Just returned from a special screening of Episodes 1-4 of Sunday Without God (神さまのいない日曜日 Kami-sama no Inai Nichiyōbi?) by Sentai Filmworks, which is a damn weird anime fantasy show. 12 year old Ai Astin (アイ・アスティン Ai Asutin?), is a novice "Grave Keeper", who inherited the role from her mother (now deceased). Ai grew up in a small, isolated village and is blissfully ignorant of the wider world outside, which has descended into brutality and chaos since the event 15 years ago where God, the Creator, both made himself known to humanity and announced his departure from the world, essentially giving up on the humanity project and leaving humankind to fend for themselves. He granted them immortality of a sort and left Earth to run itself. He had a second thought and sent along the Gravekeepers, for those who still yearned and prayed for a traditional death with the possibility of a post-mortem heavenly reward. The Gravekeepers function as basically a form of Shinigami, or Grim Reapers.
Basically Earth has devolved into a Zombie-land where nobody dies in the normal way, not even from grevious bodily injury. The corpses remain animated and still moving, after a fashion, though they do slowly lose their humanity with time. Only the Gravekeeper class can grant humans the final death with a properly conducted ceremonial burial.
It seems young Ai is neither fully human, nor fully Gravekeeper, though apparently her mother was a full-0n Gravekeeper. Typical Gravekeepers are not unlike Valkirye insofar as they are beautiful women who are unfailingly polite but otherwise devoid of emotion. They follow the divine command to bury the dead, whether the dead like it or not. Ai is unexpectedly emotional and has human compassion, just like a normal girl. After she learns the terrible truth about her origin and about the wider world, she grimly resolves to carry out her appointed mission as a Gravekeeper to the best of her ability. Her father's best friend, Yuri, becomes her travel companion and guardian after Ai's father's passing, along with a taciturn but friendly adult Gravekeeper named "Scar".
The first four episodes are largely devoted to "world building" of this very strange fantasy realm which superficially resembles modern Europe; despite the presence of modern technology (cars, guns) the architecture remains decidedly Medieval and Renaissance. There are no "modern" buildings, not even in the larger cities. The "ground rules" of the world are really strange and a little hard to follow.
The story is pretty good, just a little odd. The main character, Ai, is likeable and indeed adorable. I won't be rushing out to buy this series to finish it anytime soon, but it's a "Maybe" for a future rental, if it ever shows up on Netflix streaming or rental DVD. The world is very vague about the nature of its human religion(s) or the nature of its recently departed "God". There's Christian iconography (as one would expect in a European setting) but very little in the way of coherent Christian theology. The theology we do get is very vague and unspecific, and there don't seem to be any clergy or priests remaining to offer up any kind of theodicy or other apologetics for the recently departed deity. The story doesn't quibble with any specific religion, merely critiques a more abstracted "Philosopher's God", of a sort. In this the anime can be irreverently amusing and tongue in cheek, or at least I found it so, as an atheist viewer.
It's not a strong recommend, but I can lightly recommend this show. It didn't bowl me over or take my breath away, but I was reasonably entertained.