There’s no denying that watching a good anime is an enjoyable experience, but it’s the occasional great ones that really make the experience of being a fan worthwhile. When a show like Shin Sekai Yori is firing on all cylinders I get completely swept up in it no matter what else is happening in my life. This series is pretty much doing everything right – the world-building, the character development, the atmosphere. It’s very rare to see an anime that sits at the very top of the pack both in terms of compelling plot and bringing the audience into the world it creates, and this show is one of the best in recent memory in both respects.
I don’t especially like summarizing episodes, but as much for the benefit of organizing my thoughts as anything else I think a little is warranted, as Library-san offered up so much information. A few key points:
- The “Fiends” of this world refers to those suffering from Raman-Klogius Syndrome, or “Fox in the Henhouse” syndrome. This is clearly a hugely critical point, as it was on the cusp of explaining it that the library was incinerated, and the euphemistic nickname provides some interesting possibilities.
- “Karma Demons” suffer from Hashimoto-Appelbaum Syndrome, related to the discovery of PK – in the year 2011, in fact.
- Users of PK grew until they reached 0.3% of the population, and even that small number was enough to set off the social unrest that led to the destruction of our civilization. It was the actions of “Boy A” – who raped 19 women and killed 17, that lit the blue touch paper in Japan.
- Human population was eventually reduced to less than 2% of its former numbers.
- The persecution of the PK users led to their rapid evolution, till they achieved powers strong enough to enslave non PK users.
- 4 Groups emerged in Asia – slave empires, hunter-gatherer tribes of Muggles, PK bandit-robbers, and scientists wishing to preserve human knowledge.
- The “Holy Cherry Blossom Empire” in Japan lasted 570 years, and its downfall began with the assassination seen at the start of episode 3.
- The scientists eventually discovered they could identify the children likely to become violent against other humans, and began the “removal” of such children in an attempt to create a stable society.
- The study of Bonobos revealed that they maintained peace within their groups by engaging in sexual contact whenever conflict arose – including sexual play among pre-pubescent individuals (there are disturbing implications in Saki’s memories).
- Eventually they turned to genetic engineering, adding a personal restraint trait, as well as a “death feedback” that would effectively shut down the liver when violence against humans was committed (again, there are gruesome memories here for Saki, involving torturing the Priest from the premiere).
Needless to say, the implications of all that are a lot to take in. Some of it is information I already suspected, but it’s nice to see it confirmed – and I do say “confirmed” because I consider it a given that the Library was telling the truth, and the “mountain demon” story the High Priest Rijin (no less than Tomokazu Sugita) told the children because he didn’t think they could handle the truth (and their behavior solidly supports him).
It’s fascinating to look at the responses of each of the children. Mamoru is completely terrified, and it’s also interesting that he seems to be of special interest to Rijin. Satoru and Maria simply want to block out the truth. Shun grimly presses forward for more information, processing what he’s hearing and analyzing it – and Saki sees in her suddenly revealed memories the truth of the library’s words. And a terrible truth it is – seemingly that their entire society was created to prevent the likes of Fiends and Karma Demons from coming into existence. Are they kept inside their barriers to protect themselves – or are they the ones the rest of the world needs protection from? Fox in the henhouse, indeed.
Rijin’s presence here is quite interesting, to say the least. His actions – destroying the library, taking away the children’s’ cantus, slaughtering a herd of aggressive queerats – seem harsh, but a case can be made that he’s justified in each instance. I’m not sure what the relationship of this Buddhist cabal is to the scientists who seem to have crafted this way of life – perhaps science and religion have merged to the point where the line between them has disappeared. But surely the knowledge the children have gained makes them a deadly threat to a society whose very existence is already balanced on the head of a pin.
What’s more, there’s the very disturbing fact that in both the killing of the library (in that case a woman holding a baby) and the queerats, the children (or at least Saki) could see human forms as they died. Add to that the fact that Rijin was clearly suffering death feedback as a result of his actions and you have an overwhelming case that the queerats and minashiro are in fact humans – and you can’t help but be put in mind of those “hunter-gatherer tribes” of humans with no PK ability. I think this is a world very much still divided between the PKs and the Muggles – and I wonder if the appearance of the non-humans to the kids isn’t a result of some sort of PK-driven mass hypnosis, hiding the fact that these inferior species are in fact people. And just why were there so many toads around the Library, anyway?
Any way you slice it, for me this is truly fascinating stuff – the most emotionally involving and intellectually stimulating anime of the season. I suspect we’re looking at (minor spoiler about future developments follows) the first time-skip soon (which I sort of regret, as the show is working perfectly at the moment) – the kids are about to go on the run, at first from the Blowdog that emerged from the pile of dead queerats, but most likely from their civilization as well. The strong sexual component that’s a part of the novels makes perfect sense now, and figures to turn an already complex situation even more so once the characters are in their teens.