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Shin Sekai Yori – 02 »

Shin Sekai Yori – 01

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「若葉の季節」 (Wakaba No Kisetsu)
“Season of Fallen Leaves”

I’m left truly gobsmacked. It has been far too long since an anime gave me chills quite like this, and the opening episode of Shin Sekai Yori (From the New World) had me completely immersed, from the hauntingly atmospheric start to its quietly sinister finish. I’ll tell you now folks, this one is going to be a keeper for the season. (Make that the next two seasons. Oh yes, two-cours!)

 

  Storyline

The adaptation of the Nihon SF Taishō Award-winning novel by Kishi Yusuke opens with a short scene of present day Japan, as boys awaken to psychic powers and use them to some gruesome effect, before bringing us forward to a world one thousand years into that future. We see a society that has regressed into the period ages, where religion and mysticism once again rule over the lives of the people. And in the secluded rural village we’re introduced to, these similarly conspicuous psychic powers have integrated into society as Juryoku. No doubt, there’s a connection between this current dystopian and that opening scene, but like any typical thriller, Shin Sekai Yori is keeping the cards close to its chest.

This isn’t the only question mark raised by the opening episode. We’re thrown into an established world without much context, going along with a storyline that simultaneously runs further into the past as it moves onward to uncover more about the world, and I admit I got slighty disorientated with the delivery. Still, the progression of events here as we follow lead heroine Watanabe Saki (Taneda Risa) entering Zenjin Gaki, the Unified Class, is reasonably straightforward enough upon piecing the scenes together. She’s the last of her peers to graduate from elementary school, upon being visited by a spirit of blessing in the middle of the night and gaining her Juryoku. Following that would be the mystical Shinto/Taoist-esque ritual that is then conducted under the context of a rite of adulthood in order to remove, or as what I suspect is more likely, limit the Juryoku extensively. After this, we are finally brought up to speed with the main storyline of her entering Zenjin Gaki and being reunited with the elementary school friends who went ahead.

Surrounding these events is a layer of mystery that feels malevolent in nature and largely embodied in the episode by the Nekodamashi, or Trickster Cats. Starting out as a fairy tale told to make children go home after dark, their nature quickly escalates into the spiriting away of kids who fail to show capability in Juryoku. It doesn’t strike me as the whole story, but there seems to be a certain truth to it, such as when late bloomer Saki caught a glimpse of one before she’s received her Juryoku, and when she overheard her parents’ panicked discussion about the matter. There’s a very telling statement here from Saki’s mother that she didn’t want to lose any more children. And to add more certainty, poorly performing student Reiko disappears at the close of the episode.

Considering the fact that this is supposed to be a science fiction work, there seems to be a theme of eugenics and societal experimentation running here. The seemingly enforced removal of non-psychics correspond with the dystopian interpretations of the subject. The name of the village, Ibaraki Kamisu 66, is equally conspicuous as well, indicating that there could be a broader societal system in place, while Saki’s father talks about a secret organisation with a higher authority than his position as a judge, possibly of the village. So then, running with eugenics in mind, could the village serve as a cultivation ground for psychics? Think Fallout’s vaults, or the village from well…The Village, and you’ll get my idea of what Ibaraki Kamisu 66 seems to be with its secretive nature, along with the historic tale of the barrier and the ogre in place to keep people from leaving. Saki’s disapproval of the subject could also point towards an eventual rebellious reaction to the uncovering of the truth behind the village.

 

  Characters

The characters themselves, with the exception of Saki, are only given a short, measured introductions here, and there’s little to glean from aside from their archtypes at the moment. There’s Akizuki Maria (Hanazawa Kana) who’s a little hotheaded, Asahina Satoru (Tojo Kanako) as the classic impulsive kid, Itou Mamoru (Kudou Haruka) as the reserved kid, and ace Aonuma Shun (Toudou Mai) as a cool leader. What I really liked was what the episode did with their interactions, which as strange as it might sound, feels oddly age-appropriate for twelve year olds, from them losing their cool over someone toppling their cards to their small quarrels and the exclusion of Reiko out of “courtesy”. In these interactions are small touches that I really liked, such as Saki brightening up upon seeing her elementary school pals in the class.

