From the New World (Shin Sekai yori) – 04

The minoshiro-disguised library explains to the group in great detail the birth of psychokinetic or PK powers in humans, starting in the 21st century and ending in the downfall of civilization and the loss of billions of lifes, and a dark age lasting centuries in which brutal PK slave empires ruled, non-PK hunter-gatherers lived, PK bandits roamed, and scientists preserved ancient knowledge and bided their time until the empires crumbled from within.

Through genetic manipulation, education and development of rituals, and a system of rooting out potentially dangerous children, the scientists sought to create a new society free of strife, like that of bonobos. Before it can tell them more, the library is incinerated by a priest of the Temple of Purity, who seals everyone’s Cantus and escorts them to face punishment. On the way they come across a queerat tribe and eventually, the mythic blowdog.

More than half of this episode is one long infodump by the mobile library. But it works, and works well. First of all, because it’s an artificial construct, not some wise old man, the ceaseless stream of facts and figures not only makes sense, but has more dramatic impact. It talks about horrible, horrible things – things the kids had no idea humans were capable of – in such a calm, measured tone.

The visceral (and justified) reactions by Mamoru, Maria, Shun, Satoru, and Saki bring the chilling nature of this presentation home. It also helps that the history by itself is so rich and detailed. The library creature also lulls us into a kind of exposition trance, so when something finally does shut it up – a monk patrolling the woods – it’s a startling surprise.

All of a sudden these child detectives are in some serious trouble. Rijin may have referred to the library as a “mind-poisoning demon”, but we know better just by how his body reacts to the violent acts he performs: the “death feedback” fail-safe weakens his composure. We also know what the library said was true because of those cold opens of the bloody past. If the kids are sent to the temple, they won’t leave until all memory of what the library said is purged. But judging from that blowdog at the end, they may not get to that temple.

The scientists Saki & Co. are apparently the descendants of, like the monks during medieval times, preserved knowledge to create a functioning society when the time was right, but not without seriously compromising free will and even overwriting human nature. Then again, if PK were real, how else would society protect itself against a user who lost control, or lusted for power? This is exquisite, thought-provoking, dark stuff.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

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