Shin Sekai Yori – 16
OP: 「雪に咲く花」 (Yuki ni Saku Hana) by (花澤香菜) Hanazawa Kana
「愛する早季へ」 (Aisuru Saki e)
“To Saki, My Love”
It only took us some 16 episodes, but Shin Sekai Yori finally got its (semi) OP! This must be some kind of record, yea? Yes, it is a pretty jarring insert, but indulge me for a moment, as I was starting to think I’d never get the chance put up an OP snapshot for the series.
Alright, so putting aside loli Saki and loli Maria loligaggling it up, I loved this episode. Now, I know you’re probably tired of this already. I should know best what it must sound like when I say this practically every week, and I only wish I could put this across more eloquently, but I really do mean my words. It’s been ages since the last time I had so much investment chasing after an episodic series, every week’s episode passing so quickly in a blur of fun that I feel I spend more time anticipating rather than savouring the episode.
When it comes down to it, Shin Sekai Yori really succeeds at its versatility of experience. My favorite part of the show is undoubtedly its manipulation of the fear and tension inherent to its mysteries. But I get so wrapped up in the conspiracies that I easily forget once it pulls back on the shadows, Shin Sekai Yori gets downright poetic in its narrative of a world twisted by human nature, and of a group of characters each struggling in their own way to come to terms with this cruel dystopia they inhabit.
Maria’s letter to Saki is probably the closest the show has come to directly addressing this theme, highlighting the very question we viewers have been asking: ”Can a village that kills its children for peace and order be considered a normal human society?” Maria’s astute proclamation of the village’s twistedness is a notion I’m pretty sure everyone here shares, citing the acceptance of haphazard disposals as results of the adults’ abnormal fear of children. Her judgement of their society was biting, but not one I can disagree with: in spite of the peace and order they enjoy, she doesn’t believe their abnormal society is any better than the violent, chaos-filled dark ages of humanity’s past.
As sound as Maria’s metaphorical reasoning was, the show has gone to great lengths to establish the ambiguity of this question. I’d say that Tomiko’s justifications for the PK society remains as persuasive as they were when we first heard them, that the continued perpetuation of their current society, even if depraved in nature, remains the only means of survival. But this strikes me as the key point, and if Maria’s escape bears fruit (though the way the story is going, I doubt it will) it would completely undermine the conceptual foundations of the current PK society. I don’t think any of us believe there’s going to be a resolute answer to this question by the show’s end; as is the case with most of these stories of this genre it’s more than likely only a losing compromise can be achieved. But it’s definitely one of my most anticipated moments to see what kind of an answer the story will eventually arrive at.
Why do I call Shin Sekai Yori poetic? It is one thing to approach heavy concepts like that of our humanity and society, and completely another to make it as poignant as Shin Sekai Yori did. For all the brainwashing, conditioning, ethical ambiguity and sexual deviation that Shin Sekai Yori brings out, the emotions of the characters remain incredibly relevant, if not central, to the story. Why else spend nearly a quarter of the episode showing us happy fun times of Saki and Maria? Joking aside, it’s easy to forget when pondering these larger-than-life themes that we’re only dealing with young teens here, with all their raw, uninhibited emotions. And if anything, the show does a really good job getting this characterization across with a genuine sincerity, the deep friendship and love shared between the kids being emphasised strongly with the flashbacks to their childhood. When Dovak’s New World Symphony started playing in that last segment, I was chuffed. I don’t think anyone of us really expected Saki to find Maria, but that scene still struck hard as Saki and Satoru metaphorically reached the end of the day, and of their search. Satoru was now the only person left in Saki’s social world that she loved and deeply cared for, and for those feelings to culminate in their night together was one of those powerful, emotional moments in this Shakespearian-esque tragedy. (And just wow, I love those shots of that scene where Saki and Satoru stood alone against the backdrop of the vast world. Just breathtaking, and beautifully poignant.)
How the characters will be developed from here on out is definitely going to be the one thing to watch out for with the next arc’s massive time jump to the characters at age 26. Needless to say, I’m incredibly excited about the prospects that come with the kids’ maturation into adults, and I’m dying to learn what kind of answers they’ll choose when faced with the same questions of morality. (Alright, alright….and yes, they look incredibly hot as adults as well. There, you got that out of me.) This episode dropped plenty of hints on where it might be headed: Saki’s narration of the Queerat’s cunningness seemed to have confirmed my suspicions of Yakomaru’s ambitions, and that the kids were really involved in some larger ploy of the queerats. And I can’t quite make sense of the surreal dream Saki had of bizarre monsters and a long haired boy, likely Shun, who warns Saki not to help Maria and Momoru escape, and that Maria has to die. Simply another foreshadowing of Maria’s doomed fate, or is it hinting at something larger?