Shin Sekai Yori – 17

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The more things change, the more they… well – get worse.

Even by Shin Sekai Yori standards, the events of this week’s episode have “disaster” written all over them.  We really don’t need voice-over Saki’s occasional reminders about how the mistakes she and her friends made had tragic consequences – it’s pretty obvious from the outstanding exposition the series provides through the narrative itself.  And if you thought a long timeskip (12 years) might have allowed for things to get better – though I don’t know why you would – you can think again.

First things first – we did indeed get our second scene change of the series, and this one was much longer.  I was prepared for things to lose their momentum just a little, because when a show does a major reset it’s almost like having to start over again from the premier. But on balance SSY definitely hit the ground running and didn’t miss a beat, delivering an episode that might not have been among its very best but was solidly on par with the high standard the series has set.  Saki is now 26 and working at the “Department of Exospecies Control”, where her duties include the investigation and regulation of queerats, and the selective breeding of naked mole rats – a strong intimation that the queerats of this world are a result of an intentional program by the surviving humans to create a slave species.   In her own words, this 26 year-old Saki is a “paper pusher” – and someone who’s clearly lost much of her drive and motivation.

As for Satoru, it appears that he and Saki have had a falling out – we’re not told over what, but Saki says it was over something trivial – which will no doubt disappoint some in the audience who thought they might end up together after their night of desperate intimacy.   We’re also not told just what Satoru does, though it’s clearly field work that Saki finds far more useful to the community than what she’s doing.  For what it’s worth there’s no indication whatsoever that either of them has a mate – and the fact that Saki’s boss obviously tries to pair them off seems to support the notion.  But there are bigger problems to worry about – no sir, no respites from SSY, out of the frying pan and into the fire.  And it’s a roaring blaze – controversy between the Suzumebachi and Robber Fly queerat alliances over an attack on a colony closely aligned with the Suzumebachi.  It’s this event that brings Satoru back into Saki’s life, and starts the wheels in motion for the last leg of the story.

There’s an awful lot going on in this episode – I found myself stopping and replaying several times just to keep up with names and make sure I was understanding what was happening – but I’ll focus on the overall impression, with is something along the lines of a tragic comedy.  It’s clear that the humans are completely disconnected with reality when it comes to the queerats – it’s as if they’ve focused all the human restlessness that would normally go into weapons and technology and channeled it into bureaucracy.  They’ve established a preposterous system of regulating the queerats through paperwork – they need to fill out an application to attack each other, to “whelp transfer”, “intracolony reorganization” – and meanwhile they seem blissfully unconcerned that the queerats are now marching into battle with guns instead of arrows and spears.  As for the battles themselves, it appears that the humans treat them as a sort of spectator event, like the appalling socialites who watched thousands of men die in Civil War battles while sipping lemonade from a nearby hilltop.  It’s a grisly, almost obscene spectacle.

Let’s be clear about something straight away: the Queerats are an intelligent, sentient species, and the humans of this world effectively treat them as disposable slaves.  They ask no permission to terminate any or all of them at their own discretion, and clearly view them as sub-human, filthy animals.  This is no story of noble and civilized humans being threatened by cruel beasts – whatever happens will be wholly of the humans own doing.  Still, it’s chilling to see what’s brewing on the horizon, the true scale of the danger becoming clear when Squealer, ne Yakomaru and Kiromaru are called on the carpet to try and explain to the Gods what’s going on.  It’s fantastic to have Kiromaru back, however briefly – Hirata Hiroaki is delivering a performance quite unlike anything we’ve heard from him recently, and his air of stern nobility (and magnificent appearance) contrast sharply with Yakomaru’s obvious treachery.  The hearing is an appalling display – the absurd Sir Hino Koofu (Taniyama Kishou) of the “Occupations Department” is joined by the head of the Security Council, Sir Kaburagi Shisei (Hoshino Takanori) and by Tomiko – who at least seems to have a small sense of the danger looming. 

It seems pretty obvious that the entire affair – an attack by the supposedly unaffiliated Goat Moths against the Spider Wasps, allies of the Suzumebachi – was set up by the relentlessly scheming Squealer to provoke the Suzumebachi into war – a war in which the true advances in queerat technology become apparent.  Kiromaru and the Giant Hornets are thought by the humans to be invincible (and more trustworthy), and indeed an associate of Saki named Inui (Toriumi Kousuke) reveals to her on the eve of the first major battle (all paperwork has been filed) that the Suzumebachi imbibe a drug before going to war that inhibits fear and magnifies rage.  But it appears Yaromaru has an even greater weapon up his sleeve – Inui offers his suspicion that they’ve somehow tapped into a wellspring of human knowledge (false Minashiro?) – and though Kiromaru is triumphant, Satoru later brings her the news that the entire Suzumebachi army has been wiped out.

