While I’ve been preoccupied by some of the bigger series of the season such as My Hero Academia, Attack on Titan and Berserk, I happened to completely overlook a fascinating and well-made series that happens to be right up my alley. After playing catch-up over the last few days, I thought I would reflect on one of the prevailing themes in the show: communication.
Kado: The Right Answer tells the story of an other-worldly being named Yaha-kui zaShunina who arrives along with a 2 km square cube in the middle of an airport landing strip. In the process, a passenger plane carrying 252 Japanese citizens is unfortunately positioned beneath the cube, and is initially presumed to be crushed. As it turns out, the plane isn’t destroyed, but instead absorbed into the cube along with its passengers, including one of Japan’s premier negotiators: Shindo Koujiro. As Shindo and the rest of the world attempt to unravel the mystery of the other-worldly cube and its peculiar inhabitant, the stranger from beyond the stars offers extra-terrestrial gifts intended to accelerate the progression of mankind. A clean, infinite energy source and removing the need for humans to sleep are just the first of many boons zaShunina has to offer. The question is: at what cost?
One of my favorite scenes from the early episodes happens when Shindo leaves the plane that he and the other 251 passengers have found themselves trapped in to explore the inside of the cube. Not too long after stepping out of the plane, zaShunina takes on a physical form and locks eyes with Shindo, causing the negotiator to experience immense pain. After Shindo’s colleague pleads for zaShunina to stop, the pain subsides and the alien proceeds to make strange, whale like noises. Suddenly, it dawns on Shindo: “I think it’s trying to communicate…” He then steps forward to introduce himself, which zaShunina is able to impersonate perfectly before scanning Shindo’s cell-phone and essentially absorbing the necessary knowledge to communicate with humans.
This exploratory trial-and-error session around communication is well-executed, even if it does require a rather optimistic view of how a non-human would react upon first encountering mankind. Once Shindo and zaShunina are able to communicate, the real work begins. zaShunina works to present a series of gifts to mankind, while Shindo tempers his expectations and figures out the best way to distribute these gifts to all of humanity in a fair and safe manner.
Shindo’s skills as a negotiator are utilized differently in his conversations with zaShunina than you would expect. He’s not trying to negotiate a good price for a convention hall, or ease the issuance of building permits. His first negotiation with zaShunina is to explain that his request to speak with the Japanese government cannot be met in a time frame of say, 6 seconds. Instead, it’s much more realistic to give them, say, 6 hours to respond. Rather than negotiating for favorable terms for an employer, Shindo has the task of introducing zaShunina to the imperfect world that we live in – a world plagued with problems as a result of our inability to really understand one another, as zaShunina explains.
The importance of communication is echoed as the series continues, as zaShunina often emphasizes the importance of understanding one another and being able to communicate effectively. Much like trying to explain words or concepts that simply don’t translate from one language to another, zaShunina has to attempt to explain concepts and technology from beyond our universe entirely. One example of this is the “Wam”, marble-shaped trinkets that generate power at an incredible scale. zaShunina uses his first opportunity to meet with Japan’s leaders to bestow them with this gift, which he sees as a reasonable step towards accelerating mankind’s ability to progress.
While discussing the properties of the Wam, zaShunina says something interesting in response to a question regarding their individual power potential. Shindo had previously told him that sometimes words that are not ideal for explanation have to be used in order to expedite conversations and understanding. With this in mind, zaShunina answers simply: “Infinite.” – much to the amazement of negotiator Saraka and the representative of the Japanese government. I can’t help but wonder, however, if zaShunina has buried some unimportant detail in an effort to be more effective with his communication.
Therein lies an intriguing tool to build up drama, and one that has been effective since the earliest episodes of Kado. It’s one thing to imagine dramatic scenarios unfolding due to things left unsaid, like an “I love you” met with a deafening silence. Rather, the omissions in communication are derived from something so foreign to mankind as a whole that explaining it could be damn near impossible.
This alien from beyond our universe is attempting to communicate with us, but how could he possibly rationalize or explain all of the technology he’s brought? Or his motivations? While zaShunina does not seem to be malevolent, we don’t even know his true form (DBZ jokes aside). He took on the form that he did in order to begin communication with mankind. On top of that, recent episodes have seen him doing a lot more reading, which he may be doing to develop his own personality as a proper “human”. While that may seem encouraging, let’s not forget that Microsoft’s AI bot, after being exposed to social media, quickly devolved into the worst that humanity had to offer.
We can hope, for humanity’s sake, that zaShunina is able to continue communicating with Shindo to help mankind arrive at “The Right Answer”.
I will definitely be writing up a series review once the season’s over, so keep an eye out! In the meantime, if you haven’t been watching Kado already, I would highly suggest picking it up!