Shin Sekai Yori – 22

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Oh, what the hell – you know what I’m going to say anyway, so why dance around it?  It was great.

Suffice to say, if there was one word I never expected to hear in Shin Sekai Yori, it was “Roppongi”.  For those who don’t know, Roppongi is the anus of Tokyo – a sleazy and glitzy spread of expensive and soulless shopping malls and dive bars designed almost entirely to feast on the dollars of foreigners.  On any given night it’s full of hawkers for sex shops, drunk gaijin and locals who like to take advantage of them.  None of that is likely to have any real connection to its use as a locale in SSY, of course, but it’s quite surreal to see my worlds colliding in such a comedically absurd way.  I was lured to Roppongi once for a ¥1000 nomihoudai, and I think I prefer the subway tunnels with six inches of bat guano to the actual place.  As for the giant blood-sucking slugs, that’s pretty much unchanged from reality.

Even in saying I don’t want to repeat myself when talking about SSY I’m repeating myself, because I’ve already said it more than once – but I can’t help it.  I’m not sure I’ve ever watched an anime that could make 22 minutes feel shorter than this one does – it’s past the point of admiration now and almost at the disbelief stage.  How in the world did that episode go by so fast?  How can a series keep giving so much exposition without it feeling like overload, and still keep so many mysteries alive and viable?  I’ve expressed my disappointment over the evolution of the Saki-Satoru relationship and the disappearance of Mamoru from his friends’ consciousness, but apart from that we’re just not seeing any missteps here.  For a two-cour anime, Shin Sekai Yori is treading dangerously close to flawless in terms of getting the big things right.

An awful lot happened this week, but then it pretty much always does with this show.  What we’re seeing is both surprising and quite logical, and every development seems in hindsight to have been the only possible direction events could have taken, even if it we didn’t see it coming beforehand.  The first major order of business is the repatriation of Kiromaru, who’s languishing in the dungeons of the temple based on the Security Council’s order to kill all Queerats regardless of tribe.  Why didn’t they just kill him then, it might be fair to ask?  Perhaps it’s because he rescued Inui-san and brought him to the temple – indeed, Kiromaru has already saved Saki and Satoru once, though the monks would have no way to know that.  Inui has a very interesting tale to tell, as well – he escaped the fiend by speaking in the queerat language as he fled.  The implications of that fit in rather nicely with some of the notions floated in this space last week, though we’ll get to that shortly.

As for the other major development in the A-part, it’s that box from Saki’s parents.  It contains an emotional goodbye letter, as well as a very important parcel – a false minashiro.  That letter also tells Saki of a device called the “Psychobuster”, the last of the old human WMDs, designed in America as (ironically) by muggles as the last best chance to wipe out all PKs.  It seems that its existence is kept as a “Class Four” secret, a kind of “do-not-open-till the fiend shows up” kind of last resort (it seems odd that Tomiko-san never told Saki of it, but it would be even stranger if she didn’t know about it), and it’s hidden somewhere in the aforementioned Tokyo neighborhood.  Finding an address in Tokyo is impossible even now, never mind in a dystopian future where the city is a wasteland patrolled by mutants that even the queerats avoid – but that’s where the minashiro comes in.  And so, the road trip arc begins.

I thought from the beginning that Saki and Satoru might ask Kiromaru along for the trip, as it only makes sense – especially as he’s ventured to Tokyo once before.  Of course with everything else that’s happened in SSY, we can’t dismiss the possibility that Kiromaru is in league with Yakomaru-Squealer and has been all along.  I don’t think that’s the case, though I can’t discount the chance that I simply don’t want it to be the case – Kiromaru seems like a noble creature (and being voiced by Hiroaki Hirata doesn’t hurt).  If he is a double-agent, that means he willingly sacrificed his entire colony for the sake of Yakomaru’s plan – not impossible I suppose, but it doesn’t pass the Occam’s Razor test for me. Then there’s the question of the Psychobuster itself, which the false minashiro reveals is a type of supercharged Anthrax weapon with a 1-2 year kill switch.  How is it that it targets specifically fiends – or does it not target fiends at all?  Maybe it’s an accepted price to pay that there will be massive collateral damage, and the whole premise of the weapon is not that it’s specific to PK users, but that PK users can’t disable it as they would a poison (Anthrax is a living thing, seemingly much harder to use their cantus against).

