KADO: The Right Answer Series Review: The Higher They Rise, The Further To Fall

Overview:

One day a giant cube appears off the coast of Japan, swallowing a passenger plane. Turns out a visitor from the anisotropic (or outside of the known universe) has come to Earth to give us some gifts. One of the passengers on the plane is a negotiator and he begins the process of communicating with and negotiating with zaShunina as the world is inevitably changed.

I reviewed KADO week to week so if you are interested in my individual episode thoughts, click here.

Heavy spoiler warning on the following review.

Review:

Two thirds of this show is absolutely brilliant science-fiction. There’s no excess, no silliness, no teenagers in giant robots, no random power ups for the sake of it, no actual fighting, but just new ideas and humanity reacting to those ideas. Here’s an unlimited power source. Okay, who is going to control it? What are the economic implications particularly for countries that rely on the export of fossil fuels? Are there any risks? It’s smart and incredibly thought provoking and while it may not be the most exciting thing to ever grace your screen, it is compelling and it was distinguishable from so many other first encounter stories. Yes, we’ve had peaceful first encounters before, but they are few and far between. Even with the nagging feeling that the benevolent zaShunina was up to something, and even if he had turned out to be evil, this show could still have maintained the tone that had really set it apart from the other anime in the Spring season.

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Alas, it was not to be. The final third of the story plunges us headlong into conflict, introducing a second anisotropic being, before going into a finale that really just needs to be scrapped and rewritten (more on that later, be warned about heavy spoilers coming). Previously, I wrote a feature about anime that end badly and some of the ways that anime manage to stuff up their endings. It is a frequent problem with anime in that resolutions seem to be really hard for them to get right. I’m not expecting a happily ever after for all involved but I would like my endings to make sense and that is where KADO failed completely. Somehow I left that option off the list of ways endings annoy me but KADO has definitely made it clear that this is worse than pulling a power of friendship card.

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However, I shouldn’t start by reviewing the end of the anime. Despite the appalling conclusion we arrive at, there is plenty to admire about this show and I would still argue that for avid anime fans it is worth the watch. At the very least, the first two thirds are quite compelling and even when it falls apart, it is more the disappointment of it that hurts rather than the story itself. There are plenty of worse endings out there. While the disappointment you feel as the show veers away from being that must watch, must talk about show of the year to something far more average is palpable, overall the show remains above average as a viewing experience because even at its lowest point it is still perfectly watchable (just no longer brilliant).This one just feels much worse because of how much better it could have been and that’s really an unfair scale to judge it on (though it doesn’t take away that bitter taste in your mouth after you watch it).

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Visually KADO is impressive. I know some people hated the look of it and that’s fine. And yes, there are some scenes where the CG doesn’t sit quite right particularly in some character movements, though fortunately they don’t move a lot because there’s a lot of standing or sitting and talking (it was a show about negotiation for the most part). There are some really beautiful sequences and moments and at the very least it is visually striking. The characters are easily distinguished and the settings are appealing to look at. Overall, it is a visual feast for the eyes and while it won’t be to everyones’ tastes, it certainly worked for me.

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The music is equally grandiose and memorable. The opening theme is one of my favourite for the year (not sure if it is my favourite yet but it is certainly a contender) and throughout episodes the background music is suitably subtle or dramatic depending on the requirement. I really enjoyed the music in this series and felt it really added to the overall tone.

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For the first two thirds, I really liked the characters. I liked how the different representatives in the government and on the UN council were portrayed. I liked how average citizens, reporters, the military, scientists, and a whole range of people and their reactions came across as the world essentially changed after the arrival of the cube. Other than a small group, very few of these characters progress beyond being a stand in for a larger section of society but that is the role they’ve been given and they do it well. Shindo and zaShunina and their interactions were thought provoking and occasionally even amusing. As the central characters they really had a lot of work pulling us along through what was an otherwise fairly dry first encounter portrayal and they did it really well.

I also liked the themes and questions this show raised. The discussion about the wam being a gift to humanity and not countries was clever and thought provoking as were many of the observations by characters in the early stages of this anime.

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And then it all went wrong.