Then there’s Saki, who we see goes through a range of emotions in the episode, and shows herself best with the anxiety and fears of a child going through a period of growth, specifically with her Juryoku. And at the same time, her world is expanding faster than she’s prepared for, as she starts uncovering more secrets about the reality she’s truly living in. Risa Taneda, while a relatively new voice actor, does a brilliant job as the confused Saki here, whose only solace seems to be with her friends.

 

  Presentation

While I’m really looking forward to see out the plot and characters play out, what really sold me on the show was its superb presentation. There are good adaptations, and then there are great adaptions, and Shin Sekai Yori feels like it belong with the latter. There’s a cinematic flair here that at once feels nostalgic and reminiscent of similarly atmospheric shows, where groups of kids dealt with the supernatural or unknown, such as with Bokurano, Ghost Hound and Another. (Before that went all Final Destination on us) And at the same time, it feels really fresh with the clever cinematography on display here.

The muted colors and the shifting palette, the brilliant art of the history tale, as well as the varied use of stylistic filters contributes immensely to the disquieting atmosphere achieved here. And then there’s the intriguing directing here that tries to unravel a singular layered story with its novel use of seamless transitions, between the different points in time of the plot. I loved how the separate events came together at these related points (such as with Saki glimpsing the Nekodamashi) and it kept the episode feeling dynamic, even if it did come off as a disorientating watch the first time around. It’s unclear if director Ishihama Masashi or episode/assistant director Yamato Naomichi should be credited with this. I cannot attest to having any familiarity with their works, but with this episode I’m looking forward to what else they and their team will pull out.

There’s also the score here, headlined by the haunting piece that opened Saki’s ritual, a score that elevates the imagery here to some truly chilling effect, and adding so much more to the incredible atmosphere of the Shin Sekai Yori. (Interestingly, the “going home” song that’s repeatedly used in the episode is Dvorak’s “New World” symphony.)

A-1 Pictures outdid themselves with the art and animation here as well. While the character designs might fall on the simpler side, the backgrounds are fantastically realised, and the great animation is decent with the sakuga, for those of you who watches out for this. Let’s hope they’ll be able to keep this up across the duration of the series.

 

With A-1′s decent track record in adaptations and a highly acclaimed story in Shin Sekai Yori, I had a lot of expectations going into the show, expectations which this premiere episode brilliantly met. It delivered an engrossingly atmospheric watch that displayed great, foreboding signs of what’s to come for its characters. I’ll say it again, this one’s a keeper.

 

ED Sequence

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ED: 「割れたリンゴ」 (Wareta Ringo) by (種田梨沙) Taneda Risa

Preview

Shin Sekai Yori   01   Preview 01 Shin Sekai Yori   01   Preview 02 Shin Sekai Yori   01   Preview 03
October 3, 2012 at 10:30 pm
59 comments »
  • October 3, 2012 at 10:44 pmexious

    Setting’s very interesting, but I can’t say the same about the characters – didn’t really care for them at all.

    • October 3, 2012 at 10:46 pmAiras

      Yeah… thought the same… felt no carisma from them! It’s like they had their souls sucked hahaha …

    • October 3, 2012 at 10:48 pmAsobi

      Somewhat understandable. This first episode focused plenty on building its brilliant setting and atmosphere, but with two cours attached to this, I’m pretty sure we’ll see a fair bit of character development across the series.

    • October 4, 2012 at 5:00 amShouhei

      I won’t argue that the characters don’t seem at all that interesting (so far), but I agree with Asobi – we should give it a few episodes. But this first episode has done its job: getting me excited for the next!

    • October 5, 2012 at 9:00 amplushkin

      That, and the fact that this is adapted from, you know, an actual novel, and not just light novels, which tend to be more character focused. Novels have the length to expand on the world and story. We’re in for the long run, it’s gonna be pretty fun.

