From the New World (Shin Sekai yori) – 05

Rijin is killed fighting the blowdog, and the queerat horde returns. Without Cantus, the kids are powerless, and must flee. Saki trips and falls down a hill, and is found by Satoru, but they’re captured by the queerats. In their tree prison they start to vent their stress an anxiety with intimate behavior, but the guard is watching. Satoru gives it a haythatcher egg, which it eats and is killed. They excape, and are led into a rival queerat colony by a talking queerat named Squealer. He begs the two “gods” to help them against the invading queerats, who attack the colony that night. Satoru and Saki use the confusion to escape, and Satoru ignites poison gas to take out their pursuers. Satoru pokes a hole in the liquid-like ceiling of the cave, which collapses on them.

When Saki and Satoru are taken prisoner by the roving queerats, they find themselves up a tree in very close quarters, and they start to feel very…amarous. They’ve been friends for a long time and both probably find each other attractive, but that isn’t all that’s going on. In a very carefully-animated scene, Saki realizes as she’s with Satoru that she’s doing exactly what the library slug said she’d do if faced with undue stress and anxiety: engage in intimate sexual behavior, like bonobos. She’s doing what her genetic makeup programmed her to do, not what she wants to do. She stops herself.

Before she learned about humanity’s bloody history and the nature of the society she lives in, Saki was into Shun, not Satoru. If she’s going to be intimate, it’ll be with someone she truly likes like him, not whoever happens to be nearby in order to blow off steam. Her mind fights her body. But this is just the first of many situations she and Satoru face this week that puts them into survival mode. She also learns that humans and kids in particular should steer clear of queerats, because they’ll be exhalted as gods and brought into their wars – and war is something most humans can no longer physically wage.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

P.S. Saki’s adventure garb is really cool-looking, giving off some serious Nausicaä vibes.

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)

From the New World (Shin Sekai yori) – 03

Saki & Co. strike out on a nature trip, plying the rivers and making camp here and there. Satoru tells a campfire story of “blowdogs” and evil “minoshiros”, and the group gets the idea to investigate and prove they exist. When they come across a minoshiro, its light has a hypnotic effect that only Saki is immune to due to her shades. They manage to catch one, and it tells them it is some kind of mobile digital library of history.

The cold open takes place seventy years after last week’s, and the Emporer of Great Delight has been replaced by the Emporer of Merciful Light, and gets assassinated, an act its perpetrators believe will change history. Like the other two opens, we can only shrug and say “that’s nice”, because there still isn’t much of a connection between these little snippets and the “present day” of the series, 1000 years from now, in which Saki, Shun, & Co. have what looks like a rippin’ good camping trip. The weather cooperates, they do a bit of night rowing, Shun touches Saki’s hand in a gesture of affection (and keeps taking her side), and the group has an exciting adventure.

However, on this adventure they go somewhere they were told not to go and find something they probably weren’t supposed to find. The narrator points out that hundreds of weird new species of fauna have cropped up in the centuries since civilization as we know it was destroyed. They find one such creature, which is actually some kind of cybernetic, mobile, autonomous database with a built-in “light hypnosis” defense system to ward off humans. These kids have been spoon-fed all manner of information up to this point, and they’re poised to receive a fresh perspective from an independent voice. We’re nervous for them, as other kids who haven’t conformed to their roles have vanished. But we’re also excited for some potential answers.


Rating: 8 (Great)