Shin Sekai Yori – 11

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Trying to encapsulate an episode like that was always going to be tough, even under ideal circumstances.

Shin Sekai Yori is a show that begs serious analysis, but at the moment I just don’t think I’m capable of it.  There’s something vaguely surreal about watching such a complex and unsettling episode when you’re barely able to sit up in a chair and make your fingers work the keyboard (for example, I just mis-typed “work” no less than seven times) like they’re supposed to.  In the moment I was completely caught up in it, following every development intently, but now it’s just a mess of words and images that stubbornly refuse to come together.  Maybe given the subject matter there’s a certain irony in that.

In lieu of the usual in-depth breakdown I usually do with this series, maybe it’s best if I just relay some of what struck me at the time of viewing.  In the first place, it’s always an interesting thing to speculate on the rights and wrongs of what’s taking place in this world.  What happened to Shun (and to Saki’s sister, and so many others) was a terrible thing – but given what we saw (the destruction of his entire village) perhaps unavoidable.  Indeed, this whole system has the feel of something that might be unavoidable, but where the prescribed cure is worse than the disease.  But somehow, seeing the direct results of the adults’ efforts to wipe Shun from the memories of his friends seemed like an even more horrendous development.  It’s such a fundamental violation – not just to take that person away, but to take away the memories too?  To make us lose all connection to a person we loved?  It’ undeniable that the survivors in this post-PK world had to make the best of bad choices, but perhaps the world they’re trying to save isn’t worth saving if this is the only way to save it.

Perhaps the most telling line of dialogue came when Maria said “There are some truths we’re better off now knowing.”  As Saki was becoming more and more convinced of her notion that something was terribly wrong and that the boy called Ryou (who showed up briefly in the pre-time skip episodes) wasn’t who she thought he was, Maria’s words were already playing in my head.  It would be so much easier if Saki simply accepted the reality her eyes and ears showed her, and not kept digging for the truth.  But Saki is compelled to do so, not least because she keeps having dreams where the departed and forgotten speak to her.  It’s Mamoru – as ever the weakest of the group – who’s most helpless against the conditioning telling him that the waters the children are rowing into are deadly dangerous.

I’m a great admirer of the way Shin Sekai Yori uses visuals to subtly enhance the emotional direction of the story.  Shots like Saki’s eerily “wrong” reflection on the pond surface, and the five beams of sunlight being blocked by the clouds, one by one, give a sense that nothing in the world is as it should be, and the future holds nothing good.  Serious anime like this one tend to fall under the heading of either mystery or tragedy, and SSY is definitely looking like the latter – there’s been a bleakness to the adult Saki’s narration from the beginning, but it seems more and more as if she may be telling this story from a “last survivor’s” perspective.

As to the new developments in the episode, it seems only right that Satoru and Saki should have chosen each other for their “partner”, though it’s not as if there’s anything obviously romantic there.  They simply have more in common than anyone in the story – they depth of their shared experience is stronger than anyone else’s – pushing itself to be remembered more strongly.  They both experienced the flight from the Queerats, and they both loved Shun.  As a result they understand each other better than anyone, though it’s fair to say Saki still emotionally leans on Maria more than  anyone else.  And as for Satoru’s Grandmother (Sakakibara Yoshiko) and the summons at the close of the ep, that’s a development that’s loaded with dangerous implications.  Of course it’s worrisome that she thinks so little of her grandson that he never knew of her role as head of the Ethics Committee, and the fact that she’s taken an interest in Saki specifically leads me to wonder if Saki isn’t about to be told to become part of the system she’s currently rebelling against.

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9 comments

  1. t

    I think I felt most sorry for Ryou in this ep. How many of his original memories and how much of his true identity was stolen from him and replaced just to try and fill the hole left by Shun?

  2. Certainly a good point. He's perhaps been violated more than any of the others.

  3. N

    I would think that could be applied to just about everyone in this series.

    Their society is powerful system designed to keep peace. If anything crops up that could disturb it, they erase whatever it is completely from existence.

    Every time someone gets "removed," all the related characters forget the person and have them replaced with someone else if necessary. We've only been following how this is impacting this one group of kids; but really, it's not doubt affecting nearly every single person in the society.

    That's one of the main reasons why I love this show. It's look into sociology is fascinating as all hell 😀

  4. A

    I really, really liked that first pic in your post of Satoru. That was just beautifully shot and drawn.

  5. N

    Yeah, when I saw it on UTW's page, I thought they posted a fanart.
    And then I saw it in the episode. It is definitely a beautifully drawn image 😀

  6. No coincidence it was one of the headline screencaps.

  7. e

    Enzo, don't overdo it. But thanks for blogging (like) this. It's still better than the average aniblogging output :p.
    I agree with Tenshi about Ryou. He might have gotten the shortest end of the stick here. Our four kids still have one another and their friendship… but him? He has basically been turned into a pod person and his 'old' new friends – and his love – are already lost to him.
    I'm not sure (yet) Satoru's grandma secrecy per se means she thinks little of him. The Ethics Chiefs and members role itself demands secrecy going by what we've seen and what we've been told. And children here are kept in the dark as much as possible by the adults in general… with relatively little memory tampering&hypnosis when they're lucky. If anything between Shun, Saki and his grandson the grandma might have been protecting both Satoru and his friends – as questionable as the methods in this world can be – and helped prolonging their probation period after their fateful summer camp.
    It wouldn't surprise me if she had a hand in Saki's mother lent of those forbidden books to Shun last week.
    I do wonder what her plans about the three kids are and particularly concerning Saki. 'leads me to wonder if Saki isn't about to be told to become part of the system she’s currently rebelling against'. That sounds actually pretty likely. As Maria said earlier Saki's fortitude is above average. She'd be a valuable asset.
    But would Saki accept that, and in case could she do that without being subjected to any kind of coercion or conditioning? Worry and suspense until next week. And possibly more heartbreak.
    Maria's ominous moment can't be too far. Not that Mamoru seems far from snapping either…

  8. S

    Point: I have no knowledge about what's head.

    But, Saki's narration should be from a "Last Survivor's" point of view. The information given points to only 1 conclusion: the PK users have to cease to exist. The "Villages" are, to the author's credit, the most horrific societies ever conceived, making all but the most depraved look tame. All of that work and depravity inflicted, just in the hope of not collapsing quickly. This society doesn't have enough humans to last too much longer (given the whole "100,000s isn't used to number humans"), and the lengths they go through to get a stable adult seems to be a 1 in 6 (or less) proposition.

    In many ways, this is the story of the final collapse of human culture. At least, that's the way the world is built. One PK user will finally gain enough ability, and understanding, to realize that their time is already over and they've already destroyed everything just to last a little longer. Cantus is the curse of death itself.

    Now, do they wrap the story up that way? Not sure, as Saki might not end it all. But, the end is coming for this society. May the Queerrats Inherit the Earth!

  9. A

    SSY is for sure my favourite of the season. The story itself intrigues so many and triggers many thoughts. It comes with engaging characters — it makes you worry about them. The storytelling is amazing — it keeps the suspense high and stirs your emotions big time. I also love the animation, the cinematography, the camera angles — including the two episodes directed by Shigeyasu Yamauchi — there is so much creativity that is thrown into the show. What I also love is its scores — it totally accentuates the atmosphere and heightens the emotion of the audience. A lot of people may like the scores of ZnT — I do, too — but I think I like the scores of SSY better.

    ~Ronbb

    p.s. Enzo, hope that you are feeling better, but please take some time and rest more.

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