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)

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)