Keep in mind, that up until episode 12, they hadn’t done anything that could not be salvaged but a lot of eyebrows were raised when they revealed that one of the human negotiators was actually also an anisotropic being and wanted to send zaShunina away because she didn’t like him messing with the world. Then they had a fight between the two anisotropic beings that ended with Shindo getting severely injured and a really cliché anime encounter as the female anisotropic being first healed him and then got really embarrassed because she wasn’t wearing clothes. This was not good. First we’d moved away from negotiations to combat, we’d introduced another super being so they could have a fight sequence (no human could have) and then we went smack into teen drama territory. Where did the clever and intriguing writing go during this phase?

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Episode 11 tried to raise our hopes. Shindo had a plan. He reconnected with various characters who had assisted him throughout the series and humans worked on a solution to the problem. Okay, so we’re not just going to leave it to the super beings? Awesome. We might get back on track.

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Turns out, no (Final Warning – MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW).

The final episode delivers a mind-numbingly stupid twist.

In addition to the plan that the audience were let in on, a plan Shindo clearly knew was absolutely going to fail given the actual reveal, Shindo and anisotropic being number 2 hatch a second plan. Manipulate time, have a daughter, and have her deal with the problem.

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What?

Are you kidding me?

Now I could break into a rant here about feeling betrayed and all the rest but here’s the thing, just because this didn’t end the way I wanted it to or thought it might doesn’t actually make it bad. Certainly we’re left with questions and there’s a lot of logical gaps in how this concluded, and most certainly this isn’t exactly a satisfying ending when those of us who followed the show from the beginning followed it because of the different approach it was taking and not because we wanted to see super power beings babble at each other and then just end the fight. But, it does resolve the overall plot and given events in the final four episodes and zaShunina’s increasingly erratic behaviour in the final episode it kind of forced itself into this kind of conclusion.

I still think though if you are going to bring in time manipulation have the future daughter show up about twenty minutes earlier so that Shindo doesn’t die a completely pointless death. That wouldn’t make this ending any easier to swallow but at least wouldn’t make it a complete waste of space.

The show is actually a victim of its own earlier episodes. It set a tone and standard for its plot that the second half utterly failed to live up to. Most of us went in expecting nothing because we hadn’t even heard of the show until it started, and then it was amazing. It was well written and interesting and seemed to be heading somewhere a bit different. It just couldn’t hold onto that for a full 12 episodes. Pretty much everything after the introduction of the Sansa is questionable as to where this started going wrong. But, if I take away the expectations I gained from those first episodes and just look at the second half, this is still one of the better shows I watched this season. So for all that I want to rant and cry foul at such a travesty of an ending, stepping back I realised that while I am hoping for a fan-fiction ending that actually does the show justice, this is still not the absolute piece of dribble it could have been. It isn’t as though it all becomes a pointless dream sequence.

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But that then makes me wonder what the point of the ending was. Was that supposed to be a touching ending?

We had an incredibly pointless and avoidable death, followed by a dull and pointless chase and fight sequence, followed by dialogue that did nothing to answer any of the actual questions that people are sitting there thinking about. Where did the clever and thought provoking writing go? Where did an emphasis on dialogue and negotiation go? Hey, here’s a plan. It still sucks but might have worked a bit better. Why doesn’t future daughter actually try talking to zaShunina rather than turning him into pretty coloured lights? I might have believed her as Shindo’s daughter or legacy then. Some sort of compromise could have been reached once she showed up given zaShunina finally had someone who could stop him. Of course, future daughter is really an incredibly stupid plot device in the first place so it would have been better if Shindo had just figured out how to actually get zaShunina talking again given that would have actually fit the tone of the show.

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Basically, I’m annoyed because this show got my hopes up. It was so good. It was great. And then, it wasn’t. It doesn’t invalidate the good things earlier in the series. It doesn’t mean that this is a show that should be avoided at all costs. What it does mean is that you have to go in knowing that the ending won’t be as satisfying as you would like and just accept it for what it is. It is a science fiction that almost got it right but, despite its name, ultimately missed being the right answer.

Sorry that this review kind of flip flops around. I kept having to delete sections as I just went in to full rant territory because I was so disappointed by that ending.


