Anime Blu-ray Review: Sunday Without God: Complete Collection

Sunday Without God: Complete Collection was released by Sentai Filmworks as a three-disc DVD set and as a two-disc Blu-ray set on October 21, 2014. The set contains all 12 episodes of the television series as well as the OVA. The episodes can be watched with either an English dub or with the original Japanese audio with English subtitles. This review will focus on the Blu-ray release, since that is the version that I watched.

Sunday Without God: Complete Collection
English Publisher: Sentai Filmworks
Format: Blu-ray
Release Date: October 21, 2014

The series is set in a fictional world where 15 years prior to the start of the story, people stopped giving birth, and the dead cannot find rest unless they are buried by individuals known as “gravekeepers.” The story goes that God abandoned the world on a Sunday, and this is why these things have happened.

The main character of Sunday Without God is a girl named Ai Astin. Her mother was a gravekeeper, and she died when Ai was seven years old. At that point, Ai ended up having to take on the gravekeeper responsibility. She was also taken in by a couple named Yoki and Anna.

One day, after Ai had dug up enough graves for all the people in her small village, she returns home and encounters a man named Hampnie Hambart. The name surprises her, because this is the name that Ai’s mother gave for Ai’s father. Ai thinks this is her father, but he’s adamant that it’s not him. After learning that Ai is a gravekeeper, he says he needs her to do a job for him. He leads her to the village, where she discovers that all of the people in her village are dead. It turns out Hampnie killed them all. At the end of the first episode, Ai ends up following Hampnie because she has nowhere else to go.

During the second episode, Ai and the audience are introduced to another gravekeeper called Scar, which is a nickname for someone who has been blemished. Through questioning, Ai learns the gravekeeper has undergone many nicknames and has never had an actual name. This gravekeeper also lacks any emotion. Hampnie tries to use this information to prove that Ai isn’t an actual gravekeeper. However, when Hampnie asks Scar to properly bury the people Ai already buried, Scar says there aren’t any deceased nearby, and that she can sense that people have been properly buried. Hampnie is confused as to how Ai can be a gravekeeper.

While they’re in the village, Hampnie is shot by a huntsman named Julie Dmitrievich, who was once friends with Hampnie. Even though Hampnie is shot, he is able to get back up. It turns out that Hampnie never ages and never dies. Julie claims he’s getting revenge for Hampnie killing his wife, but Hampnie points out she had died a year earlier, and that Julie had been living in hiding with his wife and daughter. After Hampnie deduces that Julie’s daughter is now also dead, he realizes Julie’s motive is to have Hampnie kill him. Hampnie tells Julie to meet him at the village square at sunrise. Instead of meeting with Julie, Hampnie and Ai decide to leave.

In the third episode, Hampnie is attacked by a gang of deceased. However, before they attack, he kicks Ai off of a bridge into the water below. When Ai awakens, she finds Julie tending to her. At first, Ai is angry at Hampnie for kicking her into the river, but after Julie explains what happened, her anger subsides. And thanks to a picture that Julie has, it is proven that Hampnie is indeed Ai’s father. Unfortunately, Hampnie dies after learning at Ai is his daughter. Ai also learns that the people she had been living with in her village were deceased who had not yet been buried.

With Hampnie’s death, Ai decides to go on a journey to save the world. Accompanying her on the journey are Julie and Scar. As the series progresses, Ai finds herself going to the town of Ortus, being kidnapped and made to attend Goran Academy, and accompanying her new friend Alice Colors to try to free his world from a time loop.

I originally watched Sunday Without God when it was streaming as a simulcast on Crunchyroll during the Fall 2013 season. Being able to watch the episodes within a three night period instead of over 12 weeks made for a different viewing experience. By being able to watch the series in larger chunks, I discovered that Hampnie’s death touched me a lot more than it had when I had to see his story arc over a three week period.

