Shin Sekai Yori – 24

Shin Sekai Yori - 24-3 Shin Sekai Yori - 24-20 Shin Sekai Yori - 24-27

I’ve spent a lifetime railing against the cruel cliffhanger, but that was definitely one of the Top 10 for sheer torture.

Two quick thoughts for starters…

  • I actually muted the sound and played Wareta Ringo over the ED animation.  Wish I’d thought of it weeks ago.
  • I was sure there were 26 episodes of Shin Sekai Yori, and only found out after the preview sent me scampering in fear to Syoboi that I was wrong, and next week is the finale.  What a cruel way to end a Saturday.

It’s always hard when really great shows come to an end, especially two-cour and longer ones.  SSY has probably been the best series of the last six months, an amazing ride.  What’s more the story is so big that it seems almost impossible to believe it could actually be ending – which is fitting, because that’s exactly the way really great novels have always made me feel.  I really wish anime would use the novel as a source material more often, because it’s been the source of some of the finest anime we’ve seen over the past five years (starting with Moribito, though that was hardly the first).  I suppose that bodes well for Red Data Girl in the coming season, though that’s small consolation as we prepare to say goodbye to Shin Sekai Yori.

The flip side of that is really great series are hard to end, too – coming up with those final acts is always the hardest part of any story.  It helps me feel optimistic that this comes from a source that seems to have as solid a narrative foundation as any we’ve seen adapted since Moribito, but I’m still on edge heading into next week.  There’s a lot to be done, and on the surface it might seem as if not enough of it got done this week. But I believe this episode was constructed for more purpose, and that was to set up one specific scene that symbolizes what I’m now convinced is the key element of the conclusion.

The use of abandoned subway tunnels beneath a ruined Tokyo was really a master stroke by Kishi Yuusuke (though he likely wasn’t considering what an effective device it would eventually make for anime).  The last couple of episodes have really had a “Mines of Moria” quality to them – claustrophobic and epic at the same time.  And the symbolism of this last fight for civilaztion in the stinking bowels of the last one (I mean, really, Roppongi – that’s just too delicious for words) is perfectly suited to what’s happening in the story.

There was a very interesting contrast set up between Queerats and humans in this episode, though the person of Kiromaru.  I must say I’m very glad he turned out not to be a traitor after all, because I’ve always profoundly wanted to believe he was the noble creature he seemed to be.  We’ve been jerked around very effectively on that score over the last couple of eps, but it seems clear now that he’s thrown his lot in with Saki and Satoru quite sincerely.  He finally admits, too – at Saki’s questioning – that he went to Tokyo in the hopes of finding WMDs that the O-Suzumbachi themselves could use against the humans, to ensure their survival.  He says this very matter-of-factly, with no shame and no malice – it’s simply a fact, and it seems perfectly logical thinking for a species living under the reality that their masters could annihilate them on a whim (and often did).  That’s the reality of the post PK world.  He also scolds Saki for her species’ tendency to give up when things look darkest, declaring that his kind will always attempt to find a way to turn the situation in their favor, even if all hope for their own lives is lost.  What’s to be lost in the trying, after all?  Again this is said very simply and directly – a statement of fact and not a condemnation.  And Saki can do nothing but agree.

It seems to me that as vile and merciless as Yakomaru is, all of the energy and motivation in this battle is on the side of the Queerats.  There’s a fundamental difference between humans and they, in that Queerats will willingly sacrifice themselves for the benefit of the species, whereas humans will sacrifice their own children in an attempt to preserve their own lives.  Is it entirely without justification?  No, of course not – it’s the natural imperative of any species to try and survive.  But that doesn’t change the fact that humanity has been on a downward spiral, more and more paranoid and venal and willing to do anything to ensure that it might crawl onward for a few more years.  I’ve never had the sense that I really knew what the humans in this story were fighting for, which has always placed them at a disadvantage to the Queerats.  Their motivation is very simple – adapt.  If that meant serving the humans – which it most certainly did when no means were available to fight them – that’s what they did.  If that meant availing themselves of the opportunity to try and throw off their oppressors, so be it.  The humans in the story, by contrast, seemed to be surviving merely for its own sake, without any clear goal beyond that.  Their dying civilization is the result of bad choices leading to worse choices, towards an inevitable end where no choices remain except to accept oblivion with grace.