Thanks for reading.

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Thanks,

Karandi James.

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16 thoughts on “KADO: The Right Answer Series Review: The Higher They Rise, The Further To Fall

  1. I like how you did give the series its full credit with its earlier episodes instead of fully destroying it because of its ending. Your frustration towards the ending was there (as I think most people had including myself) but it did come off as a flawed series that played with expectation on how good it could become. I am with you on that regard that it does in fact screw the pooch in those final episodes.

    I think this failure hurts more than most because it felt unique in this year of anime. It didn’t feel distinctly within what we considered the tropes of today and it had elements that caused discussion. It looked like a thinking person’s science fiction, yet fell short of that title with its ending. Disappointment always hurts far more than knowing what you are watching is meh or bad.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It really did make me wonder who they were trying to appeal to give the ending seemed to go for so many tropes and generic anime beat the bad guy expectations. There were still some things to think about in those final episodes but no like the earlier part of the anime where so much of it came off as just that little bit different than what you would expect.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I wasn’t really bothered by the ending. I was a little annoyed that Kado pulled “an anime” with the second being and how that portion played out, but that’s about it. I liked the daughter angle, it felt clever but in a way you could foresee. I don’t know, maybe I just kept step with this one? Had a good time with it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Fair enough. Yeah, the whole second being and fight sequence was really unnecessary even if they wanted to go to the daughter thing at the end. Those two episodes were the weakest part of the series.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Well, at least someone kept a level head about this.

    You’re absolutely right that the good parts of this show were really good. For me, those parts were only in the first third of the show as opposed to the two thirds you liked, as I maintain that the show started its downward spiral when they decided to move Kado. I felt that it was there that they started to abandon the thought provoking elements and slip further into cliche and faulty logic behind the characters and events.

    Despite that, your point that this remains a serviceable show even with the disappointing turn is a fair one. I don’t tend to watch anything I don’t like, but I have seen worse than KADO. If the last half is viewed with a more “standard” bar in mind, it’s actually OK. The problem is that hard divide between the intent of the two halves. Nothing in the buildup of the story points to where it eventually goes.

    So I think I would have to disagree in terms of recommending it, because I feel like the kind of people who would be drawn in by what I thought was good will be similarly let down when it comes apart. It’s just a frustrating feeling to put your hope into something only to watch it fail to live up to your expectations.

    But I’m glad I watched this one either way. An anime that disappoints is always a fruitful exercise in being able to examine how it led your expectations and what the exact reason for disappointment was.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah, it was really disappointing and my first review was far more ranty. But I realised that wasn’t fair to the show. That ending on any other show of the season wouldn’t have been that bad, it was just I wanted KADO to do something different, something more. Overall though, you are right, in that there is nothing early in the season that points to where it is going which is where that real disappointment comes from. It isn’t a clever twist or a positive surprise but rather an outright change in tone and direction and it isn’t for the better.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree. I suggest trying it nonetheless, as one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. The premise is quite interesting and I really enjoyed it, but be ready for the ending, since, as stated above by Karandi, it probably won’t live up to the build up expectations.

      Moreover, it might be me, but I think the art improved later on, or at least, less CG was used.

      Liked by 2 people

        1. My pleasure!
          Indeed, I agree on Kingdom, as a Manga reader, I’ve got to say that some times the details in author-sama’s art are stunning. And not to mention, I really love how the story of China is depicted. War and Kingdoms rising/management are quite the great topics… and yet how come I’m not interested in history? Screw it, it’s 2D magic.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. I know that feeling. I had trouble starting Hunter X Hunter’s Anime, even with all its praises about being great, for that very same reason. Though this is very typical for shounen series.
            I suggest giving yourself a weekly quota, it worked for me when I had to tackle an over 1000 chapters long novel.

            Liked by 1 person

    2. The animation bothered quite a few people. I think this is probably the first time I’ve genuinely enjoyed CG in an anime so I see it as a positive but I get that not everyone is going to like how it looks.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. As for myself I enjoyed the berserk trilogy and Kingdom anime, even though they had they same issues when it came to animation, and because I think if the story telling is good enough it can make up for the animation!

        Liked by 1 person

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