From the New World (Shin Sekai yori) – 24

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Saki’s vision of Shun is broken by Kiromaru, who leads her back to Satoru, who is injured but okay. With the psychobuster found, Kiroumaru suggests they provoke the fiend into a final confrontation, using himself as bait. Saki protests that the fiend is really human, but when they place a mirror in his path, he destroys it. Satoru throws the psychobuster at him, but Saki destroys it with fire, afraid Satoru would get infected. They get cornered and Yakomaru calls for negotiation. Shun speaks to Saki once more, and she realizes there is still one way they can still defeat Squealer.

With the trump card destroyed (what a MacGuffin that was), the “fiend” on one side and Yakomaru and riflemen on the other, for a moment, Saki, Satoru, and Kiroumaru’s situation looks rather dire. So Saki asks Kiroumaru why he came to Tokyo the first time, and the buff, mud-caked queerat answers with brutal honesty: they were looking for WMD to destroy mankind and supplant them as the planet’s dominant species. Not for glory or conquest, but as a preemptive measure to ensure their survival. Other queerat colonies had been capriciously wiped out; they figured it was only a matter of time before they were next.

And there you have it: is Kiroumaru someone whom Saki and Satoru can trust? The answer is yes…but only as long as loyalty ensures his survival, and the survival of his colony. He may now be all alone, but that survival-at-all-costs credo endures. He often decries Saki and Satoru’s protestations of doom; queerats fight for survival with their dying breath, and he’s not going to let these humans give up either. Of course, he’s not aware that Shun is somehow communicating with Saki, serving as a second guide. Saki now has a plan for the endgame where they’ll end up on top, but we’ll have to wait for the finale to find out what that is.


Rating: 8 (Great)

From the New World (Shin Sekai yori) – 23

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Saki, Satoru, Inui and Kiroumaru traverse ever more subterranean horrors until reaching a dead end: a dangerous underground river. As their pursuers split into two groups, Kiroumaru suggest the same, and they do. Inui accompanies Saki back to the submarine, take it until the tunnel narrows, then continue on foot. Inui is taken out by a giant ragworm, but Saki reaches the location of the psychobuster drug, which is contained in a decorative metal talisman. Throughout their trip, she starts hallucinating about Shun, finally remembering his name. When she returns to the surface, he is there waiting for her, his mask removed.

The people of Japan believe Tokyo to be hell on earth. Their collective Canti leak, and make Tokyo the very hell on earth they fear, positively crawling with nightmarish mutant creatures. Thankfully, they’re all dispatched with fire, and none of them are capable of igniting that fire in suicide attacks. But Inui isn’t quite fast enough, and gets jumped by a worm. No body, so we don’t know what’s become of him, but for the remainder of the episode, Saki is alone in perhaps the worst place in the world…or is she?

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Years ago, her still-developing child brain was purged of all clear memories of Aonuma Shun, her soul mate, so much so that she eventually found another soulmate in Maria (only to lose her too). Whether enough time has passed or from the effects of Tokyo, she finally recalls Shun’s name and face. He’s aware of her situation, and warns her that the “fiend” she’s supposed to kill isn’t really a fiend. This explains why it can be controlled by Yakomaru: it’s been conditioned by the queerats since birth.

Unlike children in the villages who are trained to control their canti, this child’s cantus has been honed to its full destructive potential, while maintaining a basic humanity. The process that made Saki and her friends was reversed to make this “pseudo-fiend.” Already reticent about utilizing biological WMD, Saki’s heart stands to waver even more now that she’s been told her foe is neither mindless nor a lost cause, but just as much a victim of fate and circumstance as she is.


Rating: 8 (Great)

P.S. Saki breaking through the wall and emerging onto the surface of a ruined Tokyo at dawn is one of the more gorgeous and arresting moments this exquisite series has treated us to.