That’s why I see Saki’s act in, at the very last moment, foiling the attempt to kill Maria and Mamoru’s (his name was actually mentioned!) child with the Psychobuster as the crucial moment in the series.  It was completely irrational, illogical by any standard we’ve seen used over the course of this story.  Yet it was a completely human act too – done out of compassion for the child and out of love for Satoru (sort of – while their relationship still lacks the depth it should have, there was a glimmer of their old mutual trust and dependence there this week).  It was done out of a fear of being alone, too – but then that’s also a very human frailty.  It seems silly to think one small impulse could stem the tide of history, but this is fiction and those things do happen in fiction – symbolism is important and this feels like a moment of huge symbolic importance.  Her people have ruled under a principle of complete, irrefutable Consequentialism, under the justification that no act was too harsh if the survival of civilization was on the line.  What Saki has done here (admittedly I don’t think either Kiromaru or Satoru approved) was to act on her own moral compass alone – to do something solely and completely for the reason that in that moment, to her, she was sure it was the right thing to do.  I can’t say it will mean anything in the final analysis, but it feels like the first step on a long and difficult journey.

I couldn’t help but notice that the narrative of Shin Sekai Yori finally folded in on itself at the end, as Saki’s thoughts at the moment of decision were not spoken by Taneda Risa but by Endou Aya, who gives voice to the adult Saki as she looks back as the events of the story.  This only lends credence to the notion that this moment was the junction at which Saki’s personal story turned, for better or for worse.  What will happen next week?  It really is hard to imagine this story ending, but end it will – and all we really know is that at the moment of telling, Saki is alive.  I find the usage of Shun as an inner voice of wisdom a bit too convenient, truth be told, though I’m curious if we’ll ever find out just to what extent he exists as something apart from just a fragment of Saki’s mind.  “He” seems convinced that Kiromaru is the key to everything, and I think that Kiromaru made it clear he’s more than willing to lay down his life for the greater good – which now seems to mean putting and end to Yakomaru.  The mirror gambit has clearly scrambled the child non-fiend’s mind (is that really a boy?) but to what end we can’t be sure – but if he can’t be saved, then Saki’s grand gesture will have amounted to nothing.  As cogent and purposeful as Shin Sekai Yori has been since the very beginning, I have to believe we’re going to get an ending that frames the entire series in a meaningful way.

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Shin Sekai Yori - 24-22 Shin Sekai Yori - 24-23 Shin Sekai Yori - 24-24
Shin Sekai Yori - 24-25 Shin Sekai Yori - 24-26 Shin Sekai Yori - 24-28
Shin Sekai Yori - 24-29 Shin Sekai Yori - 24-30 Shin Sekai Yori - 24-31
Shin Sekai Yori - 24-32 Shin Sekai Yori - 24-33 Shin Sekai Yori - 24-34
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31 comments

  1. S

    Nowadays I always plan ahead before watching SSY. I need an immediate dose of Chihayafuru to quell my frustration of the perpetual cliffhangers, but this time I needed help with a timely dose of R;N to soothe the sorrow as well (and boy did R;N deliver).

    That's in no way meant as criticism for SSY, it's just a measure of how much the series moves me, and stirs my feelings.

    And I can't believe I was too eager to watch it so that I forgot about preparing Wareta Ringo as the ED. And it might be too late now, I don't know if Wareta Ringo is going to fit the last episode. The current ED has a more final feeling to it, where's Wareta Ringo is perfect to let the atmosphere linger. Letting the atmosphere linger after the final episode seems like torture.

  2. k

    Well, the current ED is Maria singing about how much she loves Saki and ahhh how tragic her love is. So I'd rather not see it in the last episode at all. :/

  3. S

    heh, I guess I should say something about the actual episode as well:
    Saki always wanted to decide her fate herself, but couldn't, and I'm extremely glad she didn't let Satoru decide it for her. In a sense she decided his fate as well, but he might just survive because of it. Now the decision and her fate is finally entirely in her own hands, and I can't wait to see what happens.

