Shin Sekai Yori – 19

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The gloves are pretty much off now.  This is going to be a dark ride of epic proportions from here to the end, I suspect.

This has been a pretty dark couple of days in anime, what with the most recent episodes of Psycho-Pass and Robotics;Notes.  But for my money there’s no series that can unsettle, disturb and terrify like Shin Sekai Yori.  The sense of unease has been strong right from the start, even when the heroes were cute children and the setting was more or less idyllic – the disconnect between that and the mood of the series was striking.  Now we’re pretty much in full-on fright and despair mode, and when you’re dealing with characters you really care about that’s not a very fun mode to be in.

There’s no question that the abandoned hospital is a horror cliché, and this ep embraced it fully – heck we even had Dr. Noguchi say “Run – he’ll be back!” without telling us who “he” was.  But horror clichés (strange lights in dark windows, slowly turning door handles) are usually horror clichés for a reason – they’re scary.  And given the realities of the world SSY has created, that’s all the more so here – and all of that was mined for non-stop suspense and horror, start to finish.  This was one of the most white-knuckle, keep-the-lights-on anime episodes I’ve seen in a long time.  Things started out bad – Saki and Satoru joining the survivors of another group that had lost three members for a late-night patrol to the hospital outside the village – and just got worse from there.  The fact that there were queerats waiting in ambush was only the tip of the iceberg – there was far worse waiting inside the remains of that building.

It strikes me more than ever that all of the horrors that have befallen the remnants of civilization are of their own making – starting with the very existence of the queerats themselves as a slave race, the PKs have been hoist by their own petard.  Of course we don’t know what exactly it was that ravaged the hospital (no help from the survivors, who never managed to get much past “he”) , but the most likely scenario certainly seems to be a fiend.  And not just a fiend, but a fiend in league with Yaromaru and the Robber Fly colony – again speculation, but it answers a lot of questions if it’s true.  Given what we know of fiends it doesn’t make sense to imagine them as forming alliances with anyone, queerat or otherwise – but it certainly seems possible that this fiend might have been the child of Maria and Mamoru.  If that’s the case, it’s once again down to the PKs sowing their own destruction – if they hadn’t targeted Mamoru for pre-emptive elimination it’s likely neither he or Maria would have fled the village and fallen into Yaromaru’s hands.

What we see of the surviving humans in this episode doesn’t do much to make the case that they deserve to survive, either.  They’re either arrogant idiots who refuse to believe the queerats are a real threat despite the evidence of dead loved ones all around them, or cowards so terrified at the prospect of facing an enemy that they’re willing to let their colleagues face the danger alone.  The picture painted in the village since the news of the potential queerat war broke out isn’t much better – only Tomiko and Shisei seem to have any real sense, and they’re the primary stewards of the policy that led to this moment in the first place.  Of course, Saki and Satoru are another matter – Satoru especially has proved himself to be an exceptionally thoughtful and practical young man when dealing with the unexpected and deadly.  That just makes seeing the two of them in the situation they’re currently facing all the more heartbreaking.

The horror of what happened in the hospital pretty much speaks for itself – the implications not so much.  Clever queerats under cunning leadership bent on the destruction of mankind is bad enough, but it doesn’t hold a candle to facing a fiend.  I’m not taking anything as a given, though it seems almost impossible to believe what we’re seeing (including in the preview) isn’t the work of a fiend.  A fiend aligned with (or enslaved by) Yaromaru explains his willingness to go to war with the O-Suzumebachi, the betrayal by the Spider Wasps, and his confidence in attacking “Gods”.  But fiends don’t seem rational in the slightest – how exactly do you go about training one to be in your service?  If Mamoru and Maria had a baby 9 months after they left Satoru and Saki behind, it’s possible that he’d jut be hitting puberty now if he were very precocious – and puberty seems to be a prerequisite for cantus, never mind fiend-ism.  But how could Yaromaru have known he’d turn into a fiend – and how did he “tame” him?  And why would a fiend keep survivors alive, cocooned in bandages like a fly in spider silk?  There are too many things here that don’t add up – there’s at least one major piece still missing from this puzzle, maybe more (perhaps connected with the way the Robber Fly lobotomized and used their queens – though the implications of that are too horrible for me to consider yet, even with this series).