In any event, it seems clear that Yakomaru – most likely through a false minashiro of his very own – has learned of the existence of the device, and it desperate to keep the humans from accessing it at all costs. He’s quickly on the heels of Saki, Satoru, Inui and Kiromaru, following them across the sea and into the subway tunnels of the ruined Tokyo.  He’s leading the party himself too, showing just how seriously he takes the threat against his invaluable weapon.  One thing I can say for certain – if it weren’t for Kiromaru the humans would already be dead, and they’d have no idea of the exact nature of the party pursuing them.  In theory it could all be part of an act to get the humans to lead the way to the Psychobuster so it can be destroyed, but that seems like a stretch.  As for the chase, the trip through the tunnels once again proves that SSY is willing to spare no labor to make its audience shudder – and I love the way Kiromaru keeps responding to Saki’s declarations that she must surely be passing through Hell by telling her, “This is still heaven.”

For me, the single most important moment of the episode comes when Saki finally reaches the point many of already have – wondering whether this “fiend” is really a fiend at all.  I suspect that it was Inui’s story that started her train-of-thought, but whatever it was, what she suggests makes perfect sense – indeed, she makes many of the same arguments I and others have been making for why this being a fiend seems very unlikely.  This raises the very troubling question of just how Saki and Satoru will feel about using the Anthrax bomb against someone who isn’t a fiend, but is in fact a little boy whose only crime was being raised to believe humans are devils that must be exterminated – and the son of Maria and Mamoru at that.  They may have no practical choice but to kill him anyway – using the only means at their disposal that won’t trigger their no-kill barrier and death feedback.  But the implications of the action will surely haunt them if Saki turns out to be right.  Satoru doesn’t want to hear it, but there seems to be an element of willful denial there as much as honest skepticism – his course is much simpler if he convinces himself that the boy really is a fiend.

We’ve been presented with so many no-win situations, so many impossible decisions and so much existential despair in Shin Sekai Yori already that I see no reason to believe it will change now.  I expect that the child is no fiend but simply a brainwashed boy used as a weapon by a brilliant extremist out to atone for the mistreatment of his species, and that his death will be yet one more debit against humanity in the balance sheet.  There’s never been a question of Saki’s survival – she’s the one telling the story – but as with everything else, we’re left to wonder as to the cost.  What price is worth paying to perpetuate what remains of humanity?  All of its sins are being called to payment one by one, each new tragedy a product of the Karmic debts the survivors have accrued in fulfilling their evolutionary imperative.  It appears from the preview as if Shun will appear in some form next week – be it in a dream of in reality – but even he can’t give Saki the absolution she’s no doubt desperate for.  She and Satoru are good people who’ve done nothing to deserve the burden that’s been placed on them, but if we’ve learned anything in 22 brilliant episodes of Shin Sekai Yori, it’s that justice has no bearing in the pitiless world it depicts.

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19 comments

  1. l

    Am I the only one who thinks this series needs it's own Letters from Iwojima (or Flags of our Fathers, depending on point of view). I want to see the Queerat story told in it's entirety. Heck, I've been half-rooting for the queerats for at least a third of the series.

  2. That's not a notion I'm entirely unsympathetic to, though in the big picture I don't think either side has much to be proud of.

  3. R

    Have to agree with Enzo. Both sides have commited enough sins to be worthy of damnation.

  4. R

    Obviously Shun can't be back to life since he blew himself up, so Saki probably just imagine him.

    Maybe she's going crazy and that's why or her subconscious created a split personality of her in the image of Shun to make Saki think better, and he'll do the 1 + 1 for her.

  5. t

    What's with the odd ritual and the appearance in fire of the fiend in the beginning?

  6. G

    I think it was to show the others present a vision of what the fiend actually looked like. Some of them might not have been close enough to the fiend to see what he looks like (and what they should be avoiding if they want to keep on breathing).

  7. G

    I love this series. Its one of my must watch as soon as its available (along with Hunter X Hunter, Maoyuu Maou Yuusha, Naruto Shippuden, Psycho Pass, Robotics; Notes and Senran Kagura).

    My only real complaint about SSY is that too many really dark scenes. Dark is ok for nighttime and atmosphere but when its so dark you can't figure out what happened or whats going on with the characters then thats too dark. Horror movies do the same thing.

  8. K

    I wonder if they won't end up killing the "fiend" in the end and somehow Saki will get through to him. Even if Mamoru and Maria's child can't speak the human language, well now we know some humans can speak the language of the rats. Perhaps Saki can speak that language, after all she does work in that department.