  4. e

    Seeing how I've been playing Wareta Ringo in my head over the present ED for some weeks now I wonder why I didn't actually started it in my player too like you did ^_^".
    As a second quick note: R.I.P. minoshiro. Seeing libraries going down makes me weep regardless. But this was such a cute one to boot T_T.
    Third note: Kiromaru is the shit. *braces for some bat guano throwing*
    Fourth note: I almost headdesked again at the Mamoru non-mention ( 'But it's Maria's child! ') during Satoru and Saki's little talk sitting in the tunnel but he popped up in very suitable dialogue place he was supposed to be brought up afterwards. Boys-remembrance team scored high this week, hooray.

    Good call on the mines of Moria bit, I had the same feeling but couldn't pinpoint it.
    And finally getting some Saki& Satoru bonding felt very nice – much needed too, also to justify Saki's 'irrational' actions later in the episode – , though it might still be too little too late. Only one episode left. agjakfsdsdsf.
    Shun's nature at this point seems quite fuzzy but it felt good to see him again in spite of this coming at the expense of some of Saki's urgency to check on wounded!Satoru imho :,).

    Now let's just hope thay can pack the hopefully suitable&meaningful conclusion in the next 23 minutes.

  5. S

    Can't they give us 45 minutes next time? just this once? I'm begging.

  6. e

    While we're at it can't they give us at least one more season of GeK? :,)

  7. k

    Yeah, this series has been an incredible ride – quite unlike anything I've seen in anime before and, I'm sure, in the future. Obviously this is mainly due to the source material, but the fact that there were people willing to invest money and effort in adapting something like Shinsekai yori, despite being fully aware that it won't exactly bring in ratings or sales, is the kind of thing that keeps my hopes up as far as the anime as a medium is concerned… (As much as I enjoy silly romps and melodramatic cheese with pretty characters angsting, shows like Shinsekai yori are the main reason why I'm into anime.)

    I really, really hope that they've managed to do a great finale that does justice to the show and all the themes it has brought up. I can't begin to imagine how this could be achieved, but I keep hoping for the best (albeit with a smidgen of cynicism).

    It may seem like I've been grousing too much about the show lately, but really, my only problem with it is the treatment of adult!Satoru and his relationship with Saki. It is a big flaw for me, especially since I freely admit I'm biased toward Satoru, but overall it's still a fantastic anime that deserves a lot more recognition than it gets. (And it would've deserved a much bigger budget. Damn capitalism! :D;;;)

    Anyway, just a note: Saki destroying the psycho buster was, really, all for Satoru and her crippling fear of being alone (which I think was nicely preceded by Inui's feelings about being the only one to survive when everyone else has died). The compassion for the child was the mirror trick – as Satoru notes in the book, it's a really stupid idea that is doomed to fail, there's no point in it whatsoever. And yet he does it anyway because he doesn't want to kill the kid any more than Saki does, and this is their last chance to avoid having to do it.

  8. s

    i full-heartedy agree that shin sekai yori deserved a much bigger budget. I mean imagine if kyoto animation where behind its production; you know, without the moe character designs. I can ony imagine how beautiful they would have made this post-apocalyptic world look like. Kyoto has it in them. Hell, even bones or P.A works would have been good as well. One a side note, one of my gripes with this ep was hearing shun talking to Saki and directing her through her troubles; seriously? as i said before it kind of takes away from the finality of his death. Next thing you know, assuming saki makes it out alive, he's going to be giving her advice on trivial things such as whether to put nutella or peanut butter on her toast. I just hope Shun is just a figment of Saki's mind, almost like a part of the unconscious side of her brain that can bring information that she is unware she knows to the forefront of her conscious mind.

    My second gripe was again, the bond between saki and satoru but at this point i dont even know why i bother, the series ends next week. It's probably isnt true, but it almost feels like the arcs were written by three different screenwriters ; one for the child arc, one for the teenage arc, and one for the adult. Sigh, but all in all i really loved this episode and i hope the finale can tie up all the lose ends properly.