But by being able to see the series in a bigger chunk, I realized that Alice and Dee’s introduction into the story felt more forced than it did when I was only watching the episodes once a week. There’s truly no explanation given as to exactly how Alice and Dee were able to keep a watch on Ai while she was in Ortus, so the audience is just simply expected to accept that this happened.

This viewing experience also made it much clearer just how forced the ending of the series feels and how it ultimately doesn’t really make sense. I haven’t read the light novel that served as the source material for Sunday Without God, but I would guess that this ending was created for the anime since the light novel was still ongoing at the time this series was being produced and aired.

It was also made clear just how much Ai’s story and motivation were watered down over the course of the 12 episodes. Right at the beginning, she’s determined to do whatever it takes to save the world. Yes, her experiences in Ortus and at Goran Academy did bring about some doubt for Ai, but it felt more like she was just doing whatever as the series went along instead of sticking to her self-determined mission to save the world.

Now that I’ve been able to rewatch the series about a year later in bigger chunks, I find that while I like the ideas and questions that are presented in the series, the execution of the overarching story wasn’t quite as strong as it seemed when I was watching the series once a week.

But what Sunday Without God may be lacking in some of its writing is made up for with the animation. The animation is overall of a higher quality is able to maintain its look and feel for the vast majority of the series. The main weak points would be shots that try to use CG in them. The CG didn’t look quite as noticeable when I was watching the series as a simulcast on my computer, but seeing these shots on a bigger screen made the CG stand out a lot more.

The color palette for Sunday Without God is very vivid, and this was much more noticeable on a larger screen. This color palette looks really good on the Blu-ray. To my eye, the mastering of the video for the Blu-ray release actually looks good. The video on the Blu-ray is in 1080p High Definition with a 16×9 aspect ratio.

When I saw that the OVA was included on this release, I was looking forward to watching it. Unfortunately, after seeing it, I was rather disappointed in it. The OVA is split into three “episodes,” and the first appears to be set in between the episodes “Where Gravekeepers Are Born” and “Class 3-4 I.” In this episode, the group comes across a hot spring, and it’s basically an excuse to insert “fanservice” that usually wasn’t included in the television series. To be honest, this episode added absolutely nothing to the overarching story. The second episode is a flashback of Alice’s, where we see that he had encountered Hampnie at some point before the series started. The third story shows how Hampnie met Ai’s mother. With the second and third episodes of the OVA, it felt like the idea was to try to fill in gaps in the story. But to be honest, these were gaps that really didn’t need to be filled. Knowing that Alice had met Hampnie wasn’t important to the overarching story, and seeing how Hampnie met Ai’s mother wasn’t necessary, either. Also, the animation quality on the OVAs wasn’t anywhere near the quality that the television series received. The tone and atmosphere of the OVA just felt too different from the rest of the series. If you’ve never seen the OVA for Sunday Without God, then I can say that you’re not missing much.

When it comes to the Blu-ray release itself, there is at least one bonus feature on each disc. The first disc has a couple of trailers for other properties released by Sentai Filmworks, the disc credits, and a clean opening. The second disc only has a clean closing as a bonus feature. While there’s not much in the way of bonus features, at least there’s something included. It’s better to have this than to have Sentai Filmworks decide not to include any bonus features.

If you’re a fan of Sunday Without God and want to own the series in your anime home video library, then I would recommend picking up this release. If you have the capability to watch Blu-rays, then I would recommend going with the Blu-ray release for the series.

Additional post about Sunday Without God:

One comment

  1. Lesley Aeschliman · December 30, 2014

    I have learned since writing and publishing this review that the ending of the anime is actually canon from the light novel source material. And after having what happened there explained to me, it makes sense and fits in with what has been established in the series. The main issue with the ending would be the fact that the story doesn’t truly end, that it’s just a “stopping point,” since too many loose ends are left unresolved. But since the light novel series wasn’t finished at the time the anime was produced, this kind of ending had to happen. From what I’ve heard, it sounds like the Sunday Without God anime didn’t do well in Japan, so it looks like it will never be continued in order for the story to receive a proper ending. 😦

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