  • October 3, 2012 at 10:45 pmAiras

    This show is good… yet it feels strange! Maybe it’s cause I’m not accustomed with a girl MC…

  • October 3, 2012 at 10:45 pmSana

    The animation reminds me of the anime, Noein. Maybe it’s just me haha

  • October 3, 2012 at 10:59 pmleokiko

    That opening of the show was amazing, very well directed. Very creepy.

  • October 3, 2012 at 11:35 pmPassingThrough

    This first episode gives me a very surreal feeling. This is the first anime of this year capable of making me shudder in both anxiety and excitement. Definitely watching the next.

  • October 3, 2012 at 11:47 pmBakaro

    I randomly dug in for the first anime of the season, with no prior knowledge or expectation, and i found a hidden jewel!

    Thumbs up for the interesting concept and superb quality. However, i’m as confuse as one can get about the story. Ahhh so many questions need to be answered.

    Definitely i’m gonna follow this series now, looking for the next episode.

  • October 4, 2012 at 12:10 amdeathtogeneric

    Isn’t it bit ironic (or sad depends on your point of view) that Yui Horie gets bit parts like Reiko?? I don’t think she’s even got more than 2 lines here before her character got dumped (or munched by some supernatural kitty).

    Okay maybe she will get a couple more lines in flashbacks or something, but seriously, if you don’t dig hard, you wouldn’t even know she was in this thing since she’s not even credited on most of sites. Well, at least she’s still got a few more gigs lined up this year (and if nothing else there are always more bakemonogatari sequels gigs), so she’s not done yet. No siree!

  • October 4, 2012 at 12:59 amLightnDark

    Asobi, I think you need to briefly mention whether or not you have read the source material or not, since it does affect your perception and hence the writeup itself. Based on your writeup I believe that you have at least know some background info (which wasn’t present in this episode AFAIK).

    Continuing on the assumption that you’ve read at least some of the source material, I have to say that you may want to take into consideration about the average viewer who has little to no idea what this anime is about and going into it blindly.

    Personally, like you’ve mentioned I think this is a potential sleeper/keeper from what episode 1 tells us so far. However, it can be hard for the average viewer to get into it due to the lack of character intros and the likes – we’re thrown head first into the fray without really knowing how and why.

    Other than that though, I really liked the point brought up about the semblance to eugenics and social experimentation, great catch there. Fascinating opening so far, but yet to be seen if this method of storytelling will carry on or not.

    • October 4, 2012 at 2:26 amjunglepenguin

      I’m one of those average viewers who haven’t read this award-winning novel, and I’ll be honest: I wasn’t impressed with whatever I saw. The more I look into this series, the more I feel like I’ve missed out or overlooked scenes that were important, but I still can’t help but wonder what everyone found so good about this first episode. Sure, that opening scene got me pumped up, but I found myself itching to skip scenes that felt too easy to read. And as mentioned, it seems like viewers were throw into the middle of things. It wasn’t mysterious as much as it was confusing.

      I don’t mind if I have to be spoiled some, but if anyone thinks I need to be enlightened on some things about the series that’ll help clear the fog, be my guest. Won’t drop it just yet because it’s supposed to be something to watch out for, but if it doesn’t impress after a few more episodes…

      • October 4, 2012 at 3:38 amos

        I feel the episode is good because
        1. good graphic
        2. good atmosphere
        3. this episode left a lot of unanswered questions for me, so I will come back for the next episode. that is a good story.

        have you watch any anime before?
        are expecting some elements that a story-oriented anime can’t deliver?
        I trend to skip scenes while I am watching a movie/anime that I don’t expect it able to delivery anything that can impress me, so I keep skipping scenes trying to search for elements that can immediately impress me. I think skipping is fine for mecha, moe, and hentai anime, but skipping scenes in a story-oriented anime will leave you unable to follow the story and ruin the fun.
        my solution is to wait for the whole season to finish, download all the episodes and then start watching from the last few episodes. that can usually convince myself that anime has something that I look for and get me interested to watch from the beginning to find out what has happened before.
        if that doesn’t work, then it may mean you don’t like the genre.

