Shin Sekai Yori – 04

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I’m running out of ways to say how great this show is, so back to the basics – this show is really, really great.

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.

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  1. A

    From the looks of the pv and the preview to the next epsiode, it seems that satoru is going to make a move on saki; considering that they are highly stressed from the terrifying scenario they have been plunged in. There's something ominous about the way satoru says "I have no choice" and saki screams "stop".From what the library indicated, sex to these kids is nothing but an activity that requires no emotion whatsoever; its nothing but a bodily function used to alleviate stress. So while saki might have feelings for shun (I was kinda hoping it was satoru since seems to be the male lead and he and saki have better chemistry in my opinion..shun is too boring but who knows…only time will tell), she might go through with having sex with satoru.

  2. j

    The "death feedback" takes a ton of willing suspension.

  3. S

    In the modern Outer Limits series, they had an episode set on Mars where people had to take a drug to survive the environment, but there were also "monsters" on the planet at well. The trick was the drug made you see the other human faction as monsters, and they did the same thing as well, leading to both sides killing each other if they came in contact.

    I don't know if that's exactly what's going on, as they pretty much have shown a semi-living created database, so "other" creatures very well could be humans that have "changed".

  4. J

    Right on! This show has quickly become the most anticipated 20 minutes of anime in my week. Such a compelling story…And you say there will be time-skips? Oh man, I'm so in for this. Watching these kids grow up, and what the world has waiting for them, will be a thrilling ride indeed. Also, this show has, hands down, the best previews at the end of the episode – showing you just the right dialogues and scenes to make you die a little inside and crave for next week's episode.

  5. C

    I hope the world outside would have technology. And the body operates on Negative Feedback.


  6. A

    looks like Satoru and Saki will have their little sex scene from the PV in the next ep.

  7. e

    Well, the Bonobos bit makes sense in the grand scheme but sure threw me for a loop when coupled with the recycled footage of Saki's memories.
    Actually all of Saki's memories took a disturbing hue this time ^^". Both we as spectators and the kids have been aware only of the tip of the iceberg so to speak.
    For now I think but the minoshiro and the queerats are likely to be humans 'in disguise'. If so, this could be due to the kids' being hypnotized or to the result of genetic engineering during the (wonder if it's the right word here)undocumented dark age…
    Anyway, very engaging episode. And as for the previous episodes, it was over way too soon.

  8. r

    I thought Shun's speculation was right on. The minoshiro projected an image of mother and child as a defense against the use of PK by anyone who had been through the don't-attack-humans conditioning. That makes a lot more sense than having the minoshiro being an actual human with however many petabytes of info stored holographically as it claimed in Ep 03.

    As to Saki's "memories", at least in the case of Mushin it was strongly implied that this scene was a false experience that Mushin had hypnotically induced to check whether her die-of-shame/don't-attack-humans conditioning was functioning well enough to allow her to advance rather than be disappeared.

    97 Emperors in 600 years? No wonder they ran out of PKs!

  9. B

    These people went through emperors faster than the friggin' Romans!

  10. M

    I had to say, this season offers many enjoyable anime to me. Shin Sekai Yori is amazing and very well-directed, I was pessimistic about the show only because A-1 Studio was doing it but it looks like the studio in love with novel too and it shows. Sadly I can't say the same of them for Sword Art Online.

    Now I'm a little apprehensive about the characters because Saki still doesn't convince me as the main character. Personally I feel the children are just used as devices to explain about the world and I really couldn't care less if they were all suddenly died and there was a new MC. Hopefully this will change as the series goes on.

  11. J

    Whoa, someone took it quite serious about removing spoilers – even that small discussion above.

    Now, if only I had a button to forget what I read there…Where are you when I need you, distopian future?

  12. You complained, so I acted… Wouldn't have been much point in hiding the part of the post if I left the comments about it intact!

  13. J

    Aw c'mon, I specifically said 'I'm not complaining, but…' 😛

  14. B

    This episode was frigging great. Exposition episodes are either fantastic or fantastically boring depending on how interested you are in the world but, luckily, in this show I am VERY interested in the world so the exposition was right on. Satisfied my thirst for knowledge in a big way, for now. Very excited for the future of this show, it looks like a it's going to be nothing but great. If it continues on this tack this show should easily make top 3 of the year.

    I do wish we found out why there were so many toads though!

  15. S

    I'm glad I'm not the only one who got a feeling there's something sinister about the toad question. I doubt we'll find out until the penultimate episode though

  16. A

    While I enjoy the show, I found this week's episode a bit weird(?). Maybe I missed something in previous episodes, but I think the kids overreacted when they were having conversation with that shining library pony. Perhaps it's the death feedback? Also, I feel like they're a bit too mature for their age, maybe it's just me.

  17. A

    Bunny here :)

    This anime is just unbelievable! It raises the bar up so high for anime 2012-2013. Great stuff again guardian Enzo. Looking forward to ep 5 tomorrow and your review. I love how detailed your writing is on this blog btw, most others just say lol at this part and I loved the incest scene, but you actually dig deep and write what people want to read. Unless its Sao lol.

  18. Thanks Usagi, this is a very fun series (though not an easy one) to blog.

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