From the New World (Shin Sekai yori) – 19

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Saki and Satoru join a group of three others and patrol for queerat stragglers. When they arrive at the hospial, everything is dark and there’s a gaping hole in the building. One of the group heads in, Satoru realizes there are queerats around. He and the other three set the fields ablaze, killing a queerat force. They slowly investigate the hospital, and find three survivors who are paralyzed with fear. Their initial attacker returns, and kills two of the group. Saki and Satoru split off from the rest and escape in the boat, but they’re being followed…

The darker horror elements of this series return with a vengeance, and though they were never entirely absent from any episode thus far, things are definitely kicked up a couple of notches. What was once an omnipresent but subtle feeling of tension and dread has now completely inundated the picture. This shit is dark. As in, better watched at night so you can see what’s going on. The episode itself is called “Darkness”. Rather than comfort us by letting a few days pass after that harrowing surprise attack, we’re still with Saki and Satoru on a night from hell that just won’t end.

No good can come from investigating spooky hospitals with holes in them in the middle of the night. Duh. But Satoru is tired of being in the dark; he wants to know what’s happened in there. Be careful what you wish for: the culprit and nemesis of the episode is either a fiend or karma demon, and it’s not friendly. Even more chilling is the prospect it was the one that annihilated the Giant Hornets. Could this thing be on Yakomaru’s side? If it is, that’s very bad news. It means the defeat of the humans is no longer outside the realm of possibility. As if it ever was…


Rating: 8 (Great)

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From the New World (Shin Sekai yori) – 12

Saki is brought before Asahina Tomiko, head of the Ethics Committee,but she isn’t in trouble; on the contrary, Tomiko intends for Saki to one day succeed her. She overruled the Board of Educations plans to dispose of her for learning the truth, because her personality indexes indicate a high degree of mental stability required of a leader. Tomiko tells her the story of K, a boy who became a fiend twenty years ago, and Izumi, a girl who became a karma demon. As her eventual replacement, Saki will be responsible for dealing with future fiends or karma demons before they fully develop and consume what’s left of mankind. Mamoru goes missing, and Saki, Maria and Satoru go looking for him.

Despite having retained all of the knowledge and history relayed to her by the false minoshiro, the truths that Tomiko relays to Saki this week are still a lot to take in and endure. Essentially, humanity is on the edge of a precipice, and it is its own worst enemy. Fiends voluntarily use their Canti to kill indiscriminately, like a fox in a henhouse. Karma demons’ Canti leak and subconsciously pollute everything around them, even DNA. If either of these are allowed to crop up unchecked, they could easily push the rest humanity off that ledge. K, one  of thirty documented fiends (all but two of them boys) killed 1,000 people in one day – no longer a drop in a bucket. Both Izumi and Shun destroyed entire villages, when only a handful remain. One day they were ordinary humans, the next, existential threats.

Saki, who’s seen and heard a lot and maintained her poise and sanity, is next in line for a very solemn but essential position in society: one who identifies those weak links that may flare up into fiends or karma demons, and stamp them out. However cruel it may seem to preemptively eliminate fellow human beings (through the use of tainted cats), considering the threats that will sprout up if they don’t, Tomiko would seem to have little choice. Watching her in the flashbacks as a nurse overcome by fear and dread and seeing her serene presence in the present, we see someone who has come to terms with that, and does not simply rule out of a desire for power and control, but to keep the human race, flawed as it may be (looking at you, Mamoru) alive. She does what must be done. And one day, she hopes so will Saki.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

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.