Oh dear, what a mess.  In spite of everything this society has done to make me feel they their fate, when I look at Saki and Satoru my heart really breaks for them – even as adults they’re still beautiful and kind people.  It appears from the preview that Maria and Mamoru are going to factor into the next episode in some fashion, and I can’t imagine that will make the situation anything but even more grim.  I can report the welcome return of “Kage no Denshouka Dai Ichi-bu”, the haunting Komori Shigeo piece that provided the main musical theme of the first arc, in re-mixed form.  I’m less enthused about the change in ED – it is indeed “Yuki ni Saku Hana”, the insert song from last week.  It’s a huge step down from “Wareta Ringo”, one of the best OP/EDs of the year, though the animation is quite lovely.

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[UTW]_Shinsekai_Yori_-_17_[h264-720p][C5DB2A34].mkv_snapshot_08.33_[2013.01.26_23.45.28] [UTW]_Shinsekai_Yori_-_17_[h264-720p][C5DB2A34].mkv_snapshot_09.32_[2013.01.26_23.46.27] [UTW]_Shinsekai_Yori_-_17_[h264-720p][C5DB2A34].mkv_snapshot_10.17_[2013.01.26_23.48.03]
[UTW]_Shinsekai_Yori_-_17_[h264-720p][C5DB2A34].mkv_snapshot_10.37_[2013.01.26_23.48.18] [UTW]_Shinsekai_Yori_-_17_[h264-720p][C5DB2A34].mkv_snapshot_10.51_[2013.01.26_23.48.45] [UTW]_Shinsekai_Yori_-_17_[h264-720p][C5DB2A34].mkv_snapshot_11.07_[2013.01.26_23.49.01]
[UTW]_Shinsekai_Yori_-_17_[h264-720p][C5DB2A34].mkv_snapshot_12.25_[2013.01.26_23.50.24] [UTW]_Shinsekai_Yori_-_17_[h264-720p][C5DB2A34].mkv_snapshot_12.54_[2013.01.26_23.50.48] [UTW]_Shinsekai_Yori_-_17_[h264-720p][C5DB2A34].mkv_snapshot_13.11_[2013.01.26_23.51.05]
[UTW]_Shinsekai_Yori_-_17_[h264-720p][C5DB2A34].mkv_snapshot_15.45_[2013.01.26_23.53.39] [UTW]_Shinsekai_Yori_-_17_[h264-720p][C5DB2A34].mkv_snapshot_15.45_[2013.01.26_23.53.44] [UTW]_Shinsekai_Yori_-_17_[h264-720p][C5DB2A34].mkv_snapshot_16.03_[2013.01.26_23.53.57]
[UTW]_Shinsekai_Yori_-_17_[h264-720p][C5DB2A34].mkv_snapshot_16.45_[2013.01.26_23.54.40] [UTW]_Shinsekai_Yori_-_17_[h264-720p][C5DB2A34].mkv_snapshot_17.22_[2013.01.26_23.55.50] [UTW]_Shinsekai_Yori_-_17_[h264-720p][C5DB2A34].mkv_snapshot_18.55_[2013.01.26_23.57.45]
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OP2 Sequence:

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  1. A

    the giant hornet colony has been wiped out hmm…something tells me that a sniveling, cowardly rat somewho crossed paths with Maria and mamoru and has somehow found someway to use their power to their own desires; how else would that colony have been wiped out so quickly right after demonstrating how formidable they are in battle. I mostly certainly positive that the giant hornet colony was not wiped out by normal means.

    On a side note, seeing how distant Saki and Satoru had become throughout the years was quite the surprise, but like it is for all true friends, they found some way to reconnect. It was really touching when Saki professed that she was really happy to have made up with Satoru, even if the catalyst was something as "stupid" as talking about queerats. At that point you can tell that nothing really matters to her but that moment of reconciling with her best friend.

  2. k

    I don't know if the anime is trying to convey that they grew distant during the years, but they're not supposed to be distant. They're still close friends – it's just that they recently had an argument over something petty, as friends do sometimes, and haven't spoken to each other for over a month.

  3. K

    I'm guessing Squeeler talked them into working with him to overthrow the system, If not that then he somehow captured them and forced them to side with his group.

    Won't surprise me to see this series end up queerrats vs. humans for control of the planet.

  4. k

    I don't think they'll mention this until it becomes relevant to the plot, but Satoru is sort of a biologist (bioengineering/genetics).

    I think it's understandable that he and Saki haven't stepped over the "best friends" line in all these years, even though they obviously have affection for each other. They both have too much baggage, too many things that happened when they were too young to be able to deal with it properly. And there's also the matter of "X".

