Shin Sekai Yori – 15
Oh boy, those queerats. Shin Sekai Yori had gone to great lengths to establish the species with their own lore, and it was clear as day the story was setting up them up to be an integral part of the upcoming plot developments. It’s like reading a fantasy epic with this broadly encompassing exploration of Shin Sekai Yori’s inhabitants, and how brilliantly they’ve done so up until this point; clever misdirection and foreshadowing have painted these creatures with an unsettling ambiguity, which this episode and all its connotations seem to bring front and center.
Recall the last time we saw the Robber Fly colony: Living in burrows with neanderthal-levels of civilization, and with a hive structure society in place. How the two years have changed them into something barely recognizable. They’ve now taken to living above ground in huts, achieved an industrial level of technology with their factories and concrete buildings, even created a constitution to govern their society in place of their previously primitive hive order. We’re talking a jump in civilization that took us human millenniums to achieve, thought to be fair we’ve already seen plenty evidence of technological disparity all across Shin Sekai Yori’s world. But it’s the fascinating journey of how the queerats arrived at this in the two years that Shin Sekai Yori brings out the subtexts and implicit details by the truckload.
Namikawa Daisuke’s chilling performance as Squealer – the standout of this episode – is our guide through the formation of this new queerat society. Take the slimy politician trope, give it molerat skin and you’ll get Squealer, now going by Yakomaru, who’s quite possibly the definitive example of human twistedness in this show. What we saw before of the queerat only hinted at his true nature, and what a performance it was when he freely manipulated Saki and Satoru into participating in the fight with the Goat Moth colony, all while glowing with an excitable malice. And it’s not that his arguments aren’t without their ringings of truth to them, which only makes it all the most provocative, and subsequently unsettling. If anything, it’s largely because the queerats pattern themselves so closely after human society that it’s hard not to see it as a reflection of our species. I’d point to the historical similarities of their take on a revolution against the establishment, which if I’m guessing right will also boil down to the poetic hypocrisy of a brave new constitution. But I’ll leave it to you better-read individuals to figure out which historical events Shin Sekai Yori parallels the most. Squealer’s stance comes off as far too self-serving, too self-congratulatory about the successful progression of their society, making his claims of a democracy something I find can only be taken at face value, especially given the militant display of force when confronting the Goat Moth colony. And the colonies that supposedly “merged” with their new union? I find it unlikely every single one came of their own volition.
Then there’s that striking statement of the episode – “Should not all intelligent individuals be given equal rights?” – one of the most significant moral conundrums Shin Sekai Yori has continuously been pressing. With the PK society, the priority of survival led to the exclusivity of rights through brainwashing in an effort to weed out dissenters and potential wreakers of society. There we saw the symptoms of paranoia and absurdity of the ethics involved, and asked if survival should come such a cost to human values. With the queerats, this feels like a statement against the natural status quo that had formed between the queerats and humans. The subtext about differing values and rights between separate intelligent species recalled to me the Planet of the Apes franchise– and what similarities there were, where Saki and Satoru’s conversation showed us that from a human perspective these queerats were also likened to mere beasts, a lower lifeforms. Squealer himself remarked the queerats were second in intelligence to the humans. But where they were content to simply serve the humans as a lower lifeform, it is clear they’re beginning to see themselves on par with the humans, the evidence in their development of a civilization that too closely mirrors us. I’d note that the queerats are even starting to act far too human with them practising the same hypocrisies regarding rights, stripping away the queen’s mind and reducing her to little more than a queerat manufactory. Mamoru’s vocal worries is a foreboding notion about where thing might be headed should the makeup of both civilization eventually reach a headway.
How this came about brings us to Saki’s suspicions of a False Minoshiro’s involvement and the one thing it represents which threatens the status quo the most: Knowledge. This was a running theme in the first half of the show, where in the exploration of the PK society’s higher order and their attempts to preserve the PK population, the show mused briefly upon the power of knowledge and shepherding the unaware civilians for the greater good of society. No matter how twisted the means taken were, like the disposals and brainwashing. And now with the queerats having been empowered by the knowledge from the false minoshiro, the value of knowledge has been taken to a whole other level with an entire species – civilization now – at stake.
One might think that coexistent would be the natural answer to this conundrum, but will the PK society readily accept an upheaval of the status quo they had relied upon for centuries? There’s also the ambition of queerats – embodied by squealer – to consider, alongside the imposing threat to the queerats humans present, one that Mamoru casually mentions: That even two humans could completely destroy a colony. And for the queerats who are growing evermore humanlike, I wonder how much of the same paranoia was inherited? If so, it might not be all that far-fetched to think that they might turn against their gods. Let’s also assume for a moment that Squealer really did obtain a false minoshiro, which would then recount the downfall of the Cherry Blossom Empire and the empowering knowledge that for all their limitless power, yes, their gods are as exposed to mortality as they are.
Meanwhile, Maria and Mamoru’s situation isn’t looking any brighter. With no trails left in their wake and only a message of “ half the world away” left behind, it’s almost certain Saki won’t be finding them before her deadline, making them free game for everyone, including (as I’m coming to suspect) squealer and the queerats.