      • October 4, 2012 at 10:59 amjunglepenguin

        In reply:

        1. If there was one thing I was satisfied with, it was the sombre visuals and fluid animation. That said, good graphics can be found in pretty much everything else that’s being made nowadays. Does that mean that anything that has good graphics is automatically a good series?
        2. What exactly is “good” atmosphere? It’s something relative, that’s for sure. The suspense and atmospheric setting just might have worked beautifully for me if it weren’t paired with school uniforms. I’ll admit that it was well done, but it just didn’t sit right for me.
        3. I don’t think leaving questions unanswered for viewers makes an episode (or a series) a good one all the time. As mentioned, it left viewers (me, at least) more confused than intrigued. I’m left wondering if that opening scene was even part of the ongoing plot, or just a random scene to show viewers the potential of these “gravity”-controlling kids.

        I don’t think you’ve proven with solid points that this anime is “good”. Granted, it IS only the first episode, so there really is no material to use to prove that, but more importantly, I don’t feel any more convinced that I should be following this closely. Nonetheless, I’ll give it a couple of episodes. I honestly don’t want to doubt material from a Taisho award-winning novel.

        Just to add: I think I wasn’t being clear, but I actually watched the whole thing without skipping parts (even though I had done so originally, only to re-watch again to make sure I didn’t miss anything). In fact, I went through a couple of scene multiple times. I’m still not seeing anything particularly impressive.

      • October 6, 2012 at 2:23 pmkyuuzo

        i think what it all boils down to is personal taste. if you’re looking for other people’s reason to justify watching this, i’d say you should drop it right away to save you some time. look for what you find is interesting and stick with it. i for one am dropping btooom even though lots of people are saying that the show is awesome. im not gonna ask them to list down what they found is great about it just so that i’d stick with it.

    • October 4, 2012 at 3:42 amZannafar

      I disagree. It isn’t necessary to read the source material to understand this episode. However it helps to read a short synopsis on one of anime databases (e.g. AniDB or MAL) or simply the Fall Preview on this site and that is something the average reader of this can do without problems.

      The first episode was a bit disorientating nonetheless, jumping forth and back in time. Especially with the sunset scene in the beginning, I have no idea if it was set before their graduation from Waki Academy or after it.

      • October 4, 2012 at 4:05 amos

        I believe most of the scenes are in chronological order except 3 flashbacks.

      • October 4, 2012 at 6:19 amAsobi

        The sunset scene should chronologically be the earliest scene, as they were all still wearing their elementary school uniform. I know, it got quite disorientating, but I loved how it all came together coherently into a single storyline by the episode’s end. It brought up fond memories of Bacanno! which also tried something similar with simultaneously running storylines.

      • October 4, 2012 at 3:37 pmZannafar

        Thanks to both of you for clarifying that.
        Somehow I did not notice the uniforms they were wearing.

    • October 4, 2012 at 6:10 amAsobi

      Right you are! I haven’t read or spoiled myself on anything regarding the source material, and I’m going in fresh, the same way I suspect most of us are. Everything in my post was impressions and speculation from the episode and the background info I researched.

      I did leave out a couple of details I’ve learnt during research, which I thought might’ve been pretty spoilerific, but it helps give a better feel of what the story might be trying to do, (not a thriller/spook, contrary to what impressions here may seem like) and if you’re interested in knowing what might happen in the next few episodes or what SSY is about I’ll just leave it here.

      I would say though, that if you don’t plan on being spoiled in any way and want to go in each episode fresh that you do not read any synopsis on database sites like MAL or ANN.

      Story Spoilers Ahead
      Show Spoiler ▼

      • October 4, 2012 at 8:39 amkingofconquerors

        yeah, i know…the surprises and the shocking reveal are gonna be spoiled if u do so…(i read the synopsis because i didn’t know the story wouldn’t try to address the main conflict of the storyline scribbled in the synopsis right ahead), though i’m still confused as to why reiko and some other incapable students are gone….perhaps…Show Spoiler ▼

        , but i find that unlikely…

  • October 4, 2012 at 1:05 amDandosM

    This series really reminds me of The Giver, by Lois Lowry, what with “unfit” people “disappearing”, and a facade of indoctrination covering up (what are likely) some horrifying truths about the nature of the world.

