Shin Sekai Yori – 03
「ミノシロモドキ」 (Minoshiro Modoki)
Crytic flashback in place of an opening? Check, and I’m still loving the way it grips me with the questions and unsettling tone. This time, we’re brought 570 years into modern Japan’s future – 70 years past the “Emperor of Delight” scene from episode 2 – as we follow a band of assassins on their attack of a Kanto palace. All traces of modern civilization seem to have already disappeared by this time, seeing as how the attackers were using crude bombs and swords, and it also points to them being some non-psychic rebelling faction. Interestingly, the leader states that there aren’t many PKs left, which I’m assuming stands for psychokinetics, and that they can change the future now, which puts the village in a completely different light. Here I was thinking the psychic populace was the dominant race in the world, especially given the disturbing displays in the flashbacks of the last two episodes. But what if in the story’s present time they are the controlled minority? In any case, change the future the assassins seem to have, as we see them methodically working their way to the “Emperor of Merciful Lights” and successfully taking him out in a one-two strike at the cost of their lives. It seems that one tyrannical monarchy came to an end, but a different societal order must’ve taken its place to have resulted in the village we’re seeing now. As usual, Shin Sekai Yori isn’t letting anything up, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. My love for A-1 also goes out here, who illustrates the flashback scene in a beautifully stylized, manga/comic-esque artstyle.
Otherwise, episode 3 seems to strike away from the pair of introductory episodes and the impression of the series they’ve formed up until now. As we follow the children’s journey deeper into the wilderness, we’re also leaving behind the darkly pervasive atmosphere of the village. Rather than sinister, this episode plays up latent vibes of fantastical surrealism, as the world continues to build through the exploration of the kids and we continue learning alongside them. I really enjoy the way world-exposition is handled in this manner, which strikes me as a particularly organic method of story-telling instead of relying on monologues and voiceover narration. (It still lapses into it from time to time.) “Show, don’t tell” is a rule I find myself wishing more shows would practice, and Shin Sekai Yori executes it with a uncommon finesse.
It’s encouraging to see a show so invested into its world-building, especially here where we focus on a millennium worth of changes to the ecosystem. Bizarre creatures like the giant mutant crabs and the Minoshiro are commonplace, their presence attributed to the human subconscious somehow accelerating evolution. Alongside these creatures are hundreds of new species that were documented only in the last few centuries. Meanwhile, rumors and stories of mythical creatures (in this case, the titular False Minoshiro and the Blowdog) helps to define the reality of this strange world. The small details in the fantastical flora and fauna are also an appreciated touch. The story’s origin from novels shows in these intricacies; it gives a sizable heft to the weight of the story’s thousand-year history and how this has shaped its present world, making this is one of the best realized and most unique settings I’ve seen in quite some time.
It felt to me that much of the episode was devoted to lulling the audience into this sense of surrealism as we watch the children go about their camping activities while the episode slowly immersed us into its world. So much so that when the end of the episode came, it gave a compelling contrast to the sudden, hard hitting sci-fi twist: The mystical False Minoshiro that the children caught turns out to be an interface of an ancient library. I really liked the way the supernatural veil in the story was pierced from a completely different, sciency-wiamy angle, and this twist brings plenty to question, least of all the contents of this library. When did mankind get so technologically advanced to have been able to create this biological artificial intelligence capable of storing 980 petabytes of data, given the psychic apocalypse we saw in the flashbacks? The answer to this as well as any other I have might just come next episode with what seems to be the reveal of the world’s history by the False Minoshiro.
On a separate note, the actions of the False Minoshiro also brings up another interesting point where Saki remarks how the light hypnotism gave her the same feelings she had during the ritual seen the episode 1. Again, I’m speculating that the true extents of their Juryoku are being sealed off rather than taken away, most likely through hypnotism as the episode suggests, but the purpose behind the action remains unclear. Furthermore, Satoru brings up how people who come into contact with the False Minoshiro die, and now that we know it’s no simple creature, it’s possible that this rumor could’ve stemmed from authoritative forces suppressing information on the library terminal.
The only thing I really felt conflicted about in the episode is the way the village has been portrayed up until now with its secular and closely controlled nature, which makes me wonder why they would even allow the children to proceed on a self-supervised camping trip, giving them free reign over their actions and Juryoku abilities. It’s just the one thing that bugs me about it when everything else we’ve seen has been closely guided under adult supervision, making this an anomaly in what has been a very consistent portrayal.
Ever so slightly, we’re beginning to see the relationship chart of the group take shape. At the forefront of this is Saki and Shun, who we see on a night canoeing date here. (For a twelve year old, that’s an impressively smooth move by Shun with the river reflection trick. Nicely played.) Admittedly, the show hasn’t made this particularly subtle with how we always see Saki deferring to Shun’s judgments, blush at his praises and react defensibly to Satoru’s prodding. But unlike Saki’s feelings of romance, Shun seems to mostly be intrigued by her unorthodox mentality and uncanny perception. This was displayed last episode with the hole covering disc and here with the leased mutant crabs, where both times we see him markedly impressed by her situational awareness, and also when he encouraged her on in the bold gesture of saving the Queerat, against their better judgment.
Then we come to Satoru who constantly pokes, prods and shows off to the other kids. His constant provocation of Saki and her infatuation with Shun stands out in particular, making it seem as though he is showing an interest in her, albeit in a clumsily childish manner. Maria appears to be naturally friendly with Saki, but along with the foreboding predictions made last episode, her rebuke of Mamoru’s compliment here seemed to hint at the superficiality of the bond between the two girls. It could also be seen as Maria being possessive of Mamoru, what with her hand-holding during the competition last episode and here, where we hardly see the two separated. Honestly though, It’s hard to tell what’s what at this early stage in the story; furthermore they are still very much children who’ve yet to grasp their own feelings in the story, asides from Saki and Shun’s obvious show of mutual interest.
Still, it’s an interesting direction they took this episode in, and it paid off pretty damn well with that twist of an ending. The next episode seems to be the point where cogs of Shin Sekai Yori’s story start moving, and I’m eagerly awaiting to see how its going to play out.