  5. A

    Can I just say I love reading your blog!

    I am starting to realize why people love seiyu's so much. The scenes where it is literally just Kiromaru's eyes & Yakomaru's eyes making small slight gestures accompanied by compelling voices, really shows off how well this series is animated and performed. I'm Korean but I follow the subs in English and it still shocks me that Squealer is indeed speaking Japanese. The curve on his voice makes it completely believable that he is speaking a real language, Queeranese if you will. 🙂

    Thanks for always updating SSY so rapidly, I am always excited to see what you think of the episode after I get to view it too!

  6. I

    I guess for a real treat then if you didn't know that almost inhuman voice belongs to Mr. Pleasant himself, Namikawa Daisuke. I always liked him a bit more than Miyu Irino.

  7. Indeed, Chelsofo, Hirata Hiroaka vs. Namikawa Daisuke was a real treat there. Two artists at their best.

  8. T

    I can't help but continue to really like Yakomaru. I know other people see him as the typical evil-doer (a sniveling traitor and the like). But, I think he's brilliant, cunning, and knows his own advantages and disadvantages and that of his colonies. I suspect by the end of this show things will be very twisted and as many people who know empathize with the PK's societies, may not anymore.

  9. d

    I think it's less about sympathy for PKs and more about aesthetics.

    Sometimes evil is designed to be incredibly attractive, in possession of all the heroic qualities except for a conventional moral compass. Yakomaru is less than fetching.

    One one hand he's been portrayed well, but on another it's a bit manipulative that he is designed to disgust.

  10. A

    If I were to hazard a guess, I would say Yakomaru has managed to gain control of Spider Wasp colony even before the attack from Goat Moth colony. I think the attack is indeed a set up, but both sides were following Yakomaru's order (that or Yakomaru gave the Spider Wasp the weapons from Goat Moth and let them make a show out of it). That would explain why the Spider Wasp colony never filed a complain over the attack. Instead, the news of the attack was brought to Saki's attention via Satoru, and he did mention when they went to investigate, there's nothing to be found.

    Seeing that Yakomaru claim their colonies operate under "democracy", losing the 140,000 strong alliance from Robber Fly side was perhaps his way of gaining power, either by getting rid of other colonies that may not be under his full control, or letting his colony be the sole major power left in the council. Killing two birds with one stone. And they say there are only two things they should be afraid of in this dystopian world. I wonder if this arrogance will be the humans' downfall.

  11. K

    I am a bit confused is Kiromaru dead now that his colony has been wiped out? Or am I confusing things.

    Well I hope not, I kind of like him and don't want to see him die off screen.

  12. I don't know and don't want to be told by someone who does, but "entire army wiped out" leads me to believe it's a very strong possibility.

  13. A

    so saki and satoru spent years on their separate ways because of something trivial .. oh come on author.

  14. k

    They spent a month not talking to each other over something trivial. Nobody said anything about years. (In fact, if you look at their behavior it doesn't indicate anything other than a brief spat.)

  15. A

    do you know this for sure? is that extra information stated in the novel?

  16. k

    Yep – actually, it's even written on the official site in the episode summary (along with Satoru's occupation). It was such a petty argument that Saki doesn't even remember what it was about.

    If you look at their attitude in this episode they don't seem like they're talking for the first time after long years of separation. (Of course, going over one month without speaking to each other is still pretty bad. )

  17. A

    ok but it was very strange that saki's chief didn't know satoru.. that's why I thought they haven't seen each other for years.

  18. r

    someone.. needs to draw a relationship map of these queerat colonies i swear xD so many names!!
    also i totally agree that this new ED is a huge step down ): i miss the skipped guitar strings

  19. C

    I call a masterpiece a masterpiece. This episode was a masterpiece. Everything – the story, the direction, the sheer dissonance of the lines spoken by some characters (most obviously, of course, being Yakomaru and Hino Koofu) – all of it coming together into a masterful and dread-inspiring whole. All the more so when you think about it a bit more and realize all the bits and pieces that resonate within our own societies – bureaucracy and paperwork for ruining people's lives, anyone?

    And yes, I will include the ED in that. I definitely prefer Wareta Ringo as a song as well – but I feel the shift to Yuki ni Saku Hana represents a tonal change and is in fact very fitting for this post-timeskip period. Wareta Ringo was resonant with the doubts and turmoil of the characters' younger selves, and their discoveries as to all the ugliness that goes on behind their societies; Yuki ni Saku Hana, on the other hand, is slow, sad, and full of longing for a time now past, never to come again. Perfectly fitting for a slow, gentle, yet inexorable march to doom.

  20. m

    i do agree that yuki ni saku hana isn't necessarily a bad change, but it feels so light for a heavy show… ><

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