It’s remarkable that Shin Sekai Yori hasn’t become a chore to watch, given just how despairing it is.  The tone is no surprise of course, as this course has been charted since the earliest days – but I’m not feeling the fatigue I get with, say, some of Urobuchi Gen’s especially bleak work.  Maybe it’s because despite the fantastical premise so much of SSY feels unmistakably human – the lives of the five (now down to two) protagonists are so relatable and their relationships so realistic.  No matter how far humanity has descended into the moral sinkhole, humanity survives in people like these kids – and maybe that’s why, despite my intellectual revulsion at what their society has done, I find myself rooting for the humans in their war with the queerats.  I’m sure species chauvinism has something to do with it too.  In a way, SSY reminds me a bit of Shiki – a show that I referred to as a tragedy rather than a mystery, because it gave the feeling of watching events play out inexorably towards a bleak and depressing end that was unavoidable.  Like Shiki this is a series that takes a dim view of humankind, but unlike that show this one has an elegance and subtlety in the way it weaves you into it’s sad and terrible world – an iron fist, yes, but in a velvet glove.  Watching it is not a happy experience, but it is an unforgettable one.

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  1. P

    This episode almost gave me a heart attack. Way too tense. In a good way.

    "(perhaps connected with the way the Robber Fly lobotomized and used their queens – though the implications of that are too horrible for me to consider yet, even with this series)"

    Are you implying that Maria may have been lobomotized and Squealer has found a way to … mix both "races" or use Mamoru's genetic material on her? *shudders* Well, I wouldn't be surprised if Maria is still "alive", though missing a few limbs that Squealer donated as evidence of their death. But you're right, that would be too gruesome for anime.

  2. Y

    "mix both "races" or use Mamoru's genetic material on her?" Out of the question since it's scientifically ill-informed questions -you CANNOT just mate and mix two species out of the whim in such short period of time, period. Queerats and human are separate species like bonobos and orangutans are, you know. Also Squealer gave them skulls as well (dental records matching), so I don't think Maria and Mamoru are alive -or maybe they pulled all their teeth out, then~! That's a possibility.

    BTW, Enzo, is this "Shiki" any good? Like in, it was top 3 show of the season it ran, good, or top 10 of the year good.

  3. Y

    I think "Shiki" show wasn't even picked up/completely ignored at RC… hm.

  4. C

    It could be that the fiend might be Maria, as stated by older Saki in the earlier episodes that if Maria had died then alot of people wouldn't have died.

    It makes more sense to say that Mamoru died and the Queer Rats somehow tricked Maria into believing that his death is the result of the SSY Society. That would explains "HE" working together with them.

  5. Y

    "It could be that the fiend might be Maria". No.

    Listen to the noise that the fiend made in this episode. HanaKana is NOT capable of producing such sound out of her vocal cord; it's fairly logical if you think about it, LOL. I kid, I kid~. Anyway so next!

  6. N

    Enzou, saying that few people being arrogant (which exists because queerats usually shouldn't be yet at stage they can oppose Cantus well enough and they lack watcher's info: it is to be expected that so many queerats would be able to cause casualties, but casualties of their side would be much larger) or being cowardly (they are civilians, not soldiers: of course they will be afraid of sudden death) means humanity doesn't deserve to survive is a bit… too judgy ^_^;

    I am more surprised how nobody suspected humans joining up with queerats. Is their world so harmonious that there are no wars at all between human communities?

  7. k

    I agree – sure, there are some dicks among the people in the village (but then what society is free of dicks?) but one must consider their position, their inheritance and the fact that they're dealing with a situation that's completely new to them. One can't exactly expect them to be cold-headed and rational.

