Shin Sekai Yori – 07

[Aidoru] Shinsekai Yori (From the New World) [720p] - 07 [1CE6BC83].mkv_snapshot_06.10_[2012.11.10_22.55.42] [Aidoru] Shinsekai Yori (From the New World) [720p] - 07 [1CE6BC83].mkv_snapshot_09.19_[2012.11.10_23.00.23] [Aidoru] Shinsekai Yori (From the New World) [720p] - 07 [1CE6BC83].mkv_snapshot_20.40_[2012.11.10_23.12.03]

I’m not sure if Shin Sekai Yori was in what I would call a slump – more like “slightly less great” for a couple of episodes – but it was fully back on-track for this one.

Damn it, how does SSY keep making me think the episodes are 5 minutes old when the end credits run?  Stop rooting around in my head, damn you!  It’s a curious effect that I’ve never felt this strongly or with this much consistency with any other series, and I can’t completely explain it away merely by how engaging and well-paced each episode is.  Every time that children’s chorus with the rock guitar backdrop kicks in, the rest of the world falls away and I’m completely hooked in for the rest of the episode, so maybe there’s something hypnotic to that tune.

As good as this series is, I think it gets even better when you reflect on just how beautifully conceived and plotted it is (and full credit goes to the novelist here).  Starting with the way the truth about the human population was revealed – the “false minashiro” acting as the most brilliant expository device of the season – we’ve seen its words played out with brilliance and subtlety.  First came the sex – the “bonobo gene” – then the violence, and finally the death feedback loop.  Seeing the kids interact with the Queerats I’m reminded of a group of children looking at tigers captive at a zoo.  The adults tell them what frightening beasts the tigers are, how vicious and bloodthirsty – and yet, how many billions of people are there, and how few thousands of tigers (and what was the cause)?  SSY has done a great job of confusing the issue of who the bad guys are (right up through the episode this week) and it’s worth remembering that it wasn’t a lone rogue PK that started the chain of violence that led to the downfall of civilization, but a wave of violence from all of them.  Are these children being protected from the world, or the world from them?

Before I get into the meat of the episode, I want to sing the praises of Hiroaki Hirata, who plays Kiromaru in this episode.  Hirata-san is one of my absolute favorites when playing to type, with Mutta and Kotetsu being examples of his recent brilliance.  But I confess I never guessed this was him, and his gravitas and presence here was quite remarkable – I respect the man even more knowing he can stretch in such spectacular fashion.  Kiromaru joins the cast as the General of the Hornet Clan, the largest tribe of Queerats in Kanto with 20,000 members, and the most loyal to the humans.  They ride to the rescue at the Robber Fly’s distress call, and make relatively short work of the Ground Spiders’ forces.  But that’s really where the episode is just starting.

As always, the question of good and evil is a very vague one with this series.  Kiromaru unquestionably saves the lives of Saki, Satoru and Squealer – but his prize is the enslavement of the Ground Spiders’ larvae, who will be condemned to the miserable existence that Squealer feared would happen to tribe at the hands of the Ground Spiders.  And then there’s the matter of the children’s lives.  This time it’s Satoru who cleverly fits the pieces together.  Children disappear every year, and it’s now obvious that breaking the commandments of society is unacceptable.  If humans can’t kill other humans, then who might be doing the children in, assuming such things happen?  Why, the Queerats of course – and as the head of the largest and most loyal tribe, Kiromaru would surely be in contact with the elders at the village.  So he convinces the reluctant Saki that this is the case and escapes, with Squealer covertly following close behind.  Satoru and Saki meet up with the others after Squealer helps them get to their canoes, but Kiromaru catches them easily – fortunately for them, either from gratitude for their role in defeating the Spiders (and saving his life when the defeated Spider general tries to be a suicide bomber using blowdogs) or simple compassion, he seems to defy his orders and helps the kids, rather than kill them.

The sense of moral ambiguity attaches itself to Squealer, too – and to Shun as well, in my opinion.  Squealer seems loyal and obsequious, but he also sells the children out to the Ground Spiders after he’s captured – an act he attributes to simple cowardice, but I’m not so sure.  He’s just too omnipresent and too deferential these last few eps – something doesn’t smell right to me.  As for Shun, he still strikes me as a little too perfect – like the way he remembers his own mantra through sheer force of will (though not how to return his cantus – Saki’s re-enactment of the monks’ spell is needed for that).  Perhaps he’s just cleverer than the rest of them and as decent as he seems to be – but my mind keeps returning to the cautionary tale he told of the boy who was too clever for his own good…

I’ve said it before, but what makes Shin Sekai Yori a rare show for me is the fact that it’s able to connect on both an intellectual and emotional level on equal (and substantial) terms,  something very few series – even those I really like – manage to do.  While consistently giving us really natural and interesting character dynamics (I loved the way Saki and Satoru returned to their old bickering this week, but it had just a tinge of an old married couple affectionately jabbing at each other this time) it also manages to spin a complex plot, and ask a lot of extremely interesting questions.  Two cour shows by good studios adapted from novels – it’s a winning formula, and one I wish we saw enacted a lot more often.

