also leaves a deep impression of the cultural mannerisms pertaining to these people, regarding how they remember the dead, and it also serves to instil an important dynamic. Although our characters seem like adolescents, they’ve lived out half their lives. Let that sink in for a moment – you have so much to live for, but are ordained to die in the next decade or so. To be perfectly honest, Thymia is no blessing in comparison to the curse it brings.
Nonetheless, we get an idea of what our characters are like, through how they find beauty and meaning in such a limited life. Sami (Kanemoto Hisako) tries to teach children how to control their Thymia, imparting her knowledge to the next generation, and following the footsteps left by Benihi. From what we’ve seen, she’s a kind and gentle soul, who might have feelings for Chakuro. Her older brother Suou (Shimazaki Nobunaga) is one of the Unmarked, and next in line to become Chieftain. Their sibling relationship would explain why Suou is desperately researching ways to help extend the life of those who are Marked. Ouni (Umehara Yuichiro) reminds me of Yatogami Kuroh from K in terms of character design and combat prowess, although he comes across as being more aloof. Alongside the other outcasts, can they find some meaning to their existence beyond the Mud Whale? It’s hard to say, but I reckon Ouni will eventually play a pivotal role later on.
Befitting of her name, Lykos (Iwami Manaka) acts like a lone wolf. Though love and hatred are two sides of the same coin, apathy is the complete opposite, hence I could understand why the elders felt so terrified of her. If someone lacks any semblance of emotions, how are they meant to appreciate the value of life? That said, something is off about Lykos’ claiming to lack emotional capacity. For example, she cried when the mysterious curse compelled her to make an attempt upon Chakuro’s life. Also, I suspect that she fed the cat some food, despite being starved herself. I certainly wouldn’t think that the cat could open the cat food containers by itself, and it didn’t really have a reason to help her on a whim. Hence I’m inclined to think she’s a kinder person than what she might seem, who is actually sick of killing people, and needs Chakuro to help hoist her out of the darkness.
Speaking of our protagonist, Chakuro (Hanae Natsuki) is one of the Marked, and serves as an archivist for the Mud Whale. By keeping the records as if they were diaries, he can bereave those who died, and slowly make peace with his inevitable fate. As someone who also defaults to writing as a coping mechanism in difficult times, I can relate all too well with Chakuro. My only criticism would be directed towards how we received our exposition through his narrative. There was a lack of flow, one which kept on getting interrupted by random information lumped in less than appropriate places, to the point of breaking immersion. How frustrating! Then again, I’ll begrudgingly concede that it actually fits Chakuro’s characterisation. He’s an observant boy, who soaks in details of the world around him. Yet he is awkward when it comes to expressing himself, lacking eloquence in both his writing and speech. However, he writes because he wants to, and for the sake of future generations. If these excerpts are all meant to come from the diary a 14 year old boy, then the clumsy writing becomes justifiable to some extent. When I was his age, my writing was probably worse, and I imagine the same could be said for many of us. So long as he keeps up at it, maybe we’ll start seeing improvements down the line.
If I had to bring up similar shows, Kujira no Kora wa Sajou ni Utau might feel like an amalgamation between Shin Sekai Yori and Nagi no Asukara. However, clear influences running from classical civilisation completely distinguish the series. Greek is widely adopted into the various terminologies, while the Mud Whale itself bears hallmarks of Babylonian architecture. In short, the creator did a fantastic job of capturing ancient sentiments on an epic and fantastical scale.
That aside, the appearance of Lykos poses many questions. Where did she come from? Is there a civilisation that exists beyond the Mud Whale? If so, would that civilisation be friendly or hostile? Here is where I would echo the elder’s sentiment. Lykos is a harbinger of doom, who will likely mark the end of the Mud Whale’s voyage. After all, what happens when a civilisation that know of only war and death, encounters a paradise free from such evils? The paradise will become tainted at best, and at worst, utterly destroyed. If Lykos is any indication to go by, a living hell exists beyond the paradise of the Mud Whale, forcing children to abandon their emotions and fight in bloody wars. Sure, nothing new, but it’s an implication that never stops being so damn tragic for me. Whenever I hear about children being victims of war, I always think, what did they do to deserve this? I’m not ready to see the Mud Whale succumb to the violence of such a brutal reality, but it’s certainly looking that way if the civilisations are destined to cross paths.
As they say, et in Arcadia ego. Whenever I get that vibe, I’m conditioned to steel myself for the horrors up ahead, in anticipation for the bait and switch. The Mud Whale is all these children know, so I suspect that the series cover their journey into a wider world, and one much crueller than anything they could possibly imagine. However, the show must continue, as we become implicit in witnessing this glorious yet tragic spectacle.
ED: 「ハシタイロ」 (Hashitairo) by rionos