  9. k

    But of course KyoAni would've never touched this project… ^^;; or if they had they would've been a lot more expensive than A1. Anyway I think it's not a studio problem but more like, well, everyone knew this show wouldn't be much of a success. (That's why I say it's awesome that TV Asahi were willing to invest any money in this at all.)

    As for Shun randomly talking to Saki… let's just wait for the next episode with that (though I'm about 99,9% sure that they won't bring this issue up).

  10. Considering how commercially unsuccessful SSY has been, I think we should be grateful A-1 was willing to fund 25 episodes of it at all rather than complain that it didn't get more money. And the staff have found ways to make the series visually striking and beautiful without a big budget.

  11. s

    without a doubt A-1 has found a way around their small budget to make this series look beautiful have, but a part of me thinks that if a big name was attached to the project, maybe it would have generated more buzz commercially; kinda in the same way high profile celebrities are used to advertise merchandise; On its own merits, the merchandise could be very stellar but it could still fail to appeal to a wide audience unless there's a high-pofile celebrity or some big name endorsing it; that is what im getting at. Regardles of the small flaws this show has its a shame that it is failing commercially because its really good. God forbid animation studios stop taking more risks like this.

  12. k

    Big names cost a lot of money. ^^;; I think the biggest "pulling" name here was Hanazawa Kana and they tried to milk her (er, this didn't come out right) as much as possible, along with the Maria x Saki angle (ending and random additions aside, much of the merchandise is very blatant Maria x Saki pandering*).

    *Which I find vaguely insulting, not only because some of them are quite trashy which cheapens their relationship, but also because they completely ignore the rest of the potential audience. I mean if you already pander why don't you do it in an equal opportunity way? ^^;; Looking at the merch you would never guess Satoru and Shun had anything going on…

  13. R

    This episode did things right. Everything that happened in this episode was quite important. But I was disappointed with episode 23 because they were stalling time just to get the most drama in that episode. They dragged it out just so they could end it with Shun :/

    I think episode 23 should've ended with Satoru vs the "Akki". That would have been SO MUCH BETTER!

  14. k

    Dude, at least show some creativity and rewrite my post a little before you post it somewhere else under your name…

    What's up with people taking my posts anyway? There's someone at the MAL forums, too, who's been doing this for months as far as I'm aware, and now here, too…

  15. R

    Actually Kuromitsu, I know very well that you write here.

    So I knew that you'll notice.

    It's just that you captured my thoughts exactly, so there was no point in saying something new and original :X

  16. T

    Seriously Dony, is it that hard to say, kuromitsu summed up my thoughts perfectly –

    "Kuromitsu's post"

  17. R

    "Seriously Dony, is it that hard to say, kuromitsu summed up my thoughts perfectly"

    Well that's what I just did didn't I?

  18. T

    Next time do it up front and it'll save some time 😉

  19. S

    @Dony. It's pretty lame to post someone else's comment under your name. Seriously, don't do it again!

  20. i

    You know how you really like Haruka Tomatsu for her range GE?

    Well I think Daisuke Namikawa deserves even more love for characters like Yakomaru and Hisoka. I still can't get my head around the fact that Mr. Pleasant, Kazehaya kun could sound like that.

  21. Yeah, I've mentioned that several times!

  22. R

    I wonder if that's really a boy.

    Saki says "Demo ne, Maria to Mamoru no kodomo ha hontou ni akki nanokana?" Which translates to "But don't you think, isn't it questionable that Maria and Mamoru's child is really a fiend?" Kodomo is "Child" and doesn't count gender. I'm waiting to hear them say "musuko," which means "son," or "kare" which means "he".

    Maybe they've changed it in the anime and he isn't a boy…?

    Also wondering if Saki and Satoru will be together in the end. If they will and we won't see any evidence that the two of them are in love with each other beforehand, it would be incredibly stupid and will come out of nowhere.

  23. G

    Yikes! This show has got to be the fastest 22 minutes of anime this season. I kinda think Saki's plan is to project Maria's image either into the path before the fiend child (like Shun we are seeing now) or onto her body (maybe even right into the fiend's mind directly somehow).