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  1. A

    I guess now that they are all back together and have seemingly outsmarted the adults, its time to see just how they have handled all the information they have heard and seen. Im sure the adults are quite aware that they have stepped outside of their boundaries; Rijin, who was sent to retrieve them, has not returned. That in itself has probably sent off alert flags to the adults. And from the preview its quite apparent that things arent the same for these kids in the village; There's almost a disconected feeling between them. Guess its time for them to compare notes about what they saw, evaluate what they learned and how its affecting the way they live now.

  2. S

    Rijin's death can be attributed to a surprise attack by the rebellious Queerats. I don't think that the adults know of the children's breach of rules, otherwise they won't hesitate to dispose of them.
    The preview shows a timeskip. I have the feeling that the kids will screw up something else due to the knowledge they now possess.

  3. A

    good point but i dont knooowwww….it would be hard not to suspect something of the kids; there's something about that seen where the adults are looking upon the kids while cast in shadow that seems ominous…guess only time will tell

  4. A

    I have to say — aside from Uchuu Kyoudai — Sin Sekai Yori tops my list of shows this season. The feeling is intense — I was completely hooked and engaged in each episode, and, like you, the children's chorus with the rock guitar does have an effect on me.


  5. V

    As much as I enjoy the show, I think SSY lost the creepiness it established in the first two episodes.

  6. K

    So I suppose Yamauchi Shigeasu is back for next week's episode, judging by the character designs? ha ha ha (of course I kid).

  7. B

    This is by far my favorite new show of the season. By FAR. It should be an hour long every week, I don't care how much overtime the animators have to put in.

    I find it fun how the queerat colonies are named after bugs and then dispaly some distincly insect like behaviors as well. I guess you can say humans have done this too, but when they were talking about enslaving the larvae I couldn't help but think of ants, many species of which are well known to raid the nests of other ant species and seize the young as slaves. Those queerats are creepy bastards, that's for sure.

    Also, Squealer. I have to agree with you Enzo that something just seems off, I just can't bring myself to trust him at all. I don't get the feeling that he has any larger scheme in mind or anything, just that Squealer looks out for Squealer first and will do anything to ensure his own survival, and people like that are inherently untrustworthy. I apologize for this reference, but he reminds me of Wormtail from Harry Potter, he'll betray anyone and join any side that will have him if it looks like it will be a better chance of surviving for him.

    All in all this is definitely the show I look forward to most every week (aside from Space Brothers of course which is still #1 in my heart).

  8. K

    The larvae of the queerrats actually looked exactly like a baby rat. I had to dissect a pregnant rat and it looked identical.

    Well maybe that was TMI lol

  9. k

    "but my mind keeps returning to the cautionary tale he told of the boy who was too clever for his own good…"

    I still think that it's not without reason that Maria read the story about the boy who foolishly went outside the hacchoujime and died trying to save his village from a demon, and Shun the story about the boy who thought he was smarter than everyone and ended up turning into a demon. I think Shun is in fact as nice as he seems like, just a lot more mature than the other kids, ut who knows how his "elite-ness" will affect his mentality later on, especially now that he knows things he shouldn't know? And while Maria doesn't seem particularly adventurous, we already know that something horrible is going to happen because of her.

  10. E

    Like what was said above, Shun might turn into someone different from what he projects now. It's just that when I saw a poster of shinsekai with the kids and queerats, there is something wrong that will happen if one is separated from the group. Shun is placed on the right while the rest are on the left side. Also, as for Maria, I believe in some speculations that she has the sickness that the Minashiro gonna tell when Rijin killed it.

    It seems that we'll gonna have a time skip next episode and the infamous BL might come in play. Also, I hope Yuuki Kaji's curse won't affect this great series which is positioning itself as the best series of 2012. (please stop butchering series I really like)

  11. K

    "infamous BL"?? mmm-NOOOOOO~~~~~!!! Why SSY, why??

    For fuck's sake, seriously must these Japanese writers inject every damn Japanese anime with BL or bishie posing or new girl per week or eyes big as your first girls harlem tropes and ruin them every bloody single time? They are people who don't care for any of these stuff and sick and tired of having to see in every darn time!! I sincerely hope that that scene in preview was just a 2 second oddity, a blip, never to be seen again, ever, and DEFINITELY not a new plot device like Eunichi Jin suggests (SSY doesn't need BL or any of the stupid trope to be interesting nor popular).