From the New World (Shin Sekai yori) – 11

The time comes for the school groups to pair off into boy-girl pairs for school duties, ceremonial preparation, and eventually, procreation. A handsome guy named Ryou tells Saki he’ll choose her, but she’s not so sure who he is. Ryou seems to have replaced Shun in everyone’s minds, but Saki and Satoru still remember him. Saki also finds a mirror with her sister’s name etched in, as well as the girl who was in their group years ago. Itou freaks out, and Maria tells Saki to drop it. She can’t give up, but she won’t bring it up again. Two officials from the Ethics Committee appear before them, and the three are brought to the committee’s head, Asahina Tomiko, starting with Saki.

Whatever methods the powers that be employ – be they the Ethics Committee or their bosses – to ensure the people remain blissfully ignorant and only believe and remember what they’re told, they simply haven’t worked on Saki. Aonuma Shun’s growing power, whether from ‘illness’ or ‘ascendance’ was an immediate existential threat to the almighty status quo, and it was dealt with by allowing him to self-destruct in isolation, then swept under the rug. But Saki’s power – that of intense, piercing curiosity and doubt – is far more insidious. One by one, it spreads to her three remaining friends, though they exhibit varying degrees of enthusiasm.

Saki gets things started. Satoru is willing to hear anything out. Maria is unnerved. Mamoru is terrified. This may also be the order from worst to best sense of self-preservation, because not long after the matter between the friends is more or less resolved, a couple of kind, friendly-looking adults shows up, essentially arresting Maria, Satoru, and Saki. Has the Ethics Committee finally had enough of Wantanabe Saki and her incessant digging? They may well wish to ‘purge’ or ‘dispose of’ her, but with all the nice manners, smiles, and insistence that ‘there’s no reason to be nervous’, they may have another use for her altogether – one even she can’t fathom.


Rating: 8 (Great)

From the New World (Shin Sekai yori) – 10

Saki survives her encounter with the tainted cat by the skin of her teeth, but the talisman Shun gave her is destroyed. She finally finds a masked Shun by the lake, who allows her to stay for ten minutes. He explains how he’s become a karma demon (AKA Hashimoto-Applebaum Syndrome), and his Cantus is leaking out rapidly, allowing his uncchecked subconscious to warp the world. The other cat appears to kill him, but his dog Subaru sacrifices himself to distract it, and Shun finishes it off. As his control starts to slip, Shun decides to end his life, but not before confessing he always loved Saki.

Last week’s excellent buildup and preparation was not let down in this, the payoff episode. The tainted cat cliffhanger picks up with a lightning-quick and brutal battle between Saki and the beast, and she is quite clearly outmatched. Were it not for her choker, she’d have ended up dead before she even knew what hit her. But Saki is no slouch, taking advantage of the cat’s failed jugular shot to literally wring it out with her Cantus. It’s satisfying to see how much skill and discipline she’s amassed in the two years since the last arc. All her efforts are simply to reach Shun, the guy she always loved but never said or did anything about it.

Their trippy encounter only lasts long enough for him to tell her the volatile nature of Canti, the true purpose of the Holy Barrier (directing “leaking” Canti to the outside world) and his “illness”, which has already cost the lives of his parents, his neighborhood, and likely others. Shun, in the end, had too much potential, his Cantus too powerful to exist in the world, and he ceases being able to hold it back. Taking his life was the only course of action to prevent the further suffering of others (we’ll assume, for now, he succeeded) Saki finally gets the answer she always silently sought (that he loved her too), but her challenge now is to stay alive, not let grief or guilt consume her, and keep trying to make sense of this crazy world she was born to.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

From the New World (Shin Sekai yori) – 09

With Shun gone for four days, Satoru gathers the others and suggests they go looking for him. He and Saki travel to his house in Pinewood, but it is totally cordoned off in all directions, and they find that a huge gash has been made in the forest, with a burnt-out tree trunk in the bottom of a pit that reminds Saki of the one in Shun’s house. Meanwhile Maria and Mamoru ask around school, but everyone from Pinewood is absent. Curiosity leads them to check out the inner yard, and they see three adults release two tainted cats from their kennels, and mention Shun. Maria comes to Saki in the middle of the night to tell her this, and she sets out alone to find Shun, but its confronted by one of the cats in the forest.