  • October 4, 2012 at 1:18 amAngelus

    Superbly atmospheric, but so disjointed in the section after the prologue. It’s one of those productions that tries so hard not to spoon-feed its audience that instead it comes close to starving them! Still, after a few more watchings things fell into place.

    For anyone who wants to get the most out of this, check out the works of the Austrian Nobel laureate Konrad Lorenz, as apparently Kishi conceived his novel after reading one of them. Just to give you a flavor of Lorenz’s thoughts, here’s a quote from him that may well be relevant here: “Historians will have to face the fact that natural selection determined the evolution of cultures in the same manner as it did that of species.”

  • October 4, 2012 at 1:36 amSebby

    Wasn’t looking out for this this, but after watching the first episode I’m pumped! Such a great style.

  • October 4, 2012 at 2:18 amTopboy

    Question : Could someone confirm for me this wasn’t horror?

    • October 4, 2012 at 3:34 amSheapy

      I wouldn’t really classify it as horror (Saw, Grudge, Final Destination). Rather more suspense/thriller (Phone Booth, Man on the Ledge, Black Swan).

      • October 4, 2012 at 8:44 amkingofconquerors

        i think this is more similar with the M.Night Shyamalan movie, “The Village”, i hope it’s not gonna be as bad, though…

      • October 4, 2012 at 3:02 pmRyner

        @kingofconquerers: I dont think it’s the same as The Village, because this isnt a spoiler or anything, this was info is part of the summary and that their era is already 1.000 years into the future, unlike The Village. Also interesting is what really happened in the past when those 3 (?) psychopathic psychics went on a rampage and killed everyone, where they stopped by the government? is the government now controlling psychics? or did they succeed and eventually psychics rule over the world? a very interesting series with a very awesome premise!

    • October 4, 2012 at 6:28 amAsobi

      My impression of the episode, with the emphasis on tales and superstition, is that it’s more psychological thriller (coming from the its disquieting atmosphere) rather than straight-up horror.

      That said, from what I’ve researched, I think the story was intended as more than a simple thriller.

  • October 4, 2012 at 2:38 amTingster013

    I dun understand the gravity thing, can anyone explain it? Not really spooked by the first episode, got to see the next few episodes to see if it is really scary… Hope it will turn out to be a good spook like Another.

    • October 4, 2012 at 6:32 amAsobi

      I don’t think this story was intended as a spook, contrary to the impressions one might get from the first episode.

  • October 4, 2012 at 3:38 amSheapy

    Nothing about the ending? DID NO ONE LISTEN TO IT?!?!

    • October 4, 2012 at 5:51 amAsobi

      It was a nice enough song with interesting visuals?

      Oh, and possible story spoiler
      Show Spoiler ▼

  • October 4, 2012 at 3:56 amos

    where do you download the episode?
    the version I downloaded has a different ED.
    same song, but different graphic.

  • October 4, 2012 at 4:10 amExukvera

    Hook, line and sinker. This one has got me preety good in the very first ep, something that is rare to happen.

  • October 4, 2012 at 5:40 amunknown2

    I was sooo scared when that monster from the woods started chasing down the poor guy on to the bridge lol

  • October 4, 2012 at 12:08 pmzleihsh

    It is interesting that during Saki’s ritual, she had to seal her power and receive a new one from the village. I mean what’s the point to receive a new power if you already have your own? I wonder if this is how the “cleansing white mask” is placed in all the students’ heads. It is like everything must be controlled.

    The setting also talk about the politic. During Saki’s parents discussion, it seems that Temple of Purity hold greater power than the Board of Education.

  • October 4, 2012 at 12:50 pmBaLdUrIaN

    Great intro… I’m gonna watch at least the first three/four episodes.

  • October 4, 2012 at 1:57 pmHunterWulf

    Loved the great atmosphere this show has, creepy, haunting and somewhat scary without being in-your-face or using jump scares .. rather with mystery and a very strong sense of foreboding (you always get the feeling something very sinister is happening, going to happen or happened already) .. the supernatural and religious elements were used very nicely and added flavor to the setting (the ritual of the-coming-of-age was pretty creepy specially with the power-sealing paper figure and Saki crying part).