  12. E

    This is one of the few points that was not fully addressed in the anime. Promiscuity, homesexual love and underaged sex is all considered normal in this world. This is one thousand year from our time. It is not a way to boost sales but a way to fully describe the social structure of that distant future. This is a very different world from ours like what the way of life of ancient Greeks is to ours. In ancient Greece, this kind of relationship is very normal. I want to add another info that was not included in the bonobo episode to better explain this but I think it will be stated in the next episode so let's just wait for it.

    It's not really something to attract fujoshis like what you are trying to say.

    G.E., if this is considered as a spoiler please delete the post.

  13. K

    Well Eunichi Jin, I was not declaring that homosexual love is wrong or anything like that. It's just that I have a problem with this "BL" trope, meaning two PRETTY boys getting on and it is almost always exploitative in its nature and hardly ever is about the social commentary in any sincere manner, at least, in Japanese anime medium.

    The defense in your statement is the typical push-back answer for BL/Yaoi genre, unfortunately. Now I am NOT saying that you were necessarily defending mostly shameless use of BL or Yaoi in Japanese anime (and it almost always is ALL about being a TROPE, shameless so). I don't disagree at all of your point FOR the real world.

    And I don't have any problem with media, be it Japanese anime, depicting human behaviors without any ulterior motive behind it, so in such cases, well by all means. BUT it never really happens in Japanese anime. I can barely think more than one or two instances. So I hope SSY falls in that category if it decides to do this, but unfortunately SSY's two boys are the typical pretty boys, so I don't feel good at all about this.

    BTW, I meant "eyes big as your fist", not first in the previous post, but I'm sure everyone got that.

  14. l

    Rather than jump to conclusions, can we all just watch what happens in the following episodes? So far, the show has been showing the world, the characters and their actions based on the context of the world/culture that they live in. There's little extraneous stuff in the past few episodes and I do not expect there to be much of it either in the coming episodes. If there is homosexual tendencies under the surface but it is part of the characters' development and in service of the story, so be it and let us watch and understand the story that is being told.

  15. E

    Perhaps, I made a mistake in choosing the right words (I'm referring to the root comment).

    Only episode 8 will tell if it's really exploitative. I hate those things too. The adaptation might deviate to the source material but the scene of Satoru and Saki gives me some kind of assurance that it won't be exploitative (also the general audience in Japan are males). Is that scene on episode 5 intended to boost the sales or attract more fans? As for me the answer is no but to describe this world.

    However, the only thing to verify that is to wait for the next episode. Let's just wait for it.

  16. l

    The next episode is where things get really interesting. They have heard and seen some things that they were not supposed to see. The preview shows them spared and have grown older. I'm curious as to how the events in this episode will mold them.

  17. A

    The episodes always feel 20 minutes to me. I don't get that 5 minute feeling.

  18. H

    I can't help but think that the entire community of adults knows about their breach of the Ethics Code. But we've seen repeatedly that the adults and elders of the community do not overtly act against the children, even when they make serious breaches of the Code. The only adult who has even spoken crossly to them or accused anyone of violations is Rijin, likely because they were alone and out in the woods. For all the rest, we've seen the adults minimize any overt criticism of the children, and then arrange for their removal in secret, like when Manabu's obvious flouting of the Ethics code was dismissed by the teacher as an 'accident'. I do wonder what the thinking of the adults is, however. It would seem that if they know about it, waiting a year and a half or two years before taking action is out of character. Perhaps they are waiting to see if they continue to breach rules, or if their one misstep is their only one.

  19. A

    '[Shun] remembers his own mantra through sheer force of will'
    C'mon I think you're being a bit unfair here, Enzo. It's not inconceivable that while he forgot the martra itself, he remembered the mnemonics he devised, and inferred the actual mantra from those mnemonics.

    Also seeing as this is my fist ever comment on this blog, I'd like to say that one of the things that I really love and admire about your writing is that you're able to to be positive about someting you like and have it still be an entertaining read whereas others need to dump on or mock something to truely shine. So thank you, for being you, as you always are.

  20. Thanks for commenting. Personally I find it much easier to write about something I liked than something I didn't – though something I'm ambivalent about is hardest of all.

  21. A

    Enzo I totally get what you mean by the whole 5 minutes instead of 20 minutes, I get the same feeling every time I watch this show. It's just has such an incredibly atmosphere. The setting, the characters, the music, it all just fits so well together. You're always left wanting to know more about the world, the mysteries that are left unsolved still. The other thing that it does well is that it seems to give you hints constantly about what may happen in the future, always giving you something more to chew on as you wait for the next episode.

    It really is turning into an all-time classic imo.

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