    Hopefully the child will remember what his mother looked like before the queerrats perished her and Mamoru.

  24. S

    Saki has the advantage in that because she was in the ministry involved with dealing with queerats that she can speak their actual language. That and her knowledge of Maria and 'boy who no one cares about' will be key I'm sure.

  25. C

    Something i just thought about…

    Now that it is basically confirmed that the Akki isn't a real Akki and probably has death feedback, how did the Giant Hornets get wiped out before? Assuming the child has death feedback from killing queerrats and not humans, shouldn't it only have been able to deflect basic long range attacks? That doesn't seem like enough to be such a complete victory though. Plus, weren't they using guns at that time and not just arrows? From what i have seen, Cantus can't deflect gun attacks. In fact, it seems almost useless from a defensive standpoint on anything that isn't slow moving. I'm not very quick at picking up on things though so maybe someone can fill me in on their thoughts?

  26. k

    They mentioned this in the show: the boy took away the weapons from Kiroumaru's soldiers, and Squealer's army did the rest.

  27. C

    Oh, thanks! Totally missed that :) Makes sense. I miss things easily.

  28. w

    Next week, P-P and this will end…Gah.

    Shun may have been indeed some sort of part of her subconscious–as by her numerous dreams of him before this ep. Seeing Shun occupying her mind makes me sad somehow. I really loved him for Saki. I guess there's some rarity in their pairing that I found the SatoruXSaki pairing at first…quite bland (when they were young Satoru and Saki bicker a lot, and somehow it's one of the tiring tropes out there for pairings).

    I guess Shun giving her some sort of words of advice in this ep is like a showcase that he really came back to her memory…that he lives in her memory again,refreshed now. Well…I'm just inferring. ^^ It's actually sad that Shun is like…the dead helper…in dreams and reality.

    I was thinking that Saki's solution would be some kind of illusion (because Shun said something about what he did with her earlier), but I think your speculation that Kiroumaru as the key would mean him being able to kill the boy is sound…

    But maybe…just maybe…since the boy saw himself already and how he looked like…Saki will make an illusion of Maria? Like, "Come here, my child. I'm yo' mother" Stuff? LOL

    I see Saki writing something at the preview, so yeah, it's incontestable that she'll survive. I hope Kiroumaru survives too though. >.< I wouldn't want him to be another sacrifice! And that guano part was ingenious and hilarious lol That's some mud mask he's in.

    Idk if it's rare, since I haven't encountered much, but I think this is the first time that a somewhat feral child (he's not a fiend after all) is the villain. Hmm Idk…just my thought >.<

    Btw…when some of the tunnel ceiling came down…there was hair like Maria's on the floor…Was that a foreshadowing? Or was it really there that Maria and Mamoru died? Like…A part of them were left there…and the bones were taken by Yakomaru to show to the "gods" as proof. =.= Or was I just seeing things?

  29. I believe that hair was there because one of the bakenezumi was using it to impersonate the boy as part of Squealer's ruse, and discarded it once the hand was played.

    If killing the child is indeed the solution, than it seems to me that a lot of Saki's arc the last few episodes has been a blind alley, and I'm totally off on the point the series is trying to make with the series. We'll see.

  30. G

    Clearly she intends to try and save the child. I bet at the very end of the series we see her trying ro raise the child as her own or something similar.

  31. w

    I somehow think though that as long as Yakomaru lives, the child cannot be easily persuaded…But then if they kill Yakomaru…who's to say the child isn't attached to him and wouldn't go berserk more?? =.=

    Although the "best" option for them is to kill the child and Yakomaru, as Saki, as a human who lost two people who only left a trace of themselves, she's trying to keep something that preserves their memory.

    Hmm…either Saki tries her own solution, but it fails. Or she succeeds. If she fails, Satoru might take over and do it himself. I'm actually thinking Kiroumaru will face Yakomaru, and Saki and Satoru will face the child. So far, I've never heard of Yakomaru's ability in combat, but I think in terms of experience, Kiroumaru has the shot. As to the child…hmm…telepathy? Through images of Maria? Ahhh I know, I know…that's the only thing I can think of! *pouts*

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