Kado: A historical reading

Another interesting way to look at Kado:  The Right Answer is as a retelling of Japan’s history.  This, in turn, brings out another facet of the show’s religious connection.  Warning–spoilers ahead!

If one considers ‘the anisotropic’ as a symbol of ‘the world outside Japan,’ then Yaha-kui zaShunina, who forces his way into Japan proffering dreamlike technology and spouting a Nietzsche-esque cosmology, represents Western influence in the Meiji Period.  As at that time, Japan attempts to combine the foreign technology with its native values.

From the beginning, the show is unabashedly nationalistic–consider, for example, the episode where Japan outwits the UN with the power of origami.  As the show progresses, we are also given a tour of traditional Japanese values through the character of Saraka Tsukai, who takes Shindo on a day-long date to the places she spent her childhood.  She emphasizes Japan’s traditional crafts, the very human quality of low-tech production, living in harmony with the environment, and the joys of family life.  Accepting technology from the anisotropic (symbolic of Meiji industrialization) will change all that.

Shindo takes her appeal to heart (and, er, also takes her as his wife–we even get a baby before the end!) and begins to push for these Japanese values.  In the end, when Japan has been defended from zaShunina’s encroachment, we see the CEO of Setten (a stand-in for Google) conclude that what Japan has gained from this whole ordeal was knowledge of the existence of the anisotropic, which will henceforth be the subject of further research.  In other words, the philosophy safely rejected, Japan will pursue the technology.

It’s interesting to consider what, exactly, the rejected philosophy consisted of.  At first, it seems like the writers of the show want us to accept zaShunina’s claim that anisotropic beings created the universe out of boredom.  Later, it seems likely that this was only zaShunina’s delusion of grandeur, or even attempted trickery (one could also argue that zaShunina is a symbol of the devil, although that’s a topic for another post).  It’s revealed that zaShunina is proud and requires personal growth that will start with a sense of humility.  Providentially, he has come to Japan–just the place where he can learn that virtue.

Is the show suggesting a historical parallel with proud Westerners barging into Japan, all but claiming to be gods, and leaving with a healthy sense of humility?  It just might be.  After all, here is one person who went to Japan an atheist and came back a Catholic.

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Kado: The Right Answer (apparently, they found it in the Catechism)

I don’t watch much anime anymore, but when I heard there was a recent series about the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I had to give it a try.  I’ve known a few diplomats in my time, and I was curious whether I could learn anything about the way they think.  After finishing the series, I can’t say whether I’ve levelled up in diplomatic mind-reading skills, but I did find a surprising Catholic connection that I wanted to write about here.  Beware:  spoilers ahead!

The series is called 正解するカド, or Kado:  The Right Answer, and the basic premise is that MOFA has to negotiate with aliens.  Specifically, an ‘anisotropic being,’ Yaha-kui zaShunina, lands his giant cube in Tokyo and begins offering mankind fantastic devices from beyond the universe with the ability to alter time and space.

As the series goes on, it becomes clear that zaShunina’s motive is, more or less, boredom–he feels that he knows it all, and resents this.  Through his contact with humans, however, he begins to develop more of an emotional side to balance out his intellectual side.  He falls in love, his love is not reciprocated, and he gets irritable and tries to impose his will by force.

Opposite zaShunina is Shindo Kojiro, a former MOFA diplomat who quits his job to become a negotiator for ‘the anisotropic.’  Shindo projects an aura of invincibility, displaying almost no emotion, which causes the codependent characters in the story (of which there are more than a few) to desperately seek his validation in the form of romantic attention.  Shindo identifies strongly with his mission as a negotiator, following the basic rule of “both sides getting something they want.”  As the series goes on and it becomes clear that zaShunina’s motives are not altruistic, Shindo considers the best outcome for humanity, while still trying to give each side something it wants.

And this is where things get Catholic.  After unsatisfying attempts to clone Shindo, zaShunina realizes that human beings are more than just ‘information’–they have a soul which can’t be copied or replaced.  What zaShunina really wants is for Shindo to ‘come back to the anisotropic’ with him, but Shindo refuses, and zaShunina realizes that to interfere with a human being’s free will is to make him something less than he is.  In other words, he cannot obtain love through force.  Frustrated, he decides if he can’t win Shindo’s love, he will kill him instead.

Shindo, who for all his lack of emotion shows a surprising capacity for self-sacrifice, first risks his life to protect Saraka Tsukai, the MOFA diplomat in charge of negotiations with the anisotropic.  Faced with the opportunity to destroy zaShunina, Shindo chooses instead–much to Tsukai’s consternation–to give zaShunina something he wants.  Not to return to the anisotropic with him, but to solve his real problem–his existential boredom–by knocking him off his high horse, solving his God complex, and proving to him there are a lot of things in the universe he doesn’t understand and can’t control.  In the end, zaShunina kills Shindo, who dies in his arms, both seeming to accept with sadness that Shindo’s ultimate motive was love and the growth of zaShunina’s soul (and by the end, it certainly appears that he has one).

I’ve necessarily left a lot of threads in the story untouched, but it seems to me that the ultimate message was that humanity will not be saved by technology or by merely human love.  It must be saved by God–by a selfless love that seeks the good of the other.  That good is to be drawn out of the myopic, mistaken little worlds we have trapped ourselves in, into the freedom of truth.  The truth is that none of us are God, and the humility to recognize that is the first step toward happiness.

And that, my friends, is about as Catholic as you can get.