    Besides, not wanting to die may be cowardly but I'd say it's also a pretty normal reaction. ^^;; And in the end Fujita was brave enough to run out and try to save the burning person, and that of course caused his death. And what about whatshername, the woman who suggested going to the hospital in the first place, and who, in the end, was prepared to give up her own life to stay with the panicking nurse so Satoru and Saki could escape? I'd say that was pretty much the opposite of cowardice and arrogance.

    Btw, as for human society being harmonious, well, for one, they're physically unable to attack another human and spend their entire childhood being conditioned against in-species violence. And there are so few of them and they rely on each other so much, there's not much to war over in the first place.

  8. Have you been reading my posts for 18 weeks? It's not as though we haven't seen the case against humanity being built for the entire series. All I said was that the idiocy we're seeing now is no help to making their case.

  9. g

    The fact that there were survivors could be used as an argument favoring that the supposed fiend is a child.
    It wouldnt be surprising for a child to keep survivors just so he/she could play more with them later. Or even perhaps as pets. Considering that the last fiend even tried to go to a hospital, it wouldnt be that weird for this one to try do to something "normal" but that ended up completely twisted.

    Or if Yakomaru is somehow experimenting with cantus he may have the fiend keep some survivors so he could do to them whatever he has (supposedly) done to other (maria and mamoru maybe)

  10. R

    The implication that the fiend might be the child of MAmoru and Maria, makes me immediately assume that Maria might be in a similiar lobotmized state and used to breed like the queerrat queens…

  11. G

    It would not surprise me to find this series end with just Saki and Satoru the only humans left alive from the village to carry on the human race.

  12. k

    As for the patients/staff being wrapped up like mummies, there's a very simple explanation: being mentally unfocused and having their sight obscured severely limits the use of their power. (They may not be able to kill a human, but they could've very well killed the bakenezumi ambush squad.) Meanwhile, they still serve as a bait for any potential rescue team. But then, something like this must have been "someone's" idea…

  13. Certainly not a fiend's idea – not as we've been introduced to the concept of fiends anyway.

  14. f

    The fiend seems too self-aware to be a fiend in the classical sense. I suspect he hasn't lost control of his powers and is totally aware of what he is doing, like he's been trained for this moment for a very long time.

  15. H

    The fiends as described weren't crazy or out of their minds. They were paranoid, but always fully in control of what they were doing. So they perceived the actions of others as aggression against themselves and acted preemptively to remove those threats.

  16. R

    The killer might be Shun. Saki did not witness his actual death many years ago.

  17. H

    It really can't be Shun, unless there are huge differences in the way Karma Demons work and what they've told us. Shun was unable to control anything about his PK ability at the end. There's no way that could be tamed, or even controlled enough to keep from killing or warping everything around him. The only things he could even do were to use as much power as possible consciously so there wasn't any left for his subconscious to use.

    I actually wonder if the Fiend could be Mamoru, twisted by years of mental and physical torture at the hands of Yakomaru. I said last week the same thing about the timing: 12 years seems an awfully close run thing. Although I was presupposing that the PK user that Yakomaru had was not a Fiend, but knowing ally. If it's a fiend, then Yakomaru can't really sit on that power, he's gotta use it before it rips his own colony up.

  18. H

    I think the main difference between Shin Sekai Yori and the Urobuchi Gen shows that I've seen is that SSY is not preaching to us. It always seems like Urobuchi is almost mansplaining, making sure that EVERYONE knows how he knows how the world is and how wrong it is and he's gonna show us all. That's what I find fatiguing about his stories.

    In contrast, SSY is just presenting the world. Yes, we have disagreements about it, but that's in our interpretations of it. The show is not presented as "This view is right, this other view is wrong." It's just "This is the world, these are the people living in it. This is how they're dealing with it."

    It's a big difference.

  19. h

    I honestly don't mean to object to that, but I would like a few examples of Gen's preaching. Call it inexperience with his work.

  20. m

    I was thinking that any human who was somehow able to withstand the death feedback would be able to become something like a fiend. A cantus user who was trained to kill. If that is the case then they would be controlled by someone (whoever trained them).
    All the PK users have the ability to kill just like a fiend. But everything they are taught and modifications to their DNA restrict them. Take away those restrictions……

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