The last few weeks have seen the wrap-up of the 2013 summer anime season, and with it, a number of pleasant surprises… as well as a number of letdowns. Sunday Without God, a creative series that showed a lot of promise in its early episodes, unfortunately, can be counted as one of the latter. Now while I could get into the many technical flaws of the series (and believe me, there are many), the main area I would like to focus on here, and the area most relevant to the general theme of Beneath the Tangles, is Sunday Without God‘s disappointing lack of God.
I am always skeptical, but still interested in anime that attempts to incorporate some form of the Christian religion or Christian theology (anime such as Chrono Crusade and A Certain Magical Index, as well as many others, continue to prove to me that the Japanese truly do not understand Christianity and simply treat it as nothing more than an institution with a colorful mythology). As such, I began Sunday Without God with an inquisitive, if somewhat cynical attitude. However, episode one introduced a premise by which I simply could not helped but be intrigued: God created, then abandoned the world, and thus caused many consequential repercussions.
Let me bring your attention to the exposition as explained in the first episode (and note its twisted parallels of the account of creation as in Genesis 1):*
On Monday, God created the world.
On Tuesday, God created the polar opposites “chaos” and “order”.
On Wednesday, God went into meticulous detail while playing with numbers.
On Thursday, God allowed time to begin flowing.
On Friday, God looked over the world in minute detail.
On Saturday, God took a rest.**
And on Sunday… God abandoned the world.
“The other side is already full. This world will reach a standstill before much longer. Ah, I’ve failed!”
Now while this concept flies blatantly in the face of Christianity, this is the kind of theology I like to see explored in anime. Not a perversion of the Christian faith, but an exploration of a totally new (fantastical) theology (I should clarify that I believe the creation/abandonment account here, while based on the theistic creation story, does not attempt to represent what real theists believe, but merely an alternate universe; this is why I do not consider it a “perversion,” but something entirely new)! What would truly happen in a world abandoned by God? This question follows several implications: 1) That God exists in the first place, 2) If God were to abandon the world, then the very makeup of life would change fundamentally (as opposed to the deistic view that our reality is a world created and left to its own devices), and 3) That God’s abandonment of the world is a result of its erroneous creation. How does Sunday Without God explore these three implications?
In regard to the first, episode one makes it abundantly clear that there is an all-powerful God. In addition to the creation account provided above, a flashback is shown of the day God abandoned the world (though it is naught but a single shot).
In regard to the second, the fact that life and death are forever on hold proves to be evidence of a world without God. With the exception of burial via Gravekeepers (some strange entities with a number of different properties that set them apart from humans, such as being “spawned” in some strange, lightning-prone land as near-personality-less clones, a point that is hardly explained and seems to be contradicted on several occasions… but I digress), death no longer means spiritual and physical death, as the spirit remains in the corpse even after death (seemingly, to prevent over-crowding in the afterlife). Despite a number of inconsistencies and questioned motives, the fact remains that the world has been turned on its head with no God to look over it.
In regard to the third, God’s statement on “Sunday” makes this quite obvious. In creating the world, he did something wrong, and abandoning the world was his way of making the best of the situation (skeptics of Christianity might equate this line of thought with the concept of salvation via Jesus Christ, but that is far too complicated a topic to be covered in a simple aside here).
So at this point you may be thinking, “All of this seems interesting, and much deeper theologically than most anime that try to incorporate God or Christianity, so why, Japes, did you say that this series was disappointing?” Well, I will concede that the first episode, which is the episode that presents all of these ideas, is a solid start to what could be an exceedingly interesting series. However, episode one is where those thoughts begin and end. Essentially, my main problem with the series at this point is that it introduces a plethora of unique ideas and concepts in order to create a brand new world, then stops entirely in order to pursue mere side stories (which, in and of themselves, are not bad, per se, but merely a reflection of the lack of attention the writing pays to the actual, core concept of the series).
There truly is not much more to say on the matter of theological concepts in Sunday Without God. Content past the first episode indicates that the writing, while promising at first, follows the common Japanese tendency to totally ignore western theology in favor of convoluted side stories. Maybe I’m over-thinking things. Maybe I’m expecting too much. Maybe I should not have been surprised, for the title, Sunday Without God, seems to reflect more of the series than I anticipated.
*For the sake of those reading, I would like to clarify that I do not hold only to six-day/young earth creationism, but am a supporter of the theories of theistic evolution, progressive creationism, and young earth creationism.
**Interestingly, the creation story here places God’s day of rest on Saturday, just as Jewish tradition would have it (thus the sabbath being celebrated on Saturdays). However, there is likely no real significance here, due to the industrial calendar moving to the week beginning on Monday and ending on Sunday. Additionally, the writers probably wanted to end the week on Sunday in order to tie the significance of the Christian worship service and God abandoning the world occurring on the same day.