Shin Sekai Yori – 05
「逃亡の熱帯夜」 (Tobo no Nettaiya)
“A Sweltering Night on the Run”
The episode, quite literally, starts off with a bang, as the blowdog from the cliffhanger last week immediately…well, blows itself up, taking high priest Rijin with it and leaving the PK-sealed children to content with an army of queerats. It sets the stage for an increasingly thrilling episode to follow as the stakes continue to rise for our characters, in particular Saki and Satoru who we follow after the group splits up from the escape.
The narrative finesse is back in full form here, with the episode focusing in particular on the ethology conditioning that was brought up last week. The sex-related developments was something I’ve been forewarned about before the show started (Because apparently, I give the impression of being ecchi-adverse. Do I?) but I’ve gotta say, I really enjoyed the way it was handled here. What would’ve otherwise been an oddly contrived flip of personality for the bickering duo is given new meaning thanks to the knowledge of ethology conditioning. On top of the character development, there’s a greater narrative thread in the scientists’ influence on the PK society here: As the stress from the escape piles on, we see Saki and Satoru grow increasingly intimate through the episode after being reunited, with little trace of their childish feud present. Both are them are noticeably subdued around each other, and even Satoru’s typical brattiness is reserved for mocking their perilous situation. This intimacy culminates in the episode-defining scene of the two coming pretty damn close to having sex after being captured and held prisoner by the queerats, a scene which brilliantly showcases how ingrained the conditioning is. How rare is it for sex to hold a meaningful narrative position outside romance stories?
Again, it’s Saki’s reaction that spices things up: Deciding that “We’re not monkeys”, she goes against the deeply ingrained conditioning by breaking off the intimacy with Satoru, and in that act rebels against the norms of their society. Time will only tell what her development in this direction will hold, because with a world so displaced from our sensibilities, it’s unclear what the implications are for both the story and characters. One thing for sure is that we’ll definitely see the story prod at the morality of this further at some point again, among the other facets of their society.
The other half of the episode gives us a better look at how the queerats colonies function. In Saki’s and Satoru’s escape from the foreign group known as the Ground Spider queerats, they are aided by Squealer of the Robber Fly queerats and brought to the safety of his colony. Turns out colony is a pretty accurate description, with the entire setup being eerily similar to an insect colony. The two characters are brought forward to the colony Queen, a disturbing abomination that certainly bears a resemblance to the namesake. Last episode I speculated that these queerats might’ve (d)evolved from humans, but after seeing a leader completely devoid of any human quality, I’m not too sure anymore. The connection to humans is still clearly there due to the death feedback, but I’m now thinking a more twisted truth is be awaiting us. In any case the immediate concern of the story is with the invasion of the Ground Spider queerats, and Squealer is begging for the aid of the PK children to drive them off. However, he’s seemingly a step too late, as the episode closes off with the Ground Spiders breaching the colony and leave us with another cliffhanger of Saki and Satoru literally stuck in the belly of a beast.
What’s perhaps most striking in this episode is the way it was animated. We’ve seen some really varied experimentation with the cinematography up until now in the various flashbacks and stories, both of which remain my favorite moments in the show. The production team is clearly getting plenty of freedom with the series, and this freedom doesn’t get more exemplified than here in episode 5, which features an incredibly different visual style compared to previous episode. This seems to be the result of episode director Yamauchi Shigeyasu and episode animation director Hayama Junichi bringing along the experience from their previous works and incorporating traits of a particular animation style. While the backgrounds remain consistent with previous episodes, the palette and bold designs – which the camerawork seems to put particular emphasis on – gives episode 5 a radically different look, one that is reminiscent of Casshern Sin which both men had previously collaborated on. It’s an incredibly stylistic and mature look for Shin Sekai Yori, but the animation here comes off as stiff, with a noticeable absence of sakuga.
I confess, I absolutely adore shows who aren’t afraid to get their feet wet and play around with their art and animation. This goes the same for Shin Sekai Yori, even though noticeable animation flaws came with this new look. But objectively speaking, it’s curious to have a show completely switch up its visual style this early in when consistency is paramount. Its purpose is brought into question given the fact that this seems to be a one-off event; the preview shows Shin Sekai Yori reverting to its standard visual style, which makes me wonder what the shift was all about. I’m assuming this was done to correspond with the increasing stakes for the characters as well as the intimate scenes between Saki and Satoru, where I felt this style worked better to convey the sensual atmosphere compared to the standard visual style of the show. But considering we’ve barely reached any sort of narrative climax on these points, the shift ends up feeling somewhat jarring in nature. I’m all for the creative freedom the series is showing off, but I’m feeling Yamauchi and Hayama had been given too much freedom here. In trying to inject as much of their personality as possible, they made the episode fall somewhat out of line with the rest of the series.
Make no mistake, the narrative hardly suffered for it. If anything it seems stronger than ever, now that the characters are being put through the wringer and giving us some great developments from it.
- The blowdog with its self-exploding killing mechanism isn’t a particularly unique idea, but the way it expelled shuriken-like bones was a particularly visceral – and brilliant – touch. Also liked how the blowdog concept is based around evolution, which made me remember this particular science article of kamikaze termites with similar traits.