    We have 3 episodes left, has the series really just told us the entire ending? They find the psychobuster and kill the fiend, somehow I just think there has to be more to it.

    And you share my exact thoughts on Kiroumaru.

  9. N

    I see absolutely no evidence that this bioweapon is specific to "fiends" and not to all PKers. For all we know, Saki and co just led Yakomaru straight to the ultimate anti-PKer weapon.

    Of course, this now begs the question why Yakomaru didn't make a play for the weapon earlier.

  10. My guess is he knew about the weapon, but not the location. Just a guess.

  11. U

    Yeah, my first thought at the end of this was that Yakomaru was still probably one step ahead of them.

    Given the situations the humans face, they need -something- that they can use against the fiend. If Yakomaru has access to a false minoshiro, he could eventually discover what that's likely to be.

    Multiple forays into Tokyo have been made by queerats in the past (which, notably, Kiromaru never actually explained -why- they were sent), but making it to the location of the psychobuster clearly is going to require cantus usage. Thus, the humans must be given a reason as to why they need to go there and find it.

    And, while the anthrax may have a ~2 year kill switch, just how far can it spread in 2 years? I expect this to be the end of -all- humanity for a very large radius around Tokyo (though there may still be survivors in the Americas and maybe Africa), not 'just' the fiend.

    Anthrax itself causes tissue deterioration, which conveniently is the sort of thing that Saki's training under Tomiko is designed to work against (though at a slightly different level). It's possible that this may allow her to survive.

    Anyway, that's my guess for where things will go.

  12. e

    Sooo, what kind of liquid did you end up trying at your Roppongi all-you-can-drink? :p

    I concur about this episode feeling short even by this series standard. I had to check my player twice to be sure my video was not corrupted or something…
    Random thoughts:
    – this minoshiro is oh-so-conveniently portable and oddly cute *pets library critter*
    – I really want to think Kiroumaru is not going to betray Saki&co. for your same reasons but that closeups of his smirk are unnerving
    – they kept showing closeups of those reddish-orange stalactites (are they actually stalactitis or rather some other kind of mutant lurking?) in the caves too…
    – we're so close to the conclusion but somehow I can't envision their confrontaton with the 'fiend' being a straightforward quick affair. Also, wondering about any aftermath. I trust the novel have it, but will the anime manage to show it? May your trust about A-1 pacing management be on the mark 'till the end.
    – Is Inui gonna bite it next episode?
    – Shun's voice. Always gets me emotional.

  13. H

    I think there's definitely a slight possibility that the after-narration that we get from future Saki is occurring at a time when she is dying, or at least facing the end of everything, possibly after using a biological weapon like this one.

  14. R

    This episode pretty much confirms that Maria and Mamoru child is not a fiend, instead the child thinks that he is a Bakenezumi.

    This explains Inui story but also explains Kiromaru escape. I mean, he said that he jumped right by the fiend and into a ditch, and the "fiend" did nothing. Strange, right? 😀

  15. G

    I have a feeling that Saki is going to try and save the fiend thats not a fiend.

  16. U

    One part that confuses me is that if the fiend thinks its a queerrat, then why was it able to kill kinoumaru's army without death feedback?

    after all, even when the monk killed the large queer-rats and knew they were queer-rats, he still experienced some repercussions because they kinda resembled humans from far away, and the monk associated himself with a human. therefore, if the fiend associates itself with queer-rats, it really shouldn't have been able to kill kinoumaru's army without dying himself…

  17. U

    also interesting how kinoumaru first addresses the humans as gods, and then corrects himself mid sentence and says humans during an explanation, and then says gods again… what's your take on that?

  18. U

    a possible guess is that queer-rats have heard about this poison before and have tried to retrieve it, but then could not.

    also, while kinoumaru says he is loyal to the humans, he technically has betrayed them before when he let satoru and saki go, those many years ago in the forest. it's not out of character for kinoumaru though: satoru did save his life, and kinoumaru is definitely a sentient creature who has very developed senses of loyalty…

    kinoumaru's angry growl-face scares me, but the last time he was uncontrollably snarling was also when yakomaru was involved, so i'm just going to attribute his weird actions to that. satoru isn't suspicious of kino at all, while all those years ago he felt that yakomaru had something up his sleaves…

  19. U

    Oh just kidding. The fiend actually only disarmed Kinoumaru's army, but didn't kill any of them himself…

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