    The art style, music and animation were superb too, and personally i liked the character interactions more than the characters themselves (maybe except Saki whom we got to spend most time with) .. but i’m sure once we get to know them we will care more about both their interactions and the characters themselves.

    I also liked how the series completely refrained from any form of spoon-feeding yet managed to deliver a coherent story so far (albeit a very mysterious one) .. i kinda felt lost in the first 10 minutes of the episode (like i was floating in zero gravity) .. but slowly i as i went into the 2nd half of the episode i started getting the hang of it and the pieces started falling in place .. AND I LOVED THAT FEELING.

  • October 4, 2012 at 2:26 pmShadow74

    This is a great publication, as the opening episode of the first season of the anime. Asobi thank you very much, I look forward to the next episode.

  • October 4, 2012 at 3:42 pmzen Pudding

    I’m onboard solely because of the source material, but I’m kind of wary about Ishihama directing. Especially since I haven’t heard many good things about his other work, Kamichu…

    • October 4, 2012 at 7:23 pmjebnemo

      There’s nothing wrong with Kamichu.

  • October 4, 2012 at 4:21 pmpetitorenji

    Uber intrigued about this. Can’t wait for next ep.
    This almost reminds me of The Giver by Lois Lowry: the coming of age is indeed a scary period in one’s life.

  • October 4, 2012 at 4:28 pmelmaton04

    I just didn’t like the setting and the characters were just plain to me so far. I’m simply dropping this series as it had nothing good for me to look forward.

    • October 5, 2012 at 4:46 amHunterWulf

      Your loss XD

  • October 4, 2012 at 5:52 pmNyangoro

    Definitely my favorite first episode of the new season so far. The world building was absolutely phenomenal. And the visual style was just top-notch.

    Not to mention that opening theme *u*

  • October 4, 2012 at 8:17 pmherpderp

    I definitely noticed the cinematic nature of this first episode. I almost forgot that it was only a 20 minute show instead of an hour long movie.

    But then it ended at 20 minutes and reminded me that it wasn’t a movie.

  • October 5, 2012 at 1:47 pmLaughingMan

    Now THIS looks interesting!

  • October 5, 2012 at 5:40 pmHagiri

    First couple of scenes reminded me of Elfen Lied~

  • October 5, 2012 at 11:50 pmfatalblue

    I agree about the score at the beginning of Saki’s ritual, If chilling/creepy was the effect they were going for it work!

    Overall I’m definitely liking what I see here! Definitely looking forward to the next ep!

  • October 6, 2012 at 1:55 amAnonymous

    Amazing first episode. Can’t wait for more to be revealed.

  • October 6, 2012 at 9:56 amMatroid

    I found it to be a disturbing trend in Japanese anime to whine about how the younger generation has to endure a cruel survival game or distressing situation inherited from the previous generation. I can see where this anime is heading– students die (or vanish) one by one because of the stupidity of the adults (or the cat monster that symbolizes the adult world). Adults who were supposed to care for and protect the young and the weak instead gang up on the “unfitted” and use them as sacrifices. A very unhealthy mentality.

  • October 6, 2012 at 10:34 amBijyu

    Watched the first two episodes. Of the 20 new anime I was interested in this season I am glad to have found my first “drop”. My schedule is just too packed. That said, the show seems like it has potential. I will keep an eye on the RC postings about it. And maybe marathon it when I have more free time. Best of luck to those who stick with it.

  • October 6, 2012 at 7:05 pmMagoiichi

    I love evil kitties :3

    I liked the first episode, the music, the art, and the vague story grabbed my attention.This is the first anime of the new season that I’ll be enjoying.

  • October 22, 2012 at 5:23 amAlex

    I was sort of confused by the beginning and was starting to lose interest but the end really grabbed my attention. I look forward to watching this anime!

  • December 21, 2012 at 5:22 amZed

    To tell you the truth…
    I don’t really understand what’s going much ._.a (but managed to watched the whole first episodes because of the gruesome introduction)
    Now I don’t have much reasons to continue @_@” (because of confusion of what’s going on)