Whatever year it actually is in Saki’s world, it might as well be 1984 (while that monolithic tree they see brought 2001 to mind). People who do not obey and conform to the “society of love” live in constant fear of death, or worse – by the hands of the “Ethics Committee”, which may as well be called the Ministry of Love. People are supposed to stick to their particular vocation, and not pry in anything else, even if it concerns family or friends. In Saki’s case, her older sister vanished long ago, and she forgot about it like a good girl. But now she’s remembered. Now someone she cares about deeply – Shun – is in some very serious trouble. She cares about him so much she’s willing to risk everything – her freedom, her life, her parents’ peace-of-mind – to find him. Which is badass.

We don’t hand out tens willy-nilly; only three first-run episodes have received our highest rating so far, along with a handful of Retro Reviews. But we consider this episode the best and most complete of the series so far; a masterpiece of tone, mood, and tension. It’s not particularly flashy, but never before have the stakes seemed so high, or have Saki and her friends seemed to be in more danger. We’re not even sure what the real deal with Shun is yet – only that he may be turning into a full karma demon (that doesn’t sound good). This episode is the best kind of building-up episode: one that creates so much anticipation for the future, but more than holds up by itself as a comprehensive study in layering trepidation on top of disquiet on top of dread.

The moment Saki hears from Maria, she goes into Full Rescue Mode – suiting up with the talisman Shun gave her (and which she may believe was also a wordless message to come after him, not just a memento mori), and using her Cantus to good effect, bringing a loud wind that will mask her movements, flying through the air, and racing down the river. If she’s discovered, she’ll most certainly die, and the episode projects that perfectly. While a ten need not be totally perfect, we could not list a single flaw in the episode anyway. From the precise pacing to the stirring primeval score to the consistently excellent costume design, this was a winner on all fronts.


Rating: 10 (Masterpiece)

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P.S. The tainted cats have pumps for feet…very strange.

From the New World (Shin Sekai yori) – 08

Two years after their summer camp adventure, the circle of friends are now fourteen and starting to drift away. Shun and Satoru are an affectionate item, but Shun gets tired of him and dumps him. Saki and Maria also form a couple, but Saki longs for Shun. Itou likes Maria but is too shy to do anything about it. One day their class is visited by Kaburagi Shiei – owner of the most powerful Cantus. When he approaches Shun (who is acting strange), something happens, and when Saki bumps into him later Shun tells her he believes their punishment was merely being delayed, and that he must now go away to recieve some kind of “special treatment”.

Love is in the air, or at least some kind of biologically-dictated version of it, as the gang ages two years since the last episode. Hormones run wild and kids pair off like there’s no tomorrow. They’re all following their ancestors’ wish to coexist in a “society of love” like Bonobos (the yaoi/yuri stuff is tastefully enough done). Saki wants to pair off with Shun, but Shun’s with Satoru, at least initially, and then…he only wants to be alone. Saki finds solace in Maria, but their pairing leaves Itou as the fifth wheel. The whole time all this touching and nuzzling is going on, Saki continues to have the feeling that something is terribly wrong. Shun shares her suspicions, but now he appears to be in trouble.

It’s weird seeing everyone suddenly two years older at first, and we think it’s supposed to be weird, like everything’s a little off. Because, of course it is. At first the episode is ambiguous, but as it progresses its clear they still remember what happened two summers ago, which means they remember everything the false minoshiro said about society, and about disruptive elements being removed for the good of the group. Shun, it seems, is on the verge of becoming a disruption, and considering how powerful his Cantus is, it looks like he’s going to be dealt with one way or another. He’s unwilling to let Saki or anyone else interfere and risk their own safety. It seems best for Saki, Maria, Satoru and Itou to simply keep their heads down.


Rating: 8 (Great)